“Jen, wake-up! It’s 8:10!” As Ol’s words sunk in, I bolted upright. Within seconds I was barking orders, “grab the phones, get dressed, we can get ready on the bus”. We were seriously late in joining our tour. We were supposed to meet our tour group at breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and the bus was to leave at 8:15 a.m.
Thankfully we had showered the night before. As I looked for my clothes, I was thinking that in the worst case scenario we could take a taxi to join them at the first stop. We both quickly got dressed and I threw some things in a day bag. I hate being late. Ol is much better at it than I am.
I was fuming that we didn’t receive our wake-up call. I always set the alarm on my phone, but because for the past three nights I had been awake at 4:30 a.m. on the dot. I thought that the wake-up call would be reliable enough. Ol never sets his alarm, because he has this weird phenomenon of a built in alarm clock. He can usually wake up anywhere at anytime. Obviously, his alarm had jet lag.
Just as we were making a last minute sweep of the room, there was a knock at the door. The front desk clerk from last night said that everyone was on the bus and they were waiting on us. Ol and I decided to skip the elevator and run down the four flights of stairs.
As we entered the bus, it was hard to make eye contact with the eleven new tour companions looking at us. I was embarrassed and made my apologies to the group. I introduced ourselves to the tour guide, and mentioned the lack of a wake-up call. I was still mumbling my apologies, when Ol nudged me into a chair and said forget about it, quit apologizing.
Ok, now you know, I am not a morning person. Despite waking up at a ridiculously early hour the past few days, my normal routine is to set my alarm, one hour before I have to get up, so that I can lounge around before getting out of bed. I like to wake up slowly. Check my phone. Read or watch the news. Ol likes to get up right away. He is usually an early riser and doesn’t understand the concept of lounging.
So while I was still out of sorts from trying to get ready in 5 minutes, Ol was his usual cheery self. We had missed the tour briefing and our guide was now explaining that bad weather was forecast in a few days (snow!), so he had now changed the itinerary.
We would begin by going to the Dead Sea and our city tour would now be moved to our last day in Jordan. He asked if everyone had their swimsuits. Of course we didn’t because we missed the briefing. Ol whispered that he would just swim in his underwear. I was trying to make a mental note of what underwear and bra, I had thrown on. Then I remembered that we were in a Muslim country and my undergarments were not an option for me today.
Just as I was ready to live with the disappointment of not swimming in the Dead Sea, an older woman across the aisle spoke up and said that she didn’t have her swimsuit. She was at the breakfast, and said this information must have been given when she went to the bathroom. Later, I would meet Lillian, a doctor from Victoria, Canada. Thankfully, very outspoken, she argued with our guide for a few minutes and the bus quickly turned around.
As the bus pulled back in front of the hotel, I ran back up the stairs and grabbed our swimsuits. I beat Lillian back to the bus even though I was on the fourth floor she was on the second floor. Breathing heavily, I realized that my dream trip to Jordan and Egypt was not starting out so well.
Maybe this is a good time to explain why Ol and I don’t do many organized tours. We usually only do a tour if it is required to visit an area (Machu Picchu, Bolivia Salt Flats). First of all, I admit that I am a bit of a control freak. I don’t like to be on anyone else’s time schedule. If I want to stay longer, or do something different, I want the freedom to be able to do that. I also like traveling slowly. I don’t like just quickly looking at something and then on to the next thing. If I am someplace I may only see once in my life, I may want to just sit and take it all in. I’m that girl that reads every plaque or historical marker. I also hate lines, so I research the best time to visit a place.
We decided to book a tour with Encounters Travel because it covered everything we wanted to visit in the region and it was a great price. I didn’t feel comfortable driving in Egypt and I was also worried about security issues and the language. So a tour it was!
After getting back on the bus and getting underway I could finally breathe again. We were on our way to another hotel to pick up additional tour mates. There were four people on our tour who decided to upgrade to the five star hotels. They were from Australia and for Aussies they seemed rather quiet and reserved. I later learned that they had already done the Egyptian tour and were all just getting over a bad case of “Tut's Tummy" or “Egypt’s curse” so they were probably a little out of sorts.
Our first stop was the ancient city of Jarash, Jordan. The Greco-Roman ruins date back 6,500 years. This is considered to be the best preserved Roman architecture outside of Italy. It was amazing to see this city with our guide. His doctoral thesis was working to get this site designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He had also worked on its excavation.
The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD and re-discovered buried under the sand in 1806. For over 200 years the site has been slowly excavated and is now the second largest tourist attraction in Jordan, after Petra. It truly deserves UNESCO status.
After touring the ruins for several hours we headed to the Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea. The salt lake borders Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It is Earth’s lowest elevation on land at 1,388 ft., or 423m below sea level.
The Dead Sea was one of the world’s first health resorts and visited by Herod the Great, and was used by King David as a place for refuge.
The build up of salt on the lake bottom and the chilly temperature, made it a little difficult to get in the water. Once we made the plunge, we were literally sitting on top of the water. The salty water held us up like sitting in a chair. I was so thankful that I didn’t have any open cuts or wounds for the salt to get into. I wish I that I had brought some photo props like a magazine or a book to pose for photos.
A lot of guests decided to make a spa treatment out of it by getting covered in mud and then swimming. I wasn’t that brave, but I did spend a small fortune on several scrubs and lotions from the shop.
It was a fun day and we enjoyed getting to know our travel mates. Soon we were back at our hotel. After showers and room service, Ol and I both set our alarm clocks. The following day we were scheduled to visit Petra and spend a few nights in the desert. We were determined not to be late!