To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Day 15 & 16 - The Amazing Petra

Oh early wake ups how I love you, he said sarcastically.

Yep, even though this is a holiday, I am getting up earlier than I normally would for work...well my old job. I no longer have a job. I am one liberated traveller.

However, getting up early was worth it for where we were going. We took a taxi from our old hotel and headed 3 hours to Petra.

Thankfully we were able to check in to our hotel - our very empty and probably haunted/home of serial killers hotel - and were told it would be a simple 2km walk to the entrance to Petra.

What felt like 20km's - but was probably closer to 5 - and all of it downhill we finally reached the entrance to Petra (taking a detour to the bakery and shop to get lunch and drinks). Quite a busy place this one.

It wasn't exactly hot, at least by any normal standards, it was probably 30 degrees and after we paid for a 2-day entrance we headed into Petra.

I don't really know how to explain Petra. It's phenomenally awesome...aside from being annoyed every 3 steps by people asking if I wanted to ride a horse or a donkey. It's an amazing feeling to be walking in history.
The first part is a bit boring, you just walk on a downward slope for about a kilometer, the only thing worth passing are the Djinn Blocks which are just cubed blocks of stone that has designed cut into them. However once you pass the bridge with the annoying generator you hit the best parts.

First you walk through a canyon, parts of it have the standard "cut-in" design from the ancient times, but also on either side are the aquaducts where water ran along the path. It's cool (literally, it's a nice place to get out of the sun) but once you hit the Al Khazneh aka The Treasury (you'd know it from the third Indiana Jones film, the entrance to where the grail is at the end).

The first glimpse of the Treasury

The Treasury is simply stunning. Built into the sandstone walls, you catch a glimpse of it between two narrowing walls of the canyon and then opens up into a wide area. The building itself towers above everything and is the first of the inbuilt structures you'll see. But it is amazing.

We pushed on and stopped to have lunch on top of some steps where we got a great view of some tombs, what I presume are housing holes cut into the sandstone and the outdoor Amphitheatre. The amphitheatre itself is pretty cool and has a very Roman feel to it (the Romans did rule it for a time) though it isn't as well preserved as the Treasury. It could hold 8500 people though.

Currently just holding 1 person.

Further along we climbed a lot of steps to visit the tombs. The tombs, like almost everything else, is built into the sandstone and is, like everything else there, stunning. I felt like I had transported into Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings. They're pretty big and looks great both outside and inside (though not much to see inside, but the roofs have cool, natural designs).

Seems legit.

At this point we were about half way and heard about the Monastery which has, apparently, 1000 steps to reach the top. Knowing this and feeling completely exhausted, we decided to stop for the day and trudge back to the entrance.
We still have a second day to explore the rest and we didn't want to exhaust ourselves getting out of Petra.

The one disappointing thing about Petra, and this goes for Madaba (we'll see about other places as I visit them) is the way people treat the place like a garbage bin. There is rubbish everywhere. Even worse is the disrespectful douchebags who have spray-painted some of the walls in the tombs.

Petra - Day 2

Day 2 in Petra consisted of us waking up very very sore and debating until 2pm on whether we would try to get to the Monastery, the 1200-step behemoth at the far end of the site.

We eventually decided we should do it, otherwise we will regret it forever. So we got up, got dressed, licked our wounds and headed for the long walk down to Petra.
Surprisingly the walk down wasn’t too bad and before we arrived at Petra, we stopped to get a drink to take with us and I bought a Keffih to cover my head, neck whilst doing my best Al-Qaeda impression with my unshaven look.

All that's missing is my suicide vest

We took the direct route to where we ended yesterday and managed to barter a donkey ride from where we left off to about halfway up the Monastery steps  before we decided the boys were whipping the donkey’s too hard (the one I rode was pregnant as well).
Also we thought we were in good enough shape to walk the rest of the way.

We were wrong.

Even half the steps are a killer. It’s not just 1200 steps, there are paths between steps, sand you have to trudge through. It took us another hour to get to the top.

But it was worth it.


The Monastery is massive. I couldn’t believe the size of it, or how it was built. Like everything else in Petra, it is carved into the sandstone but the steps leading up to the entrance is gone so it is just a smooth wall and even that was taller than I was.
Words cannot describe the majesty of it.

Feeling refreshed and energetic we began our journey down the stairs and back to the entrance of Petra. We left around 4.30pm and got out at 6.10pm. It’s a pretty long walk, some people seem to say it is 8 km. It felt like 8000 km by the end of it.

Just for scale...I'm at the entrance.

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