Aqaba & Petra
12 June 2019 | Aqaba, Jordan
The alarm woke us at 6 am. Both of us were awake some thru the night. Mark said he woke up and could not fall back asleep. Me, too. Got dressed and headed up to Deck 14, Lido, for breakfast. My stomach has been much better these days, so I kept to my oatmeal, peaches and a couple of prunes, plus a raspberry yogurt. Mark had an omelet with bacon and hash browns. We took water glasses to our cabin to fill up our empty bottles. Filled them up and had one extra to take with us. Packed our swimsuits and took some towels too. I had one hand towel to wear around my neck in case I got too hot. There was no line up when we headed to our dining room to pick up a ticket to embarking. We made a last stop at the restrooms before getting off the ship. Lots of tours were already on the bus or gone from the port. We took the tour bus over to Aqaba. The Budget shop was around the corner. Walked over there by 8:30, but the shop did not open until 9. The guy actually showed up at 8:45 and it took more than half an hour to fill out the paperwork. He didn't speak much English. Finally got our car which was a black, Toyota Corolla. It was an older automatic car, but did not have cruise control. Mark had our Google Maps set up and we headed towards Petra. Our gas tank was just under half full so the first time we saw a gas station in Aqaba, we filled up the tank. At first the hiway was pretty good with lower speed limits than I thought for a hiway. We had to stop around 5 different times at security check points. As soon as they found our we were tourists, they welcomed us and waved us thru. Along the hiway, we finally figured out if you went over anything like the cattle crossing metal rungs, it meant you have to slow right down for a raised speed bump. It was not always visible. Sometimes, they posted a sign, but we were not familiar with their signage. There was a lot of stone mountains on both sides of the hiway. Dry, barren rock and sandy stretches too. Not much in the way of houses. Mark called the tents along the way, Bedouin camps with their flocks of sheep. Did not see any water, so not sure how they watered their animals. Most looked to be solo awnings over an area that looked like a house. No real structures at all. We passed a flock of sheep with someone dressed fully in black, guiding them, right on the side of the King's Hiway. There were sheep, goats, horses, donkeys and camels in different areas, just off the hiway. The speed limit was up to 110kph. But even then, whenever, there were some buildings or an exit on the freeway, there was a slow down with the speed bumps. At times there were people walking across the hiway, or hitch hiking along the edge. We were not sure if they allowed us to give anyone a ride, especially with the number of security checks. We saw several areas where small trucks pulled off and were selling watermelons. We saw a few, what you would call stores, along the way, but not many. There were only a few gas stations on our entire drive of 100 kilometers or so. It ended up taking us 2 hours to drive to Petra. The rocky mountains and dusty terrain filled most of our viewing. At one point the visibility was hazy looking to the south, out of the drivers' side of the car. Or, it may have just been dust blowing around as there was a good breeze as we drove along. Took lots of pictures. We stopped at a viewing place once we got to Petra. It was also a restaurant and gift shop, plus restrooms. I actually found a toilet with a seat. It didn't flush very well, but there was an attendant. We checked out the offerings in the gift shop area. I actually found a ring that I ended up buying. Thankfully, they took my Visa card as we didn't change any money to the local Jordan dinars. Google Maps did something weird as we got close our destination. It seemed like we drove around a maze of back streets, instead of staying on the main street, but eventually we got there. Parked the car close to where a huge number of big buses parked and walked down to the Information Center. Mark researched that the fee to enter was $125US each. However, they only charged us $50 Dinars/head. That worked out to $70US dollars. That was the hotel rate and not the one-day visitor rate, so we were happy for the huge discount. We did get a snack at one of the buildings around the information center, before starting our trek downwards. We walked down the gravel roadway, many tourists were coming back up. They were mostly from the different Sea Princess tours. Took lots of pictures, so I will need to post them on Facebook. The surface turned into cobblestone pavers and concrete. It was easier to walk on, but you had to miss the camels, horses, donkeys and horse-drawn carts, that was an additional cost to use. The majority of tourists walked. It was down hill to the bottom where we found the library and other beautiful rock carved buildings. I did do a few connections while touching the rock. I could see all the people that lived there thousands of years ago. In many places, there were carved out areas that we could climb up. And several more areas with what looked like stone steps. We talked about climbing up but in the end, decided not to. It would be challenging enough just to walk up the hill to get back. It was plenty hot, but there were areas where we were in the shade of the rock walls with a lovely breeze. We were so glad that the temperature was not any higher. The high was definitely hot and burning. We did put on sunscreen before we started our day. We did notice there were places along the way to buy drinks and snacks. Some even provided some shaded seating areas. That was really helpful on the way back. At the bottom, there were many different booths with long tables selling many things. I was not up for carrying anything else on the walk back. It around 1 pm and we were hot by the time we started our return walk. Many of the horses and camels offered us a ride back. They started with a price of $35 Dinars each, but we ended up walking back. I was so glad for the hand towel I took from the ship. When wet, it actually provided some coolness. However, it was not an easy climb. We stopped regularly, sitting on the rocks along the edge. It was impressive, but Mark could not figure out why people would do it twice. I loved the huge walls of rock. I was so very happy to see the end of the trail back at the Information Center. We still had to climb several sets of stairs to get to our car. We bought two more bottles of water on the way back. I think I was overheated by the time we got back. The air conditioned car felt heavenly. Again, so very glad it was not 10 degrees hotter, as it had been the week before we got there. We drove back to Aqaba. The Desert Hiway was two lanes in each direction. However, the many big trucks like to drive in the middle of the two lanes. Plus cars had a speed limit 10 kph higher than the trucks. The steep mountains instructed trucks to drive in first gear, so it looked like they were stopped as we passed them. The roads were not in a very good condition on the way back. Lots of warped areas in the pavement. There is definitely a need for some construction work. We headed to the beach area of Aqaba, South Beach. We found a lovely public park and searched for a cafe and change room. The ladies change room consisted on an open room, with a broken door, plus some vertical pipes that were showers. I went inside and hesitated on changing when two Muslim women came in all dressed, head to toe, in black. They did not speak English very well. They told me that they needed the room, so I got out. They showered by standing under the water, fully clothed. When I went in to change, the floor was wet and my clothes got wet as I got out of them and into my swimsuit. I joined Mark and we walked out to the beach area. One guy was interested in renting us a snorkel. However, the water was lined with sharp stones. I walked in so far and there was no sandy bottom to the water. My feet were tired and now hurting so much, I got out of the water. Mark swam some and then joined me. I found a tree for shade as the sun was extremely hot on my skin. We climbed back up the hill to our rental car. Glad to be back in the cool air. Drove back along the water and passed the Sea Princess as we headed back to Budget. Then we walked around the corner, a couple of blocks to where the bus dropped us off. We didn't have to wait very long before it delivered us back to the ship. They scanned our bags back on board. Stopped at our cabin to drop off our things and changed. Decided to walk up to Deck 14 for dinner so we didn't have to dress up. Enjoyed our dinner. Then returned to our cabin. Our ship was leaving at 10:30, and we were both exhausted. Mark set the alarm and we woke up in time to watch our ship depart the dock. The captain announced that we will reach the Suez Canal at 5 am. It will take us two days to transit the canal. Mark was not feeling well today. His nose was running too. This was a tough day for a healthy person, so glad he was able to do Petra. Thanks for the many emails and messages received today.