Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jordan report card

It might seem slightly crazy to fly 13,500km for just a few days, but the chance to see Jordan was an opportunity too good to pass up. Bike Boy was there on business, so my grabbing a sale fare and joining him when he finished up his work was really a no-brainer. He needed to be back home by a certain date, so that limited our holiday time to one week, which we figured was better than nothing.

There's no passenger train network in Jordan, so the best way to get around is by car. We didn't fancy doing the driving ourselves and we loathe organised group tours, so the logical solution was to arrange a private tour, which turned out to be surprisingly inexpensive. A few emails back and forth, and we had our itinerary sorted and everything was booked for us by Jordan Select Tours. We literally did not have to worry about a single detail, apart from deciding whether or not to go for a swim in the hotel pool and where to have dinner each night.

Our tour took in some of the highlights of Jordan, including a place we'd been dying to see for the past twenty-five years: Petra. Here's a quick photo summary of the trip...

Wadi Rum. Amazing desert landscape, like nothing else on earth. Which is why it was chosen as the location for numerous space movies, including The Martian. The colours are quite incredible.

Petra. Our expectations were extremely high, and we were not disappointed. Those Nabataeans built stuff to last. Everyone knows "The Treasury" from Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there's much, much more to Petra. Mind you, that first glimpse of The Treasury, as you emerge from the long, narrow canyon known as The Siq, is pretty special.

If you ever go to Petra, be prepared for a lot of walking, and some very steep climbing if you want to see the main sights. You'll never see it all, by the way - the place covers over 50km. Also, consider using a guide. Their knowledge is immense and they can entertain you with the history of Petra on the long and mostly boring walk through The Siq.

The Dead Sea. It's the weirdest sensation, floating in water with 34% salinity. You cannot sink. In fact, once you're floating on your back, getting your feet back on the pebbly sea floor is quite a challenge. At 429m below sea level, it's the lowest land point on the planet, which gives it a whole different climate to the mountains surrounding it. Temperatures are generally 10ยบ warmer than on higher ground, so it's a popular winter getaway for Jordanians.

It was overcast and very hazy while we were there, so unfortunately I don't have any amazing shots of the Israeli coast opposite. I was hoping for some good views of Mount Jerusalem, but it was not to be.

Amman. The capital has quite a lot to offer, not the least of which is some pretty spectacular Roman sites.

This isn't the prettiest statue I've ever seen, but I took a photo of it because archeologists have dated it somewhere between 8,000-6,000 B.C. We've seen some pretty old stuff on our travels around the world, but Jordan's museums are like "Oh, nothing, just a bunch of Neolithic stuff we found lying around".  Pfft, Europe, nobody's impressed by your 2,000 year old Roman stuff. 

The first question most people ask about our trip is "Jordan? Is it safe?" Duh, yes it's safe. I wouldn't have gone there if it wasn't. Jordan has some pretty noisy neighbours, but Jordanians are quick to distance themselves from the Saudis or Syrians or Iraqis. They maintain very tight border control, and you can expect metal detectors and bag scanners at the entrances to big hotels. You might also be pulled over on the highways by police for an identity check. We were stopped several times, but didn't have to produce our passports. Our driver had a brief exchange in Arabic with the officer and they just waved us on.

The second question I get asked is "Do you have to cover your hair?" Nope. Jordan is a progressive, quite modern nation and normal western clothing is worn by most women. Some wear a hijab, some don't, just like Muslim women here.

The only downside to Jordan is that it's very expensive. Restaurant meals, drinks and souvenirs were horrendously overpriced. If you don't mind buying your dinner at a little takeaway crowded with locals, you'll get good value, but there's only so much shawarma and falafel you can eat. As for the price of alcoholic beverages might be a good time to give your liver a rest. A bottle of wine I can buy here for under $10 costs the equivalent of $50 in Amman, and the local wine is not much cheaper.

Oh, and the flies in the south are shocking. It's the only place we've been where the flies are as bad as at home. Pack some Aeroguard.

The verdict: It was brilliant. Would we go back? Probably not. We've seen the things we most wanted to see, and there are plenty more places on our bucket list waiting to be explored.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015


This year hasn't quite gone as I'd planned. I feel as though I've been blocked at every turn whenever I've tried to make any positive changes. It's been full of illness, inconvenience, stress and general blah-ness. Frankly, I'd have preferred sunshine, kittens and piles of cash, but apparently life had other plans. Meh.

Things are looking up though, in spite of my having been as sick as the proverbial dog (again!) for the past two weeks. In a few hours, I'll be boarding a flight to Jordan for a brief jaunt around the capital Amman, the stunning desert of Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and the amazing ancient sights of Petra. 

A 19 hour flight each way for a six-night stay may seem a bit nuts, but sometimes you just have to grab an opportunity when it falls from the sky and conks you on the head, right?  

Travel: it's what I live for. I spend a large proportion of my time researching destinations, implementing savings plans and dreaming about the next big adventure. So many places to go, so little time to squeeze them into.