Day 2: Doin' It Indiana Jones Style

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Middle East » Jordan » West » Dead Sea
May 25th 2012
Published: June 2nd 2012
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I was to leave for the Dead Sea on an already paid tour in an hour and a half at 10am. Ammar seemed like he woke up at the same time, but Jad was nowhere to be found. “Are you ready?” Ammar asked politely as I rubbed my eyes and blinked wildly, again adjusting to the sun. I could only nod as I swung my feet in front of me and tried to stand up. Some night, so simple, so tiring. Ammar left me to the sitting room and called around the house for Jad. I got up and re-noticed the artwork I had seen the previous night, or that morning since I believe I went to sleep around 3:30-3:45. I walked up the 3 marble steps leaving the sitting room and turned the corner up another set of stairs which were quite narrow but looked marble. I ended up on the landing where there was a half bathroom as well as a wood-carved front door and a floor to ceiling window opposite it. I looked at the stunning scenery of the city built into the hills, the wide pastures, and breath taking mountainous view stretching across Jordan. I examined the house further. It looked as though it went up two more floors and down another two, making it a five-story house. It is pretty narrow from what I can tell and has a balcony of the famed Jordan white stone stretching from the floor above me. The water in the pool lazily lapped at the sides to the command of the wind and the trees slowly gave in their leaves to the movement of the air. It was a peaceful morning in Amman, but I was about to leave it for the day.

After getting back to the hostel to an interested hotel manager who asked, “Did you have a nice night,” I ran upstairs, changed, and packed. David, a British bloke I’d met the night before was the one accompanying me on this trip to help keep costs down and keep me company outside of the driver, who was hilarious don’t get me wrong, but it was nice to have someone that speaks English as a first language.

We started driving, leaving the traffic-filled streets of Amman. Along the side of the road at one point, I saw a herd (if they’re called a herd) of camels standing with a few men holding onto their reins. It got me so excited that I burst out and gasped, “Camels!” The driver shrugged and said, “Yes…” He couldn’t understand the excitement I had for seeing a camel outside of a zoo for the first time in my life. As we cruised along, I began taking pictures and indulging in the scenery as we drove up and down hill for about an hour and some change. We finally reached a place just past the Dead Sea called Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve. It is a canyon carved by a still very much alive and flowing river. On a Friday, which is much like a Sunday because of the Muslim holy day, locals in the afternoon burst at the seams to experience the rush and adventure of the water, canyon, and rewarding waterfall at the end. David and I sat for an hour and a half waiting for our turn to pop up. One thing about Jordan, if you’re not Jordanian, good luck paying for everything. Jordanian could experience the wonderful reserve in all its majesty for about 9JD or $13. As non-Jordanians, add a few and you pay 16JD, which is like $22 and some change! And it’s like that everywhere; for every attraction and site, you will find a spike in tourist prices.

I sat enjoying conversation with David, who is a professional backpacker so to speak. He heads off to different countries, teaching English for a while and then moves on to enjoying vacation spots as he hitches his way to the next job. He’s been to so many I hadn’t thought of going to that it made my head spin. He taught in Laos, Singapore, Peru, Hong Kong, and many more that I can’t even remember. He thinks it’s so cute how I have to contact my mom at least three times a day, once my FaceTime and twice by text to let her know when I leave and come back to the hostel, which is the only free place I have found wi-fi. Imagine, even though I’m 7,000 miles away, I still have to check-in. David told me the less his dad hears from him, the better off he knows David is. He’ll send an email once every 6 weeks or so, his dad says all right, and then they go about their business. It really puts things in perspective, and I know that things are different because he’s a male traveling and I’m a female (I know you’re reading this Mom so yes I know there’s a method to your madness), but from the looks of David and his physique, you can tell he hasn’t eaten properly in a while and I could have taken him down if I wanted to on the spot. But we ended up being a mutual help to each other in the canyon.

Our names were called (butcheredly) (yes I know that’s not a real word but I make up words all the time), and we strapped up in our required life vests, and headed out. Now I couldn’t take really any pictures because I didn’t want to risk my $400 camera but David had a diving camera that he’d never actually used for diving, so we used that. Unfortunately, he left Amman before I could get the pictures from him, but I will take more another day. We trudged upstream finding every chance we could to walk alongside the river instead of in it since it was a bit easier that way. Along the walls of this plunging canyon, you could see dark circles forming rings as if a tree once laid it’s trunk across that part of the canyon. I assumed they were petrified trees, and being such old and rare findings that I remember you were never supposed to touch in the Petrified Forest in the US. Of course I put my hand all over them. In Jordan, almost nothing is off limits. 2000-year-old castle? Please, climb all over it. 1000-year-old statue? Do a bunny ear picture. 100,000-year-old fossil? If you can reach it, hey, touch it! Love Jordan.

