Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum
After much organisation and re-organisation of the car and the tent, we think we have everthing in its place for the next few months. All our gear is in boxes in the back of the car, with the tent in its own locker on the roof rack.
The moment arrived to actually drive the cars ourselves on Jordanian roads (on the other side of the road, though we are right hand drive). We were in the middle of the convoy only a couple of kilometres from the campsite when our car shuddered and, with a lovely smell of burning rubber, stopped. We pulled over with the two cars behind us following suit - but Debs and Thiemo and the other car had disappeared around the hill!
However Thiemo realised he had lost most of us and came back. He towed us back to the camp and he and Russ found out that the new timing belt had not been installed properly. The belt was just a mess of shredded rubber and the push rods were bent, but they set to and started pulling the engine apart. Thiemo carries lots of spares, and after much work all was back together again. However, disaster - the engine wouldn't go. So we kept putting off driving to Petra until it became obvious that a change of plan was needed to give Thiemo time to sort out the problems.
So we went to Petra by taxi - eight of us squeezed into the cabs in the most contorted positions imaginable. When we got to our hotel, there was no hot water and so a bottle or two of Jordanian wine consumed on the hotel balcony seemed the only sensible course of action.
Petra itself is stunning. The guide books say that if you only see one thing in Jordan, make it Petra. It's far bigger than you imagine and every bit as good as the press it gets. We hired a guide for the morning - a Jordanian married to an Austrian living in Leeds UK while doing his PhD. He was incredibly interesting. The afternoon was free time to explore. We first climbed the mountain behind Petra to a monastery also cut into the rock at the summit, every bit as impressive as the Treasury. It was quite a climb and Peter, Linda and Fred decided to hire donkeys for the ride. Further on from the monastery was a vista over the mountains and the remains of huge volcano, half eroded, but the black basalt clearly contrasted against the pink and yellow sandstones of the surrounding region.
In all we walked constantly for 8 hours before heading to Wadi Musa, the town that adjoins Petra, for an early dinner.. We were recommended to a local restaurant, The Cleopatra, by our taxi driver and 5 of us had a terrific meal. After Debs had had a quiet word in the hotel owner's ear that morning, we actually had HOT showers that night.
Next day we took taxis again back south to Wadi Rum. No-one is allowed to drive their own vehicles anymore into the desert, worse luck, as too many people were straying over the border into Saudi and the Armythere were constantly bringing them back - the Saudi government demanded that the Jordanian government do something, and so private vehicles are now banned. So we hired a Bedouin guide with an open backed truck, an old Toyota 4WD which was withjout a driveshaft and with the hubs not locked, so it was actually a one wheel drive... First we were taken to his home in the village of Rum to have tea. Then we were taken to the desert. And what a desert. No wonder Lawrence of Arabia was a bit taken by it. Everthing is on an enormous scale: towering mountains, red sand dunes, amazing weathering patterns in the rocks, rock bridges formed by the wind, deep and narrow canyons, brilliant colours. We spent the night in a Bedouin camp inside the Wadi Rum Desert. Canvas tents with beds on the ground and dinner served in a main tent with us all sitting around on cushions on the ground. We were served chicken cooked over charcoal, smelling all smokey, with vegetables, rice and salad and with sage tea to drink. All very tasty. But the desert night was freezing and we all slept fully clothed!
Next morning, it was back to Aqaba to see if Thiemo had fixed our car. To everyone's relief, ours was going, though a couple of the others had a few minor problems that were attended to.
Problems like these are inevidably going to happen, given the mileage we will be doing and roads we will be travelling. We just didn't think it would happen quite so soon in thhe journey! However, the important thing is that things are fixed, and fixed they are!
Next event is the ferry crossing to Egypt. We're told it may take more time than we expect...