Darren and Janet

Joined May 2017Living in: Adelaide, Australia
  • Day24

    Doha - hot, damn hot!

    July 23, 2017 in Qatar

    Weather forecast - 47°
    Activities planned - not much, it's even too hot to go caching ☺

    Woke late, breakfast in the room.

    Spent some time in the rooftop pool, then in the air conditioned gazebo by the pool.

    Went for a walk to the local shops, delicious shewamah for lunch.

    Watched some TV in the room - who knew The World Games are on in Poland at the mo, that Fin Swimming is a sport, or that Australia is in the bronze medal playoff in Ultimate Frisbee!!?

    Late checkout, 4pm, read the paper and ate snacks in the lobby until our airport transfer at 7pm.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day23

    Return to Doha

    July 22, 2017 in Qatar

    Final morning in Jordan, so after a quick breakfast at the hotel we went for a walk down the street before our afternoon flight to Doha. As it's the last day of the weekend, the shops are just starting to open as we returned at 10am.

    Abed picked us up for the trip to the airport and on the way picked up the airport agent - once again he escorts us through the "Jordanian" queue at the airport to expedite our immigration experience!

    Nice flight to Doha, and arrived to another 45°C day! Settled into our room, then went for a walk as the sun was setting. Had tea in the Waqif Souk, then walked to the Arch of Swords, which was a popular meeting place on a balmy night.

    Dropped into a couple of shops and the supermarket on the way back to the hotel.

    Stayed: Horizon Manor Hotel, Doha
    Read more

  • Day22

    North of Amman

    July 21, 2017 in Jordan

    Buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by 8.30am pick-up for our trip north. We started at the village of Rasun where we met our guide for a walk through Ajloun Forest Reserve. In this park they revere their olive trees, and even have a museum in town to celebrate their 1000+ year old trees. The park also contains Roman era caves and pits used for grape pressing.

    We went to a local house for lunch, another feast of local dishes, including purslane (cooked like spinach).

    After lunch we visited Ajloun Castle, a 12th Century Muslim castle on top of the tallest hill in the region. It is a moated castle with 7 towers to allow the inhabitants to see invading forces.

    After leaving Ajloun we headed to Jerash, a city occupied since 2000BC, now most famous for it's Roman era ruins.

    We arrived back in Amman around 4.30pm, stopping on the way for a date syrup drink from a roadside vendor (3 cups for 1JD = $2).

    Around 7pm we went in search of dinner. We walked back towards the city centre to find the streets abuzz, with many shops still open and the street sellers starting to set up their stalls. We had a local burger each, chips and a drink (3JD = $6 in total). On the way back to the hotel we visited the bakery for dessert, and the supermarket for some drinks for tomorrow.

    Stayed: Toledo Hotel, Amman
    Read more

  • Day21

    Afternoon in Amman

    July 20, 2017 in Jordan

    We left Petra at 10.30am for the drive to Amman on the Desert Highway. The name is quite descriptive, a couple of small towns where the speed humps force you to slow down to about 60kph, but apart from that, nothing but sand and trucks (and the occasional flock of sheep and goats being herded across the road).

    First stop in Amman was the Blue Mosque - it probably has a proper name, but it's massive blue dome is a focal point in the city. We both had to robe up for the the visit, which was self guided.

    We then made the short drive to the Citadel, an ancient site on top of the largest hill, affording 360° views of the city. Entrance fee was 3JD each ($6) and 25JD ($50) for the optional guided tour - our driver had already advised against taking the (very persistent) offer of a guide - there is ample signage to make sense of everything without a guide.

    Abed then dropped us downtown for a 2km walk back to the hotel via the city centre. Given the traffic it was probably quicker to walk, and it was a great way to experience the buzz and noise of the city on a "Friday" night (the weekend here is Fri and Sat).

    After a fresh juice and some shopping in the main street we stopped at Jerusalem Restaurant for tea, grabbed a quick cache on the way home, then had a pleasant walk back to the hotel, arriving at dusk.
    Read more

  • Day20

    Petra

    July 19, 2017 in Jordan

    A full day walk around the ancient city of Petra, carved into rock around 300BC. We met our guide, Hamsa, at 8.30am, returning to the hotel at 3pm.

    Tickets to Petra vary whether you spend a night in the area (50JD = $100ea), or just visit on a day trip (popular with the cruise ships that dock in Aquaba on the Red Sea, 90JD = $180).

    We took the road less travelled today, leaving the main path not far from the entrance and climbing to the cliff top opposite The Treasury, the most iconic and best preserved building in Petra.

    From there we crossed the valley to the Obelisk and High Place of Sacrifice (finding a cache at both locations ☺), then descended into the valley to see The Treasury and Siq at ground level, before the long, hot walk out.

