Journey in Jordan

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lang Tengah

Lang Tengah (Malay: Lang Tengah) or Pulau Lang Tengah is an island in Terengganu in Malaysia, featuring sandy white beaches and clear blue waters with plenty of fish and coral. Lang Tengah - "the Eagle in the Middle" - gets its name from its location between the Perhentian Islands and Redang Island.

The photos say it all.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

From Syria to Turkey to Bangkok

After a whirlwind spin through Syria - roman ruins, bazaars, crusader castles, abandoned stone cities giving us a glimpse into 2,000 year old civilisations; all inclusive hot, dusty, dirty and the chaotic traffic.

Allepo into Turkey with its greener landscape outside our sleeper train; hills, trees, rivers and little rubbish what a contrast to the desert scenery. Touristy Cappadoccia - where we could eat muesli and marvel over the cone head landscapes onward through to a beautiful town with Ottoman houses overhanging the river. Blew the budget staying the charming 100 year old Ottoman Pasha Otel. Onward to the Black Sea gateway to Hazelnut trees and Kashgar Mountains where we climbed Mt Kashgar 3900 - no crampons or iceaxes! Views to never forget.
Bahal saw ambles through summer pastures and deserted alpine villages to the tops up to the Black Lake. Clinging to the valley sides we stayed in our favourite pension ever, run by father and son- hated to leave.

Pack em up and move em on to the border of Iran to Dogebyzit a dusty frontier town where we saw the Palace hitching a ride with a Kurdish family - it rained!
Kars was next on the Armenian Border. Thought we had seen enough ruins however we loved Ani 1000 year old ghostly city with huge stone buildings above vast desolate grassland with Soviet era watchtowers. The Armenian border was just over the river.

Traversing the length of Turkey from East to West saw 36 hours on the train! Then the ferry from Asia to Europe making an immediate impact on us with exquisite architecture Ottoman mosques and palaces 600 years old. Beautiful, energetic people and city; underlying disparity in a sprawling metropolis. We marveled at the Aya Sofia dome and the underground cistern a huge engineering feat. Enjoyed the modern gallery and bazaar around the waterfront of the Bosphorous and the Golden Horn as well as rubbing shoulders with the throngs down Istikial Street showcase of cosmopolitan Turkey and of course the fab restaurants. Shame about the seedy otels and revelry outside the window - our fault if ya can't beat em s'pose.

South to Gallipoli - iconic place names Chunck Bair, Lone Pine, Anzac Cove; sobering battle fields and cemeteries. Excellent guide bought the war stories alive for us. Ferry to Gokceada - rugged and windy overlooking a Greek Island without commercialism - wonderful deserted beaches and ramblings around the coast. Hitched and climbed the mountain behind Tepekoy an unspoilt Greek village. On Boscarda Island we reveled in being on bikes again despite battling the wind, swimming in our own beach where our pension was set amid grapes and fig trees, yummy.
We flew to Bangkok via Bahrain where I don't imagine happiness get any better? eating authentic Thai food, markets for Julie and Thai massage for Jo. Traffic gridlocking the streets, tropical humidity, skyscraper yet traditional old world with orange monks shrines and warm people away from those dealing with farangs anyway.

Our private bike tour through the countryside the highlight - visiting 600 year old temples, canal and country lanes past everyday life with the sent of herbs and flowers alongside ponging waterways, rubbish and snapping dogs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Road Again.....

Crossing the border from Jordan bound for our hols should have been an occasion for celebration, quickly turned into a scare. Jo didn't understand the rules about checking in with the police despite his 6 month visa; turned out he was an overstayer by 3 days. To boot I didn't have my old passport at hand to show that my residency had been ceased. So both of us faced crusty bureaucrats at the border, my heart was thumping big time. All sorted once we understood the requirements and Jo paid $10 we were on our way, through Syria and finally to Beirut, Lebanon wandering the streets at 10pm at night trying to find our hotel after 7 hours on the road. Chic, beautiful people in Beirut - known as the 'party town' the streets were buzzing but not for us. We finally found our hotel - seedy backstreet with a nightclub under it and another across the road; we heard the thumping all night long with the mossies, included small sewrage seep out the window and heat, however pure luxury to have a pillow mate. Sobering in the light of the day was the damage evident in the bullet holes and torn apart buildings from the effects of civil war; where I read every family has lost someone. Horn honking traffic chaos prevailed, simply part and parcel of all the Middle East.

