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Petra - Wadi Rum - Amman 3 November

Angela's narrative.

We had been warned about driving in the dark in Jordan, so I was somewhat concerned that we only had about 20 minutes of daylight left when we left Aqaba.  Ray took the wheel as Flemming was tired after only 4 hours sleep the night before (working on the website), followed by the aggravation at Santorini airport and then flying the plane for a total of 5 hours 20 minutes.  There were a lot of trucks on the road but the drivers were much better than we had been led to expect, and we were fortunate to have our way lit by a full moon.  We arrived in Wadi Mousa two hours later and booked into a good hotel near the visitors' entrance to Petra.

Petra deserves more than a one-day visit, but we managed to pack in as many of the sites as possible.  November is a great time to visit as the temperature doesn't rise to more than about 25 C.  All the walking we did will help make us fit for the Nepal trek later this month.  I cheated a little at the end and rode a donkey from the "Treasury" to the exit.  I could have done it on foot, but this was infinitely more enjoyable.

Thanks to modern technology and the mobile phone, we were able to arrange an excursion to Wadi Rum (Laurence of Arabia country) for the following day while taking a rest in Petra.  It meant another early start from our hotel for the drive back to Aqaba, where we exchanged our hired car for a 4-wheel drive jeep plus Bedouin driver/guide, called Mohammed.  So Mohammed took us to the mountain as the saying goes.  (Can someone tell me where the saying comes from?  Ray couldn't enlighten me). 

Mohammed was good company, in spite of smoking incessantly and taking the odd nip from his flask of Arak (the local equivalent of Ouzo or Pastis) when he thought no one was watching.  He hadn't reckoned with my beady eyes!  Thanks to his friendship with a policeman at a strategic place, he was able to make a short cut and not get fined for using a vehicle that didn't have special plates required for transporting tourists.

Mohammed drove us to all the famous sites.  He was born in Wadi Rum while they were shooting Laurence of Arabia. His father apparently helped in the making of the film as well.  The scenery is quite stunning.  A lot of weird shaped mountains made of sandstone. For me, though, the main attraction of being in a desert is silence, and so it was a pity we didn't have time to ride a camel, instead of driving like a bat out of hell in a noisy jeep.  Still, jeeps are easier on my backside, which suffered quite badly after a few hours on camel in Morocco some years ago.

After sunset at about 4.45 pm,  Mohammed drove us to a small camp site, consisting of a few tents, mattresses, blankets, and a jerry can of water.  He had somehow found some firewood while we were watching the sunset and he soon had a fire going. He produced an excellent meal of baked potatoes and onions, grilled chicken and tomato, which we washed down with some red wine produced in Jordan that we'd purchased at a supermarket in Aqaba.  It wasn't up to French standards, but better than the wine served in the 4-star restaurant in Petra.  While we dined the stars appeared in the sky and then the almost full moon popped up on the horizon.  Ray wasn't happy as it made the stars less visible.  Nevertheless, we all opted for sleeping outside under the stars, rather than crawling into a tent.  It was quite cold - about 10 C - but we had our sleeping bags and blankets heaped on top.

The next morning we watched from the warmth of our sleeping bags while Mohammed made another fire for our breakfast of tea and hot Arab bread.  There was a tense moment when the jeep failed to start.  Much as we had enjoyed a night in the desert, we weren't prepared to spend another one there...  But after several tries, the engine finally fired and we were soon on our way back to Aqaba.  There we bade farewell to Mohammed and took a taxi to the airport.

We had the same problem as in Santorini with the handling fee at Aqaba - a steep US$ 100 for doing not much more than making out the invoice.  On top of that the landing fee was US$ 70.  It was just an hour's flight to Amman.  Luckily we had tailwinds again.  There was some low cloud at Amman so we had to do an instrument approach.  On arrival, I looked after the luggage in the VIP lounge, where the friendly manager bade me sit on a comfortable sofa and served me several cups of excellent mint tea.  He even switched the TV to BBC World Service so I could understand the news. 

Meanwhile, Flemming and Ray had found a workshop and were taking the opportunity of repairing the stormscope whose bulbs had gone.  It might be a little redundant in this part of the world, but when we hit the rainy season in south-east Asia, we will be glad of it.  Unfortunately they didn't have the right size bulbs, and Flemming had to do a soldering job to fit the ones they could provide.  All this took time and it was soon apparent that we would have to foresake an excursion to the Dead Sea.

On the plus side, this freed up some time for Flemming to work on the website on our arrival at the hotel in Amman while I caught up on some much needed laundry after the sand of the desert.  Due to Captain Flemming's strict weight limit per passenger of 10 kgs, I only have one pair of shoes in addition to my walking boots.   This was the second time I had to get out the scrubbing brush to make them a little more respectable for fine dining!

We finished the day at an excellent Lebanese restaurant called Fakhr El-Din,  set in a stylish old building with high ceilings and panelled walls.   The service was impeccable and the food superb.  The restaurant, which is generally full - so it's better to reserve - is frequented by well-to-do locals and I think we were the only "tourists" (although we prefer to call ourselves travellers!).

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Petra - the so-called Treasury

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Petra - the royal tombs

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Petra - the royal tombs again

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Angela enjoying Petra

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Our Jordanian driver Mohammed

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Wadi Rum viewpoint stop

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Wadi Rum - noisy Aussies climbed this rock

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Wadi Rum landscape

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Wadi Rum - making fire for cooking dinner

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Preparing for departure from Aqaba

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