Today is the three week mark of our trip. Four more days to the halfway point. Hard to believe. Wife and I are both finally starting really get over the effects of our colds.
After the incredibly full day we had on Sunday, Monday ended up being even more full. Because of this and because of all the pictures we've taken AND because our hotel in our last stop only has internet in its lobby (beware 3 star hotels in developing countries), pictures for Petra on Monday and Little Petra and Shobak Castle may be delayed until we get to Greece on Wednesday.
Today we visited the World Heritage site of Petra...another 'A-List'/must see places. And I'm afraid, like the vast majority of A-List, we ran into all the issues that frequently plague us when we go to them. This is a shame because Petra, like other A-List places, is rated that way for a reason. But let's go through the detail of Monday.
The hotel we stayed in Petra was frankly a dump. The hotels as I alluded to above have been a disappointment (unlike Albania where 3 stars delivered far above expectations). But we actually got a good night's sleep. We were scheduled to meet our guide that would take us into Petra at 9 AM. This wasn't quite true. We met a representative from our tour arranging company who brought us into the site which was within short walking distance of the hotel (THAT will be important later on). Our arranger also told us that we were invited to dinner at the house of gentleman who owns the tour company! Oh...hadn't counted on that.
Once in the site, we were given one of the official site guides. It is a long walk (about a mile) from the entrance through the slot canyon that separates the city of Petra from the outside world. And it is a continuous downhill walk...meaning it is a continuous uphill walk back. Our guide did not really do a whole lot of informing. We were to get 3 hours of time but it was more like 2 and he seemed in a hurry to move on and get someone else.
A horse ride for part of the way to the site is included in the price of your ticket but it only covers a third of the distance. And you are supposed to tip the attendants. Wife and I don't like horses. Then there are horse drawn carts to take you up and down the rest of the way. They are pricey but we thought we'd spring for it on the way back. Once we got down, you started to be assaulted by various and sundry people wanting to part you from your money. Camel rides, donkey rides to take you uphill, souvenir vendors of all shapes and sizes. The ride vendors in particular are incredibly persistent and annoying.
We reached the end of the long canyon (I will give you more of a physical description of the site when I post the pictures). Here we were glommed on to by two young donkey purveyors that simply would not leave us alone. We were already almost 2 and half hours into our day and it was getting hot. We finally managed to get them off of us by going out of their selling range where we found a place to sit in the shade and eat a snack we had bought. We really wanted to get up higher to some of the buildings there closer up. Unfortunately the path system in Petra is not particularly well marked (in defense we were given a map and promptly forgot we had it), so a lot of uphill, downhill meandering took place until we finally found our way to our destination. That was worthwhile because it was the most photogenic of the part we saw.
All this climbing in the heat, with Wife having issues with her legs before the trip, was getting to us (it was not easy walking). Getting down from sites we saw was as confusing as getting up. So we sort of staggered our way to the point where we could get the horse carts. Except that the scene was total chaos. There were all kinds of people waiting to get a cart back, no organization to getting them, and no carts showing up. After waiting about 20 minutes with no progress, we made the decision that we were going to do the mile and a half uphill climb. By our observation of the carts finally going down and coming back up, we probably would have been waiting the whole time though we might have saved some energy.
Needless to say we were exhausted and sore by the time we got back up. It was 2:30 and we finally stopped for lunch at one of the overpriced center restaurants. Then we staggered back to our hotel (thankful it was so close) and collapsed. But whether it was the soreness or being overtired, neither of us could nap. I got up and suddenly felt very bad. I started shaking and recognized the symptoms as the asthma attack I had had a year and half ago that put me in the emergency room. However, with that recognition, I took my inhaler. We got me into bed where I was shaking and convulsing. But I could tell that the medicine was starting to work. It was 4:30 and I was thinking there is no way in hell we are going to go to this dinner.
But by 5:00 I had calmed down enough to really rest. We were to be picked up at 7:00. At 6:00 I tried to take a shower and by working hot water on my sore legs (from the convulsions) got to feeling reasonable. So we decided to make the dinner engagement.
This turned out to be an event. Our host, the owner, is from a traditional Bedouin family. They are conservative Muslims. We were entertained in a traditional room where we sat on cushions set against the walls. We ate on the floor. This with the aged Wife and I smiling as our arthritic joints yelled out in pain. Don't get me wrong, it was a very interesting experience, but after the agony of the day, it was yet another assault to the body. We made not too late an evening of it as I explained what had happened with asthma attack and my need to recuperate. Up until that point we had been eating with the owner and his cousin who runs the business and had been our primary contact. The owner asked Wife if he'd like to meet his wife...not me, just a woman to meet the woman. Wife met the wife, daughter and the first grandchild.
When we got back to the hotel we keeled over. The guy who runs the company had tried to up sell us on going on a three hour jeep tour of the desert. We sort of agreed but when we got back we realized that that along with a three hour drive back to Madaba where we are staying, was going to be killer, so I cancelled it in the morning. Good decision.
Today Tuesday, we had a much more gentle visit to an outlying site to Petra and another Crusader castle before driving back. We both agreed that we had been smart to limit our day.