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Published: November 9th 2008
An artistic attempt
The guy is David - one of the guys that we kept repeatedly bumping into during our trip in Jordan. Hi David!
Today was a fun day... a fun day in retrospect, but rather traumatic while it happened. To whet you're appetite, lets just say today's blog includes an ambulance and a lot of yelling.
It all started out with the well intentioned nagging of myself, harassing Melenie to 'carpe diem' and see Petra, despite Per feeling absolutely horrid from a rather vicious bout of gastro. Yes, she was throwing up every hour, had skin that ached like a migraine, a sore throat from being dehydrated, and all while being required to exert her scarce energy trying to nurse our 4-month old. Yes, it was bad, but this was our last day in Petra, and, I coaxed, perhaps we could take it real slow to allow her to see just a bit of this world famous destination.
Brave soldier that she was, she ventured out, spurred on by promises of ice-creams and soft drinks whenever she felt that her energy level was dropping. Alas, Petra is not the place to visit when you aren't at your peak. As I mentioned in my previous blog
there is a heck of a lot of walking. My wife though, is a tough little chicken,
Some random panoramic view
Without the surrounding mountains, Petra would just be a pile of crumbling ruins. Those majestic red mountains with all their weird shapes make it what it is - beautiful.
and managed to push through the first two kilometers to reach the Treasury. By then though, the lack of food for the last 2 days, combined with the exertion of throwing of non-stop started to kick in, and our steady advances degraded into pathetic crawls. Still, step by step, we made it further into Petra, as far as the royal tombs. By now, it was midday - the 12 o'clock sun was at its hottest, and despite all the rest, Melenie could just not take anymore. Alas, once you're in the midst of Petra, there isn't any quick way to make an exit - its a long distance to the front gate. Luckily, enterprising donkey owners offer visitors a ride up to the treasury - a good 1.5km away, but still 2km away from the main gate. From there, you need to change to a caleche (horse drawn carriage). After a bit of bickering, we managed to convince one of the donkey owners to give us a direct trip to a nearby (30min) Bedouin village instead, from where we could change to a taxi. Unfortunately, the baby's pram wouldn't fit on a donkey, so Melenie had to go ahead alone,
Just another random Petra photo
I think its somewhere near the Royal Tombs.
while I made my way on foot with the pram. That's when everything started to go bad.
Once Melenie was safely on her way, I decided to head back to the main entrance via an alternate Siq recommended by some other travelers (coincidently, it was some of the group of people we had met on the boat
from Nuweiba to Aqaba - hi guys if you're reading this!). It was supposedly grander and less touristed and thus more atmospheric. Finding the entrace proved to be rather taxing though, despite my fabulous
directions of 'yeah, just head over that way and follow the mountain'. As I made my way around the mountain, a local boy decided to join me and serenade me with "don't go, no no no" warnings. At one point, he even pulled out a toy knife trying to ward me from going forward. Possibly there was danger up ahead, but from what I could see, it was just open sandy land. However, I eventually gave up as the pram simply didn't like trudging across the loose sandy ground - which meant I had to carry it (including heavy baby inside) where ever I went. Instead, I
The narrow Siq
This is the 1km long canyon that leads into Petra - called the Siq.
just headed back to the hotel along some slightly off-the-beaten-path tracks.
Now comes the interesting part. I walked into the hotel to be greeted by the somber face of the receptionist. "Do you know where your wife is?" he asked. When I said no, he looked gravely and said - "the hospital - she went by ambulance". Oh no! What happened? Was she savagely beaten by those donkey guys? What kind of stupid husband lets his wife wander off with strangers in a strange land? A thousand hypotheses flooded through my head varying from savage jackals attacking the donkey to Melenie going crazy from heat stroke and running off into the wilderness and hurting herself ... all plausible situations, or so I thought. Anyway, I grabbed the hotel phone and called the hospital. Turns out that the swaying motion of the donkey ride, together with the hot desert sun and her extreme case of gastro, had driven Melenie to the edge of blacking out - to the point where she actually fell off the donkey and went rolling down the side of the mountain. Okay - I made that up. She didn't fall off the donkey ... but she
Honestly -- I don't see the big deal. Its rather plain and boring. Definitely not worth hiking up that mountain - thankfully the surrounding scenery does justify the climb.
almost did - in fact, she was in such a bad state that the donkey guys decided to call an ambulance and send her off to the hospital. The doctors said she was just badly dehydrated, and that the medicine from the previous hospital we had visited in Aqaba
had just made her worse. Apparently though, they had given her some new medicine and everything was now fine.
I put the phone down, explained the situation to the reception and then headed out the door to call a taxi. The reception guy however stopped me, and explained that the hospital was over 20km away, and that it would be hard to find a reasonably priced taxi. Instead, he kindly offered to call his friend and negotiate a reasonable price. I said I didn't really care about the price, and just wanted to leave now, but he promised his friend would be there in 1 minute. So I waited. The friend in fact did arrive in 1 minute. But his price was ridiculous - 20JD. We had travelled 2 days before about 100km for that same price - so I told them to forget it and headed out the front
These are the original Nabataen houses. Look cold and uncomfortable.
door. The receptionist promised me this was a reasonable price, but I told him he was wrong, and that I couldn't believe he was trying to cheat me at a time when my wife was in hospital. I told him my best price was 5JD and walked out the door. Within 1 min, the friend was outside, and agreed to take me for 5JD.
