A 8-day adventure by Elisa
  • Day8

    Time to say Goodbye

    November 24, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Just a few hours have passed after our farewell party at the Ramada Hotel when the alarm clock goes off: breakfast will await us at 5am, because at 5.30am we will all have to be in the bus ready to leave.
    As I feared, the drive to the airport feels terribly short and in a flash we are in front of the well-known Amman airport, ready to say good-bye to our fantastic driver and guides. And for me there's no need to even try to avoid it: even before hugging my beloved chubby driver, tears are already running down my cheeks.

    After that, the usual mess...
    1) after the security controls I can't find my phone anymore (but only realise it an hour later)
    2) our flight is late (how surprising...) and I will almost for sure miss my coincidence for Rome
    3) I go through the whole terminal looking for my cell phone, panicking and bother every single policeman I stumble upon... just to realise that my poor phone never left my pocket.
    I guess my brain still needs some holiday...
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  • Day7

    Dead Sea

    November 23, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our last and long-feared day in Jordan has started!
    This morning the alarm clock rings way too early: the departure is scheduled for 8.30am! And, as we learnt over the past 6 days, punctuality is meant the German way...
    We have a very long drive ahead of us: we will have to travel all the way from the very South of Jordan (the Red Sea) back to the North, where our adventure started. Our destination is the Ramada Hotel, a renowned resort on the shores of the Dead Sea, just a few kilometres away from the border with Israel. And, once again, our expectations are about to prove completely wrong...

    If we were expecting a posh beach resort crawling with people in a touristic town, the reality is quite off...
    First of all, the hotel is literally in middle of nowhere: after driving for a good 15 minutes in the marshes, we check in and get to our rooms, just to discover that not only we are far off the sea, but all around us there is just an endless swampy ground.
    Secondly, the hotel is quite nice indeed, but once we get to the beach (thanks to a hotel shuttle), we realise that:
    1. There are absolutely no infrastructures
    2. We are literally the only people there
    3. All around the beach there is an open-air landfill
    As the beach will "close" at sunset (or rather, that's when the last shuttle leaves and we really don't want to be abandoned there), we pick up towels, flip-flops and sunblock and we hurry up towards the shore. And I have to admit that the experience is quite special indeed...

    Despite the appearances, this place is truly special. As Abdullah explained to us, this is the lowest point on Earth: we are 400 metres below sea level! And it's not the only pecualirity!
    The water of the Dead Sea has 33% salinity, meaning that 1/3 of the water is actually salt. Just to get an idea of what this means, normal seas and oceans have an average salinity of 3% i.e. ten times lower. This fact has two main consequences:
    - the sad one is that almost no forms of life can survive in such conditions (hence the name "Dead Sea")
    - the funny one is that it's basically impossible to swim: as soon as you enter into the water, your body is pushed up by the salinity and you float like a raft!
    No need to say that we have to try it ourselves, but not before covering out bodies with a weird and slimy black mud from a special pool close to the shore. It's definitely an unforgettable experience, also thanks to the spectacular sunset that our last Jordanian day decides to thank us with.

    At dusk, we have to head back to the hotel for a good shower and our last supper. For the occasion Abdullah has organised a proper party, with three Arabic rappers singing for us. And the music is simply contagious...🎶
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  • Day6

    Aqaba (Red Sea)

    November 22, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    It's a long drive from the Wadi Rum desert to Aqaba and it's already dark by the time we reach our destination. Unfortunately it's a bit too late to experience the legendary beaches of the Red Sea, but we can still get a glimpse of the magic of this place by shortly walking to the seafront right after checking in at our hotel: a big harbour is hosting a luxurious cruise ship, contrasting with the cheap look of the town. Despite its renown, Aqaba is indeed a pretty cheap-looking sea town characterised by dark alleys with lots of mini-markets and kebab take-aways. And, even more surprisingly, almost no Western tourists are to be seen. Definitely not what I was expecting.

