Amman and Beyond
Well we arrived in Amman with some small problems! First the International Airport was closed due to fog and so we landed at a military airport right in town. Problem: Debs, who was collecting us, was unaware of this. Next, we along with dozens of other passengers, did not have Jordanian Dinars for the visa on entry. They wouldn't accept foreign currency, but wouldn't let anyone out to the currency exchange on the other side of immigration - stalemate! We managed to buy some JDs from another passenger so that one was solved. Next, our bags were x-rayed and Russ had to unload everything because he was carrying a lot of electronic gadgets for the trip. Apparently hand-held CB radios and GPSs are illegal here... However they let us through with them. Last problem, a taxi. We were the only passengers left, and the only taxi had no meter and wanted to charge us a fortune to the hotel which turned out to be an 8 minute trip. And all this at 4.30 in the morning. Not an auspicious start.
At the hotel we met up with Debs, our tour leader, and with the rest of the group. We'll introduce you to them later. We wandered around the old downtown area for the day - Amman is moderately interesting, with some ruins of various dates and bustling markets, but it is a very run down place and quite dirty. Bit like Bangkok in many ways but without Bangkok's charm.
The next day, the group hired a driver and minibus and took us to some of the biblically significant sites Mt Nebo where Moses saw the promised land, Bethany-Beyond-The Jordan where John baptised Jesus (with Israel a stone's throw away across the river), Madaba with magnificent mosaics and then on to the Dead Sea for a swim at the public beach. What an amazing experience. Floating on your back feels really weird - it is almost impossible to float on your front. You can feel the water pushing you up, and it is very hard to push down to try and stand up.
Next step was the real start of the trip - we were driven to Aqaba, about 270km south through the desert. Only the occasional village along the way, but lots of military installations to remind you of the region you are in. Near the end of the journey, you can see the Wadi Rum in the distance, Lawrence of Arabia's hideout. If it looks this magnificent from afar, it will be fantastic when we actually visit there.
We are now in the campground with everyone ,and kitted out with our Land Rovers and all the associated gear for the next four months. Deb's partner Theimo has spent the last week getting everything up to scratch and today we get all our briefings and paperwork, and iron out last minute problems (like my window doesn't work!).
Petra and Wadi Rum, here we come!