Found some ruins North and swam in the Mediterranean, disappointing despite the lovely turquoise water, as a rubbish bag wrapped itself around my leg in a frightening manner. Found a hiking group on Facebook, so much for some hard core exercise; girls with made up faces as we made our way around a dirty lake for a short hike and a long afernoon eating and dancing.

Fled to the mountains - the winding road gained altitude with great views of the Qadisha Valley with a terribly tough walk up to the highest mountain (3090m) then down to the valley with monasteries and chapels built into the cliff face. Over the Pass to Balbek, (Tony the taxi driver tried to find us a hash plant but they had sadly all been replaced.) Huge ruins in good nick; impressive wandering at dusk. Made for Zahle and Lebanon's oldest winery. Enjoyable wander round the tunnels with casks but the wine sour, give me a NZ wine anyday! Early start to climb Jebel Sannine (2628m.) As soon as you get off the beaten track the rewards are there - lovely people gave us rides and fruit from the cherry orchards. The day was clear the views over all of Lebanon astounding; but down was too steep for poor poohs wee legs! Luckily got a ride in a Mercedes with a drunk in the back all the way back to Zahle. Pushed on the road back over the border to Damascus. Claimed to be one of the worlds most continuously inhabited cities filled with bazaars, tiny alleyways, minarets, mosques, fountain courtyards, coffee houses. The most lingering memory for me the smell of the spices. Today to Palmyra, ruins from the 2nd century AD, an amazing backdrop in the middle of a vast desert. OK enough ruins talk! Pushed on to Deır al Azzar on the edge of the Euphrates - ıt's only claim to fame apart from the proximity to Iran - Jo not well so I made my way around alone: chıldren threw dırt and ıt was a hardcore outback town wıth zealots of what I am not sure. OK tıme for another ruin - Rasafa: ımpressıve ghostly square cıty wıth white crystalıne marble blocks and huge cısterns 20m deep - rose out of remote featureless desert. Then Allepo and a rest ın a beautıfully clean hostel. enjoyıng wanderıng the cıtadel (345 BC.) Colourful bustling souqs but the traffic wears me down - wicked when theres no wules. Dead Cıty trıp in VW van especially loved St Sımeon. The story goes that Sımeon was a pıous man living ın a cave when word got out people came from all over to meet hım for a blessıng...problem was he hated all the attention buıldıng an 18m hıgh pıllar needıng a steel chın so he dıdnt fall off. He preached but wouldn't let women near especially hıs poor mum. Dıed ın 459 the most famous person ın the 5th century.

20th July Enjoyed train to Lattika Saladin's Castle wıth fortıfıcatıons..precipitous sıdes and forest! Mate some greenery! Crusaders cut 20m chasm out of the rock to fortıfy leaving 28m hıgh needle of rock to support drawbrıdge. Met our frıend Andy last seen ın Lebanon - good to catch up. Off and on the next traın that nıght headıng for Turkey. Julıe slept through the checkpoints Jo dıd all the hard work with passports enjoyed the sleeper rockın and rollin. Managed to negotiate the bus to Goreme...a lovely change...far too many tourits ın a tourit town but hey it makes for a nice change and after the desert - greenery at our pension and bırds! Woke up thinking I was at home! Thıs place is amazing, wıth fantastic rock formations due to volcanic tufa beıng laıd down and latterly eroded by rain and wind ınto fantastic shapes and ravines. Most mornings we awoke to a flock of balloons driftıng across the dawn sky like giant jellyfish. Did a guided to an underground cıty, carved out of the tufa deposits and used by the locals as refuges during times of war or ınvasion. Then to a rocky ravine that had churches carved out of the rocks the ınterıors covered ın religious iconography. Lonely Planet raved about the beauty of the gorge...but ya know I thınk NZ ıs pretty fıne (OK no churches 1500 years old.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wadi Numeirah

Another great wander: Osamas group. Julie's first foray into hubbly bubbly - it went with the scene, music, and
beautiful people.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wadi Mujib

Mujib wasn't just a 'splash' into the gorge up the Siq trail as we negotiated the waterfalls and boulders – at one point the water was so deep and current so strong that you couldn’t touch the bottom and had to pull ourselves along using a rope that was bolted to the side of the canyon, then clamber up a climbing ladder to get through the waterfall. All that aside another lovely day out - a new sport - swim/hiking. Shame about the cold waters of NZnd or we would love to do 1t at home.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wadi Zarqa

Before arriving in Jordan I had an idea about the climate to expect: a desert. I never expected to find lush scenes of rushing steams, waterfalls and greenery.

