Indiana Jones, Lionel Richie and Red Sea 'R and R'

Trip Start Sep 25, 2003
Trip End Apr 23, 2005

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quote of the day: "If ever a dead city held romance it is Petra....hewn out of ruddy rock in the midst of a mountain wilderness, sumptuous in ornament and savage in environs, poised in wildness like a great carved opal glowing in a desert, this lost caravan city staggers the most experienced traveller." Rose Macaulay

Abstract: Left on bus from Luxor to Hurgada on the red sea coast, ferry to Sharm el Sheik on Sinai, minibus to Neiweba. Ferry to Aquaba in Jordan then car to Petra, fabulous day exploring the ruins then back over on the ferry to Egypt and onto Dahab for 6 days of RnR and diving in the red sea.

Nitty Gritty: Our bus crossed the desert to Hurgada on the red sea coast, it was really quite strange, it would stop to let people off/on in the middle of a rocky desert with no sign of a dwelling for miles, where do these people live and what do they do? Pondering this question we pulled into a god-forsaken lean-to style hut for a break, G bought sheesh kebab flavour crisps and a 'twinky' bar, R refused to touch either especially after we had been told in India that these twinky bars are not cake in the conventional sense as they are not cooked, but the sponge is produced by a chemical reaction, with this in mind G bought a second. We arrived in Hurgada, which in a country famous for ancient monuments, demonstrates the exact opposite, with ugly new resort hotels stretched for miles along the coast, Benidorm and Torrimilinos eat your heart out. As we were in danger of developing a rash at the sight of so many package tourists (most,incidently from E.Europe) we hid in our room which was, for us, luxurious and watched TV, even ordering room service to avoid having to go out and face the choruses of Egyptian hawkers saying 'I make for you a good price' or whatever in Russian... In the morning we made a sharp exit to the ferry and escaped to Sinai and another package tour place, Sharm-el-Sheikh, jumping in a minibus we made our way at maniacal speed through an amazing arid jaggard mountain landscape to Newieba where the Jordan ferry leaves from (we would have asked the driver to slow down but we were keen to get away from the package tourists). Finding a nice camp on the beach with small bamboo huts we settled down do relax and await our ferry in the morning. It was quite sad really, another place, like Sri Lanka and Nepal where we had the place to ourselves as tourists had stopped coming, in this case due to terrorism (normally Isrealis come here).

There was a choice of two ferries, a 'fast' and 'slow', we chose the fast one and were very greatful, an American we were speaking to took the slow and although he had to board at 12 midday it didn't arrive until 10.30pm... ours left at 2.30pm and arrived an hour and a half later.. After entering Jordan, our 17th country (19 if you count Hong Kong and Tibet), we got a taxi straight up to Wadi Musa, the service town for Petra, as we, at this stage of the journey, are tiring of bus stations and long waits... Along the way the most surreal thing happened, along a lonely stretch of road we were pulled over by a policeman, expecting a search or document check, we were surprised when he started singing " it me you're looking for...I can see it in your eyes...I can see it in your face.." and asked us if we had heard of the Black British was Lionel Richie said us, but he's American, he was pleased to have found out who it was but insisted he was British, since we have a rule of never arguing with men with guns we agreed on where on our way... About 10 miles further another strange sight appeared and was explained by our driver, in the desert amidst rocky karsts reminisant of Utah, was a flock of about 3000 wooly white sheep, looking most unlike the usual scraggy black affairs in the middle east... 'from New Zealand' said our driver. We imagine the sheep were pretty confused, one minute munching lush NZ grass the next in a desert in Jordan... very confusing for the poor beasts....

Up bright and early we entered Petra and after walking down the narrow gorge of the Siq, like everybody who visits here, were totally blown away by the Treasury, carved 40m high from pink rock 2000 years ago... wow it took about half an hour to come to terms with it and we carried on round the corner where the gorge opens into a vast city with amazing tombs temples and dwellings. We dashed up and down the mountains and gorges for the remainder of the day saying "ohhhh....ahhhh...wahhhh" like a group of Japanese tourists. If you are planning a visit, get fit, it is massive, we managed to cram in the highlights and exhausted, wandered back up the Siq at 6pm.
Unfortunately our day was ended on a disturbing note, all day we had been jumping out of the way of donkeys, camels and horses being driven and walloped to race around trying to get fares, and another thundering of hooves had us and a group of Germans with children jump to the side. This time however the cart driver had pushed it too far and the horse, cart and him hit the walls at full speed, the horse breaking its neck and the driver splitting his head on the wall... very upsetting, very dangerous and very unneccesary.

We travelled back to the ferry and Egypt, stopping about half way down the Eastern Sinai coast at Dahab, a pleasant less developed resort on the Red Sea with nice views across to Saudi Arabia. Finding a luxurious hotel with, AirCon, TV, a pool etc we settled in for 6 days of RnR in preparation for our return. We were amused by a dog who joined us in our lazing and lay full length on the next sunlounger, under a parasol, chewing a big bone, the picture of contentment, until he was cased of by the cafe owner after about half an hour, we christened the dog, who we saw all over town, 'sun-lounger dog'. Rach had been suffering with a bit of a chest infection so we postponed diving and concentrated all of our energies on sleeping, loafing, eating and drinking fruit juice... a tough job but someone had to do it...

By the third day Rach was sufficiently healed so we went off diving, there is a reef straight off the beach so we started there, giving the instructors a chance to check we were competent. In the afternoon we went to a better spot called Islands to the south with nice coral, but the best diving was on the next day when we went to The Canyon where you drop into a narrow, yes you guessed it...canyon at 30m and swim along with the canyon mouth above you, sometimes closing off completely, hundreds of fish, pretty coral and tricky diving,...brilliant, next was the infamous Blus hole and El Bells, as you arrive, numerous grave stones remind you to take care, this site has sadly claimed more lives than any other in the world. This famous venue has a canyon, a massive 1000m coral wall drift dive and finally you swim into a bottomless hole in the reef that sometimes has dangerous currents... hence the tragic deaths... It was wonderful jumping into a hole in the reef and descending a narrow cavern to an arch at 30m, swimming out into the blue of a sheer wall of coral (apparently the bottom is 1km down), with lots of colour and small and large fish. After effortless drifting along the wall we swam into the hole and it did indeed look bottomless and pretty scary... panting with exhilaration we exited onto the shore, happy divers...

The following day we took it easy and booked our return to Cairo... time is running out!
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