The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many path and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The Lord of the Rings
The Old Walking Song sung by Bilbo Baggins, Chapter ‘A Long-Expected Party’.
Egypt is a Walt Disney World vacation: crowds, heat, the urge to get up early and stay late. The country of Jordan is a week at a country house: laid back, quiet, visit one or two sites during the day and then come back to relax with your friends. But only if that country house has 200 flights of stairs. Seriously, I have never climbed up and down so many stairs in my life. Stairways in the hotels, stairs built into mountains, stairs between streets, stairs into the castles, and stairs down to the beach.
After long ferry ride (four hours of waiting and an hour and a half of actual ferrying) from Nuweiba we landed at the port of Aqaba, Jordan. Going through customs at a ferry terminal is nothing like customs at a cruise terminal, but with the help of our G Adventures CEO we made it through without any mishaps. Aqaba is a modern city, full of shops, hotels, and restaurants, but we only stayed on night. Early the next morning we left for Wadi Rum, which is now my most favorite place on earth. For everyone back home, imagine your favorite place in Eastern Oregon, and then add 10 times the beauty. It’s that amazing.
After one of the best camping experiences I’ve ever had, we were off to Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) to visit the ancient City of Petra. The next morning, at 6:00 am, we were the first people on the trail. We were able to walk alone through the Siq, and take pictures in front of the treasury without anyone to interrupt our view. Petra is immense. We spent all day there and walked over 12 miles (including 2 mountains of stairs).
Crusader Castles and the Dead Sea
The day after Petra, we headed north toward the Dead Sea. Passed some Crusader Castles along the way. This is Karak Castle, the siege of which was featured in the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”. The lord of the castle, Reynald, was such a nice guy that he put boxes around his victims heads so that they wouldn’t lose consciousness when he had them thrown off the castle. Reynald was eventually captured and beheaded by Saladin.
We spent several hours at the Dead Sea, bobbing around like corks. The Dead Sea is so salty that it is impossible to sink. Weirdest feeling ever! And you definitely don’t wan to have any cuts or sores when you get in. Then we all paid 3 JD to cover ourselves in Dead Sea Mud, which is supposed to have healing properties. I don’t know if anything was “healed”, but my skin has never been softer.
Madaba, Mt. Nebo, and Jerash
We stayed the night in Madaba, the site of St. George’s Orthodox church, which has a mosaic that is the oldest map of the holy land. The next morning, we went to the top of Mt. Nebo, the sight where Moses got his only glimpse of the holy land.
We also got to spend the afternoon at Jerash, one of the two most complete Roman ruins outside of Italy. Ephesus may be more preserved, but Jerash is bigger.
The Last Day: Jesus’ Baptism Site and Saying Goodbye
Members of the group started leaving the evening after Jerash. The next morning, the seven of us who remained hired a driver to take us to Bethany Beyond Jordan, the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Archaeologists believe the site is on the Jordan side, but the Jordan River has much changed in the past 2000 years. We also visited the “current” baptism site, on the border of Jordan and Israel.
Finally, there were only four of us left. One last passport check! I’ll try to post more when I can, but right now I have more than 30 hours of travel ahead of me.