An idiot’s guide to Jordan, Middle East

Jordan, Middle East – part two

The real challenge of our trip still lay ahead. Around 4pm and with a two-hour drive ahead of our tired bones, I stupidly took the wheel and pressed ahead – my travel buddies should have known better after my shameful speeding incident.

We drove on into the foggy, climbing mountains, leading us closer and closer to our final destination of Petra. The conditions grew more and more difficult to navigate, with cliffside roads weaving though enormous, death-defying valleys (to be enjoyed in daylight without the pesky fog). With my ‘nus permanently clenched, and my grubby fingers numb from gripping the wheel, we pressed on in some of the WORST driving conditions I have ever had the distinctly bad luck to encounter.

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The primary mode of transport

So stinkin’ scary and not something I recommend for qualified, capable drivers, let alone my sorry speeding-ticketed ass. I would say your best bet to avoid this super scary experience is to drive in the day light hours and give yourself as much time as possible to get through the mountains – your rental car brakes will give you a big, thankful slap on the butt for your consideration.

Arriving cold and greasy from our Dead Sea dip and totally exhausted after a number of hours holding in a big, nervous wee in, we had arrived in Petra – hallelujah!

We stayed at the Cleopatra hostel, a warm, comfortable stay with kind owners and a free breakfast. Dumping our bags, we took our disgracefully filth ridden bodies to the restaurant next door for a celebratory feast. The toast – “as if we let Rachel drive” was met with a chorus of “cheers!” and clinking glasses all around.

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The site scattered with many of those tomb doors, carved into seemingly every mountain there.

We devoured delicious vegetable tagines, a symphony of hummus, baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip to mother*ucking die for), moutabel (spicy eggplant dip), fresh tabouli, falafel and hot, minty teas sent from the gods above. Indicative of the general theme of our culinary experiences in Jordan – delicious, very rich but vegetarian friendly mostly, with the exception of a few pigeons on offer.

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The Siq and some smelly tourists.

 

Waking up early for our full-day Petra extravaganza, we were some of the first at the gates and were able to pay and grab our tickets. Forget not to bring your passports, snacks and plenty of water – easier to find inexpensive, tasty food to bring in with you, than to locate within the great gates. Begin your impressive trek to the Treasury by making your way through the Siq, a narrow and mind-boggling walkway that eventually opens up to the most unbelieves site and sight.

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Our first peep at the treasury – bloody beautiful!

Quite a trek by the time you’ve reached the Treasury, you will find horse carriages at the beginning of the walk if you so desire a slothful trot into Petra. Once you’ve made it to the Treasury consider forking out for a hot mint tea, sinking your bones into one of the comfortable, cushioned café seats and soaking up the life-changing view. Also have a smooch with some of the uber friendly street cats – remarkably clean and sweet!

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Making friends and giving them fleas (sorry kitty, I’m not microchipped or desexed either).

You’ll have a huge number of local Bedouin men approach you (western women being of particular interest to them) with generous offers to show you around – for a fee of course. We opted to run around ourselves and followed a few locals up a trek (to the right of the Treasury) to a spectacular viewing platform. We had plenty of local tour guides say we weren’t allowed up without paying them but politely, that’s utter bollocks. It’s a creative way to separate you with your hard-earnt so persist on your own and they will eventually let you be.

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One Bedouin wannabe (left) and one beige lovin’ Aussie (right) both keeping toasty in their traditional Jordanian jackets

This is one of two viewing platforms you can trek to, to grab yourself a different view. The other, is a much longer and higher path and gives an almost birds eye view of the Treasury. We preferred the shorter of the two and spent a good morning minute sitting our butts down and absorbing the impressive vista (judgement free zone for the 8am shisha pretty please).

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Pipe embarrassingly our own work – you won’t find these inside the gates of Petra.

After this epic sight, we ventured on further walking freely in and out of caves, tombs and temples, enjoying the vastness of this incredible place. Upon recommendation, we decided to take a not-so-leisurely walk across the site and up to the Monastery.

The Monastery is arguably the second main attraction in Petra, with as impressive of a scale and carving as the Treasury and quite the uphill to get there. Choosing to bravely soldier on with a constantly grumbling inner dialogue, I managed to halt my travel companions on the hike to stop and marvel at the many merchants selling goods and even for a mint tea midway. Get my sluggish, under-exercised toosh up a big ol’ hill without stops, I challenge you.

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The seemingly never-ending trek up to the Monastery.

We were plagued with a multitude of offers by tour guides offering pony and horse rides up the mountain. We opted out, seeing the poor treatment of many of the beautiful ponies with whipping too regular of an occurrence for our tastes. Keep in mind that while the offer of a free (not so much) ride up to the Monastery might tingle your temptations, you may be supporting an industry that fails to care for the animals they rely on so much.

Reaching the top was truly magnificent, a feast for the eyes and for my fatigued loins. Soak it in, grab a cuppa and take a bloody load of pictures to prove your pure athletic prowess.

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The Monastery in all of its glory

We spent the rest of the day slowly making our way back to the entrance, with the park closing its gates at 5pm. Exhausted, absolutely exhilarated but revived by our big day out, we ended our day with a cold one or three at the Cave Bar.

Just outside the entrance to Petra, the Cave Bar is a 2000-year-old cave dressed up to water the thirsty visitors of this wonderful pocket of the world. Wash away your worries with a tasty mojito and head home for the deepest slumber of your damn lives.

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A friend I met along the way. Taking goat cuddle stops is also a clever and highly effective tactic to temporarily halt challenging hikes.

One thing we failed to fit time in for was an overnight stay in the Wadi Rum desert. Bringing new meaning to the word glamping, many of the Booking.com accommodation options in the desert were stunning, comfortable and super affordable. If possible, extend your stay and fit in a night in the desert drinking, eating and admiring the beauty of Jordan.

This incredible adventure surely was a memorable one with the rich tapestry of Petra and the stunning nature of the Jordanian country-side leaving a very lasting impression. Leaving more of an impression though, was the incredible delicacy and precision that many of the Bedouin men applied their eyeliner with.