02 July 2012

Petra day 2
Alternative Entrance
Walk up hill 1
Walk up hill 2
Monestary Jumping
View @ End of the World
Nighttime on Hills of Little Petra

We had to use day two of our ticket to Petra today.  We should have forked out the extra 5JD each for the 4 day ticket.  We hurt.  Our legs hurt, our eyes hurt, and our heads hurt.  Ok a bit of exaggeration.  Just our legs, but it spread up through our entire bodies, and we had to do more walking again today.

David and Sophia had organised for us to stay at Little Petra tonight, so we dropped our bags off at reception, and wandered out to the blue yonder.  A little worse for ware, and being surrounded by three mosques a little less sleep than we had wanted as well.

Down at the entrance to the park, we debated on taking a horse or donkey to the Siq, and after seeing how some of them were being treated, decided against it.  The walk was pleasant again, and as we had seen the few monuments on the path yesterday, it was a lot quicker.  At the entrance to the Siq we took a right.  We had been given a tip in Dana that there was an alternative way in.  If you didn’t mind a bit of a scrabble over and down rocks in a narrow winding canyon.

Wadi Muthlim

The canyon is where the water flooding down the valley is diverted to.  Both now, and in the times of the Nabateans.  Jumping down from the new dam, we enter a small tunnel.  this is to connect the two, and was created to secure the Siq from floods.  on the other side is another split in the rocks.  It is sandy and littered with the detritus of centuries of floods.  Now including the commonplace plastic bag and water bottles.

As the rock walls are so close together there is plenty of shady spots, and it in a refreshing walk.  Until.  Well, until it gets narrow.  Boulders have fallen down here as well, and been jammed up against the walls, creating blockages in the flow of water.  These are also a pediment to our movement, and we have to climb over them, and back down to the floor of the valley.  This is a lot of fun, and it feels like you are really discovering the place for the first time.  There is nobody around.  There is not a sound.  No donkeys, no vendors and just us.  At times the walk was rough, and some of the drops a little challenging, but not hard and a lot of fun.  Going back up may be a different story if we have to.  Eventually we come to a T-intersection and turn left towards Petra.  On the right there is an aqueduct apparently around a few corners, and another dam, but we could not go that way.  At this time it was so narrow, and you had to push yourself upright on an angle to get around the rocks.  Following the flows of millenia.  After a long time we eventually popped out into the wide valley.  This should be near the tomb of Sextius Florentinus (sex texting roman guy 0745 634 752, username:  Six-titties)  He was the roman governor of the province of Arabia.  He decided that he wanted his tomb built here like the Nabateans, and there used to be an inscription from his son saying that his wishes were carried out.

Sextius’s love shack

There is supposed to be a quick walk around the top of the royal tombs overlooking the amphitheater.  We could not find the steps at the start of it,and ended up climbing the hill on to the top of the tomb.  Here we wound our way along until we came to the steps.  They are on the other side of the tomb than on our very bad maps (one from our 2006 guidebook and the other from an unhappy guy at information this morning).  These steps are quite new, and very well formed.  Unlike the other steps everywhere.  There are steps with no beginning or end.  They just appear on the sides of hills.  Most are worn away, and others still look as good as the day they were carved.  Just no way to get to them.  These are new.  Wide, flat and level.  This is where our legs really started acting up.  The canyon was ok, as it was flat or down.  This was up.  And our feet were letting us know they did not like it.  Still, this is why we are here.  To climb hills, and explore the holes created by long forgotten dead people.  As we wind our way up the side of the hill we are going much higher than we expected to go over the roofs of the tombs.  After an age we come to a flattened platform that looks out over the valley.  From here, the only set of tracks in the sand turn around and go back the way they had come.  We debated to do the same, or continue on up the unending staircase.  We opted to ignore our feet and legs and keep climbing.  After the next age has come and gone, removing all traces of civilisation, only to have it reappear at the top of the mountain.  There was a hobbit house.  It was a bright blue door in the face of a small hillock on top of the mountain.  There were a few aloe vera plants along a rock wall, and an official signpost.  It said there was a view over the valley to our right, and the walk back the way we had come.  Great.  What about the other direction?  What is out there?  Can we make our way back down along a different path?  WHERE IS THE INFORMATION UNESCO?!?
Looking at the view was the same as before, just a lot higher.  Then we spotted a path from the hobbit hole, and as it looked worn we decided to take it.  Half expecting to backtrack like we had done so often yesterday, we followed the small path set out in stones.  It probably just goes to Bilbo’s cellar, or more likely, garbage dump.  The path winds down around the

