Sunday, 22 April 2012

... Jordan: Scream If You Wanna Go Faster!

It started as the nose began to lift off the tarmac. The bunch of teenage clowns who thought it would be an awesome idea to start screaming. It was that fairground "scream if you wanna go faster" kind of scream but bloodcurdling enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end... and a bunch of muttered expletives (I was mindful due to the Devil spawn I had in my row).

Once might have been remotely funny, at least when my feet were firmly on solid ground, but sure enough when we made our hard bank to the left mere minutes later they screamed again... even louder!  I wondered if, based on this odd behaviour, we were falling out of the sky and unsuccessfully tried to hide my fear with some very obvious annoyance. The next 20 minutes of my life were some of the longest as we climbed through never ending turbulence in a bid to break the cloud with that racket coming from the rear of the plane. The little girl in my row was loving it and began mimicking nose dives with her hand. Oh this is just so fantastic! Just what I need. I just wanted to die... of embarrassment not by air disaster as I sat there white knuckled.

You perhaps by now have an idea of my immense relief when we finally broke the cloud and leveled out. Even more so when I could see lights of the towns & cities below. I'm not sure what my meal was when it came but I ate it, likely more out of nervousness than anything, and with real cutlery too!

Of course we still had the landing to deal with. And my MayDay ban is going to be increased for any future flights.

I probably dozed on & off for about an hour oddly enough with "Come Fly With Me" on repeat for the duration on my iPod. Fitting if nothing else.  As we began our descent there was a cackle from the back but then silence. May be someone else had threatened to lynch them?!? We did however have the rapturous round of applause once we had landed. Though annoying it beats the screaming any time. We had made up the lost time but ended up losing it again - the walkway thing broke down just short of the plane so we ended up having to be pushed back to meet up with it. Clearing customs was fine and pretty fast: 20JOD for a visa that looks like two postage stamps. I had a little panic thinking my transfer hadn't shown up but I was soon in the back of a car traveling at light speed towards the centre of Amman.

I was lucky if I had 2 hours sleep. I overslept my alarm so it was an incredibly quick breakfast, pack my daypack for the days activities and then onto a bus.

Jerash, in Northern Jordan, is said to be one of the most important & best -preserved Roman cities  and regard as one of Jordan's most famous archaeological sites after Petra. The first major settlement here is believed to have been Greek, however it is the Romans who left their mark and it doesn't fail to wow you from the minute you lay eyes on the striking Hadrian's Arch.

It would seem Emperor Hadrian liked walls. Behind that is the Hippodrome which was built sometime between 1 & 3 AD and used for chariot races and athletic events. Today, you can get a taste of that with the "Roman Army & Chariot Experience" an authentic recreation of what a crowd of 15000 would have watched in the Hippodrome. The visit offers a lot of impressive sights: the Forum, the North & South Theatres, the Temples of Zeus & Artemis, the pillar-lined Cardo Maximus to name but a few. However if you are really lucky, and I was, upon your visit to the South Theatre you may get to watch a rather surreal performance by the Jordanian Scottish pipe band which boasts the theatre's impressive acoustics.

Four months ago I trekked up to the top of the highest free standing point on Earth. Now I can say I have been to the lowest point, The Dead Sea, at 408m below.

As my newly acquired Farmer tan can attest, it is also one of the hottest. So just how salty is this body of intense blue water? Extreme! It is 31% or 9 times that of any ocean. This means the only things you are likely to see in it are people floating. Swimming is a huge misnomer! Trust me, if you try you are more likely to be flipped. The buoyancy you'll experience here  makes it incredibly difficult to move through the water. So you just lie there and float. The concentration perhaps surprisingly has nothing to do with being below sea-level but instead of the incredibly fast evaporation rate. The salts & minerals have been exploited for centuries for their "healing" properties. I however discovered cuts I never knew I had. Do NOT shave before visiting and if any of this stuff gets in your eyes be prepared to feel in absolute agony. I could only bob around in it for about 25 minutes before the tingling sensation got the better of me and even after two showers and a dip in the pool I was still coated in salt! Your skin certainly feels different afterwards.

Sadly the Dead Sea is quite literally dying. The lack of water flowing into it is causing it to dry up. There is currently a $15M study into a potential solution which includes a $5 billion pipeline from the Red Sea. But at this moment Mother Nature is paying a high price for human growth and development. It will be interesting to see what happens.

- Posted using BlogPress from Nic's iPad

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