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Michael’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 09 Apr 2006

Location: Madaba, Jordan

MapEntry 21 - Petra to Medaba via Dana, Karak Castle, Kings Highway, Dead Sea and Mt. Nebo, and around Medaba - then to Athens. (5th-8th April)

I decided that the best way to see everything in my trip from Petra to Medaba (30km from Amman) I would take a taxi and see it all on the way, rather than bus to Medaba, and have to make round trips back to the sights on the following days. Whilst more expensive, I had total control of where I was going and for how long.

We set off at about 10am and headed for Dana, a small village build half way down a valley. It is still being lived in exactly as it was 100 years ago, with all of the houses just single story made of lumps of stone. But whilst the houses are pretty cool to look at, in a very medi-evil kind of way, the real beauty is looking into the valley below. It is incredible! You can still see the farmers taking the animals on the tracks below. It really is an incredible view, and I finally got a feeling for just how mountainous the region is. Back in the cab and off to Kerak.

Kerak is a town that had a large Christian population, and somewhere along the line it became rather important and they built a castle there. The castle is built at the highest point (duh) and has a couple of natural valleys on either side of it. On the two remaining sides they cut an artificial valley, so that the only way into the castle was via bridge. The castle itself is pretty much in ruins, accept for a few rooms here and there, but the labrynth of arched passage ways underground are incredile. You could spend days playig hide-and-seek in there and never get found! The castle also had a museum there that detailed the history of the area, and also some interesting info on the weapons and tactics used to attack and defend the castle. After a spot of lunch, we were off to the Dead Sea via the Kings Highway.

Now, the KH had been talked up alot, and really, I dunno what all of the fuss is about. There are more beautiful things to see if you get out and go to place like Petra. I guess though, it would be like saying you are going down the coast of Victoria, you could take the Great Ocean Rd, or a mainland freeway. The Great Ocean Rd justprovides something more appealin to look at than the endless miles of road. That is probably what the comparison of the Kings Highway to the Desert Highway is like. Having said that, the view as you come over the last rise to see the Dead Sea is incredible. Infront you can see the Dead Sea (well kinda, it was a particularly overcast day) and on the right was what is referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Middle East". Quite an impressive contrast in environments, but having said that, it ain't got anything compared to the real Grand Canyon.

The Dead Sea was... interesting. All fired up to actually take a dip, I ended up staying quite dry. There really is no place to just walk in for a swim. The road sits up rather high with cliff faces dropping to the sea below for most of the trip. Eventually there are sections where you can climb over rocks to get to the water, but given the weather, I decided not to. That and being wet and covered in salt for the rest of the cab journey didn't sound like fun. I did stick my hand in, and put a finger to my lips just to check how salty it was. Lets say that the taste of salt stayed around for HOURS. The salt that was forming on the rocks were amazing. And the salt rocks that were forming.

Cllimbing back into the taxi, and after a short argument regarding the terms of the taxi trip, we went up to Mt. Nebo. Reaching the top, I started feeling like I was on some sort of Christian Crusade with all of the site's I had been to. Not onl had I seen Moses' bush, where he got the 10 commandments, I also came to the place that he came to die, where God showed him the land he would leave to the people. So of course, I was again at a vantage point where I could see into Israel, include Bethlehem, Jeruselem, and bunch of other Christian historic sites. Looking across the Dead Sea to Israel was actually really nice up there, and I just wish it had been a better day and I could see further.

Finally I ended up in Medaba, with no place to stay at about 7pm. Unfortunately, everything seemed to be booked out. Finally I found a place, and it was quite nice (it had a HOT shower, that didn't use salt water - what luxury!). I crashed pretty quickly that night. The following day I really didn't do much, happy to laze around... in honesty there isn't much to do in Medaba, the city of mosaics. In the afternoon I went to St' Georges Church, which I though was 'The Church on the Map' and figured it must be pretty impressive to be The church on The map. In the end I realised it is "The Church of The Map" referring to a mosaic of a map on the floor. Apparnetly it is a map of the weherabout of all places of Christian significance in the time Jesus was kicking about.

The following day I headed to the park and St. Mary's Church which is basically a park around a ruined church that had HEAPS of mosaics. Alot of them have be transported in from other places, but the church itself has been excavated, had a roof put over the top and all of the mosaics on the floor are on display. Actually quite impressive.

Then I wandered to the archaeological museum and looked around there. It was small and just had a handfull of artifacts collected in the area, and of course, more mosaics. It also had a WAY too friendly gate attendant that really didn't want to letme leave, but I think he was just bored, as it didn't look like anyone else had been there during the day, and no-one was there while I was.

So I found myself at noon, with no hotel to go to, nothing to do and not flying out till 340am. I did my best to ocupy myself by eating and filling in the webpage, and finally dragged myself to airport at 9pm.... WAY too early. They wont even let you into an part of the airport proper till 2.5 hours before the flight. So I sat on a crappy metal seat till after 1am, before I was finally able to check my luggage and get upstairs to the food court, duty free etc. Eventually I was on the plane, and despite asking to have a spare seat beside me (there were 81 people on a 240 seat plane) I got stuck next to an overweight (more than me!) Arab man who wanted to talk. As soon as I got a chance I jumped in the row behind me and had the two window side seats to myself and actually managed maybe an hours sleep.

Arriving in Frankfurt for a 2 hour (became 3 hour) layover, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Every girl there looked incredible... but the more I thought about it, it was as if I hadn't seen a girl in a month just about (well no more than their eyes) and my standards may have been severely warped. Either way I was hoping for one of the many girls apparently travelling solo to get stuck next to me on the plane.

Well, even better it appeared, I would again have the 2 window seats to myself, as I was in the last handful of people to board the plane, and the seat next to me was empty. As it came over the loud speakers, close the doors, all passengers are aboard, I still had a spare seat. More sleep - hopefully! Then someone came from behind me and asked to jump into the seat, they had apparently walked down the wrong side of the plane. A 5-10" brunette, who looked gorgeous. Okay... I guess I'll pass on the sleep. A Berliner, who speaks English and Greek (her mum's greek), and was a stunner. However, it would appear that someone is playing some very nasty tricks on me (Maybe there is a God and he's pissed at all that Christianity bashing) and I quickly found out she was 16 (seriously, she didn't look it... promise your honor).

In any case, she was very helpful, taught me to count to 10 in greek, wrote out a couple of key phrases, and wrote a note in Greek lettering that asked for a phone card in case they didn't understand me at the shops (which she assured me was a high possibilty). In the end, I didn't need the note as we passed a shop at the airport and she bought the card for me. Collecting our luggage, we headed out, she asked her grandma (who was picking her up from the airport) where the train station was and pointed me in the right direction. One hour later and I am in the funkiest hostel in Athens, and loving it.

My time in Athens will appear in the next entry (which may be a little less regular - say every 2nd day instead of every day! - with internet costing substantially more in Europe).

Next up: Entry 22 - Athens

Hope everyone is well, take care and keep an eye on the site.

Michael