At first glance the route along the Dead Sea highway epitomizes Jordan’s dry and barren climate. However, take a closer look and you will find flourishing greenery, nourished by rushing steams fed by underground hot springs in between some of the canyons.
In some areas the canyon’s twists and turns and multi-colored rocks with rushing steams of lukewarm spring water.
As the hike continued I found myself walking underneath large overhanging rocks, between cave-like rock formations, around multi-colored puddles of rich mineral run-off and through many more breathtaking scenes. After a few more kms wading through the rushing spring and maneuvering around the rocks becomes a little more demanding. The guides were who ran the hiking group were wonderful and at one stage we abseiled round a high rock on the ropes they carried in.

According to the Bible, it was at Gadara that Jesus cast demons out of two men into a herd of pigs.

In the northwest corner we enjoyed the ruins of another ancient town, Gadara (now called Umm Qais). This was an early Christian place of pilgrimage. The ruins are interesting because of the juxtaposition of the ruined Roman city and a relatively intact Ottoman-era village. The site also offers awesome views over the Golan Heights in Syria and the Sea of Galilee in Israel & the Palestinian Territories to the north, and the Jordan Valley to the south. We climbed up a watchtower to find the guard asleep. He got a heck of a fright as we descended upon him. When he wasn't looking I took this photo with his gun, I didn't actually mean it to be pointing that directly at Jo.

Dana Nature Reserve

Jo was being blown backwards as we made this stop by the Dead Sea on the way to Dana with our dear friend Rula. Dana is set in a spectacular valley with a system of wadis and rugged mountains. The terrain drops from 1500m above sea level at Dana to below sea level west of Faynan so it extends from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley down to the desert lowlands.

See this site about Dana - Dana Nature Reserve

Its geology switches from limestone to sandstone to granite, ecosystems varying from lush, well-watered mountain slopes and open oak and juniper woodlands to scrubland and arid sandy desert.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jerash -

Jerash, located 48 kilometers north of Amman is considered one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. Within the remaining city walls, archaeologists have found the ruins of settlements dating back to the Neolithic Age, indicating human occupation at this location for more than 6500 years. We reckon its colonnaded streets, baths, theaters, plazas and arches are in pretty good nick considering it's age.

Return to Wadi Rum

After Dahab we headed to the South of Wadi Rum Park,
hiking amongst stunning desert scenery.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jo in Jordan

Jo, the bathing king
relaxes after snorkeling in Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. He was pretty impressed with his first foray into the Middle East which coincided with my holidays.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hot bread.....

Rula and I have been loving our lunches en route. We stop at all the places that sell bread cooked in the oven to find the best. Sometimes we eat hot bread stuffed with spinach and chilli. Lately Rula has made her own stuffing with olives and the guys bake it for us. We can barely roll out to continue on our way because we have eaten so much.

More gastronomic delights......

I was invited to my teacher friends place for the national dish of Jordan: Mansaf: lamb seasoned with aromatic herbs, lightly spiced, cooked in yoghurt, and served with huge quantities of rice. Feasting on Mansaf is taken seriously, and hours are spent in its preparations.

Mansaf is cooked in jameed (the Arabic word for dried yoghurt), which is then mixed with water in a tray to produce a creamy sauce. This is poured into a large stewing pot with chunks of lamb meat. The pot is put over an open fire. As the stew begins to warm, it is stirred to prevent the yogurt from separating.

Large trays are covered with the doughy flat Arabic bread and dampened with yogurt. On top of this, a layer of rice is heaped. The meat is then piled on top. Almonds, pine-kernels and other nuts may be sprinkled over the dish, which is then ready for serving. It has to be eated with the hand, rolled up into a ball and stuff it in.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great day for a Borderholic

We drove up North past date palms right up to the border of Israel, looking at Golan Heights, Mount Heron in Syria, the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water, even Lebanon was so close. I can't believe I am here, looking towards countries that have been in the news daily. Today it all looked so calm apart from the numerous checkpoints where we had to show our residency cards and signs saying no photos and no stopping.