Sunday 25 August 2013

A second expedition in Petra, Jordan

Petra is a huge site, way too big for a one day visit. We started our second day with a ride to the visitor center in the back of a pick-up, Jordanian style, in the box. We then started walking on the path leading to the site. After a little while, we arrived to a point where the path turns left. We went straight, going through Al-Muthlim tunnel. For about 30 minutes, we followed what looks like a river bed, but dry. This path leads to a curved canyon about 3 feet wide, with stripes ranging in colour from orange to purple all over the walls. The rock was amazing. When we got out the canyon, we turned left toward the main sites, seeing some old carved houses and a flight of stairs. We decided to take the stairs up the mountain. There is a path at the top that leads to the Treasury again, but giving us a stunning view from above. We had to come back down the same way. We admired the Sextius Florentinus Tomb Palace Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, Silk Tomb and Urn Tomb before exploring the Street of Facades.
We made our way back through the Siq towards the visitor center in the middle of the afternoon, under a hot sun and blue sky. In the evening, we enjoyed another awesome sunset from the hotel balcony.

Petra is the main attraction of Jordan and one of the New Seven Wonders according to one of the lists and we now understand why. The Nabataeans built most of this over 2000 years ago and it is a fascinating archaeological site.

Colorful motif in the rock
Dry canyon


Rock carved houses
Inside a rock building
Sphinx in Petra
More steps...
View of the Treasury from above
Us overlooking the Theater, Petra, Jordan
Blue lizard
Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, Petra, Jordan

Saturday 24 August 2013

From Amman to Wadi Musa and our first visit to Petra, Jordan

We have been in Jordan for 2 nights now, it's quite a different experience compared to Europe or North America. We decided to try to use the public transport to go to Wadi Musa. There is an easier way to get around like paying a taxi, which seems to be the way most tourist do it or take the Jett bus (a tourist bus more expensive but supposedly more comfortable). The taxi from Amman to Wadi Musa was 70 JD, around 110$ CAD, way too much for our budget. We found online that we could use a minibus, leaving from the south bus station. The minibus system is quite different than what we are used to in Canada; we have to wait until it's full enough before it leaves. It could take a long time to fill out but we were lucky and waited only 30 minutes. The drive was really cool as we were now officially in the desert! Desert views are amazing, and it's just the beginning...

The drive to Wadi Musa was around 3 hours. We didn't exactly know where our hotel was going to be in Wadi Musa, but the bus drove right past it when we got in town. The bus station was down the hill closer to the city center.  The Rocky Mountain Hotel is very good for the price. It offers a free breakfast and a free shuttle down to the visitor center in the morning and for the way back at the end of the day visiting the amazing site of Petra. The view from the hotel balcony is amazing! We also watched a great sunset right out our bedroom window, a great bonus.

We spent the next day walking in Petra. Visitors should make sure to have good shoes if they want to see everything as it involves a lot of walking. One day is definitely not enough to see the whole site, plan at least 2 days. As a start, we walked through the Siq, which is a 2 kilometers long path, with 80 meters cliffs on both sides, it is a narrow and sinuous canyon. At the end of the Siq, we got face to face with the Treasury (Al-Khazneh). It is a really impressive tomb carved in the face of the cliff. A few minutes past this,  we turned left to go up some stairs,  all the way to the High Place of Sacrifice. On our way we saw the two Obelisks. The views overlooking the valley at the top of the High Place of Sacrifice were simply spectacular. We enjoyed the scenery and then we went down the back way, which hides a lot of carvings and tombs most people miss. We saw the Roman Soldier's Tomb, looking a lot like the Treasury, the Garden Temple Complex and, the Triclinium. We walked down in the valley, and up again to the Al-Habis Fortress. We followed the path that circled the Fortress. The views from up there were again impressive. After climbing 800 steps, we got up the mountain of Ad-Deir where we discovered Petra's second most famous attraction; Ad-Deir Monastery. The Monastery is huge and really impressive, as it is the largest carved building of Petra. We walked all the way to the End of the World viewpoint past the Monastery. It offers a great view all the way over to Israel, west of Petra. On the walk back, we were really tired already so we didn't stop anywhere. This first day was a 16 km walk and took us 7 hours.

To be continued ...

