All in Road Trip

Petra and home 21/10/16

After last night's walk to the Treasury at Petra by Night, V did not feel confident in her ability to walk the distances required to explore the site properly, about 5k to get to the end of the track which passes through the Siq, past the Treasury and and past a number of tombs and monuments ending at the trail which begins the 800 steps leading up to the top of the Monastery heights. The return to the gate is over the same ground, but uphill in the return direction and in the heat of the day after having hiked around exploring the site. V decided that she would to take a horse-drawn carriage to the end of the trail and then walk back, the carriage meeting us at the Treasury for the last stretch. I reluctantly chose to join her as I was not keen to use the scrawny and over-worked horses and mules that are available for hire but I knew that V would simply not be up to the walk.

We were at the gate at about 8:15 and we were dropped at the end of the trail at about 8:45, arranging to meet our carriage at 3pm in front of the Treasury building, figuring that we'd have 6 hours to explore and to work our way back to the Treasury. We began the climb to the Monastery and got about halfway up but the climb was proving problematic for V's knees and the heat was ramping up so we worked our back down to the trail and spent the next 5 hours exploring some of the monuments and tombs before directing our steps to the trail and the Treasury. The site is huge and, if you have not been, stretches over many square kilometres, all of it up and down. I was aware of that before arriving but still had not fully grasped the extent of the city and the amount of time and energy that are required to really explore the site. Even more surprising is the very small area that has been excavated, the largest percent of the area literally untouched with trails leading off through the rough scrub desert and valleys in which it would be very easy to get lost, Diana having done just that when she visited Petra two years ago...

Into Jordan 18/10/16

In the evening, after yesterday's post, we went out to dinner at Fakhr-El Din, a Lebanese restaurant that had been recommended to us before we left on our trip and then was subsequently recommended by Bashar at the Intercontinental. V had called the hotel from Toronto pre-trip and had had the concierge make a reservation and we were glad that she did, very busy. As an aside we have been trying valiantly to approximate the pronunciation of arabic names and places and I was very pleased at how well I succeeded in telling the taxi attendant where we wanted to go even though mustering the throaty guttural required to pronounce the restaurant's name made me fell as if I was calling him a very robust anglo-saxon epithet.

The restaurant was wonderful, very elegant and in the home of a former Prime Minister of Jordan, with indoor dining rooms and an outdoor candle-lit garden where we sat. We arrived at 7:30 and by 8:30 it was packed with locals seeing and being seen. Amman culture appears to be very secular and the tables were filled with larger groups of mixed gender as well as smaller tables of 3 or 4, in some cases all men in others all women, and in others mixed. The table immediately beside ours was made up of a woman with whom we chatted briefly and who turned out to be Egyptian but now living in the US and two local men who were her hosts for the evening and who spoke no english. We have been struggling to find an appropriate drink to have with dinner as the wine is for the most part imported and expensive and beer which while very good, does not appeal for accompanying a meal. Our table neighbour then introduced us to the drink that her table as well as many others was drinking, arak also known in Turkey as raki, in Greece as ouzo and in France as pastis, a semi-sweet licorice-flavouered liquor that turns milky white when mixed with water. Our neighbours sent over to us two glasses and as soon as we tasted it we knew we had come home! Under our neighbour's tutelage we learned the appropriate ratio of water to specify and the way we should ask for it to be prepared, mixed 2 parts water to one part arak in a small glass with a handful of fresh mint leaves and ice. I immediately ordered a quarter bottle, it is quite strong, and consulted with our waiter about the right bottle to order as there were a variety on offer and it seemed to be as important a decision as the right bottle of wine to order with dinner. Our waiter took charge of it when it came, mixed it properly and made sure our glasses were kept filled throughout the evening with fresh mint leaves and cold refreshing arak...

Into Jordan 17/10/16

Windhoek like Swakopmund was modern, bustling and clean. We had skirted it when we arrived and drove from the airport to Africats, our first stop in Namibia, the road to which passed through the outskirts of Windhoek. At that time we had the strong impression of its German cultural heritage, many of the older brick building being designed in a recognizably germanic colonial style. On our arrival today, the centre of the city strengthened this impression with graceful old neighbourhoods filled with colonial homes and a thoroughly modern CBD with stainless steel and glass skyscrapers.

Our hotel for the night, the Olive Exclusive Guesthouse, so named not to confuse it with a rival property next door, the Olive Grove Guesthouse, was charming and need I say, not exactly exclusive as it accepted us, scruffy, dusty and the worse for wear after 2 weeks on the road. Very, very large and modern suite and a wonderful restaurant on the property, our only regret was that we were there for only one night. Dinner in the restaurant, a long hot shower, a good nights sleep and off to the airport next morning for our flight to Amman, via Jo'burg and Dubai...