From the Dead Sea (strange how there are no
dive centres there) I continued North to the capital, Amman.
It was too cold to camp so I found a hotel,
and waited for Dirk and Nanda to catch up - I'd heard they were only a day
behind me. In the meantime I visited the British Embassy who told me that
there was little chance of my getting a Syrian visa (rubbish apparently).
This presented a little problem - the only other route is via Baghdad, and
until I found a small loophole I was wandering how easy the Baghdad route
might really be... However, it turns out that those who have no Syrian
embassy in their country of residence (i.e. Gibraltar for me) could gat a
visa on the border. Certainly shorter than the Baghdad route, so I decided
to give it a try.
Once Dirk and Nanda had arrived we looked
around Amman for a day or so - there's not that much for the tourist - and
then set out for the border.
Petra is an amazing place, but not for what it
is now but for the hints that it gives us of the grandeur that once was. If
you haven't seen Indiana Jones and the Lost Arc, Petra is a city that was
largely hewn out of the sandstone. The Nabateans first had to divert a river
so that they could use the dry gorge as their main street - then they set
about creating a large city complete with an amphitheatre, temples galore,
colonnaded streets, and many, many tombs.
I met up with Martin and Nadine, two
Germans who are taking a three year long cycling holiday, and we decided to
hike around as a group - this was an excellent arrangement as they had
The sad thing about Petra is that because
of the softness of the sandstone, most of the remaining buildings are in
poor conditions - but those that are intact give you a taste of what the
city once might have been. Sometimes you stumble across a large square
cavern hewn into a cliff-face - the facade has fallen away but you can tell
by the size of that chamber that what once stood there may have been greater
than the Treasury, or larger than the Monastery - which are tow of the more
impressive monuments. We are left with the disappointed feeing that we've
arrived a thousand years too late...
One of the most rewarding views is actually
away from Petra towards Wadi Rum - you climb to the amazing Monastery, then
continue to the peak above. Standing atop the soaring massif you can see
forever, and the wind carries the mournful pipe-playing of a shepherd across
the chasms, echoing and eddying from cliff to cliff. Well, OK - he wasn't a
shepherd, he was a tea seller ($1.20 a cup), but the effect was the same.
I drove South again in search of warmer
climes, and arrived in Aqaba where I found a camp site with a hose and set
about cleaning a large part of the Sudanese desert out of my car. Aqaba is
really a transit point for those coming in from Egypt - it's where Jordan,
Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia meet, but it also offers some great Red Sea
snorkelling which is why I was there. The water was icy cold, which limited
my endurance, and made sure I didn't sign up for a dive, but the fish and
reef were in pretty good condition, and once I'd thawed out I could actually
appreciate the experience.
The following day I once again headed
North, stopping for the night by the Dead Sea where I found a beautifully
secluded spot half way up a mountain with views across the Sea to Israel.
After a restful night I descended to the beach for the obligatory morning
dip. Fortunately the water was far warmer than the Red Sea - thicker too -
you could see the salt swirling across the surface. The black mud was as
smooth as it's supposed to be, and the only regret that I had was that I'd
shaved beforehand and the salt was agony on may fresh skin - on no account
go for a dip with any open wounds....
OK - a quick info section on the crossing
formalities. On the Saudi side there are no fees - it takes about 10 minutes
to get through although the carnet stamp is a handwritten scrawl...
On the Jordanian side:
|1. Stop by duty free
where they look at your passport. Pick up customs form (a)
2. Go and buy insurance.
3. Return to customs office by duty free & pay 11D & get customs form
(a) stamped. Also pick up blue temporary entry permit for vehicle (b) &
2 attached yellow slips (c) (1D) which are your departure tax slips (I
was told I shouldn't have got this as I was arriving)
4.Get carnet stamped in the same place.
5. Now go to big room marked 'Arrivals' for visa if required & passport
stamp 6. As you leave hand in form (a) at the gate
(Total time 25 mins)
Fees (The bank next door changes money at good rates)
9D - 3 days
19D - 1 wk
28D - 2 wks
I set off towards Ma'an where at dusk I
couldn't find a decent camping-friendly hotel - so I continued on in the
dark to a little village by the name of Al Rashid where I was invited for
tea, coffee, and given a place to park outside someone's house. I was even
given a great breakfast of bread, eggs, yoghurt and olive oil in the morning
courtesy of Ali Kalil Nemat. It's easy to make friends here.
I'm now doing the tourist thing in Petra -
more coming soon...