    We had a welcome swim in the hotel pool, had booked in for a Turkish Bath and massage, but no one was at the centre when we arrived, so grabbed a pizza and headed back for an early night.
    Read more

  • Day19

    Bike ride and Dead Sea

    July 18, 2017 in Jordan

    After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, Abed picked us up at 8am and headed to Mt Nebo, only a few minutes from Madaba.

    Mt Nebo is, according to the Old Testament, where Moses saw the Promised Land before he died. On a clear day you can see Jericho and Jerusalem (that wasn't today), but we did see some more mosaics by early pilgrims which have been excavated and preserved.

    We met our cycling guide, Anas, in the nearby town at 9am and began our journey toward the Dead Sea. He was a member of the Jordanian Road Cycling team for 9 years so we were in good hands. The ride was 55km, and wasn't as easy as we'd been expecting, with many hilly sections and a bit of off-roading between the farms. Fortunately, we had a support vehicle follow us the whole way, so Oliver took advantage of getting a lift for a few kilometres of the steepest section.

    We arrived at Mukawir and went to a local family house for lunch. We had the traditional welcome coffee, followed by sweet black tea with fresh mint, then a delicious meal of chicken with rice and vegetables. Everthing we ate, except the rice, was grown by the family. This was regarded as a small family, with only 6 children - our host's brother has 24 children to 2 wives (Jordanian men can take up to 4 wives simultaneously, who each live in a separate house).

    After lunch we drove to the Dead Sea coast via the Mujib Nature Reserve, a green area on the map, but no green to be seen in real life. It was like a lunar landscape, barely a tree or bush in sight, but with spectacular mountain views and a steep, windy descent to the Dead Sea, 400m below sea level.

    All the "public" beaches are behind the hotels, so you have to pay to access them. Being so hot (it hit 43° later in the day), the hotel was fairly empty, save a few hardy souls swimming in the luke warm hotel pool. The beach was even more deserted, so we had our 10 minute float in the saline, oily waters, then caked a bit of (supposedly) therapeutic mud, before rinsing off in the warm outdoor shower and headed back to the air conditioned car quite hot and unrefreshed!

    We had a 3 hour drive to Petra for the night, but we extended that by an hour to take the scenic route via the Dana Biosphere.

    We arrived at Petra at 8pm, a quick shower to freshen up, and headed out for something to eat. It's a proper tourist town (the main street isn't called Tourism Street for nothing!), so everything is quite expensive, but we managed a shawarma (like yiros, but thinner bread and no salad), and a juice each for $40!
    Read more

  • Day18

    Arrival in Jordan

    July 17, 2017 in Jordan

    Our first view of Jordan couldn't have been in greater contrast to Rwanda - not a hill or blade of grass in sight!

    We were met before immigration by a rep from the Jordanian agent we booked through, and were expedited through the "Jordanian" queue with a free visa - getting it in Australia was going to cost us $400 each, or buying it on arrival was $80 each, but as we used a registered Jordanian agent, he arranged it for free.

    He handed us over to Abed, our driver for the next 5 days and we headed towards Madaba, 30 minutes from the airport. On the way out of the airport we were stopped by a police patrol. "If he asks, this is a free hotel shuttle service" Abed briefed us as we stopped. Turns out one of the senior politicians owns the taxi company, and he doesn't like anyone else getting paid to pick up people from the airport, so the police do his dirty work. Ah, that's so Congo...!!

    We stopped for a Turkish coffee from a roadside stall on the way, then straight to Madaba on a very quiet road. The roadside was dusty and barren, with piles of rubbish everywhere. Madaba is south of the capital Amman and is best known for the 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Made of two million pieces of coloured local stone, it is believed to be the earlist map of the villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.

    After checking into our hotel, we went for a walk to the town centre and located the Church of St George. We'd just finished taking photos of the mosaic when a lady appeared and asked for our ticket, which we were apparently meant to buy from the gift shop before entering. Clearly no need for that now ☺.

    We then visited the Archaeological Park and Museum, which has the remains of several 6th century Byzantine churches and homes, even more impressive than the church. The guide also took us to a mosaic workshop where they are keeping the art alive, before we grabbed a drink and some pizza for tea on the way back to our hotel for a swim.

    Early night, ready for our bike ride tomorrow.

    Stayed: Mariam Hotel, Madaba
    Read more

  • Day17

    Kigali Airport shenanigans

    July 16, 2017 in Rwanda

    We got a lift with Carla to the airport, stopping on the way in for a security check. We all got out the car, unloaded our carry-on and check-in luggage onto a platform, and a sniffer dog was bought out and gave them the once over. At the same time the car was examined, including the boot, bonnet and underside. When all were happy, we reloaded the car and entered the airport car park.

