The ferry ride from Nuweba to Aqaba was pretty uneventful, that was once we finally got on board. think we waited about 4 hours in the ferry terminal before getting on. Apparently it leaves from a certain time but no one can tell you when it will actually depart. I guess thats what we call Egyptian time!
The worst thing about the ferry trip was finding out how lousy the exchange rate was going to be. Seems to be apparent even from early on that Jordan is going to be alot more expensive than Egypt.
Arriving in Aqaba we were greeted by a new tour leader by the name of Osama (no joke and also no relation). First impressions aren’t great as he already wasn’t listening to us when we told him that all our passports were separate and not in a group as he thought. We wanted to do that but the guy on the ferry wouldnt allow us, but he did for another group. One rule for one, another rule for another.
We finally found our way through customs and immigration to get to the hotel, where I asked Osama if a doctors appointment had been set up for my back as previously advised by our previous leader Hisham. He looked at me blankly as if I was stupid. We then went straight to the hospital across the road (how convenient) for inspection, x-ray, needle and prescription. Hard to fathom all this was completed in 40 mins but somehow it was. Dinner that night was in a pretty good seafood restuarant, tasting the local delicacy, dinese. For someone who usually doesnt eat seafood I really enjoyed it.
Next morning we were scheduled to go to Wadi Rum, however my back was still feeling somewhat sore and I requested that I be excused from that trip as it involved 4WDing and climbing sandhills. Not what I really needed to do with a dodgy back as I still needed some treatment. The injury itself was a muscle spasm in the lower vertebrae when the back straightened too much. It took some convincing for Osama to understand my situation and that I have 5 weeks more travel to get through and I need treatment and don’t want to be causing it more grief. To be honest, he didn’t look overly impressed as he thought the jab was all that was required.
That day by myself, I had a full body chinese massage which worked the back over like no one has done before and then after a couple of hours rest, I wandered around the city markets and beach as well as the fort (Aqaba Castle) before hitting the sack. By the end of the day my back was feeling pretty good with little pain, just a little tenderness. That masseuse worked a minor miracle.
During the night I received a call from Osama, and a few of the travelling party to check up on how things had gone. As soon as I told Osama about the massage all he could wonder if there was a ‘happy ending’ thinking I went to a whore house or something. As I kept telling him, all I wanted was my back treated. The others ran out of alcohol and they asked me to pick some up while in Aqaba, as its much cheaper, which I said I would if I could but didn’t want to push my back too quickly. Osama then contacted a ‘friend’ who delivered a shitload of alcohol to the hotel for me to take over to them when I resume the trip tomorrow for the journey to Petra.
Next day, the driver picked me up and took me out to Wadi Rum to catch up with the group. What Osama had not told me was that I had to go through a Special Economic Customs Area and that I could only carry 1 litre of alcohol through. Here I was at customs with copious amounts of alcohol, I think about 6 litres, which was confiscated with Osama on the phone, trying to get me to lie to customs officials to get the alcohol through. I had no idea what was going on as I generally don’t speak any Arabic and thinking I could find myself deported as soon as possible. Now it appears I look like a alcohol smuggler according to customs police. Who knows if this will affect me later on. I had to leave all but one bottle with the officials. Now there was a good waste of money in anyones language. We now paid 75 Jordan Dinar (about $100) for one bottle of Peach Vodka, one bottle of water and 4 litres of juice. God only knows what the group is going to think.
On meeting the group, Osama gave no apology for putting me in the customs situation and this was starting to wear thin on me as I felt like I had been set up and completely humiliated. As long as he walks out of it with his name in tact, he doesn’t really care about anyone else.
Today was Petra day and one I was looking forward to. It seemed to take a while to get there and when we did it was a truly remarkable place. The rock carvings were awesome, especially the Treasury and the Royal Tombs. The chasms and cliffs in place were very grand and photography went to new level for me. We did come across some pottery ruins and Osama was encouraging us to help ourselves. This was against the principles of the travel company as we are meant to be responsible travellers. Given it was an archaeological site most of us decided against it. Still it didn’t stop him encouraging us otherwise.
