El Condor and the Last Crusade

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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42
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Petra, the Rose City, hidden capital of the Nabatean Empire, and one of the undoubted wonders of the world (I do seem to be collecting them, don't I?). Known to most of the world, and many of you reading this no doubt, as the ancient city discovered by Indiana Jones to be the secret hiding place of the Holy Grail. Well, the pre-Dan Brown Holy Grail, that is.
You know that scene, as Indy flees the collapsing temple, having defeated those pesky Nazis and saved his father, he and his friends run outside into the sunshine, and you see this enormous stunning building carved into the very rock of the canyon? Well, that's Petra, or at least, it's most famous showpiece - the Treasury.

As you walk along the narrow winding canyon, the Siq, that provides the entrance to Petra, just as you begin to feel like the canyon is never going to end, all of a sudden you glimpse a sight of the red sandstone of the Treasury's facade through the bright glare at the canyon mouth. The massive facade lies slightly off-centre to the exit from the canyon, so it's not until you step fully out into the light that the entire, awesome, structure is revealed to you. That, and the endless hordes of gawking tourists and mercenary hawkers that such magnificence inevitably draws to itself.

Petra demands more attention than a more half-way whirlwind tour, as much for the chance to experience its shifting moods as to do justice to the enormous wealth of sights here. As the light shifts throughout the day, the rock of the city changes colours, reflecting different moods of this city. It's a fantastic place to get lost in - certainly, it's big enough!
The first day, the Canadians, Dave the Aussie, and I decided to go a little off the tourist path, and headed off down a wee slot canyon called Wadi Muthulin. A narrow fissure, and a known flood-path (indeed, a massive flood a ripped through there about a month earlier), it was strewn with Mini-sized boulders, deep pools, and tree trunks. Not surprisingly, it's was tourist-free! The sign at the entrance said "Danger!", but undaunted we wandered on. It took a good two hours to get through, involving much clambering down boulders, stemming across pools, and climbing up rock ridges - right proper Indiana Jones stuff!! We ended up coming out at a tomb-riddled valley way to the back of the main Petra site, quiet except for a herd of goats, and gradually wandering along through the hills, we made it back to the Siq and the packaged touristicles. We knew that tomorrow would see us firmly within their midst, as we strolled along the Petra gringo trail to gawp and admire the various gems of Petra, but for one day at least, it was satisfying to feel like the first adventurers on the scene, stumbling upon this lost city of wonder like the explorers of old.

I'd like to say that as the sun set, I leapt upon my horse and galloped heroically out of the canyon, with a cry of "Follow me! I know the way" echoing behind me. Alas, I did nothing of the sort, but a few hours later I eased myself onto the couch of the Valentine Hotel, tired but happy, with a cold beer in hand, and watched Indy & his mates ride out of the canyon and into the sunset. It seemed appropriate.
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