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Monday, 18 October 2010

I'm on a Boat... plus waterfalls & wadis

The past two weekends we've done a few excursions which I'll present mostly in the form of pictures. Two weeks back we did Wadi Kerak and this past weekend I and a couple friends drove down to Aqaba for a boat trip on the Red Sea, and a bit of hiking in Wadi Rum.

Wadi Kerak would be our the most involved trip yet: A 10km hike with five abseils, including a 35 meter waterfall. As we made our way down the into the deep canyon one of our guides, Hussein, skipped and ran down the shale as the rest of us tip toed down into the wadi, within five minutes someone nicknamed him the Goat.

Victoria making her way down

Hussein with some other local wildlife

Nicole, I think

Lunch spot

The high canyon walls and palm & fig trees growing out of the stark landscape reminded me of a walk I did with my family last winter in Southern Baja outside of Loreto. We were on the trail for the better part of the day and made our way back to Amman on the Dead Sea Highway and watched the sunset over the Sea and the Westbank.

Another incredible day in the beautiful Wadi, with an easy going group, and good tea with locally harvested Wadi Kerak mint. Thanks to Zach for taking the bulk of these photos.

We went up to Madaba for dinner at Haret Jdoudna which is an old converted stone house partially open to the elements. It's spacious and beautiful and there is live music in the courtyard but best of all the food is incredible. They brought us around ten courses within minutes of sitting down which included fatoush, hummus, arugula salad, babaganoush, an amazing goat cheese platter, mushrooms, tabbouleh, the best bread in Jordan, and a couple others to boot. I couldn't believe that I almost hadn't come to this place. Then came the meat group which had chicken, lamb, beef sausage, and grilled veggies sandwiched between two Giant Bedouin tortillas called shrak. I'm going back on Wednesday.

This past Thursday Tom, Victoria, and I headed out south out of the city again. We would stay in Aqaba for two nights and a day, then return Saturday to spend a half day hiking before returning to Amman. We made our way down to Aqaba on the Dead Sea Highway passing fields of bananas, tomatoes, corn, and numerous others I could not identify. From my work at the Council I've learned that agriculture consumes more than 70% of the water supply country wide, but contributes just 2.5% of the total GDP. In a water impoverished state this obviously does not add up but like in many places agriculture and maintaining an agrarian lifestyle is an extremely political issue which garners significant governmental support. Despite me going on about how they shouldn't be growing bananas, we all enjoyed driving through the beautiful green cropland and orchards.

During the four hours on the road we were pulled over around five or six times including a couple of checkpoints. I attempted to play the clueless foreigner as one officer pointed to my speedometer and said very slowly "thhhreee huuun-dred." while Tom leaned over and salted my game by speaking Arabic. After two close calls for speeding and expired registration and Tom (a large white man from Wisconsin) speaking fluent Arabic with a Syrian accent to the great surprise and confusion of each police officer we were back on the road. We were lucky to avoid all fines and also not run out of gas on a long desert spell with the gas light on. We arrived in Aqaba at Katrina and Paco's for a dinner of green beans, fresh veggies, and Paco's famous rotisserie chicken.

The following day the five of us boarded a large glass bottom boat at the Movenpick Hotel, ate an amazing multi-course lunch prepared on the grill on board, snorkeled through the reefs, and lounged on the blanketed cushions on the upper deck. We were at sea for half the day and enjoyed it immensely.


Paco talking about the fastest growing minority community in Iowa

Lucky man with two lovely ladies

Dear Marty, you ever been here?

Sunset looking towards Eilat and the Sinai

The following day we packed our things and headed north to Wadi Rum for a day hike. With only half a day to spend in Wadi Rum we knew we'd just scratch the surface but we got a small taste for the place, ate a great lunch, and will be back for a longer stay camping in the coming months. We walked around five miles through a wide valley passing the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (dubbed after the T.E. Lawrence book of the same name) and continued through the valley with Jabal Um Ushin to the East and Jabal Rum to the West.

Mr. Sheb and his Camel

Now back home, busy with work, enjoying the city, and planning the next trip...

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