Amman to Petra
About to embark on the day I was most looking forward to for this trip. Seeing Petra. Lonely Planet mentioned a tourist bus leaving at 6:30 am but I wasn't sure if I would need reservations on it and my hotel told me that city mini buses leave from the bus station starting at 6. Lonely Planet said 7, but I figured I'd get there as early as possible to maximize my day in Petra. I left my hotel at 5:30 am and was all ready for the bus...which doesn't come until 7....and doesn't leave until totally full. At 8 am our bus departed with me as the only Westerner and one of two English speakers. Thanks goodness for the very nice man who was the other one. He explained what was going on and translated everything from me. We actually talked for several hours and our conversation was really one of the main reasons I love traveling alone. He was a doctor originally from Baghdad who had been living in Jordan for the last four years for economic and safety reasons. His wife and children were still in Iraq and he was such a positive, good natured person which made me reflect on how much we have and how much we take for granted. We talked a little politics, but mostly about every day life and his experiences. It was very interesting and I'm not sure where else I would ever meet someone to have this conversation.
After a quick rest stop (toilets in one room, several rugs in the other - I assume for praying - seemed like an odd juxtaposition) we were in Petra about 3 hours later. I could feel the excitement building and couldn't believe I was finally here. After arriving at my hotel (very nice place - Lonely Planet we are officially friends again) in Wadi Mus, (the small "city" near Petra) I dropped off my backpack and headed straight down to Petra. After passing all of the souvenir and snack shops named Indianna Jones, it was time to head on in. Again it was mid day but it didn't seem quite as hot as yesterday.
I won't go into too many details about the hike thru Petra - I will let the pictures do the talking. But I will say the experience was not what I expected. To begin with, the entire place is so over commercialized. I understand that tourism is Jordan's main industry and I understand that "rich" tourists are a great source of income, but it can get annoying after the 50th time that you are offered a camel, donkey or horse ride or begged to look at trinkets, postcards and sand bottles. I really think I spent more time saying no thank you (ok the thank you part lessened as the afternoon went on) than I did looking at Petra. Also, everyone talks about the big moment where you enter Petra. You've walked like 1 km thru this "siq" which is like a canyon and all of the sudden it opens up to a magnificent view of the Treasury building sculpted into the wall. It was definitely impressive but I guess not as awe inspiring as I expected.
That said, as the afternoon wore on and the tourists thinned, Petra began to feel more magical. The sunlight changed the colors of the mountains and there were places you could walk where you were all alone. Got lots nice photos with no one else in the shots. I also enjoyed exploring some off the beaten path areas - ones where I was the only person among the beautifully colored rocks and you could really feel the magic of Petra. By 6:30 pm as I was one of the last people out of the park, I seriously considered the donkey thing! Walking through Petra doesn't really feel like hiking unless you actually do a hike or climb tons of stairs up to the monastery but I didn't do that. It felt like just a lot of walking. But all of the sudden out of nowhere i was like wow, I don't think my muscles will ever move again. I didn't realize how exhausting it was.
On a random side note - dear fellow tourists: I know it was sunny out, and it can be difficult to see the camera screen, but really it is not that hard to take a photo which does NOT manage to cut my head off. If you are not up to this challenge, please when I say "Would you mind taking a photo?" graciously respond with "No, I truly am not capable, I must sadly decline." You won't hurt my feelings.
On the cab ride back to Wadi Mus, the cab driver and I chatted about my future plans. I told him I was planning on heading to Wadi Rum but wasn't sure of the details yet. Since every taxi driver in this country seems to be a tour operator (he had a business card and everything) he offered me "special price" to organize my trip to Wadi Rum. He offered to drive me there very cheaply the next morning since he was already going to pick up some other tourists. That didn't sketch me out and I gladly took him up on the offer. When he offered to arrange the Jeep tour through the desert as well as the night of camping with the Bedouins I was a touch more skeptical and told him I had to think about it. But here we are at 6:30 am and I'm getting ready to hit the road with him after breakfast. I figure it's only one night, how bad can it be? I know, famous last words. I don't think there's any internet in the desert, so stay tuned for Wadi Rum update when I return to civilization.
Next stop - Wadi Rum desert.