There are some journeys that are special.
Like the trip to Kanyakumari in 2002. Having returned from multiple dreary sales drives (heat killing me), I actually checked out of the hotel in Tuticorin and took the first state bus I saw. And then it drizzled. I reached Kanyakumari and it poured. It just sucked the heat and the exhaustion away and amazed me with the wonderful waters that surrounded me. I can’t explain. Its a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life. All in all, it had taken me 4 hours to change my setting.
Like the trip to Easter Island in 2008. After much deliberation, debate, tossing coins, international phone calls, I had made the decision to head to Easter Island from Santiago. The week before was somewhat a tough time with 24 hour bus journeys, being stranded in Atacama desert without money, a sore back after overdoing a Capoeira class… what not. So, the sudden decision to shake my setting and head somewhere idyllic was god sent. What I experienced there, I could have never planned for. Its just now stored in my little book of solo memories. And it just took me 10 hours to get there.
Yes, there have been a few like these. But, the recent one that just came out of nowhere and shook my world was the trip to Jordan.
We had planned a 2 week trip to Egypt. It was all sorted. Cities, where to head, what to do, how to travel… all of it. We knew Egypt was right next to Jordan and we even tried applying for a Visa in India to Jordan. However, we were politely refused saying that the process takes 3 months. We quietly accepted this and decided to give as much time as possible to the Pharaoh’s and all that history.
Then, we reached Egypt. And like little treasure hunt clues, every place we went to threw a little clue in our direction. First, our hostel in Cairo asked us whether we would like to do a 2 day trip to Petra from Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and then later on realised that they could not sort out our visas. Secondly, we met a wonderful Spanish – Argentinian couple who had headed into Egypt through Jordan and spoke about it non stop. Then, we saw pictures of Petra in brochures lying around in hostels we visited. There were signs all over and it was all sinking in. I was itching to head there.
Then, we heard that a colleague of Roy’s from India had made it to Petra and back through an SEZ port. An adventure. Still, we did not think about the trip.
Well, it was already 10 days. We had spent time doing all the historical stuff that we needed to soak the sun and laze around. We were in Dahab, a sleeeepy seaside backpacker town with more diving schools than people. I don’t know what came over us but we enrolled for the Basic Scuba course. It was supposed to take 3 days and something like 9 dives to get that certificate. We were excited that we were trying something new. But, my heart was set on something else.
Like always, something happened. The freezing cold waters of the Red Sea just shook me out of my lazy existence. It was just the first dive and I was absolutely miserable. I couldn’t breathe. The stupid flippers just annoyed me. My buoyancy device malfunctioned and I kept floating. May as well have snorkeled in the Red Sea. And the place where we were diving – we just saw divers. Where the hell was the aqua life. Having dived before in exotic locations and seen some fish, this was a disappointment. To top it, the instructor made me swim 200 metres to test my stamina and I was ready to die. That was it. Tipping point.
I took a refund. I walked around Dahab. Every little tourist agency. Every hotel. To check how to get to Jordan. No one was willing to book us in the tour as they did not know the rules for Indian citizens. Some of them were sweet enough to call the Port and check. Apparently, Nuweiba (the port in Egypt) agreed to us leaving Egypt but Aqaba (the port in Jordan) gave no assurance they would let us in. Stranded in deep waters.
But, the signs were around me. People coming back from Petra and gloating about it. I couldn’t take it any longer. It
So, I woke up the next morning in Dahab and convinced Roy that we must head to Jordan, even if we were going to be rejected visas on arrival. That’s when the adventure began.
It’s difficult to crunch the next 48 hours – but, Ill try.
9 30 am – Left Dahab on a shuttle van to Nuweiba
11 am – Reached Nuweiba, a sleepy harbour town in Sinai Peninsula
12 noon – Bought tickets for Aqaba, the port in Jordan, which was supposed to be a SEZ
12 – 5 pm – Ate Falafels, chatted the only guy in the small bank on main street, drank lots of tea from the small stalls around the town and waited in the port
5 pm – Still waiting in the port area
5 30 pm – Ferry finally leaves…. Sailing to Jordan
5 30 – 6 pm – Questioned about not having a Visa. Convinced the ferry guys that we intend to come back to Egypt and we were just headed to see Petra
6 30 pm – Made it to the top deck after charming one of the sailors
7 30 pm – Reached Aqaba and ran towards Immigration.
8 pm – Sweet talked the Immigration guy to let us in – only for 24 hours
8 30 pm – Found a taxi to share with 2 Canadians to Petra. The highlight was the driver, who is Jordan’s best bet to F1, Electronic Music and conning customers. But for the mad fella, the drive wouldn’t have been as memorable.
Around 11 pm – Reached the town of Petra.
In a little more than 12 hours, our lives had changed. From the freezing waters of Dahab to chilly hidden city of the Nabathean civilization, Petra.
I have goosebumps now thinking about the moment I landed in the town of Petra. And I haven’t even come to the part where we head to the Wonder of the World.
The next 36 hours were crazier than the first 12. Watch this space for more….