18.10.2008 - 21.10.2008 27 °C
"Life is a big school", said Akran the taxi driver as he ferried me from Qatar Airways office back to the Cameo Hotel (which I wouldn't recommend). He didn’t realise how pertinent his statement was, but with the series of unfortunate events that have occurred to us over the last few days, it resonated. My trip to Qatar Airways offices was the highlight of these events following the airline canceling our "confirmed reservation" to Kathmandu. This occurred due to a critical condition not explained on my internet booking response. The condition was that I had to go to their offices in Amman to pay a minor validation surcharge (due to a reservation change I made months ago) at least 72hrs before the flight. I went all the way up to the area manager and maybe they are going to upgrade what is an apparent weakness in their booking system, but we are now have three unexpected days in Amman before we can get on another flight.
Overall I must say that Jordan has sometimes been a difficult place to travel as an independent tourist. Accommodation in the RSCN "camps" (which are not really campsites at all but expensive hotels with tents) is geared towards tour groups which book out the accommodation weeks in advance at this time of year. Fortunately we have our camping gear with us and have been able to stay in some great offroad locations for free. We have had no hassles from the locals doing this and I think it is very much an accepted practice, no doubt remnants of the Bedouin culture. I think the hire car company wouldn’t have been too happy if they saw where I took their Citroen C5....
Some advice for other travellers is as follows:
• If you go to Petra, don’t bother with the Petra by night tour, it's a dud. It is too busy to appreciate the music or the talk (I estimate 400 people did it on the night we were there) and the Treasury is not lit up very well.
• Don’t expect to go to the Dana nature reserve and find maps and books on the reserve available at the information centre. You also are required to engage a guide to walk the route to the camp, which you need to book in advance. Also, don’t get convinced to use a local non RSCN guide, unless you pay much less than the 35JD we shelled out for a "guided" walk from the village to the local springs.
• If you stay in the Dana Hotel (which is OK) make sure you put some fresh insecticide pads in the anti-mosquito devices and check the toilets and showers work properly.
• Most taxi drivers in Amman (where they agree to use a meter!) have tried to increase the charges for us in some way or another. They are quite inventive in their excuses and it gets tiring arguing with them.
• Get on an overnight camping tour in the mountainous desert region around Wadi Rum - we hired our own guide and vehicle thru Jordan Tracks for two days for 240JD. We got to drive through and scramble around some of the most amazing scenery and our guide (Sarle) compensated for his rudimentary English by entertaining us at night with arabic songs whilst strumming his inlayed Egyptian Lute.
• Don't believe anybody if they tell you there are no mosquitoes in the desert.
I was surprised to find that Jordan still uses cans with ringpulls and leaded petrol.....and those damn black plastic bags are everywhere. I propose that the Jordan Government makes the sale of biodegrdable plastic bags mandatory.