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Saturday, November 29, 2014

To The Dead Sea and Back - Goodbye Jordan


Normally, Shack's "weekend" here in Jordan falls on Friday and Saturday but, as luck would have it, this week he had Thursday and Friday off but had to work on Saturday, the day before The Kid and I hightail it out of here to return home to the cold and snow.


Because we didn't really plan on suddenly having his weekend move up a day, we rented a car and spent Thursday in the Wadi Rum but it was too last minute to book an overnight camp out so that left us without definite plans for Friday. We woke up, the sun was shining and we just decided to do what we always do. We hopped in the car and drove north, towards the Dead Sea. Instead of taking the main highway (#65) we took the smaller, two lane #65 highway that runs north towards Amman and runs along the Israeli border. It's also the road that Shack takes every day to work in the mountains so he was pretty comfortable with the route up to a point.

The scenery is not as dramatic as it is on the other highway at first but I felt like I had been up and down the other road so many times that I was ready for a change. We passed through some small towns and saw quite a few small smatterings of refugee tents along the road, which was a first and there were quite a few areas that had large patches of vegetable patches that appeared to be growing arugula and big, black eggplants but overall, it was much less interesting than driving through the wadi rum and soon The Kid lost interest and started reading his Game of Thrones in the back seat and I started reading local news to Shack while he drove.

these guys had no intention of moving

Eventually, we hit the southernmost tip of the dead sea and big refining plants for bromine and potash so we all kind of felt a bit let down by the plan - the dead sea in this area looks, indeed, dead and kind of ugly and the refineries are not what we came to see. 

One reminder of the fact that we are in an area that is not always peaceful and peachy keen were these lookouts that dot the highway along the sea. When you get close up you see the sand bags and the guns and they are clearly there to keep an eye on the Israelis over on the other side of the water.

you can't see it as well from far away but those are some sort of towers that are armed and for clearly for keeping an eye on the other side of the dead sea, a sobering sight for wide eyed Canadians

We drove on a bit longer and slowly, all that started to change as we climbed a bit higher and we were looking down on the sea to the left. The Dead Sea is, of course, the lowest place on earth at -427 metres but for most of the drive, the road is much higher and so you are looking down at the water and it's really beautiful. It was flat, like glass and we both realized that it was the first time we had seen such a huge body of water without a single sign of life on it. No boats, no swimmers, no jet skis, no wind surfers....nothing. 

None of us really felt a need to float in the water but we did want to be able to get out of the car at some point and walk to the edge of the water and dip a toe in just to say we did. This, it appears, is not something that is entirely possible to do unless you are willing to pay a hefty fee. The hotels and 
spas charge a huge fee to access their facilities and, therefore, the sea so we looked for a public beach. We finally saw a beach where locals were parked so we went in there and were told we would have to pay $12JD each (it would come out to over $50 CAN) just to go walk down to the water so we just got back in the car and drove away, never dipping our toes in the sea. I understand wanting to be able to earn revenue off of a tourist attraction but it's also a natural wonder and it would be nice to be able to have some sort of limited access to it. This was my first, real disappointment of the trip.

 
we picked up this hitchhiking cop as we were pulling out and he said I could take a photo of him but he had to remove his ID number from his shirt. 







Back on the road, going south back towards Aqaba, there was a turn off for a city called Madaba which is famous for tile work so we took it. The next 40 minutes we drove on THE most amazing road either of us have ever driven on and that is saying a lot. This road was full of sharp twists, turns and switch backs as we climbed higher and higher through the mountains. The only time we had to slow down was when this big herd of goats came around a corner in the middle of the road.

After a while, their herder followed behind them and he leisurely walked them around our car to continue on down the highway. After we got up to the top of the mountain, the scenery changed drastically, the temperature dropped more than 10C to a very chilly 60C and it was all olive trees and grape vines. I did a quick google and read that the countries wineries are all around the area, so that was unexpected but really cool. 


Suddenly, we were in Madaba and all hell broke loose. Luckily, the kid was in the back , reading, and wasn't paying attention because we all almost died about 30 times in the next 15 minutes as we tried to navigate the most lawless little town we have ever driven in. Cars were just pulling out from everywhere, honking, going the wrong way down one way streets, kids running out in front of the cars - it was what I imagine Kabul would be like or something. There was no way were were going to attempt to park the car and go find the church I wanted to see and I have to admit, I have never seen Shack so stressed driving before. He LOVES driving in hairy situations and he was not happy. Just as we got ourselves out of the worst of it and were on the way back to the main highway, The Kid looks up from his book and says "Can we pull over so I can use the bathroom?"

I was too terrified to get any pictures in Madaba after we got into the thick of things lol

We made it back on to the highway and drove straight back to Aqaba, but not before stopping at a dodgy gas station on the outskirts of Madaba to use the bathroom. I was shown around to the back to what appeared to be some sort of kill room from a slasher movie and it scared the pee right back up into my bladder. About an hour outside of the Aqaba checkpoint (this is a duty free zone so you have to go through a checkpoint entering and leaving the Governate which feels like crossing a border) we also got our first speeding ticket. I am pretty sure that our $20JD paid for our cop's dinner and that his two cousins in the Avis rental car wrote up our ticket on a take out receipt but we gave him our money, thanked him for taking it from us and continued on.

instead of thinking of the kill room, lets look at the dead sea

Back in Aqaba, we broke down and went to the English pub, The Rover, for surprisingly good fish and chips and a beer, kind of sad because Shack was going to work the next day and the morning after that, we would be leaving him to come home.



And so concludes our wonderful, magical two week adventure in Jordan. Many people were quite upset with me that I was not only going to the middle east myself, but taking my son with me and I just want to tell those people to shut their pie holes because this country is beautiful, the people are lovely, I have never felt more safe and secure and as long as you are respectful of the cultural differences you will not only have no problems, but you will have the time of your life here. Come here, bring your kids here, bring grandma. Okay, maybe not grandma if grandma isn't down with lots of walking, climbing and drinking tea with Bedouins after a hike in the desert.

I leave you with this: