Heat and red tapeSeptember 3, 2017 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C
We crept out of Gil and Mira's at 7.15 and caught a cab to the Jerusalem Gateway Hotel, the pickup point for our next big adventure - the trip to Jordan. The bus arrived bang on time, and after we'd collected passengers from several other hotels the bus headed off towards the Jordan River Border Crossing. What happened next was nothing if not amusing. Our first stop was an Israeli checkpoint which, we later discovered, was a good 5km before the border. We can't remember the exact sequence, but know that we had to go through at least four other checkpoints, most of which involved us in getting off the bus we were on, claiming our baggage and transferring to a different bus. All told, we reckon we were on and off four different buses, though one of our fellow passengers was certain it was at least five.
On one of these occasions the driver demanded payment of five Jordanian dinars from each of us, gave us official-looking receipts and drove us, literally, no more than 200 metres. We lost count of the numbeer of times we had to show our passports, but it must have been at least ten. The best bit was when we had to line up at a cashier's booth (sadly, I think it was on the Israeli side of the border), where there was a real free-for-all of a queue with much shouting, mainly on the part of our driver of the moment, who very clearly was looking after our interests.
Before leaving home, we'd been told that we needed to pay around $US50 per head in folding money as we exited
Israel. With the driver yelling at the cashier, it seemed that each passenger ahead of us in the line was being charged a different amount. When our turn came, we handed over the two $US50 notes, whereupon the driver started arguing with the girl in Hebrew, while turning in our direction from time to time and winking. She reluctantly handed us back $US15, after which he continued to argue until she gave us a further bundle of dinar notes. With all the carry-on one would think that Israel and Jordan were sworn enemies rather than supposedly close allies. While the place looked to be formal and official there's no doubt that the negotiations were more like what one finds in a Middle-Eastern market.
Eventually, we got through all the official stuff, and finished up on a 15 seat mini-bus with eight of us on board, the other six all being very friendly Americans. Our Jordanian guide, Sam, who has been doing the job for 26 years, proved to be very knowledgeable and friendly. Once he'd introduced himself we were off, along some steep, windy and scenic roads in the direction of the ancient city of Jerash. It's a massive site, with a continuous history dating from the bronze age through to today. It is best known for its spectacular Roman ruins and is widely acknowledged as one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. To quote from the guide map, "...it comprises paved and colonnaded streets,, soaring hill-top temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares nd plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
Very impressive, but boy, was it hot! There wasn't a lot of shade, though Sam did his best to allow us to rest in the shade whenever we stopped for him to explain something to us. To a varying extent all of us in the tour group overdid it. Heroically, Brian walked almost to the far extremity of the site, and definitely pushed himself hard. We were the oldest members of the group, and both of us were proud of our efforts alongside the others.
We then headed back for the 90 minute drive to Amman where our mini-bus driver took us on a comprehensive tour of the capital. We were shown some of the major vistas and other tourist attractions, after which we were dropped off at the Liwan Hotel, a clean and spacious 3-star establishment.
When Brian asked our guide whether Petra is likely to be any less challenging he was non-committal, beyond emphasising that we need to wear strong walking shoes. We'll see what tomorrow brings.Read more