Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Day 12: Triumphant March Into Petra!

March 12: Today was a special day. Today, we would be arriving in Petra. I've dreamed of seeing Petra ever since I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a kid and learned that some of the outdoor scenes were filmed at Petra. That's a real place?! And it's in Jordan? Where the heck is Jordan? (Hey, I was 14 years old when the movie came out. Middle East geography was not something I had studied!)

I never imagined at the time that 30 years later, I'd hike over 200 kilometers through the Jordanian desert to finally see it. When I first learned about the Jordan Trail, the thing that first grabbed my attention was that it ran through Petra. Petra! The Promised Land!

Of course, I wouldn't have done the Jordan Trail if that was the only interesting thing it provided, but I learned more about the trail and the fabulous places it would pass through and I was hooked. I knew immediately that I wanted to hike this trail. It was going to happen!

So, in a sense, Petra was the number one reason I was here. A lifelong bucket list item, finally checked off. And today was the day I'd see it--and not like the typical tourist after a long bus or car drive. I was going to march in on foot. Ryan Carpenter and the Last Crusade-style.

We had a long walk today, however, covering about 23 kilometers. And, unfortunately, we weren't able to get an early start. Lama had collected everyone's passports and entrance fees, and George woke up early in the morning to drive out to Petra and get the necessary permits and entrance fees, then had to drive back to return them all to us before we could leave. By the time the park opened, the paperwork was done, and the drive back to camp.... he wasn't expected to get back until about 8:00 in the morning, our usual starting time.

Even the morning was especially warm and I knew today was going to be a rough one, but I didn't care. We were going to Petra!

We ate breakfast, and right before we were scheduled to start hiking, George arrived. He returned everyone's passports and entrance tickets.  I didn't get tickets, per se, but rather my Jordan Pass that I purchased before arriving in Jordan and acted as my ticket.

The day's hike was more rugged than we had grown accustomed too, climbing a narrow, rocky ledge through a spectacular canyon.

I had filled up another bag of trash and during a break, I tried to stuff it into my backpack to get it out of my way and start filling up another bag, but tragedy struck--my pack ripped. It was a small tear, but I knew it would grow larger very quickly if I didn't fix it ASAP. I didn't have time to pull out a needle and thread and work on it right there on the trail (although I did have my needle and thread with me), so I handled my pack gently and carried the bag of trash in my hand the rest of the way. I wouldn't be picking up more today. I'd work on repairs later in the evening.

For lunch, we took a break at an ancient amphitheater--kind of a suburb of Petra. It was built by the same people who built Petra, and the stonework was amazing. I didn't notice it at first, but when I look around the landscape, I could see evidence of the ancient civilization on the hillsides around us. A man-made wall here and there, clearly cut from stone and carefully positioned. There was a large civilization here once upon a time, and only small traces of it remained.

We continued onward. Our feet grew tired and the heat bore down on us. Occasionally a cloud would pass in front of the sun providing shade and a break from the oppressive heat, but it never lasted very long.

Near the end of the day's hike, we started seeing smaller tombs carved into the rocks. First just a few, and then more and more and... the cliffs and hills were covered in what seemed like hundreds of tombs! Petra was near!

And finally, we reached a viewpoint from which we could see the Royal Tombs. Wow! Even from a distance, they looked spectacular! Gigantic structures carved right into solid rock. I pulled out my cell phone and started playing the theme music from Indiana Jones, which amused a few people who were standing close enough to me to hear it. It seemed like the right music, and this was the right place for it. *nodding*

At Petra, our solitary hike came to an end. There were tourists everywhere! Seemed like there were hundreds of them running around. And camels! And donkey! And people hawking souvenirs! All of the trappings of a tourist trap. The crowds made my skin crawl, but what an amazing tourist trap!

We followed the trail toward the Royal Tombs, but then turned off to the right before arriving at them through a narrow canyon that smelled of donkey urine and camel poop. We passed an even bigger amphitheater than where we ate lunch and finally arrived at the Treasury--the magnificent backdrop that was used in Indian Jones.

It was amazing that the 2000 year old structure looked in such good condition, and Lama explained a bit about the history of the area and provided information about the Treasury itself. It did look like the centerpiece had suffered a lot of damage, and she explained that the local Bedouin generations ago used to think that there was actual treasure in the Treasury and fired guns into the centerpiece hoping to release the treasure. Of course, there was never any treasure in it--all they did was damage the structure. What a horrible pity. I wished I could have seen how it looked when it was still in pristine condition.

