Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jordan Jollies - Day Four

Jordan Jollies Our plan for today was a bit vague - basically head south and see where we got to. We got seriously lost leaving Amman - driving as far east as Zarqa before eventually hitting the Ring Road that brought us onto the Kings Highway. After passing through Madaba we went to Mount Nebo, and hired a guide. Nebo is where Moses popped his clogs. The church here has some incredible mosaics, and there's a sensational view across the Jordan Valley. You can see Jericho and other cities in the West Bank /Israel.

The church at Mount Nebo

View across the Jordan Valley
We drove down and down and down to the Dead Sea. When you get onto the Dead Sea road you get to meet soldiers at Army checkpoints (there's three or four along the length of the Dead Sea coast). There's a couple of big hotel/resorts at the north end which we ignored. Then there's a couple of smaller places. We stopped at one, hoping to get some lunch, but they wanted us to pay the full day's admission as well, so we skipped it.

Army checkpoint

We stopped at the entrance to Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve and wandered over to the Dead Sea. None of us fancied going in. For some reason the Dead Sea is the fly centre of the universe. They are everywhere and they just love to lie down on people, cars, and better still, inside cars.

Dead Sea

We go back to the Nature Reserve. If you pay a little entrance fee, that entitles you to go stand on a bridge overlooking the place where the wadi meets the sea. There is water in it, so unless you fancy a bit of rock-climbing and wading there's not much you can do. In fact there's so much water that you cannot get off the viewing 'platform' (rocks) without getting wet. Offspring of course is in there like a shot. When he comes out his trousers are soaked. Kids.

Continue on to As-Safi, the site of Lot's Cave. Found the Visitor's Centre they're building, but couldn't find the cave. It's about 4pm, we've had no lunch, we do not have a hotel booked for that night, and it will be dark in a couple of hours. We decide to head inland for Tafila. This involves driving up a stunning road through the mountains. Actually, stunning just isn't the word, it's mind-blowing. We pass a few inhabited caves. We stop about halfway up the road and discover a deep ravine only a dozen metres from the road but completely hidden from it. Inside the ravine there is lush greenery and some small dwellings.

Dana villageDriving onwards and upwards, we arrive at Tafila. It's a one-street dump of a town. We find a rest-house (this normally means a pension-type place), but while they can offer us food, 'food with sleep' is not available. They send us to Dana Nature Reserve, half an hour away. This has a hotel, and we call ahead and book rooms. We follow the signs and end up lost in an unlit, unpaved quarry for at least half an hour. A truck driver gives us proper directions.

The hotel is well worth the struggle to find it. Dana (Varna?) is an ancient village of small stone dwellings. Many are being restored. They seem a bit surprised when we arrive (we found out later that we had phoned the Dana Guest House, which is a completely different place - they're probably still wondering about that party of three mad Brits who made a booking but never showed up). The hotel is run by a co-op called the 'Sons of Dana and Qudassiyah' and comprises 9 rooms around a courtyard. The dining room is a steel-framed tent on the roof. Suleiman tells us that dinner will be ready in half an hour, meanwhile, go up and have some tea. My pleas for beer go unanswered.

The tea has sage rather than mint in it. Very nice. The dinner was wonderful, as was the breakfast in the morning. There's no menu, you just eat what Mariam has cooked, and boy, can she cook.

There's another hotel in the village 'The Tower' and we could hear drumming. We went over to investigate and it was a little band - an oud player and a couple of guys with drums. No beer at this place either, but we did have a little something that we'd bought for emergencies in Amman.

Wonderful day, early night.

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