    Just a few kilometres away from us, on the other shore of the Red Sea we can clearly see an Israeli sea town that seems to belong to a different world: modern buildings, street lights, and a crowded harbour strongly contrast with the humbleness of the Jordanian side.

    After having a quick dinner at our hotel (where we also celebrate Anna's birthday), we all go out to a bar to party a bit. Our pub is close to a McDonald's, where I see the first Western-looking people since our arrival in Aqaba.

    Unfortunately, there will be no time to get a different impression of the Jordanian part of the Red Sea, as tomorrow morning we will already be on our bus with a new exciting destination: the Dead Sea! And this time I'm pretty sure that our expectations won't
    be disappointed...
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  • Day6

    Wadi Rum (Camel Ride)

    November 22, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    It's not my first time in a desert, and none of them was ever ended without a camel ride (or, more precisely, dromedary ride). And this is no exception...

    While we eat the fruit, Abdullah asks for the names of the volunteers for the camel ride and then leads us out of the tent to the limits of the bedouin camp. About twenty dromedaries are quietly waiting for us, sided by some bedouins.
    Abdullah gives us some instructions before leaving us: "The camels are called the "ship of desert". Don't kick them, just hold on. The bedouins will lead them."
    Each of us is assigned an animal and is asked to get on the saddle. As usual, the scariest part is when the dromedary stands up, as they start stretching the rear legs and then the front ones, causing you to totally lose your balance unless you firmly hold the front of the saddle.

    Once we are all up, the bedouins start pulling the dromedaries in a line and we start our ride in the red desert of the Wadi Rum. If it looked spectacular from the jeeps, it is just magical seen from a camel back...🏜️🐪✨

    After a one-hour ride, we get back to our tent... just to find the rest of the group sound asleep on the benches 😴😂
    It's now time to go, but before leaving the camp we are shown some tents used to host tourists wishing to spend the night under the desert stars. We'll, I'm totally stunned! Despite the Spartan outside look, inside the tents are extremely modern and quite luxurious: they include a Western-style double-bed with pillows and bed sheets... and even a private toilet!

    However, the most surprising part still has to come: our bus is here, waiting for us... In the middle of the desert! How could it ever arrive so far? 😳😳😳
    It's already late afternoon when we finally get on the bus and start driving towards South, catching sight of a bedouin camp with hemispherical tents not too far away. Spending a night in this desert under the stars must be an matchless experience...
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  • Day6

    Wadi Rum (Bedouin Camp)

    November 22, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    After the 2-hour jeep ride, it's finally time for some rest and refreshments. We walk along a path through two stunning dunes until we reach a bedouin camp. There are dozens of tents, equally spaced in two rows.

    We are shown where we can find the toilet facilities and then invited to enter a large tent, which turns out to be even larger once we get inside. Our tent is a spacious rectangular construction richly decorated with reddish-orange carpets covering the ceiling and the sides. All around the tent there are comfy upholstered benches on which we promptly sit, while in the center we can find some trays full of fresh fruit. 🍊🍎🍑 After two hours under the desert sun, we couldn't dream of more.

    And now... It's time to ride! 🐪
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  • Day6

    Wadi Rum Desert

    November 22, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    We start walking towards the red desert, when we find some bedouin jeeps awaiting us. We are split into groups of five or six and we jump on the rear section of these desert vehicles. After a few minutes we start driving through the desert passing by rocks, dunes and impressive mountains. The ride is truly exciting and the scenery simply fantastic.
    Our first stop is at the feet of an immense sand dune: climbing all the way to the top is a way harder job than we expected, but the reward is worth the effort: from the summit we can enjoy a fantastic view of the Wadi Rum desert. No wonder that this is one of the most requested film sets...

    After a photo stop, we proceed to a special place at the feet of a mountain, where we can admire some beautifully engraved rocks. We only have a few minutes before getting back on our jeeps to continue this amazing safari.
    We drive on towards another rocky mountain, at the feet of which a herd of dromedaries boringly look at us. 🐪🐪🐪 We have a ride planned for later, but apparently these aren't our camels as we soon have to go back to our vehicles and start driving in a new direction.

