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Published: March 17th 2016
After the busy day touring Petra yesterday, I woke up looking forward to a quiet day on the road. I am not sure whether it was the hours of walking and hiking over rocks, the standing for hours cooking or if I was good old fashioned cranky, but I simply couldn’t face the breakfast buffet today. To say that it was sad would be kind to breakfast buffets everywhere. This one was plain old blech, in my professional opinion. I made do with some lackluster coffee colored water until Haytham picked us up and we headed towards Wadi Rum to check out the desert of Jordan. This trip is winding down too quickly, so I was determined to make the most of it- good breakfast or not.
I am often asked why I have not yet visited some of the iconic cities of the world such as London, Paris or Rome. My thought is that I am going to visit places where I can hike glaciers, climb peaks over Machu Picchu, sleep in a tent in the desert and more while I am young enough to do those things. I will hit the large, iconic cities up when I am
Just a Blip
This helps me put things in perspective.
older and can sit and enjoy them from cafes or hop on hop off buses. I fully admit, the “when I am young” ship has sailed and is no longer in view, but the “while I still can” ship is still in port and I am firmly on board. AARP (for people 50 and up) has been hitting me up with a barrage of information wanting me to join. Sorry guys, I will not go gently into the AARP night. Rage rage against aging I will.
Out in Wadi Rum desert, Haytham introduced us to Mohamed, an older Bedouin who was going to drive us through the desert for four hours. This was only a quick passing glance at the vast open space of the Wadi Rum. We drove out of the roadside shop where we met, directly over the divided highway median, across traffic and off into the desert. Sure, I might have driven down the road to a cross street, but apparently that isn’t needed here. Surrounded by rocky mountains, the desert was windy and fresh. We stopped on a ridge with an incredible view over the nothingness and what a beautiful sight it was. I am
finding that I really enjoy deserts and I don’t know why. At home I am a city boy through and through. Even when I was young I was destined to move to the city, yet when I vacation, I am drawn to the openness of deserts. I am embracing this side of myself and am working on creating travel plans that cater to it.
Mohamed was a great guide, having lived his whole life out in the area. He would stop and point out places for us to go for the best pictures. Sometime he would have us walk up a sandy slope while other times he had us climb up huge rocks. Rather than having a 4x4 trip with fast action, swirling sand, spinning tires and sideways sliding, this was a relaxed day and was nice. Out in the middle of nowhere he stopped and asked if we wanted tea, Bedouin Whiskey it is called. My thought was that he had a thermos of tea with him, so was surprised when he starting gathering dead scrub brush to build a fire Within minutes he had a fire going, an ancient cast iron pot of water simmering over it
and had small glasses ready for us. Sprawled out on the sand, smelling the fire, we sat drinking our tea and quite frankly it was perfect.
As we were driving back towards the main road we came across a place where someone had camped and left trash strewn about. I was impressed that Mohamed took such umbrage with this. He not only apologized for it, but also called his company to complain and have someone out to clean it up. That he cared so much showed me how much pride he had in his desert.
Once our time with Mohamed was finished, we loaded back into the van and set off for the Dead Sea, my final stop on this trip. It was a several hour drive back towards Amman and then over to the Dead Sea. We stopped and had a very enjoyable lunch at a small roadside restaurant. Whenever I see pictures of the food hanging above the order counter my hopes for a great meal are usually lessened, but this was not the case. This was one of the usual stops on this road, so our driver knew the workers and knew that the food
would be good. We sat with Haytham and talked while we ate. He had pictures from his trip to California, which we all looked at on his phone. It was a nice stop and good chance to really talk with him. I had the best chicken and rice dish I have had in a long time. The chicken was moist, flavorful and made me happy.
The road down to the Dead Sea dropped so much that my ears popped. It was not unlike an airplane starting its descent into an airport, which considering the Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level is not that surprising. This is the lowest point on Earth. What was surprising was the amount of produce being grown in fields along the road. Agriculture was a much bigger business than I had realized. Soon we were on hotel row and lavish resorts sat side by side fronting the Sea.