Five minutes later, I was at the hospital. That was much much less than the 20km journey the hotel guy had told me. So not only had he lied about the price, but also the distance. Now I'm not usually an aggressive guy, but the worry of Melenie being in hospital for some unknown situation, together with the cheating of these two guys, and possibly the hot sun, had driven me to the edge. So when I dismounted at the hospital, I gave the taxi guy a stern talking too (raised voices, flailing arms, slammed door - the works), told him that I was writing down his taxi number and that I was going to report him for cheating a tourist in a vulnerable situation. Now Jordan apparently is one of the few countries (according
On the way up the monastery mountain
The walk up to the top of the monastery is not as bad as people make it out to be. Its about 30-45 mins of solid walking, but you are treated to some very peaceful scenery (amidst the rabble of squaking tourists)
to the lonely planet) where tourism complaints are actually acted upon. So the guy actually got rather worried, and said he was sorry for the situation, and that he would wait to take me back. But no way was I letting him off - I told him to get lost, and to expect a call from the tourism board.
Anyway, back to Melenie. I ran into the hospital, expecting to see a pathetic dehydrated wife. Instead, I walked in to see a smiling Melenie. Seems medicine does actually work. We hung around for another hour, got a new batch of medicine, threw out the old bad medicine, and walked out of there with a wife that looked like she was ready to run a marathon. I still felt bad though at putting Melenie through that - after all, it was me that had coerced her to 'push herself despite how bad you feel to see great Petra'. But then again, she was now feeling 100%, which she wouldn't have if she hadn't had her little ordeal and come to the hospital. Which meant, that theoretically, I had done her a favour by overexerting her. In fact, she should be
At 6pm promptly, goats descended from the hills and started rummaging through now empty tourist stands on the mountains. It was a funny sight - those goats eat anything!
thanking me! Honestly, some women are so ungrateful!
Okay, so now we headed back to the hotel, and I felt I owed Melenie something to brighten her day. And what better way to entertain her than to treat her to a show of me abusing the hotel receptionist. I was rather annoyed - mostly at myself for getting Melenie in her little ordeal - but decided that it was best to vent on the hotel guy that had tried to cheat me. So when we reached the hotel, I sat patiently, waiting for a few other guests to gather in the lobby. At one point, a lady walked in, looking to get a room at the place. It was at this point that I made my move. I walked up to that desk, and let the guy have it. Now - once again - I'm a placid guy. I have NEVER, EVER, EVER, spoken to somebody (outside my family) in such a loud, aggressive voice - and definitely have not flailed my arms so wildly. But I was mad. And of course, I made sure I did it right in front of the other guests so they could hear all about this receptionist guy's horridness. I was particularly pleased when the lady that had walked in to get a room turned about and walked out. Okay - so I admit - perhaps this little act of revenge wasn't very nice - and in retrospect, it probably was a bit over the top. But heck - if anything, at least it makes for a good story.
Anyway, I demanded to see the manager, but unfortunately he was having his shower I was told. I told them I didn't care - that I wanted to talk to him now! They grudgingly got him on the phone. At this point, I put on my sweetest voice and told the manager how much I liked his hotel (in fact, I must say Petra Palace was very nice hotel - modern, clean, newly renovated large rooms that I would highly recommend to anyone), but that his employee was a big dirty cheat. I of course threw in things like 'I've travelled to over 35 countries and have never complained - ever' (which is true) and name dropped my company (Microsoft) - both which seemed to add weight to my complaint. Let’s just say I made a big scene - a very big scene. I demanded that they send me an email in a few days with an update on what action was taken out, and that I would take this up with the tourism board.
Okay reader - right now, you may be thinking I'm a bit of a horrible person. Let me reassure you once again - I've never ever ever done anything like this before.
Anyway, after my little hissy fit, we sat in the lobby for the next 1.5h until our car to Amman arrived. During this time, the receptionist exchanged a few apologetic words with us. A bit later though, he called me over and told me that he didn't lie, and that the distance really was 20km, and that if I didn't believe him that we could hop in his car right now and measure it. I idiotically took him up on his challenge, but then weaseled my way out when I realized that hopping into a car alone with an angry guy isn't the wisest thing to do if you value your health. When our car finally arrived, the manager himself came down and carried our bags out. I exchanged kind words with the manager again, once again complimenting him on his very nice hotel - you know the old adage of "be nice to your enemies and that will only make them feel worse". He reassured me that action would be taken.
So, that was Petra. The only thing left to tell is our trip to Amman, which was with a Spanish couple we had met the day before on a bus. We had a really nice driver named Ibrahim - honest chap that told us all about the dishonesty in Petra. For example, he was charging us 60JD ($90USD) to Amman, including a small detour to the airport (for the Spanish couple). A week before, an Australia couple from the Moevenpick hotel had ridden with him and had insisted on paying him 80JD ($120USD) in gratitude (despite his quoted price of 60JD ($90USD)), because the receptionist at their hotel had quoted them 200JD ($300USD) for the same distance. Our good friend the receptionist at Petra Palace hotel had in fact quoted us 130JD ($185USD). Now of course, we all know hotels always overcharge for tours and trips booked by them - but that's a pretty high profit margin.
Tune in tomorrow for our escapades in Amman, the Dead Sea, and the river Jordan.
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