Inside a Jordanian minibus.
Sunset from our room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel.
Night view of Wadi Musa
Sunrise over Petra, Wadi Musa
The Siq
Path in the Siq 
The Siq
The Treasury (Al-Khazneh)
Camel caravan

View from above on the path leading to the High Place of Sacrifice
High Place of Sacrifice viewpoint
Us going down the path
One of the multiple tombs
View from inside the Garden Temple Complex
Inside of a tomb
Andree-Anne and the Roman Soldier's Tomb
View over the valley
The Monastery (Ad-Deir)

Wednesday 21 August 2013

And the secret destination is... Jordan!

Two weeks ago, we decided we wanted to see something different. We looked at options and decided on a destination that would be really different from what we know. We bought our round trip flight ticket from Bucharest as it was the cheapest option we could find.

We arrived the night before in Bucharest, as we thought sleeping close to the airport would save us some stress in the morning. We got up at 5:25, a very early start. The hotel had a free shuttle and was 10 minutes away from the airport so that was great. We used Austrian Airlines so the first flight was to Vienna where we had a short stop before leaving for our secret destination. The views from the plane were amazing. We flew over the mountains in western Bulgaria or eastern Montenegro, along the coast of Turkey, and then over the Mediterranean Sea until we turned straight east through Israel and landed in Jordan. It was a pretty easy trip with a great lunch on the second flight. We were actually impressed as we never had good food on an airline before. Landing was great and exiting for us, eager to visit this new place.

  Jordan is a Middle East country that has lots to offer. It even has one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is full of very interesting rock formations and desert areas.
Our first stop was Amman, the capital. Amman has a very different feeling from any city we experienced so far.

Our first impression was great; people were really helpful, from the locals helping us to find our way on the local bus to smiling border agents giving us our entry visas. After taking a bus followed by a taxi to the first circle, we walked to our hotel. It was quite special to walk there as people dress different than what we are used to. Traffic is a little crazy in the downtown area and every taxi or minibus were honking at us to make sure we didn't miss their bright yellow cars. This was fun, until we got to the worst hotel we stayed at so far. We saw quite a few rooms in this trip already but this was, by far, the dirtiest of them all. Everything was broken, from the window screen to the bathroom door. We  stayed there anyway, as it was just for 2 nights. The room was already paid for and we didn't want to argue to get our money back.

We went out and walked downtown in the crowded streets of the Souq. There are tons of small markets, shops and bakeries. Here, there are no price tags on anything so we had to ask and also sometimes get ripped off of a few JD (as locals call their Jordanian Dinars) as we are tourists and don't know yet the value of things... but it is part of the fun of discovering a new country.

The next day, we visited an old Roman Colosseum and the Amman Citadel, which are both in ruins. It took us 3 hours to visit these 2 sights and we also had nice views over the city from the Citadel. After this, we needed a break as walking under a nice blue sky and 40C is really hot and exhausting. We went inside our crappy room for a couple hours and went out again for the night activities of the downtown streets.

For our last morning in Amman, our only goal was to find the Wahadat bus station with the help of a friendly taxi driver. We had to try 2 taxis as the price the first driver was asking was a little too much and after a little arguing, Seb asked him if he could just use the meter and he drove away. Too bad for him, we gave the meter money to the next one, with an extra tip for a total of 3 JD. That station is 3 km from downtown and it's where our bus to the next awesome town is leaving from!

To be continued...

Our plane getting ready for boarding
View from the window 
Roman theater, Amman
Roman theater, Amman
View from Citadel Hill
Inside the Citadel
Roman columns, Citadel Hill, Amman

Ummayad Palace
Temple of Hercules, Roman Corinthian columns at Citadel Hill
Roman Theater from Citadel Hill, Amman

Sunday 18 August 2013

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Our last stop in Bulgaria is Veliko Tarnovo. It used to be the capital of the country during the Second Bulgarian Empire. It is a great town with lots of shopping. We don't do much shopping obviously as we think our backpack are already too big. There is a huge fortress, Tsarevets, the biggest and nicest medieval stronghold area we saw so far. It is a must see for anybody visiting Bulgaria.

Our secret destination is getting closer now, as we are going to fly from Bucharest, Romania. This was cheaper than flying from Sofia and is about the same distance from here. It is going to be the third time we are crossing the border to Romania and our second time in Bucharest. We won't stay long as our train arrives in the evening and we are flying in the morning. A 8:10 flight from Bucharest to transit in Vienna and then we are leaving Europe for now...