Anyways, so we encountered our first obstacle where we saw a bottleneck of people traffic. A small waterfall maybe a meter high with large rocks blocking part of the way had a rope tied to them for less experienced visitors to use to get up. For some reason this seemed a bit dangerous but I shrugged it off and kept it moving. It was had trying to find the right footing with gallons of water gushing down onto your face. I am so small that the current and rapids easily could have tossed me to the side. And I wasn’t too sure how David was going to handle this either. He expressed what I was thinking, “They’d never let you do anything like this back home.” A few more practiced Jordanians easily walked up the slippery rock and stopped midway to joke. I was in mommy mode and wanted to shout, “Don’t do that you’ll fall! Be careful!” But who am I? I’m the small foreigner whose nervous looks they saw and offered to help. One stayed at the bottom and linked his fingers together to give me a foothold. I grabbed the rope with all my might and pushed off. Thinking, one foot after the other over and over in my head, I scaled the large rock to reach the top. It became easier. That is until I saw that the chance of landing on the top and being swept back down by the current was greater than landing and holding my own. I took a leap of faith off of the rock and braced myself for the worst.

I landed softly in the water, no slips nor slides. I exhaled with relief. I took a step forward and nearly slipped off of the rock beneath my feet, but one of the locals grabbed my arm to catch me. After finding a safe spot to stand, I looked back for David. He climbed up the rock with some help from the locals as well. After a few quick smiles of relief that neither one of us had hit our heads and drowned, we proceeded up the river. We hit obstacle after obstacle, and it seemed the level of difficulty got higher even though the rope hope remained the same. A few places took mercy on us with metal bars attached for easier gripping and climbing but the power of the water was very great occasionally and we wondered out loud how we were going to get back down, as most of them were not conducive enough to slide on.

After the fourth climb, we saw just 100m ahead a towering waterfall bursting from the side of the canyon at a dead end. The pool beneath it teemed with people sitting in the water to relax and rest after their own adventures. David took many pictures a few with me in them, and then handed the camera off to me to get some with him in it. I marveled at the majesty of the canyon and its depth thinking about how the last time I was in at a canyon, it was the Grand Canyon in 1999. Soaking in the sweetness of my first real waterfall (I had seen a trickle example of one in South Korea), I took the opportunity to go beyond the falling waters into the cove behind it. The sprays of water were so great that I had to continuously wipe my face in order to see. I found a nice rock to climb on, and staked my claim as I sat there for about fifteen or so minutes. Then David was ready to go, and I was getting to that point too. We began our trek back downstream. It was much easier with the water flowing the direction we wanted. We climb precariously down the rocks we came up, and a few we were able to slide to some degree. When we passed all of the obstacles, we tried floating with our life vests but keep getting caught on the rocks in the shallow river. We’d get up, move to where it was a little deeper, and kept on floating. Finally we reached the end, and our driver was thrilled, to some degree. Now it was time for the Dead Sea.

The near 2 ½ hour trek through Wadi Mujib, plus the night before, had me wiped already so I was out in the car. We only drove about 20-25 minutes I think before we pulled into the Amman Beach parking lot. The driver asked if we were hungry and took us to a buffet behind the gates. I honestly hadn’t eaten properly in 2 days, and was dying for food. I ate two full plates plus dessert plus had two sodas, which actually equated 1 soda in America. By then I was stuffed and my food baby returned. Good thing the Dead Sea didn’t take too much effort because I definitely would have drowned.

After taking a few pictures of Simba soaking up the sun in the early evening on the beaches of the Dead Sea, I decided it was time. Looking around at the people still fully dressed in their traditional clothing but enjoying wading in the water up to their knees, I reached the edge of the water. I stuck my toes deep into the mud and wiggled my toes. The moment I’d been waiting for since I was 7 years old when I saw a picture in a school textbook with a man floating and reading a newspaper arrived. I walked out into the water with confidence since I knew nothing was going to swim underneath me. When I got about waist level, I turned my back and lowered my bottom into the water and laid down.

It felt almost like flying as if someone were supporting my back and legs (Funny story about that 7 days later), and carried me out. I let my neck relax, careful not to let any of the water touch my face, and propelled myself with my arms. It was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, I’ll have to stop the description there because there are no words to describe what it feels like. Another check on my Lifetime Bucket List and first check on my Study Abroad Bucket List.

We journeyed back to the hostel after while, me knocked out in the back seat again. I showered, getting all of the oils and salt off of my body as best I could and got ready for bed, though I stayed on Skype accidentally until 6am the next morning. Day 2 down and done, and I loved every minute of it.

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