Our resort was a family friendly resort with pools, slides into pools and lots of kid friendly environments. For example, the wide hotel hallways were used as race tracks as well as yelling echo chambers. Afterwards I checked out the website and saw that
it was not a sanctioned activity place, but apparently all the kids knew about it. It also had adult activities including a Pub with well-earned beers for all 3 of us and chicken wings that were, well, atrocious. Swing and a miss on the wings guys. There was also a large spa, so we booked sessions after some intense planning and negotiation. Once we were settled with our spa reservations, we walked down to the shore to watch the sun set over the Dead Sea and Israel. A group of men were happily slathering mud on themselves to the point that they looked like brown Oompa Loompas. Dead Sea Mud is known for its skin therapy benefits, so there are buckets of the foul smelling mud along the shore. It was most entertaining watching them, as they were having an absolute riot doing this. Somehow an Asian lady became involved, adding to the circus environment. Life can be so grand sometimes. The sunset was more magnificent than any of the trip. Merry had her massage that evening after some beers while Dave and I enjoyed our beers and talked. Dinner that night was room service. Our rooms adjoined, so we
opened the connecting door and I ate in their room with them. For the last night of the trip it was just the ticket.
I booked a Swedish massage and added a half hour deep tissue shoulder and neck massage. Let me tell you, it was life changing. Ok, so perhaps I exaggerated just the tiniest bit there, but man was it amazing. And you may not realize it, but on vacation, signing things to the room makes everything seem free. Beer and nasty wings. Sure, put in on the room. Massage, heck, let’s upgrade a half hour more. No money changes hands, so there is no guilt. I love this. The universe seemed to want this to work out, because when I checked out the bill equaled exactly the amount of Jordanian Dinar that I had. I love it when things work out like that.
After being worked over by the young Thai massage therapist with jackhammer hands, I was ready to relax in the Dead Sea. The walk down to the Sea is a hefty hike. Last night we went off road and missed the signs along the pathway showing how drastically the sea is shrinking.
Being the lowest point on Earth, it is very hot and evaporation is significant. The Jordan River that feeds the sea has been diverted for agricultural purposes, so the Dead Sea is actually dying. When one thinks of how much of the local economy is directly related to this, it is a scary proposition.
Once we reached the Sea (really a lake with no outlet, but who am I to correct?) we set to slathering ourselves in the mud. I wanted tight, tingly fresh skin. Who wouldn’t? None of us went at it with the gusto of the men last night, but I feel we did a bang up job with it. Yes, there are pictures. No, I am not sharing them with you. You’re welcome. After letting the mud bake in the warm sun, into the sea we went. I cannot begin to describe what an odd feeling it was to be in the water and not be able to bob down and touch the ground. The buoyancy is such that rather than being able to go under the water, I was pushed up like a cork. Normally when it comes to floating on the water I am
more of a sinker than a floater, but not today; I floated in full pasty white glory. After a while of bobbing and floating, it was time to shower and get ready to head back to Amman.
Since I was being picked up to head to the airport at 11:30 P.M. I did not get a hotel room, so I crashed in Dave and Merry Jo’s room. We walked to a corner restaurant near the hotel. It was a place where locals stopped in to pick up food to go, so it was authentic and it was good. We weren’t too certain what to order, but managed to get some lentil soup, hummus, the most amazing roast chicken on the most amazing rice (yes it was amazing squared) some meats sliced from the display skewers in the back. D and MJ had wanted to take me out to a nice dinner for our last night together and although this didn’t have the atmosphere (the kids banging on the window trying to sell us t-shirts was not really 4-star) the food more than made up for it. I don’t think I could have asked for a better last dinner of
the trip than this.
All too soon it was time to do the final pack, weigh, remove stuff, repack, reweigh, remove more stuff and weigh my suitcase one more time. I had 2 pounds to spare and was very pleased with myself. Not to spend too much time on recapping the trip, I will say that this was an incredible trip. I have always traveled alone and though Dave and Merry Jo are wonderful people and dear friends, none of us were sure how well we would travel together. We thought we would do it easily and we were right. I was sad to leave them, sad to leave the Jordan, but happy as could be with the trip. Stay tuned for the next adventure. I have a thought as to where I am thinking of going and all I will say is that no, it is not Turkey. That will come later. It is time for a new direction. Thanks for following along with me on this trip.
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