Okay… I’ve finally got some time to write about my Petra adventure!
I left Jerusalem last Tuesday and took a bus to Eilat, which is about a 4 hour bus ride. I checked into my “cheap” hotel, which was far from cheap in this tourist resort town. It wasn’t the best hotel on the Red Sea, but it was acceptable. On Wednesday I was picked up at my hotel about 8 am, we then picked up the other couple that would be traveling with me… Alex and Janet. They are both from Chile, but currently living in Holland.
Our driver took us to the Israel/Jordan border and gave us instruction to get through to the Jordan side, where we would be picked up by a Jordanian driver. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t there when we got to the other side. We called and waited about a half an hour before we were finally picked up… by a guy who drove us to Aqaba, Jordan to get ANOTHER driver who would take us to Petra.
The driver, “Ahmed” was pleasant enough. His taxi was a bit rickety, but it got us through the two hour drive to Petra. Once there, we were introduced to our guide, “Rumi”, a local who claimed to have been born and raised in Petra. Rumi was not, however, a “licensed” guide. Since we weren’t really given a choice, we figured “okay, why not?”. I should have been a little suspicious when we saw the big sign at the entrance that said something to the effect that the Petra authorities were not responsible for anything that happened with an unlicensed guide!
We walked along the tourist trail for about 10 minutes. The guide stopped and asked if we wanted to take the EASY tourist route or did we want him to take us on a trail to a special view of the Treasury? The couple was hot to go on the special trail…. but I wanted to know more. It was explained that it would be a climb, and I asked about this climb…. How much of a climb? Rumi pointed to a hill and said we would have to climb the hill.
It was a BIG, STEEP hill! I looked at it, sized it up… and made sure I knew what I was getting myself into. I asked Rumi directly… “THIS hill? We need to climb THIS hill and then we will see a special view that others don’t usually get to see?” And I swept my arms, encompassing the hill in front of us that I could see.
I thought that was pretty clear! I looked at the hill and thought, okay, it’s a tough climb, but I can do it! I guess something had gotten lost in translation because that hill was just ONE of the several major hills we needed to climb! Rumi was never very clear about how far the trail would be, it was always just one more steep hill, then another, and another. With each one I was figuring… I came this far, I might as well continue, how far could it be?
We climbed for TWO HOURS! In the DESERT!
Now, along the way there were caves carved in the sandstone that we would not have seen along the tourist trail… I’ll give Rumi that! But the really GOOD caves were, of course, on the TOURIST trail! Anyway… I climbed the damned mountain! I didn’t EXPECT to climb a mountain that day, but we did… I did… and it was an interesting experience! But it was downright dangerous! It was NOT a nice, easy climb! It was dangerous, unimproved steps in the natural sandstone, boarded by precipitous drop-offs! And it turned out, THAT was the easy part!
To get DOWN from the view point, we lowered ourselves down a narrow cut in the rocks formed by storm water! One wrong step and it was straight down, banging and twisting on rocks the whole way! I can’t BELIEVE I did that !
The whole “scenic view” extra trip took THREE HOURS! We were only scheduled to BE in Petra 3 hours! But Alex had whined about the fact that we had lost a half hour at the Jordan border… and he had thought they had signed up for a trip with MORE time allowed at Petra… so our driver had agreed that we could spend FOUR hours at Petra. Rumi wasn’t sure the extra hour would be “allowed” so he called Ahmed, to make sure it would be okay. Unfortunately, as he was calling Ahmed, he took off walking with Alex, so I never heard the results of the conversation, but I assumed everything was under control.
WRONG! It seems that Ahmed’s cell phone had died, Rumi never contacted him, so wasn’t aware of the tight schedule… in order to complete the tour that we had paid for (which included an Arabic lunch) and get ME back to the border that closed at 8PM, we really didn’t have more than the 4 hours Ahmed had allowed us. Alex kept on whining, and Rumi kept on giving them more time. And since Alex and Rumi kept wandering off ahead of us women, we didn’t know what was happening.
Personally, I would have rather have spent the three hours we spent climbing actually LOOKING at the Petra ruins… It seems Alex thought he was entitled to do it ALL! So he kept on pushing Rumi for MORE!
By the time we got back to the entrance to meet up with Ahmed…. We were two hours late and Ahmed was in a tizzy! It was 5PM and Whiny Alex still wanted his money’s worth by getting his Arabic lunch! Problem was, the normal lunch places were all closed! By then, we were aware that we were really pushing the border crossing deadline. Alex and Janet didn’t care… they were scheduled to spend the night in Wadi Rum, in a tourist approximation of a Bedouin tent!
To make a long story shorter… after dropping off Alex and Janet at their “Bedouin tent”, Ahmed and I sped off for the border crossing, in a taxi that was being held together by string and bailing wire! We were about 5 minutes late! Bummer! By this time my Israeli driver was beside himself, as he was SURE I had been kidnapped or something (Ahmed wasn’t answering his dead cell phone, after all!).
I had Ahmed take me to a “medium” priced hotel in Aqaba. It was about the same quality as one might expect at a Motel 6 in the states… which is to say, pretty tacky! But… all I needed was a place to sleep! It cost about $35. Ahmed picked me up first thing in the morning and I made it through the border. My Israeli driver was waiting for me and took me back to my hotel in Eilat… which I had already paid for, so I still had the majority of my luggage there. I took a bath and enjoyed the (relatively) clean room until the noontime check-out!
The bus back to Jerusalem was uneventful at least! Hey! It was an ADVENTURE!
The Petra trip was on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday my friends Amir and Shoshi invited me to spend the Sabbath in Tel Aviv with them. They had their whole family over for Friday dinner and then on Saturday we went on a
private tour of a town in the wine area of Israel, with an emphasis on the actions of the Zionist underground. There were about 25 people on the tour, which ended with dinner at an Arabic restaurant in an Arabic village. Good food!
I came back to Jerusalem on Sunday. I’m still recovering! I’m pooped! I’m only here for about another 3 weeks so I really have to get moving on booking those little miscellaneous trips I’ve been putting off. So much to see… so little time!
Life’s a trip!