    During one of the following stops, some bedouins show us how to produce the "desert soap": they take a special crop, break it into small pieces and then our some water on it. Incredible but true, as soon as the water touches this mush of grass, a strange foam is suddenly produced! 😲

    Once we have got back on our jeeps, we drive for a few more kilometers in the desert until we are asked to get off and proceed on foot: it's time to reach the bedouin camp! 🏜🏕
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  • Day6

    Pillars of Wisdom

    November 22, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    At 8am it's again time to leave, again in direction South: we will head down all the way to the Red Sea, but we will stop on the way in a special place... the Wadi Rum desert!
    Before hitting the road again we have a last look at our beloved Petra from a panoramic point: from here we can clearly see the Siq making his may through the mountain like a fracture in the rock. I will definitely miss this place...

    Another long drive awaits us and Abdullah uses this precious time to give us some important information on the programme. For instance, some of us requested the camel riding and he assured us that it's perfectly safe...
    "Camels are led by a man... Or at least by a human. But not a woman"
    No need to say he managed to confuse us again...
    He also enriches our Arabic vocabulary with two new words: "camel" is "Jamal" while "mountain" is "Jabel".
    In case it were not clear, he explains that "Jamal ca be on a Jabel, but a Jabel cannot be on a Jamal" (hopefully for the Jamal...). I'm starting to get used to these pearls of wisdom... 😁
    He then starts telling us an anecdote. And the premise is: "this is a joke but it's true".
    OK, we are confused again... 🤔

    After learning more about marriage in Jordan and the negative opinion of Abdullah regarding wind mills, we stop at an ATM, where none of my THREE cards works...
    I luckily find a gentle soul who lends me money and we can proceed towards our destination: the entry point of the Wadi Rum desert, better known for being the "Desert of Lawrence of Arabia". Not only the British hero lived here, but also the world-famous movie was filmed in this area.
    As soon as we get off the bus we find a huge rock mountain in front of us. It seems to have some columns on its front side and it's apparently what inspired the "Seven pillars of Wisdom" of Sir Lawrence. Apparently this location is widely used not only for filming desert movies, but also for sci-fi productions located on Mars. And indeed the orange colour of the sand and the rocks is pretty striking...

    After a photo stop, we are ready to start our adventure. But before venturing in the desert, we have to wear our bedouin head scarf...🏜️
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  • Day5

    Petra by Night

    November 21, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Today was one of the most remarkable days in my life so far, but I think (or rather, my legs think) that I will wait a few years before setting foot into Petra again: this hike marathon will definitely be remembered by my lower body for quite a while. Well, apparently our guide decided otherwise...
    The programme for tonight is indeed visiting Petra by night! 😢

    After the amazing dinner buffet offered by our restaurant (by far the best one of the trip and, probably, of my travelling life), we jump on the bus and we follow the well known route to the Petra gate. By the time we get there it´s already 8pm, which means it´s completely dark (the sunset is at 4.45pm). Luckily we will only walk till the Treasury (approx. 30-40 minutes), where a special show awaits us...
    Already the path leading us towards the Siq has something magical: on both sides of the trek thousands of candles covered by paper lanterns light up the way to the Siq and continue until the clearing of the Treasury.

    During the walk I get the chance to spend some time with Rut, lovely Spanish girl I had ready briefly met before the trip during one of the pre-meetings...and the time flies!
    When we finally get to the Treasury, the clearing in front of the monument is dotted with hundreds of lanterns. We sit on the floor on some cushions and we admire this wonder while being served a super sweet mint tea. The only sources of light are the candles and the full moon in the sky, but it's incredibly bright!

