Day 11: Across the Jordan

So that cold I mentioned yesterday has officially set in.  I’m not sure how this post will come across, but it kinda felt to me like I was repeating this basic pattern all day through a haze of cotton wool: “We are on a bus.  The bus has stopped.  I must get off the bus.  There are pretty things!  I can get back on the bus.  Repeat.”

It is not fun to travel while sick–as several people on this tour can attest–but there are three things to buoy my spirits.  First, that I appear to be traveling with a mobile pharmacy.  Everyone is willing to share their stash of cold medicine, so I felt mostly human today, yay!  Second, everyone on this tour is pretty great, and good company is great medicine.  And third, having this cold while touring Jordan will never be as bad as that one time I slept in a hotel with bedbugs in Paris and proceeded to try to tour the French countryside in a fog of antihistimines and itching.  The trick to happiness, it seems, is to set the bar low.

That day started in Jerusalem, but we left pretty early and headed east towards Jordan.  On the way we stopped at an overlook of St. George’s monastery, a Byzantine monastery that is still operative today in a little valley with a wadi in the intense Judean wilderness.  We got your ascetic lifestyle right here, people.

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The road we were following was the main route connecting Jerusalem and Jericho.  It’s about an 12 mile walk from one to the other, over harsh and hilly terrain.  This is where the parable of the Good Samaritan was set, and it’s a dramatic backdrop to the story.

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After St. George’s, we got to the border crossing, and our most wonderful tour guide, Andre ,had to leave us.  Man.  I miss Andre.  He was so good.  He was full of information and patience in equal measure, and had a great laugh.  If you ever come to Israel, get Andre to be your guide.

Samir, our driver, was allowed to cross the border with us, but only as far and as long as it took to get us to the Jordanian checkpoint.  I’ll miss him too.  He was really nice, AND an AMAZING driver.  His skill in manoeuvering the bus through narrow spaces defies explanation both and physics.  You know that saying about the camel passing through the eye of a needle?  If it ever happens, it’s because Samir drove the camel.

On the Jordanian side, we switched buses and got our new driver and tour guide, as well as an armed tourist police guy who will apparently be travelling with us for the duration of our stay in Jordan.  I’m still a little confused about whether he’s here to protect Jordan from us or us from Jordan.  Hmm.

We went first to visit Mt. Nebo, where Moses took his first and last view of the land that God had promised to his people before dying and being buried on the same mountain…no one knows quite where.  The view was hazy.  If it was the same as what Moses saw, I can’t help but think that the poor guy must have been really bummed.  Forty years of wilderness, and all he gets is this?  I’d be like, “I am just going to sit here and wait for a clear day or death, God.  The next move is up to you.”

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We stopped at a handifcraft store on the way down the mountain, specializing in mosaics, and they also make a point of working with women and the handicapped.  The works they made were absolutely stunning, but unfortunately way out of my price range.  So I just took a lot of pictures.

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We also stopped to see the Church of the Map, which had a very old map made of mosaic tiles on its floor. This is a close-up of Jerusalem.  That cardo, the west-east running street there, was undiscovered before this map was found, centuries after the Byzantines put it together.  They’ve now found it, and you can walk along it today.  And I DID walk along it.  Whoa.

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Our next stop was at a ruin about which I know exceptionally little, because I slept through the explanation.  But when we got to it, the sun was setting and we could see the Dead Sea for the first time through the haze because the sun was glinting off of it, and the light was beautiful, and a herd of goats was passing below and their bells were ringing through the mountain, so not knowing the history was OK because the present moment demanded all my attention. 

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The ride from that mysterious place to Petra was about 3 hours, and I was drifting in and out for a good solid chunk of that time.  We got to our hotel late, ate dinner, and I, for one, am retiring early, because tomorrow is Petra.  And CAMEL RIDES.  Yay!

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