Great survival instinct. Smurfs never die

rocks for a while, and we stumble onto the strangest thing.  There is a type of lizard here that, while sandy colour, it has a few distinctive things over most lizards.  It is a normal size for a medium lizard (so not a tiny one, but no iguana) yet it has massive back legs.  When sitting still it almost looks like a frog from behind.  Albeit with a long tail.  Yet this is not its strangest feature.  Looking at its head,it has massive hearing holes like most lizards, yet the colour of the head is different.  It is a bright blue.  It is the strangest sight.  A bright blue headed lizard.  Unfortunately it was not very good at posing in front of the camera, and we could only get a photo from behind.

With the lizard running off to hide from the camera, we continued down our dusty ill marked path, until it completely disappeared.  A few meters passed this point was a sign lying on the ground.  Hazardous terrain, stay on path.  What path?  There is no path any more.  The rocks were all around us now, and we tried to find another path to anywhere.  We saw something flapping in the wind, and headed out over the rocks towards it.  There was a small construction here.  A few blankets attached to a couple of wooden poles in the rock.  Climbing down over the rocks we came up to it.  There was a small camp here, and crawling to the cliff edge we had a marvelous view of the Treasury from above.  There were almost no people there, and the light was right.  We had found our lunch spot.

Treasury as the foreman would have seen it

A perfect place to eat our flatbread.  After a nice relaxing break, we had to leave our little spot.  Climbing back out and away we passed two people and a guide, looking so fresh that they could have just gotten up, and not hiked a mountain.  We found out why a little later where there were a couple of donkeys tied up.  The sods.  We felt like releasing the donkeys and making them walk down, but decided against it.  We had seen a couple of escapee donkeys around yesterday and watching the men running or riding after them.  It is quite a funny sight.  But we still needed to get down this frustrating hill.

At the bottom we headed down to the colonnaded street again.  There is really only the one easy way through Petra, unless you want to walk in wide circles up and down hills and mountains.  We thought we would skip this as it was already late, and we still hadn’t seen the Monastery.  This was our destination.  We were hoping to get to the spring first, but walking up to get the top view of the Treasury took most of the day.  So skipping the spring we headed down the wadi to the Monastery.  This is a long walk of over 900 steps up the walls of the Wadi.  This should be child’s play.  Just like the movie, it was murder for our legs.  Still we started the climb.  It was nice.  Good steps in most places, a few interesting carvings on the wall, and eventually we came to the Lion Triclinium.  This had a carving of a couple of lions and people.  The drawing of the reconstruction did not match the lions that were still visible, and we have already learnt not to trust the information on signs here, as most of the time it has at least omitted information, if not been downright deceptive.  Still it is in a nice spot, and the caves around are definitely inhabited by the people trying to sell us stuff on the way up.  There was one little old lady that wanted us to have tea with her, we would have liked to, as it would give us a different perspective than the 18-25 year olds we have been talking to.  (It turns out to be the mother of one of them!)  We decided against it, as we thought we were running late for Sunset.  More steps.  And More.  We must have been at least half way up when we heard a generator in the distance.  The mechanical sound unnaturally filling the silence around us.  Around a few corners and a lot more steps we came to a very large shop.  This had the generator hidden somewhere.  Passing up on a drink, and thinking we must be close due to the size of the shop, we slugged on.

The Monastery up close and personal

Lift foot, move foot forward, drop foot, repeat as necessary, we kept going.  Eventually we made it to the top.  There is another shop here, with seats lined up outside for the view.  This is fantastic.  The view of the Monastery (Al Deir) is incredible.  It is huge.  50m wide and 45m high.  Built in the 3rd Century AD, and as there are a few crosses inside, it must have been a Byzantine Church, as they are the only people that know how to draw a lower case t.  The outside was probably surrounded by columns, and a place for sacred ceremonies.  We sat there for a while soaking in the atmosphere.  It is the same type of construction as the Treasury, but on a much bigger scale, there is also not the ornamentation on it.  I think it makes it better for it.  As we were sitting there, Sophia and David drew up, taking a seat besides us and letting us know that we are all booked for a night in the Petra hills tonight.  While we were talking, a guy climbed the stairs next to the Monastery, and disappeared for a while.  He reappeared on one of the wings of the Monastery.  He took a while there, and then suddenly jumped to the centre section. He walked around and ended up on the other side.

