Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Gulf of Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Nawatef Camp, Wadi Ghuweir, Shoubak Castle (and making up for a long blog absence)
The amazing adventures that I've been having during my free time have been keeping me from posting pictures and writing, but I do want to share what I've been up to, so here we go...
To weekends ago, F and I had some visitors down in Aqaba. They arrived on Thursday night, and after a Friday morning stop at Gloria Jean's, we all went down to the Movenpick jetty to boat a glass bottomed boat that took us to Aqaba's South Beach. The air on the boat was such a nice change from the late summer heat. While cruising along, we were able to see the city from a different, and perhaps more idealistic, viewpoint. For the day, we were tourists, snorkeling in the Red Sea, eating lunch that was cooked on an on-board barbeque, and enjoying the company of other travelers (including two kind English gentlemen who were in Jordan on a singing tour). The highlight of the trip for me was diving from the second story roof of the boat, Edgartown Bridge style.
We passed the Aqaba Container Terminal. Watching those huge chunks of metal being moved around so easily reminded me of the Atari game where the hamburgers fell from the sky. (Dan, what was that?)
That night, we met up with a Peace Corps volunteer who is teaching in a small town a couple of hours away. His stories about Jordan contrasted with the peaceful day that we just had - Peace Corps volunteers are paid a wage that is comparative to the local population. They don't have the luxury of exploring a new facet of the country every weekend. I am very grateful that I can afford everything that I've shared here in this blog. (In case anyone is thinking of visiting Jordan - the wadi trips (including lunch and transportation) cost about $50 each. The day on the boat cost about $40, and scuba diving was a little more than $50.)
On the mandatory walk through the market with our visitors, we of course came across some ridiculous JC Penney castoff mannequins. And J, of course, got a photo.
Packing more into the weekend, we went to Wadi Rum the next day. This was where Lawrence of Arabia was based during the Arab Revolt. The rock formation you can see behind the visitor center is called "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom."
Rather than getting a truck to drive us into the desert, we chose to walk about 5 miles to the Rum Village. We passed by a $13/person buffet and had a great lunch at a small restaurant (hummus, bread, tabouli, salad, drinks) for just a few dollars a person. We skipped a camel ride and T bargained a truck back to our starting point for 5JD.
The bargaining went like this:
Guy With Truck: 20JD!
T: Ha! 5JD
[GWT then drives away. Wuh-oh.]
Guy With Different Truck: You need a ride?
Whew! Ok, keep going.
This past weekend, I met 10 friends from Amman somewhere near the Dana Biosphere Reserve. When I arrived at the Nawatef Camp it was dusk. There was a fire going with chairs all around, glowing lanterns lighting the paths to the goat hair tents, and some very friendly faces there to welcome me (and bring me tea!). Nawatef is perched at the top of a deep canyon and is one of the most serene places that I have ever been, particularly at that time of day.
The next morning, it was just as beautiful.
Friday, we hired a guide to take us through Wadi Ghuweir. The 10 mile hike started at the top of the canyon, and went from sunshine at the top to the shade of the canyon; from a flowing stream to a dry path; from hopping frogs to tip-toeing millipedes. The canyon walls reminded me of marble cake.
I spent a large part of the day talking with a new Iraqi friend who is living in Jordan implementing security training for individuals who will be working in Iraq. I am very thankful begin to paint a mental image of Jordan's neighbor to the east.
The weekend was capped by a trip to Shoubak Castle, or Montreal, a Crusader Castle built in 1115. The best part of the visit was a long tunnel that went from inside the castle, down into the caves, and down down down until it reached a ladder that led up to the street at the bottom of the mountain. There were also stone wheels in one or two of the rooms and what I can only guess were cannon balls.
Next up: more visitors from Amman this weekend and another boat trip since we enjoyed the first so much. And then I am heading to Amman on Saturday and I'll spend next week working, drinking Starbucks, shopping, and other such big-city things.