That night in the hotel myself and James who were sharing accommodation all the way from Cairo had to stay in a triple share room, which was basically a double room with a kiddie bed thrown in for good measure. The unfortunate thing was that the other person we had to share was a chronic snorer, well he was that night and we only got about 90 mins sleep. Prior to the night we tried to get Osama to re-arrange the accommodation as it was clear the room was not suitable for 3 people.
In the morning, James and myself were pretty grumpy, who wouldn’t be after 90 mins sleep, and were in no mood for any of Osama’s games. James then rang Intrepid and complained about the sleeping arrangements and seemed to have good success as they organised another hotel for us the next night, much to Osama’s disgust who basically told us off that night. At that stage I let rip basically saying he never listens us. He asked for examples and I was happy enough to provide him some. By this stage James had to calm me down as I was getting close to losing it.
During the day though, we went back to Petra to climb up to the Monastery which is supposed to be the second best part behind the Treasury. I loved the walk up, even though it was 800 stairs, as the views down below were fantastic. The Monastery was great and given the lesser crowd, much better to enjoy than the treasury. After the walk some of had a turkish bath. The bath itself was good and the massage great but compared to the Russian banya it seemed to be missing something. Maybe it was the whipping with birch leaves. Afterwards I did feel very clean and refreshed, which i think was needed after the lack of sleep the night before.
Next day we were off to Madaba but on the way we went past a crusader fort which when looking at it from various angles you could see how well hidden it was from invading forces, then to Kerak Castle. It was kind of hard to appreciate due to the quickness of the tour given by Osama as apparently we were running behind schedule. From there we headed off to the Dead Sea where people went for a swim or should I say float. I played the role of official photographer as I didn’t participate in the swim. During this time some of the others covered themselves in Dead Sea Mud as apparently it is very good for the skin.
I did enjoy the break here, though I still had things on my mind as Osama had to this point not even acknowledged my existence during the day. Last stop on the way to Madaba was Mt Nebo which is a very religious place but given the rushing I didn’t really get an understanding as to why. However the views from the top were amazing and could easily see into Israel.
Arriving in Madaba, James and myself went for a wander into the downtown area. Its probably hard to call it downtown as there was very little going on, but the one thing we did find were some awesome pastry shops. If there is one thing they do well in Jordan, its making pastries. Loading up with pastries we headed back to the hotel before dinner, sharing with some of the others in the hotel bar.
Given no contact was made with Osama during the day I had no idea what was for dinner or what time. I then found out that each person was personally invited to his house for dinner but not me. I guess it had something to do with the previous night. On his arrival to the hotel I asked if I was invited and he said yes, so I waited for the invite to come from his mouth. I am an Aries after all so I am stubborn. I asked why I wasn’t invited previously and he said it was because I yelled at him and he said that no one yells at him, not even his father. I was thinking maybe if his father did, he might not the twat that he is. If only I did say that. He then proceeded to call me ‘my friend’ as he never bothered to learn peoples names, when I then said ‘please don’t call me your friend as I am not’. He then withdrew his ‘invitation’ and from there my tour was pretty much over.
Next day I wrote a note to my fellow travellers advising that I wouldn’t be joining them as I cant deal with Osama any more and that I may do something I could regret. The others understood why and I was grateful for that. Once they had come back from the morning walking tour, Johan, Jeff and myself went out to Jerash which was a city of roman ruins. Most impressive and in my opinion much more impressive than Petra probably because it was better preserved and less touristy. After the previous few days, this was welcome relief.
That night was the farewell dinner, which I didn’t attend as Osama was. I was enjoying a few drinks with a couple of people in the hotel when the others came back and shared in some farewell drinks. I was happy they did that and very thankful that they had included me in that way. At least I know I was travelling with some quality people who could see and acknowledge my issues.
Next day was departure day and to say I glad to get out of Jordan was an understatement. Next stop New York City!!