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Published: November 8th 2018
We had to get up early to catch the bus to Petra. Now, I'm normally an early riser but this was early even for me and it was still the middle of the night for Steve! The alarm went off at 4.15 am and were eating breakfast at 5.30. We'd decided to travel with a couple of holdalls rather than take the suitcases so we left those behind at the hotel and wandered down to catch the bus. The place was heaving, even at that time of day! We eventually left at 6.45 rather than 6.30 but I didn't really want those extra minutes in bed anyway ....
The journey was uneventful on smooth-ish roads, driving through mainly rocky, sandy countryside. We saw some sheep and goats but very little agriculture. We stopped at the Half Way House for a comfort break and arrived in Petra at 10.30. We'd chosen La Maison Hotel because it was a stone's throw from both the main attraction and the coach drop off point and the nice Mr Fixerman receptionist there sorted us out with an early check-in, a trip to Wadi Rum and some free meals as compensation for the night we were losing there because of those bloody bus times!
Before leaving home we'd bought a Jordan Pass which basically paid for the visa to get into the country and lots of free entries to sites of interest. Petra was one of those sites. We toddled down to explore. And I mean 'down'. The main route was described as 'easy' but I mentioned to Steve that I thought it was steep, which would be ok going down but what about when coming back up? Undeterred we continued, passing those offering horse rides down 'included in the price'. I don't think so. As we progressed along this 'easy' route the modes of transport being offered changed from horse to horse and buggy to camel to donkey depending on the terrain which changed from sandy to uneven pavement to rocky to perilous. Easy it was not. The animals all looked well cared for and, indeed, there were many signs asking for abuse to be reported. Sadly, we saw many too large people on too small donkeys and some of the horses were snorting with the effort of pulling overladen buggies up the steep slopes at a greater rate of knots than I thought was strictly necessary. I swore I'd crawl up on my hands and knees on the way back if I had to, rather than have a horse carry me up. One young donkey seemed to have become lost because he looked quite forlorn and brayed so loudly I thought he was a camel!
It seemed to me that the parents of a small child in a pushchair had accepted the 'easy' description a tad too naively (ever tried getting a pushchair through sand?) and they eventually abandoned the pushchair in favour of a donkey. The woman who took her suitcase with her had no such option however and one of the wheels was decidedly out of kilter by the time she emerged.
We initially walked through a high-sided gorge (the Siq) which was most impressive in its own right, dotted with carvings and caves. We knew this would open up into the main area and kept thinking it would be just around the next bend. It wasn't until many bends later, however, that we emerged to be confronted by the Treasury, intricately carved out of the solid rock thousands of years ago. Amazing. I gather Petra is considered up there amongst the Wonders of the World and Steve reminded me it wasn't every day you saw a Wonder. I reminded him he saw a Wonder every day (me!) but I conceded that Petra ran a close second.
Overall, we spent many hours exploring Petra, investigating the Tricennium, Street of Facades, the Theatre and other major venues as well as the little caves and tombs along the way. When it was time to leave the 'easy' walk back was as hard as I thought it might be but we did it slowly and in stages and the only pony we used was Shanks's. It wasn't quite as steep as Tintagel but it went on for longer! When we got back to the top we looked across to the stables where the horses are kept and were surprised but very pleased to see that the animals were being groomed, fed, watered and rested, being used in rotation. So, maybe worked hard but not over-worked, then, and certainly cared for.
Alcohol is difficult to come by in Jordan. It's not a dry country but is only a little damp at the edges. Today was Steve's birthday, however, and it didn't seem right not to celebrate the occasion with a drink. Our hotel didn't serve alcohol so we gatecrashed the nearby Movenpick Hotel, which did. We opted for a large glass of beer each which was more than a half but a long way short of a pint. It was a good job we stopped after two because when the bill came it worked out to costing just shy of £10 per glass! No matter - it's only once a year!
A couple of funny things - during the night I was woken by a strange sound I couldn't identify. Maybe it was the call to prayer but it didn't sound remotely inviting. In the end I decided it was that lost donkey who had found his way to just outside our window and happily went back to sleep. In the cold light of day I remembered our room was on the third floor so that explanation was a bit unlikely. The second thing was that Steve was approached by a guy from Palestine one afternoon while we were sitting at the entrance to the ruins. He asked for a selfie with Steve because he thought he was Pierce Brosnan! Even when Steve explained he was no film star the chap insisted he must have his photo. So, I'm married to James Bond apparently. Who knew?!
(Still no photos - am working on it ...
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