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Published: August 26th 2008
Luckily I only made it as far as Amman
Initially, we were considering heading back into Petra early in the morning before getting the bus up north. But our feet were killing us due to a full day of walking the day before (my blisters from Kili still haven't gone away), and waking up at 7 am was a lot less of a good idea once the time actually came. We also managed to see everything in Petra on the first day sans a hike to the top of a cliff that overlooks the Treasury.
So we slept in and then went down to the bus station. We found out there was no bus that goes directly to the Dead Sea, so instead we booked a bus to Amman and were told to get off near some airport in the middle of nowhere, get to the town of Madaba and, from there, get to the Dead Sea. This had adventure and chaos written all over it.
We were the first ones to sit down in the bus; actually a minibus. In these neck of the woods, the bus doesn't leave at a certain time. It just leaves once enough people show up. But the wait wasn't bad; maybe
We saw this just before swimming. Hopefully it wasn't important.
only an hour.
In another 4 hours, we reached the airport. About 5 km further, the non-English speaking driver somehow motioned for us to get off. We were literally dropped off on a highway in the middle of the desert. We started hitchhiking but a taxi was the first to pull up, so any free ride would have to wait until later. We taxied into Madaba and then sifted through some more overpriced taxies for the Dead Sea. Eventually we found a taxi and agreed on a price, so we set off for the Dead Sea.
The road down towards the sea was like driving in the mountains. I mean, going to the lowest point in the world involves a bit of downhill driving. Our taxi driver navigated the countless hairpin turns like a maniac and I thought on a couple occasions we were as good as dead. We also passed a checkpoint or two equipped with guards armed with huge automatic weapons. They rambled something to our driver in Arabic and our driver replied with "Americano" or whatever the exact Arabic translation is. Being in the Middle East, I wasn't sure what the response would be. But
Look ma, no life vest
they always just smiled and waved us through.
We got down near the water and the driver wanted to drop us off on a highway. There was nobody in sight and the beach and its trash looked very uninviting. We eventually convinced him to take us to a parking lot and we got out. Other than a few stray dogs and some weird guy sleeping under a makeshift tent in the parking lot, there was no life in sight. It is a dead sea, after all.
We walked down to the beach and, due to the piles of trash, almost immediately decided we weren't going to cover ourselves with the mud that's supposedly very theropeutic for your skin. From the first glimpse, I wasn't sure I was even going to go swimming but it was actually very clear. I've read a lot about the salinity of the Dead Sea but let me tell you that it is way beyond what I expected. The salt almost instantaneously burned my eyes and nose. And yes it's true that it's impossible to sink, not that you'd want to if you could. It feels like you're wearing a life vest.
View of Amman from the citadel
in all, it took me about 5 minutes before I decided I had enough of the Dead Sea. We got out and felt like slugs under a pile of salt. We took some time to recover and walked back up to the highway. It only took us about 2 minutes of hitchhiking before a car with 3 dudes stopped. Luckily, they were headed to our next stop, Amman. We squeezed in a sped off.
I'll say it again that Jordanians have no match when it comes to friendliness and hospitality. Not only did these guys drive us into Amman, but they spent at least 10 minutes asking people on the street how to find our hotel.
After a much needed shower and nap, we went out into the main area of the city for some dinner. After a surprising lack of options, we settled for a cheap Egyptian place. We then wandered around for a bit before going to sleep rather early. I love the Middle East so far, but there is absolutely no nightlife or solo female travelers (which explains the frequent updates to this blog). I'm doing my best to enjoy each place but I have to admit I'm itching to get to Europe.
Today we hit up the citadel and Jordanian Archaeological Museum, which contains the Dead Sea Scrolls. We saw a huge ampitheater, the King Hussein Mosque and we found and ate at a Popeye's Chicken. Hey sometimes you need a touch of home every once in a while.
I booked my bus ticket to Damascus tomorrow but I don't have a Syrian visa. So really I'm just going to the border and trying my luck there, even though Americans can't officially get a visa at the border. I've heard from some people that you can get it within minutes, that it can take up to 6 hours, or that you won't get one at all. So by this time tomorrow, I'll either be in Damascus or back in Amman wondering how I'm going to get out of here.
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