Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Petra part 4 - Ad-Deir, Let the Torture Begin

The next part of our trip up through the winding cracks and valleys within Petra would take us to the farthest part of the park called The Monastery or Ad-Deir.The climb up into the mountain is full of cliffs, way too close edges, sand and rocks. We haggled our way up on donkeys for 6 dinar each. Actually, we thought the donkeys would take us all the way to the Monastery but we ended up going only about 500 of the 800 steps to the top where the Monastery is situated.

The donkey ride started off scary for Pae as hers started to run and buck. She wanted to change donkeys but was not allowed. It was a terrifying ascent for her, not knowing the next time the animal was gonna go wild...would it be on the side of a 80 meter high cliff or a 150 meter deep gorge? She held on for her life, literally "white knuckle driving".

My ass, donkey, had a loose "saddle" which was no more than a thick blanket with a steel handle sewn into it. The saddle kept slipping off to the left and me with it. I was able to adjust with my feet though and it made the ride seem more adventurous...at least the parts of the ride where the death high cliff was on the left!!It's pretty amazing how the donkeys scale the steps of the mountain. And they pretty much know their own way up to the top. We unfortunately didn't get any photos of me atop the little ass, which probably looked funny considering I'm bigger than Pae and my donkey was only slightly larger than hers!

We dismounted the donkeys and walked the rest of the way up. This walk included 5 rest stops as the climb steepened and the day's activities started to catch up on us. The muscles were tired already from the ascent to the High Place of Sacrifice and our bodies in general worn out from the sun and sand. However, when we reached the Monastery, the sun was starting to go down and the place lit up in bright earth red. It was simply huge.The pictures you see of Ad-Deir online or in brochures make it look like a normal-sized building. But when you stand in front of it you see and feel that it is enormous and marvel and question how it was carved into the sandstone wall thousands of years ago.Look at this picture below. Click on it and find Pae at the bottom, this shows some scale and gives some idea of how giant this place really is. Other pictures don't do it justice as we are over 30 meters away from it, in the foreground.As our shadows began to stretch longer and longer, we figured it was time to go home. The way down was easier although donkyless. Pae developed a cramp or something in her hip joint that made it true torture for her to descend, joints pounding with every step down the mountain.It took us a considerable amount of time to come down, but we were all alone. The occasional mountain goat munching mountain weeds or worker returning home, singing an echoing Bedouin song atop an over-worked donkey were the only things that pierced the quiet and peace of the mountain. We had it all to ourselves and were only racing against the setting sun as we didn't want to get back to the Siq and have to negotiate it in pitch black.We eventually made our way back to the Siq as Pae also realized that we had to move quickly. She soldiered on, busted body and all. She dida great job getting home although she wanted to give up and die several times. I felt bad for her, but could only encourage her to keep going, reminding her that we were in the middle or the desert, haha. She did great. We made it to the Siq where we used her iPhone to light some of the darker areas on our walk out of Petra. A few stars appeared in the night sky.We purchased, earlier, tickets to what is called "Petra by Night". 12 dinar per person, it is a candle lit walk through As-Siq to Al-Khazneh...a little about that in part 5...soon...to be continued...

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