We had a little time to linger in the area and take photos, which we did, then marched up the Siq--a narrow, slot-canyon that was the main entrance for Petra and where most tourists came in from.

The march into town was a surprisingly long distance away. The Siq seemed to go on for a good kilometer or so, then there was an access road that went on for another kilometer. We were absolutely exhausted. It had been a really long, hot, tough day of hiking. I was beat! Where was the end?!

Fortunately, our hotel was maybe a ten minute walk from the visitor center at Petra. Tonight, we would be setting up camp at a hotel. Luxury! George had mentioned that the hotel didn't have enough rooms for everyone, though, and he had been looking for other nearby hotels to accommodate the overflow. So I volunteered to share a room if that would help. George seemed hugely relieved exclaiming "That's a huge help! You solved a problem for me!"

I only a half hour before dinner was to be served, so I grabbed my bags and headed up the stairs to the room. The room was.... a little disappointing. After the 5-star resort I enjoyed at Aqaba, this was... well, not a 5-star resort. It wasn't a bad hotel, but my expectations had been unusually high after Aqaba.

This is the main entrance for Petra--but we used it as the exit after entering from another direction.

There wasn't much time for me to take a shower before dinner, but I felt so filthy that I just couldn't wait--I took a super fast shower. OMG, it felt wonderful! I could have stayed in the shower for an hour, but dinner was calling and I was starving.

We headed down to the restaurant, but when we looked through the window, it was completely empty. We were five minutes late so I was sure that we didn't miss dinner. Were we at the right place? We walked down to the lobby and searched around for another restaurant or dinning area that maybe we overlooked but didn't see anything--although we did run into another member of our group who seemed as confused as we were.

I headed back up to the restaurant and I poked my head in. One of the wait staff approached me and I said that we were hiking the Jordan Trail and was this the right place where we were supposed to get dinner?

Yes, it was! And apparently... we were the very first people to actually arrive. I guess everyone else was still taking showers and getting cleaned up.

The wait staff showed us to our table. It felt odd being--quite literally--the only two people in a giant restaurant that looked like it could seat a hundred people.

We started piling up our plate with food from the buffet--an enormous selection of food that contained all sorts of stuff that we hadn't been eating every single day for nearly two weeks. It was a pleasure to behold!

Within minutes of our arrival, about a dozen of our party had arrived. We started a trend! Others continued trickling in for maybe 20 minutes.

After dinner, we headed back to the room. I didn't stay long, however, grabbing my laptop and going down to the lobby to get on the Internet. It seemed like half of our group was down in the lobby using the Internet. A regular Jordan Trail convention down there!

And I spent the rest of the evening catching up on email and messages.

Life was good, though. We were at Petra!!! And we had only scratched the surface. Tomorrow was a "rest day,", but I had no intention of resting. Nope, I was going back to Petra to explore it in more depth!

Today's hiking included this particularly rugged section.
Fossil in a rock!


Qussai provides a bit of singing while we admire the views.

How do rocks DO that?!

We stopped for lunch at this small amphitheater. It's badly eroded, but it is about 2000 years old!

This rock reminded me of the sandstone monoliths in Wadi Rum.

The rocks around Petra are quite colorful!

The holes in the rock were carved out as tombs about 2000 years ago. And... 'downtown' Petra is getting near!

View of the Royal Tombs

The Treasury building! The holy grail might still be in there. *nodding*
This is Joe, who I knew from before this hike from my Camino walks in Seattle. A large portion of our hiking group--I'm not sure of the exact number--but quite a few people would leave us in Petra (including Joe) and it was a little sad to know that after hiking together for the last 12 days, they'd be leaving us.
From the Treasury building, we still had a couple of kilometers of walking to get to our hotel.
And we arrive at our hotel!


GG said...

Were you able to get in any of the tombs?

Ryan said...

This particular day, we didn't go into any of them. But most of them you can go into and we certainly did later! =)

Mary said...

The red rock looks like it grabbed a yellow, black and white striped blanket to keep warm at night and it petrified! The Petrified Forest in CA is full of trees turned to stone.....petrified. Those striations are so beautiful!