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Published: April 1st 2014
Today is the day. I'm so excited! I've been wanting to see Petra for ages and I was so ready to get this adventure started! We had a good breakfast at Bait Ali Camp, where they baked us bread, made me eggs, and allowed me to sip some good tea in peace. Then it was time to high tail it to Petra!
We chugged our way up the big grade out of Wadi Rum area and into the hills, where we veered left for the road to Petra. Holy crap - I knew there were some mountains, but this road reminded me of the Santa Monica Mountains between the 101 and the Bu. And we were going 100 kph (Matt was driving...) There was a cool sign where there is an incline and a car heading down - i loved it but it went by too fast to get a photo; plus, we were sure we'd see one again (we did but I still never got a photo). The mountain towns hugging the hill sides on the approach to Petra were just insanely gorgeous, as were the Bedouins herding their goats - again, just another authentic arabic experience.
we arrived in the hills above Petra, I think we were both a little speechless. We've arrived! Down in that valley below is an amazing feat of abandoned antiquity, with a somewhat modern little town at the entrance. Since it was early, we identified but drove straight past our hotel and to the park entrance. There we donned our supplies. Well, I put on a sweatshirt and scarf and grabbed my camera. Matt got his backpack and put in a couple of water bottles. Neither of us had sunscreen, but we were off. We paid our 50JD entrance fee, avoided the guides and made our way to the entrance.
Wow, I'm still just a little amazed as I write this. You walk down a gravel slope, where guides are trying to sell you a mule or carriage ride in. Nope, we're walking. Then you pass the start of this amazing society - there are caves, tombs, and funeral blocks along the pathway, where I believe the poorer members of the culture were buried.
When you arrive at the entrance to the Siq, the narrow passage through the rocks to the main center, there is also a former wash
that has a tunnel which helped direct flow as needed. Also interesting with regards to their use and engineering of available water was that they had two clay pipes along the sides of the Siq, which directed the water into the town, as well as capturing water that came through the fractures in the rocks above. The Siq was just impressive in itself. There were some carvings along the wall, and limestone blocks that supposedly were part of the initial road.
And then, then.... Then, you see the glimpse of the treasury - a little bit of a pink structure peaking in through the shadowed Siq walls. Incredible.
Of course, then you emerge into madness. "Camel rides! Camel rides!" "Tea! Tea!" "Donkey! Donkey ride to top!" Just lots of people, lots of locals trying to sell you something, lots of animals like moaning camels and braying donkeys, people everywhere. So, needless to say, we didn't get a great photo here, but it was just nice to stand back and see such an amazing feat of architecture and sculpture.
We moved on to the right and saw some more former tombs, which I imagine now house the animals
in summer months for breaks from the heat. You can also soon see the amphitheater and the "Street of Facades". We went left and headed up. And up! We took the trail to the High Place of Sacrifice. It was a good climb, but not terrible, with views just about the whole way. All along the trail, you see local vendors trying to sell you the same old junk but proclaiming it "the best in Jordan" - just say thank you and move on. When we got near the top, I thought we were at the top, when Matt called down to tell me there was a great view. And boy was he right! You stand on this huge rock, where a lot of people were taking a lunch break, and can see the entire valley, including some of the tombs and structures etched into the rocks below. It was breathtaking!
We made our way back down steep flights of stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. People coming up were asking how much further? That must have been a rough climb! When we finally reached the last step, we saw a wall directly across from us had a beautiful
mix of colored rock - blue, red, yellow, brown - beautiful! Then at the end of this little canyon, we saw a Garden Temple, as well as a few other temples or tricliniums (apparently a funerary dining hall with benches on three sides where people would toast their dead). We continued on to the rest area and the Hall of the Colonnades. I was a bit tired and my knee was killing me from the climb down. So we had a mediocre lunch (tip: ask your hotel to pack you a boxed lunch - much better).
Then we decided to go to The Monastery despite our fatigue. Apparently it is 220m in elevation and an hour hike each way. Long, but not bad right? My knee was hurting, but I was determined. Along the way, we had multiple offers of a donkey ride - tempting but no. However, my knee started to hurt more and more as we climbed higher and higher. It was basically a straight up climb. We passed many women vendors, who were friendly enough. At one point, I had to stop and told Matt to go on without me (cue dramatic music). I said, if
it's just around the corner give me a shout. At that time, an English girl told me it was just one more little climb up over those rocks right there and totally worth it. I told her she better not be lying.... then I made my way up. The book said it was an hour hike, the guy with the donkeys said it was 20 minutes; we made it up in about half an hour by foot - not sure what that means, but it was a grueling and do-able pace.
And yes, the view was impressive! The treasury is the most famous icon of Petra, name because it is the first thing you see when coming in and because of the Indiana Jones movie. But the Monastery is HUGE!!!! HUGE!!! So, yeah, it was worth the climb. I kind of chilled for a few and people-watched. It was much less touristy here than at other places in the park - I think it is one of the harder hikes to do. Then we headed back down.... and my knee locked. This hasn't happened to me in a long time, but has happened before, but I forgot the pain
and the annoyance! It is not even all that painful at first, I just can't move it! I can't bend it, so I slowly made my way down, putting all my weight on my right leg. A couple of times I asked to stop to let it rest for about 5 minutes and it would be good for another 10 minutes. Eventually toward the bottom, it had mostly worked itself out, but was sore for the rest of the day.
On the way down we were also accosted by the women vendors, saying "you promised!" Well, no we actually didn't promise anything, but each of them tried this tactic and two of them got paid off a little bit. Then we hiked back towards the treasury, stopping to have some tea and watch the kids playing with the donkeys and camels as the last of the tourists left the park. We took some last photos of Petra and were out of the park just before sunset. What a magical, incredible, fulfilling day!!!
We made our way to the hotel, El- Rashid hotel, which is budget but had the friendliest staff! Our host recommended a restaurant a few doors
we bought a couple of rocks from her because she was just too darn cute
up and it was great. I got a falafel sandwich for 1JD and it was delicious! Matt got a good looking shwarma sandwich plate for 7JD - too much food but very good! By the time we went back to the hotel, I was done. Done, done done and in excruciating pain. Matt stayed downstairs for tea and as I got out of the shower, the host knocked on my door and handed me a bag of ice for my knee - so incredibly sweet!!! I slept well with pleasant memories of Petra...
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