Saturday, June 25, 2011

Petra: Hike to the Monastery

Petra was an inspiring and beautiful place to visit.  We got up very early, leaving at the 7:30am shuttle so we would have enough time to hike up the monastery, a difficult hike involving more than 1,000 steps.  Petra in general involves a lot of walking though there are horse and buggies and then donkeys that can carry you to most parts of Petra.

To get to the Treasury and inside the ancient city of Petra, one has to first walk a kilometer or so along a path and then through a narrow pass through the enormous and beautiful red rocks, and area called the Siq.  A horse ride covering the first quarter mile or so is included as part of the cost of entering Petra (which is not cheap-- $75 per person, though at least children are free).

Here are photos of Jeff and our Japanese friend Koje on horseback.  Cameron and I shared a horse. 

There were costumed cave-dwellers drinking tea on the way.
Here are photos of the beautiful Siq.

Unfortunately, the colors are not nearly as vibrant and deep in my photos as they are in person (-- I still need to experiment with different settings on my camera), but they at least give you a sense of things. 

Below is
a video of walking through the Sig as one comes upon the Treasury.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time that videos can't be turned, so you'll have to turn your computer to see this video right-side-up.

Here's a link to this video:

Photo of Jeff, Koje and Cameron entering the Siq.

Once we got to the Treasury, we took a short break for photos and water.  (We always carry our water bottles around here.  Partly because these are desert climates and partly because the water in Jordan is not safe to drink.  Koji, who was planning to do the really serious 3-4 hour hike in Petra, one we didn't attempt, was carrying 4 liters of water for his day hike!) 
Jordanians in costume as Roman soldiers from 2000+ years ago.

As we rested for a moment, Cameron took a few photos.  He loves to take photos of cats.  Here's a photo of Cameron with the camels in front of the Treasury.

We decided we wanted to do the moderate, but still challenging, hike to the Petra monastery, high up in the mountains, at the end of 1,058 steps.  (Yes, that is the right number; Jeff counted on the way up.)   

Before you begin the steps, there is a large wide-open area with tombs in the rock mountains on either side and an old Roman road further down.  Here are photos of these.
Since there are no public toilets in these part of Petra,
we joked that the Men's Room was the cave on the left
and the Women's Room was the cave on the right.
When Petra was discovered in modern times, some thought the whole city was a necropolis, or a city of tombs since these caves appeared to be mainly tombs.  But the monastery confirms that the city was inhabited with dwellings as well.  Also, because the Bedoin people often sleep outside in tents, their sleeping places were not in the caves though they still inhabited the city.  Even today, it's reported that Bedoins use some of the caves in the more remote parts of Petra as homes.  

Here is a photo of an ancient amphitheater that seated 6,000 people.

Here are photos of the ancient road called the Colonade built by the Romans.  You can see the ruins of the ancient Roman pillars.

Finally, we reached the steps... the many, many steps leading up to the monastery.  I was glad we had started early in the morning (we got to Petra by 8am) and we had decided to hike straight up to the monastery while we had the most strength.   This meant there were almost no tourists hiking down the mountain yet and there were no tour groups there yet.  

Here are photos of the steps and the views looking back as we stopped to rest.

As we got toward the top, we did pass this one woman with her guide coming down from the monastery.  I asked her how the ride was and she said, "A little bit scary!"  I was glad we had opted not to ride donkeys up.  He were worried about having enough time to do the hike so at one point had negotiated with the donkey vendors, but once Cameron was in the saddle of one donkey, they started to say we would have to pay for three donkeys rather than Cameron and I riding one and/or that we would have to have one person get off the donkey to go up the steps (which was the main part of the hike).  Since this would mean we were still only travelling at the speed of a hiker, we opted not to hire donkeys.  I'm glad we walked.  Cameron is a strong hiker for a 6 year old and he did just great even though this was the longest hike he's ever done (probably about 6-7 kilometers total.)  

Here's a short video taken as we were coming close to the monastery.
Here's a link to this video:
Finally, we reached the monastery!  It took us about 2 and 1/2 hours from when we started but it was worth it.  It was incredible to see this impressive building all carved out of stone... a very similar style to the Treasury when you first enter Petra, but here, there were few people so it seemed like this remote treasure tucked high in the mountains.  

Here's a photo at the doorway to the monastery.

We learned that the monastery was not the top however, there was still a steep but short path leading up to a point that had a sign saying "Best View in Petra".  We hiked up to this point where the views were truly spectacular.  We had a picnic on top.  

You come to a fork in the path where you can choose between the view of "All Places" or the "View the End of the World" also known as the Sacrifice View.  We opted for the view of All Places.

These are the last 20 meters to the top.
There actually is a path there though you can't see it from this angle.
It's not as treacherous as it looks here.  It's enough of a path that the donkey gets up fine.
The donkey that reached the top.
Bedoin shop at the top of the world.

One of the Bedoins we talked to in the shop was discussing how he worked at another historical site somewhere else and his job was to sit and drink tea (and basically be part of the scenery).  He laughed at how they would pay him to sit there all day and drink tea.  

Here are the magnificent views from the top of Petra:

The hike down was a lot easier than the hike up.  

Here's a photo looking back at the summit with the Jordanian flag in the foreground.
We passed quite a few donkey caravans, some carrying people who were part of tours.  
There were Bedoin venders all along the way selling jade and silver jewelry and inviting us to join them for a cup of Bedoin tea.  We had passed them all by on the way up because we wanted to keep focused on hiking, partly because the car from the hotel was picking us up at 1:30pm and we wanted to be sure we had enough time to get up and down the mountain.  

On the way down, I did buy a few pieces of silver and jade jewelry after bargaining a bit.  

I also bought a lovely sand painting in a bottle for 4 dinar (about $6).  I bought it from the artist who was sitting in his shop making them.  Here are photos of the sand painting I bought and the shop he worked in with the many bowls of different colored sand on the work table.

Here's a photo at the base of all the steps where the donkeys are resting.
We kept running into these two Australian women who took our photo at the monastery and the top peak and we took photos for them.  

By the time we hit the final stretch of this long hike, Cameron (and Jeff and I) were all tired.  Jeff talked to Cameron about how legs feel like they just can't make it at the end of a marathon so you just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you finish.  

This last photo is of us at the Petra Visitor Center before we set off on this odyssey.  
We ended the day with ice cream cones while we waited for the car from the hotel to pick us up.  Petra was an amazing experience.