Bedouin deathwish?

Another jump back to the centre, then climbed up to the top of the onion and stood on the very top.  It was very impressive.  On coming down he scales around the sides and we were wondering how he made it down to that level.  It was fun to watch, but we didn’t want our day to end with a flattened bedouin.  He made it back down and we all congratulated him.  He had been doing it since he was a kid, and had no worries.

Where’s Wally?

At this stage we were kicked off our seats by the stall owner.  We could not sit there unless we bought a cup of tea for 3JD.  We told him that we were not interested and moved away from the UNESCO seating.  The Bedouin with us started swearing at him, and saying that he is Egyptian.  No Bedouin would ever do that!

We had a while until sunset.  It is a lot later here as we are on the other side of a ridge, and right up the top.  There were signs pointing to The View [at] The End of the World.  Japanese boy (Name unknown, but introduced as that Yesterday due to his eyes) was with us, and said that it was worth walking over to check out, so we all went.  It was not too far, and after scrambling up the last rocks we were at a tent right on the edge of the cliff.  Again.  The Bedouin have no sence of hight.  There was a bit of a breeze, and we thought if it was any stronger we would be blown off.  This was not far enough, and we then climbed out on the rocks beyond the edge.  This was great for your vertigo!  Still, it was a fantastic view.  You could see the desert, and how the mountain range developed.  Harder rock at the bottom, and then the rosy pink sandstone capping it.  Rugged ranges spreading away to both sides, and Israel in the distance.  On a peak to the south was a solitary mosque.  This is apparently the grave of Aaron.  The brother of Moses.  It is a long way from here, but still visible.

Great view of the hills behind Petra

Apparently the locals go there to pray for a boy if they cannot get one the old fashioned way.  We hung out here for a while, and one of the guys had to go home to Little Petra.  He climbed down the hill, and we thought he was going down the path, until we spotted him on a far cliff, climbing around the mountain, as it was faster.

Time to go, we started our decent, and made it to the tent with the loud generator.  We had to stop for Chai here.  Three more cups.  The people at the tent were nice, but now it was starting to get dark, and we had to push down to the base of the hill where we were meeting some people.  These guys had offered us a cave in little Petra for the night.  The true Bedouin experience.  At the base, there was a car waiting for us.  Japanese boy had to take his donkeys home, but would meet up with us later.  We were hoping Yaser would also join us, but that was not the case.  We piled into the 4WD, and set out.  7 people.  Not quite a record, but when we stopped to pick up number 8…  By the end of the trip we had someone on the roof, people hanging out the windows and crammed in the front and back.  We were glad to get to the house.  Piling food, mattresses and blankets onto the vehicle, we set out.  It was a grueling trip.  Proper off-road driving, and Feras our driver did a good job.  After an hour or more we ended up doing a ten point turn on top of an outcrop on a mountain.  (Anna was quietly freaking out, as she had seen the guys walk on tiny little ledges along major ravines, with no fear. What if they misjudged the distance in the dark? She could already see herself go backwards of the cliff in the old car)  This mountain top would be our home for the night.  The mattresses were unloaded and we all went off looking for firewood in the desert with no trees.  Well, there are a few trees here and there.  Picked clean of dead wood.  Still we managed to find a bit.  Andrew was a bit shocked when they started the fire, and threw on all of the wood we had collected.  This was so they had enough coals for cooking, and as it was a full moon, we could still see.  Pity we did not pack the jumpers though.

The meal was great.  Roast potato, onion, and a nice dish that had meatballs in it.  Copious amounts of alcohol were consumed, and a very fun night.  Talking about the differences with the traditional bedouin, and city folks.  Islam, and how they are non practicing (although one has a brother that does) and life in the desert.

Eventually we had to make our way to bed, and lay looking up at the stars.  This was not as good as it sounds, as it was so bright from the moon, but still.  Sleeping in the desert in Jordan.  Nice.

AA

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