    Carla went straight in, but as we were more than 3 hours before our flight, we couldn't enter the airport, so sat in the outdoor coffee shop for an hour.

    At the alotted time, we passed the first external security check (only passengers are allowed in the airport, no family or friends to say goodbye), then spent 25 minutes discussing the finer points of Jordanian visas with the second security check (he referred to his handbook, then his supervisor, then wanted to see evidence that our agent in Jordan was an authorised agent), before allowing us to pass through to the first bag security checkpoint (including compulsory shoes off).

    We checked our bags through to Amman, wandered the shops, before another full security check (shoes off again 😕), before entering a waiting lounge with 5 numbered doors that all led straight onto the tarmac!

    Short transit in Nairobi (didn't have to pay the advertised $20 USD transit visa), then on to Doha. Got hit by a wall of heat as we got off the plane just after 6am, so looked up the weather - it was 34°, feels like 47°! Inside, the monorail between terminals runs above the lounges.
    Read more

  • Day17

    A Sunday at the pool in Kigali

    July 16, 2017 in Rwanda

    Our last day in Rwanda, before our flight to Amman tonight. Qatar Airlines have cancelled all their flights to Kigali, and at the same time cancelled our onward flight to Amman - fortunately our travel agent was onto it quickly and rebooked us a Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi, then Qatar Airways to Doha, and a new flight to Amman. The net result is that we don't have a 12 hour stopover in Doha and we get to Amman 4 hours earlier, so it's turned out ok.

    Late breakfast - massive smorgasbord of cereal, fruit, hot and cold meats, freshly squeezed juices (bush tomato was the favourite), pastries, cheeses and our favourite new term, active cooking!

    Aloys was available today to take people to the airport, shopping, to museums, church services and caching! A few went to the tail end a local church service (the full service was from 7am - 11am), while Kerry and Ruth visited the Natural History Museum and we went along to attempt the cache nearby.

    The museum staff first told us the cache was inside the museum grounds and we would have to pay $10 USD each to access it. The cache notes indicate it was outside the museum, so we declined her offer and undertook our own search. We found the spot indicated in the spoiler photo, but the cache was gone. The security guard told Aloys she knew the location, but she took us to the previous coordinates, so we went back to the correct spot and found an empty screw top container in the grass that looked like it could have been the cache container. We were carrying a spare log, so we put it in the container and found a more secure hiding spot very nearby.

    We returned to the hotel briefly before heading out again with Kerry and Ruth to the Genocide Memorial - Ruth to check out the souvenir shop, while we took Kerry in search of the cache we missed 2 weeks ago. We had it in hand very quickly this time, while 2 armed guards looked on quizzically - funny how on second look you wonder how you missed it the first time! We can now claim to have competed every cache in one country - I'm sure that won't happen again!

    Back to the hotel for packing, and the atmosphere has hotted up, with a live band playing near the outside bar. Sunday afternoon around this pool was the place to be seen pre-1994 - local families, expats, politicians, military and business people all mingled together and much of the capital's business was done here over a drink.
    Read more

  • Day16

    Hotel Rwanda

    July 15, 2017 in Rwanda

    Our last morning in the volcanoes region, breakfast was 8.30 and we chose the "active cooking" option (omlette cooked while you wait).

    The drive back to Kigali is only 80km, but the winding roads and number of hills makes it a multi hour trip, especially when you throw in souvenir stops!

    We departed Kinigi at 9.40am, had a lengthy stop at the local souvenir market, then a stop in Musanze for water. The town was festooned with red, white and blue, the colours of the president's party, RPF - the general election is on August 4 and the current president, Paul Kagame, was due to visit the region this weekend. As part of his election campaign, he offered free petrol to all moto taxis, so there was quite a queue at the local servo.

    We made a stop at the halfway point for some supplies of banana wines and to sample some bbq'd maize.

    We arrived in Kigali at 2.30pm and headed straight to the Hotel des Mille Collines - the "Hotel Rwanda", as depicted in the movie. Lunch was under the verandah near the pool (NY Club sandwich for me, chicken burger for Oliver).

    After we settled into our room, we went for a quick shopping expedition. While we waited for the drivers, we looked for the cache in the hotel car park. It didn't take long with 6 sets if eyes looking! (for the record, muggle Vaal found it)

    Shopping was at a craft market for last minute souvenirs , then the supermarket for food supplies. Tea was in the hotel's outdoor restaurant (pork chops, Nile perch).

    Stayed: Hotel des Mille Collines
    Read more

Never miss updates of Darren and Janet with our app:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android