    After a short wait the show finally starts: while we stare at the facade of the monument, some musicians start playing and singing bedouin chants. The atmosphere is really unique but many people leave after a while because honestly the melody is not the most exciting. But it's a big mistake...
    In fact, at the end of the performance a fantastic lighting show starts and the facade of the Treasury starts changing colour every few seconds! I obviously start taking pictures and I almost set myself on fire... 🔥Too focused on my photo reportage, I happen to step on a lantern which turns immediately into a torch and I only notice it when the flame starts roasting my leg. Well, I think from now on I will remember that paper burns well... 🙄

    It's already 10.30pm when we reach the bus and head back towards the hotel. Some of us decide to stay in town, including my room mate. All fine so far, if it were not for the minor detail that she has the room key... Another interesting evening is about to start 🙈
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    Ludovico Castelvetri

    Wow, the atmposhere must be amazing

    Elisa Chieno

    Yep! At least until I set my leg on fire with one of the torches 🙄

  • Day5

    Petra (Way back)

    November 21, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    It’s already 2pm and even though we have been walking for 6 hours with no breaks (apart from the adventurous toilet stop), we are so terrorised to incur in Abdullah’s wrath if we are late, that we run down the same trek we were walking up just a few minutes ago.
    On the way down I get obviously tracked down by the scarf seller that hooked me when I was climbing up and I end up buying her two scarves. I hate bargaining for prices and I have no time, so I probably end up paying more than I should… but the scarves are truly beautiful!
    Once we reach the bottom of the valley, we go all the way back through the Siq, passing the Treasury and finally the initial valley. What really amazes us id that with the afternoon light the colours are completely different: it’s like seeing a completely new place!

    As expected, almost nobody is at the bus at 4pm and poor Abdullah seems pretty nervous: he indeed booked the hammam for part of us for… 4.15pm! By the time we wait for all the latecomers and we actually reach the hotel it’s already past 5pm. On the way back we see a beautiful sunset over the town and mountains of Petra and our hotel as well is perfectly integrated in the landscape with its beautiful sandstone houses and fences.

    After an 8-hour hike with no breaks I am starting really feel it... both in my legs and my stomach! Since there is nothing around our resort I ask in the reception if they have a vending machine or a snack bar. The result is that I end up using the room service of a 5-star hotel for a pretty expensive sandwich...😣
    But the best part is that I am just about to eating the last piece of my delicious sandwich when I find out that dinner is at 6.30pm i.e. In half an hour. I'm officially an idiot 🤦🏼‍♀️
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  • Day5

    Petra (Monastery)

    November 21, 2018 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Before venturing on a challenging hike up the mountain (it´s only 250m difference in height but it´s VERY VERY steep), we embark on an even more daring adventure: the toilets. Leaving aside the legendary queues of the ladies´ loo, in this side of the world most of the “facilities” are… ehm… interesting experiences.
    We pass the test (even though the conditions were actually worse than we feared) and we start climbing up on the “Monastery trail”. The trek consists of steps carved in the stone of the mountain side. The main problem is actually not the fact that everything is narrow and slippery, but rather that you have to constantly watch out for the donkeys bringing up the laziest tourists…

    As expected, the idea of doing a “group hike” promptly fails after a few hundred meters and I end up climbing up with Elke, who luckily has my same pace. The last hike I did was at the end of July and it feels like an era ago. Quite surprisingly my leg don’t seem to feel the same, but I wonder if they will change opinion tomorrow…
    On the way up I see some beautiful pashminas and I make the terrible mistake of promising to stop on the way back. If I don’t keep my word, the seller will track me all the way up to Munich…
    Thanks to a good combination of cooler weather (the sun is now slightly veiled and the temperature has dropped significantly) and generous legs, we reach the summit in less than an hour. And what awaits us beats our (actually non-existing) expectations: the “Monastery” is a majestic monument even bigger than the treasury built on the top of the highest mountain of the region!
    The best part is yet to come: by climbing up around 20 meters higher, we reach a lookout point from where we have a spectacular view not only of the Monastery but also on the valley on the other side. The Nabateans called this point “The end of the World” and honestly the feeling is not far away from that expression…
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