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to the valley of the crescent moon… day nine

May 6, 2010

Annnndd… let’s try this again.

I seem to now have a dedicated Internet connection, though I’m still lacking significantly in the speed department.

Oh. And we made it to Jerusalem.

We checked into the Garden Court hotel a few hours ago. Being the final hotel we’ll stay in (and the first for more than two nights), it’s odd realizing that our trip has quickly neared its conclusion. We’ll spend the next four days here in Jerusalem, and then we’ll head back to the States. It’s part disappointing, part frustrating, and part excitement. Often, we, as tourists, hit the big city first and then slowly work our way away from it. By saving the most prominent city in Israel until last, it feels like there is so much to look forward to at a time in the trip when we would normally be itching to get home.

But enough about the next four days, how about the last two?

In a word: wejustspentthelast48hoursseeingsomeoftheworldsmostimportantsites.

Don’t bother looking that up in a dictionary. It’s a word, okay?

(Though since the Internet connection here is so slow – 2KB/s upload speeds; meaning pictures take 20 minutes to upload and 30-second videos, hours – I’m only going to post Wednesday’s activity here. From here on out, what you read will probably be a day behind when it actually took place. It’s not preferred, but forced.)

Yesterday morning began fairly early for me; in fact, I was probably the first person awake in the hotel. We were in Petra and the night before I decided that I wanted to watch the sunrise over the rock-strewn valley. I asked the front desk clerk what time the sun rose and he responded with, “5:00.” Excuse me?

But there I was at 5:09 that morning – sitting outside, shivering, watching the sky turn from black to blue, with reds and golds splashed across the face of the mountains. I recorded nearly an hour and a half of the sunrise with my Flip and plan to turn it into a 60-second time lapse video. Hopefully I’ll have that ready within a day or two (but with the turn the technology portion of this trip has taken the last couple of days, don’t count on it). Eventually I went back to the room to get ready for the day. When I came back down to the lobby, the area where I had been was swarming with people. It was kind of nice to know that dozens of people were now elbowing for camera room from an area that I had had all to myself just a short time earlier – and with a better show! I’ve watched the sun rise from some pretty unique places before (including from above the clouds) but that one probably beats them all.

Once we had made it into the actual canyon, things only progressed. We began with a horse ride down to where the siq (shaft, or narrow pass) begins. And from there, you’re on foot through alternating stretches of sand, rock, and ancient Roman road for a couple of miles, culminating in a view that is arguably the most famous the world has to offer. After all, you don’t earn the coveted World Heritage Site designation by being unrecognizable to the world.

Only-imagined vistas such as this…

Lead you to well-known ones such as this…

Once you’ve walked another 50 yards or so, the siq opens up into a wide area allowing for a full view of the treasury (or temple or housing or storage facility depending on when in Petra’s history you find yourself) as well as many other structures that the Nabateans built a handful of centuries before Christ. The only disappointing aspect of this moment is that there are so many people. It’s like Six Flags on the 4th of July, but only on steroids. It really distracts from the experience as you’re more concerned with not getting swallowed up in the sea of people than you are anything else. Fortunately there is an opportunity to ascend to the High Place. You have to take a steep staircase carved into the side of the rock to make it there, but once you’re at the top, the panoramic views afforded are well worth the effort. Not to mention that you find yourself with more Bedouins (two) than other tourists.

The trek back to the tour bus was a difficult one, as both Erin and I were so tired from walking up to the High Place and back that our legs were shaking with each step. But once back on the bus we left for our hotel on the Dead Sea, which was another four-hour drive from one country (Jordan) to another (Israel) but afforded an opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest.

Once arriving at our hotel on the Dead Sea, a handful of the tour members quickly made their way into the water. Swimming in the Dead Sea is one of those experiences that no doubt etches itself into the cavities of your mind. The best way I can think to describe it is to say that it’s pretty much like swimming in liquid jelly. Of course, you do float. The one downside that no one tells you about beforehand (and no one really thinks to consider on their own) is the fact that you’re in salt… and thus every cut, knick, scrape, etc on your body feels like it’s on fire when you get out. But, hey, I’m told that all that salt does wonders for wounds.

And with that, our day had come to its end.

I know that to you this likely sounds like a short, uneventful day with nothing much besides a really long bus ride to occupy our time with. But that’s not the case. Petra, where we spent a number of hours, is hands-down one of the most memorable places I’ve ever seen. On a typical day on this trip, I’ve been taking about 80 photos – and that’s spread out over three or four locations. I took nearly 200 photos while in Petra. It seemed as if there was something worth focusing on (literally) every few steps.

And since I fell asleep for 20 minutes waiting for the last photo to upload, I’m going to bed. Though for the greatest comment in the history of this blog, check out my man Josh Kirby’s “interpretation” of why there really was no post yesterday. Look under the comments in ‘Day Seven’.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    May 6, 2010 5:27 pm

    Spectacular images, both visually and verbally.

  2. Stacy permalink
    May 6, 2010 9:45 pm

    I love Petra too!

  3. May 7, 2010 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out, bro. Glad everyone is okay.

  4. Aaron Gann permalink
    May 10, 2010 12:04 am

    Ok. My guess is Petra is the original Latin for rock. Petra->Pedra->piedra (the spanish word for rock). (2 seconds later) Wikipedia says I’m partly wrong it originally came from Greek, but then the Romans borrowed the word…

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