Monday, July 4, 2016

DAY 7 - Petra and the Secret Service!

Operating on less than an hour's sleep, I gulped down two cups of coffee, and had a quick breakfast before catching the van. Before heading for the Jordanian border, we had to stop and pick up some more people from two hotels.

First, we exited Israel, and handed our passports over to our guide who would be doing all the paperwork for us, including taking care of our Visa's that we had paid for in advance.

After clearing customs with Israel, we walked to the Jordanian side.

Passing through the Jordanian gate, we did some currency conversion and waited on our guide to return with our stamped passports.

Finally on the mini bus.

We passed through several towns, but we mostly drove through vacant landscapes. It was always surprising to see shepherds with their flocks. I'd look for miles and not see a house in sight.

The towns were very clean.
After awhile, we pulled into a bus stop and the place was hopping. We purchased snacks and took a bathroom break. Lots of souvenirs everywhere but everything was so expensive. The Jordanian Dinar is a lot stronger than the US Dollar!

Getting closer to Petra! Our bus stopped again so we could admire the view.

After a couple of hours, we finally pulled into the visitor center and parked. For the majority of the tour we'd be sticking close to our guide, but would have a few hours to ourself, before meeting again at the bus for our return home.

Part of our tour package included a complimentary horseback ride that we could take back from the siq when we were finished from our tour. It was explained to us that although the ride was "free"... we'd have to "pay" to get back off the horse! In other words, we needed to set some money aside for a tip.
As we started our downward descent into Petra, realizing that all that walking down hill was going to be UP HILL going back, I started counting and putting aside TIPS for our horse ride!

Heading down hill.

Our Jordanian guide in white, waving the paper. He was a really nice guy and kind of reminded me of Dustin Hoffman (a Jordanian Hoffman!) LOL

Going further down into the canyons...

Blocking the hot sun, the siq was a welcoming relief! I pressed my cheek against the wall and welcomed the coolness.

We walked for quite some time, still going down hill... Excitement building...

Peeking around the corner...

The Treasury in all its glory!

We stood in awe for quite some time, taking in all the sights.

Filmed spot of Indiana Jones, and the Last Crusades.

If you look very carefully, you might see the Bluebird on the upper left side of the Treasury. Pamela spotted it and I zoomed with my camera.

Unbelievably, more archaeological finds directly underneath the Treasury! I couldn't imagine more floors to this massive building. Everything was carved from the mountains.

Lots of camels to ride, but the touting wasn't as bad as Egypt!

We stopped at a snack bar for refreshments and our group broke apart for our individual tours. We were told to meet again at 2:30 at the same spot later. After we regrouped, we'd climb back up the trail and meet at our bus at 3:15 - giving us 45 min to make it back! Pamela checked her watch and we lingered over our snacks before trudging further down the trail.

Pamela and I climbed the exhausting trail to this building and was rewarded with a beautiful view as we caught our breath. Inside, not so beautiful. We found tiny jail cells, and the indentions of where shackles used to be.

So much to see and take in!

Pamela and I reluctantly climbed down the trail and started heading back up to the snackbar to meet our group. We were surprised to see nobody there, even though we checked our watch and it was 2:30. About 10 min later, I asked someone the time. Our watch was wrong by 20 min! Our group must have tired of waiting and left without us!

With dismay we broke into a trot and made our way up the hill. It was going to be a loooong walk!
As we passed the Treasury, we paused to see if we could catch sight of our group. Pamela begged to take a break as we were practically running.

I told her to look at her watch. We had exactly ONE MINUTE to rest!

After our quick break, we walked briskly into the siq. We were surprised by the appearance of two regal looking Jordanian men in what looked like Roman uniforms and helmets, riding upon two beautiful horses. I wanted to pull out my camera to take a picture, but we couldn't linger.

Surprisingly, directly behind the horsemen, a group of people appeared on foot, all clustered together! One guy in dark shades waved his arm at us to tell us to move to the side, as we had very little space in the Siq. I questioningly looked over at the people, wondering why there were so many video camera's. Why were they walking so closely together? I looked at them curiously, then wondered why a black SUV was driving slowly behind them!

I peered into the window and shrugged.
After the SUV passed I asked someone if they knew who it was. I figured it must have been some Jordanian diplomat.

I was informed that we had just walked by Vice President, Joe Biden, and his wife!

After leaving the siq, we noticed the long row of vehicles that weren't there when we had first entered the park. I was surprised to see Washington D.C. on most of the plates!

Disappointedly, there were no horseback rides! Due to the Vice Prez's visit, it seemed everything went to a stand still.
Pamela and I allowed ourselves one more min to rest, then we booked it up the trail. It was already 3.

I patted ourselves on the back when we reached the top of the hill to the parking lot and found our guide. He smiled and said we were JUST IN TIME. It was at 3:15! I rewarded ourselves with a nice cold soda and ice cream!

After we were all accounted for, our bus pulled out and we headed for the restaurant. Part of our packaged tour included a buffet, Jordanian style.

Wow, the food was delicious!

It was after dark when we finally arrived back to the border. We were held up for a while, while some Japanese guys from our tour group cleared customs. They were being interrogated for some reason. We couldn't leave until everyone was together, as we had a van on the other side waiting to take us back to our hotels.

Finally we were dropped off at our hostel, just as the shabbat (sabbath) services were breaking up. There were crowds of people standing in line for the after service meal that our shelter provides. Jeff, the guy we had met the night before, spotted us and asked how Petra was. We gushed about our day and he beamed. He couldn't wait for his trip the next day!

After virtually no sleep the night before, I was ready for bed. We said hello to our Mennonite roommates, climbed under our sheets, told them about our day, and THIS time remembered to turn on the swamp cooler! Boy did I sleep better that night!


Anonymous said...

Helen, I love the pictures and your blog postings. Petra is a sight I would have loved to see while in this part of the world. Through your pictures and experiences, you have a great way of capturing and sharing with others in a delightful way. Amazing how you just so happened to be there at the same time as the U.S. Vice President Biden and wife. -Darlene

Patty said...

Petra is a lot larger than I had pictured. I wonder just how much more is being uncovered under that fence people were leaning against.

Lancashire rose said...

It was really great to read your experience as we will be walking in your footsteps this time next year. I'm glad you didn't miss the bus. I have been wondering about the availability and price of water. Sorry you missed the horse ride. We have been told we will have to tip him $5

Helen said...

Bottled water is in abundance everywhere you go. Even at Petra, and the pyramids you can buy bottled water and soda. But I also always made a point of having at least 2 bottles on my person, and it was always enough.

Prices differ. Some have set price, and some people will ask more, knowing they will get it, because you're a TOURIST. Locals aren't charged as much. I've seriously considered wearing a BURKA on my next trip to save money! (not!) :D