What do you do in Jordan if you have a couple of days here? You go to Petra. If someone tries to argue – I’m sorry, my counterargument is only this: it would be freakin’ idiotic not to go to Petra. Although the entrance fee quickly inspires backpackers to come up with some personifications (“my wallet was crying” or “my wallet wasn’t happy at all” come to mind), it is definitely worth it. We thought it would be worth it even without knowing what Petra is exactly!
On the morning bus there, before my friends fell asleep (what happened to my “I sleep so easily on buses/trains/planes” thing – no idea) and I turned everything I saw through that bus window into a video clip for whatever my mp3 player was shuffling, we had a small talk and decided that, well, we didn’t know too much about Petra. “The famous façade, yes, and…hmm, that façade is worth seeing indeed” was pretty much our conclusion.
Only when we got there and started walking we stared to realise how huge Petra was. After a walk through…eh, just look at the photos, I asked a question the timing of which reminded a cheesy movie: “OK, this is all really nice, but where is the fa…” And then, lit beautifully, it was: the image of Petra that everyone, including us, has in mind. As for someone who usually has difficulties to shut the fuck up, even I became still (not for long, I made up for that short silence with lots of “my God!” and intellectual “wow-s” in a minute). Even if Petra was just that façade and the road leading to it, that on itself is one amazing view.
After a small rest admiring the place and checking other tourists and backpackers out, we started walking beyond the famous façade thinking there might not be much left to see. Was there anything? Let me just tell you that after maybe half a kilometre, in some damn hot sun, the pace at which we were walking didn’t resemble a pace at which young people – full of life, right? – would normally walk. “Jeeeesus, how long does this go?” was a thought we would vocalise once in a while, a thought intensified by the same sun that I would, in other circumstances, appreciate way more. “Other circumstances” would essentially mean having slept more than four hours the day before and perhaps enjoying a small nap on the bus (or simply lots of drugs, I guess).
So we are walking in the desert sun, lazily talking pictures, stepping into the caves briefly to get some cold air, checking out some pretty impressive artwork (then checking out our wallets and abandoning that creeping idea of maybe buying something), and…sitting down more and more often. The road sort of splits and we randomly choose to go to the right. We meet this guy who has his own spices shop right by the rocks, start talking to him, get some free tea, he shows us the way to the stairs that would allow us to see whole Petra from above, and we begin our epic sub-journey. We start it with a discussion on what accent that guy has, my friend insisting it was Australian, me claiming it was a mix of BBC British and some weird phonetics, and it all got followed by me trying to only partially successfully imitate Australian accent [imitɑit ɔːztrɑilian əksint] (and only partially successfully transcribe it here).
Then, the climbing begins. The steps turn into some weird set of platforms (YOU explain it…), they sort of disappear, then reappear again, then our rest is interrupted by a herd of sheep going down (what were they doing up, admiring the view, too???), and, after an array of stops, we make it the top. OK, apparently, it’s not the top top, but, damn it, it definitely seemed like one. Photos photos photos (and even some ridiculous videos that I may edit together when I have access to something better than my pathetic netbook), rest a bit, say “this is so beautiful” a couple of times, and go down.
On the way down, there were two things I would think to myself – and say to my friends – every time I would see some older people passing by (meaning, going up). The first idea was much kinder: well-done! If you’re above sixty and you’re doing all these steps – respect! The second idea may subconsciously come from my own embarrassing understanding that I was complaining a bit on the way up while the same sixty-year-olds were doing their best to get to the top. So that thought was: it is highly possible that not all of you will be going down… (yes, the first thought was much nicer indeed). Naaah, it was rather admirable to see this.
Since the way down was much easier than going the other way, we didn’t have to catch our breath and so could spend that time somehow productively. What did we do? Here’s a hint for you: the acoustics in the middle of the ancient rock city is pretty good. Nice acoustics + no people around = c’mon, who wouldn’t sing? So, it started: excerpts of Queen, the Titanic song (there’s always the Titanic song), some shitty pop, Keane and even some Shaggy (!). A pseudo-discovery that day was how little of lyrics of any song we knew. I made this comment the correctness of which only other visitors of Petra can confirm or deny: “Imagine, the people going up are already struggling, and, on top of that, there are these idiots singing horribly…”
The songs did help, and we reached the, let’s say, non-stairs area, so the only thing left was get ourselves back to the entrance, that is, where we came from. “Sooooo….approximately a couple of kilometres left?” this question and that devastating sun was one baaaad combination. My lord, I can’t even describe our speed, nor should I try to describe how pathetic (exhausted, sleepy) we looked. What a nonsense, what an example of low level of consciousness: to be in one of the most incredible places on this planet and feel so (physically) bad! I thought, “This is so bad, I even look sad! What the hell?” We were so exhausted, that we even got tempted by the carriage services that can take you quickly to the entrance. In the morning, we only laughed at such bourgeoisie options, and now…and now were seriously considering one. Our common sense (once again, fuelled by the emptiness of our wallets and some principles) won, and we simply walked back to the entrance where our backpacks were patiently waiting for us.
If I’m not mistaken, for all of us it was our second Wonder of the World (Taj Mahal was my first and my friends had Giza). That bingo is being played very slowly, yes, but with some fun adventures on the way. Our next adventure was Aqaba, the very south of Jordan, but it is high time I ended this post because a couple of extra sentences will put it closer to having retold everything in real time. Though reliving this day, to be honest, would be one awesome thing to do.