France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and UAE 2013
This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.
19.05.2013 - 19.05.2013 33 °C
counting down the days
These last few days have been very easy going. Yesterday, the only effort I expended at all was in a couple of games of air hockey and another round of golf with the one they call Sue.
I caught a fleeting glance at a whale on Saturday as well. Don't know what kind and exactly how large as it only showed its back for a few seconds then submerged again. Val got a glimpse of one as well. The only other interesting wild life we've seen are some truly amazing flying fish. On the calm seas we could see these mysterious little creatures dashing away perpendicularly from the bow. They look like skipping stones, but sometime they get air born for as much as fifty feet or more. Hard to say how big but I imagine they are about as big as my hand. Susan, after some Job-like perseverance, was able to photograph one. It had to be blown up and pixelated like crazy, but you can clearly see the fish-like head some small rudimentary wings and the tail on the beast. I'm sure evolutionists would have a field day with these beings.
It must be the warm weather and the natural progression of plain old laziness while being on a boat with nothing to do but eat, drink and wander around, for it seems we are all getting more and more slothful. There are activities that Val and Susan highlight and plan for but it's all pretty low key stuff. Even Val, who is normally fixated with 'doing stuff', seems to be content with the status quo of just chilling out. The cruise is coming to an end. This is our last full day with little or nothing to do. Tomorrow night will find Susan and I packing for our six a..m. arrival in Dubai on Tuesday.
Our plan is to rent a car in Dubai for the three days we are there. We don't have any concrete plans on an itinerary as yet, so we'll sort of see how things go on a daily basis. At this point, it seems that a good chunk of time will be spent shopping and checking out some of the modern and older shopping areas. The Dubai museum and camel meat restaurant I scoped out are within walking distance of our funky little guest house, so that is convenient.
For the last four nights or so, and till we get to Dubai, all our outside decks have been off limits and the exterior lights in these areas shut off. We are in waters that are home to pirates apparently and the ship's captain isn't taking any chances. One day we had a mandatory pirate attack drill. The crew ten minutes before us did their thing (on the code words: “Delta, Delta, Delta”), then the passengers did a mock exiting of areas near windows and from outside deck areas to safe areas within the ship. Appropriately, the call from the bridge to initiate this, if ever required, are the words “Safe Haven” said three times over the PA system. The deck lights and cabin lights have to be covered to all lookouts to better observe the waters around the ship with no reflected light. Troi was in to see the Doc a couple of days ago and overheard some conversations from some army personnel that were sent to us. They are the real thing with flash bombs and some heavy duty arms and armaments to ward off any attack. Troi said that they did spot a suspicious boat circling around us one night, but to actually overtake a ship like the Mariner of the Seas is far too daunting in reality for these small pirate boats as we are just too big and high off the water and we are going to fast. Anyway just a little different kind of excitement here on a cruise ship. Each morning, the captain has let us know that there was no 'suspicious activity' during the previous night.
Well time to go and check out the outside ambient temperatures and spend some serious time with my tablet playing an assortment of solitaire games. I've been keeping track of the NHL playoffs. Go L.A. Kings! The Canucks should get some special trophy for being the best team at choking since the inception of the league. It's still odd to wake up at seven in the morning or so and have your family in Canada just getting ready for supper the night before. Currently there is an eleven hour difference in time between us.
I limited myself to some light duty fruit for breakfast this morning and will endeavour to pace myself suitably during the course of the day in preparation for supper. Tonight I have my menu selected. Get this: an eighteen ounce porterhouse steak which I will direct to be cooked and served to my place at the table rare. Excuse me as I wipe a bit of drool that was formed and currently dangling from my shaved chin as I etched the words to that last sentence. They say porterhouse steaks are right up there for tastiness, therefore my unabashed yearning.
14.05.2013 - 14.05.2013
When we left Petra, we were taken to a very nice restaurant with large windows overlooking the valley and had a delicious buffet lunch. Since we were a small group, and we were one of the first groups in the restaurant, we were quickly seated and able to serve ourselves from the fresh food. It was very good and Aladdin mentioned a couple of things to try that were typical of local fare (one of my favourites, hummus....).
Then, we were back on our bus for the 1 hour or so drive to Wadi Rum. Wadi means valley and Rum came from the word Aram, meaning High Place. The valley is full of large sandstone hills that are beautifully formed from wind erosion. We drove back along the Kings Way again and then on the road returning to Aqaba for a ways before turning off onto the road to reach the valley. Along the way, we saw many large tents, which belonged to the Bedouin people. The population of Jordan is about 6,000,000 and the Bedouin form 1% of that population. As Mark mentioned, the Bedouin are traditionally a nomadic people, but most now live in villages sponsored by the government in order to receive the services—like water and electricity. A small percentage still choose to live the traditional way in tents, moving around the country. Despite the vast deserted look of the arid land, Aladdin said that most of it is privately owned, some even being owned by the Bedouin. The Bedouin live on what they manufacture, from their goats camels and sheep—like the wool, milk (made into cheese and yogurt) and meat. A Bedouin salute is: Gow-wacK (hard “K” with emphasis, spelled phonetically) and the response is “G-weeT”. Aladdin had us practice this several times, and he kept testing our memories by periodically calling out “Gowack” to see if we could respond. I got the GweeT down pat and was commended. However he gave us another one that I did not write down because there were many more syllables.....hence I could not shine when he dcalled out the first part.
We arrived at the Wadi Rum visitor centre shortly after 5:00, maybe closer to 5:30, for our 2 hour open air jeep ride. We were the only ones there when we arrived, although just as we were heading down to our vehicles, 2 tour buses pulled up—they caught up to us later. I did not see a “Jeep” in the stable of 4x4 vehicles, but as the tour info said, they were older vehicles and none had bodies in very good shape. Mostly, Toyota pickups, with 2 metal benches in the box, running along each side, with various forms of (not very good) home made pads for our 'comfort'. The tour info also mentioned that the vehicles were not air conditioned, but I don't see how that could have mattered, when the ride was all in the pick up box.... We loaded up our 2 vehicles and headed out into the sandy valley. It was a fairly bumpy ride, and the welded iron pipe back rest had a very rough point that kept hitting the inside of my arm, despite trying to keep the pad over it. I have the scabs still. Not really having any idea what we were going to see on this excursion, we had no expectations. However the scenery was beautiful, and the open air 'jeep' ride was quite fun. Val and I snapped pictures till the cows (camels?) came home and they will likely all look alike when we get home, but, like Petra, everywhere we turned was something worth looking at. We stopped at a Bedouin-type tent and had a small glass of hot (very tasty) tea, and I got volunteered by Aladdin to be dressed in the head scarf with the black 'mask'--that you saw in the picture I posted. There were some souvenirs to be bought here if you wanted, plus there were some camels available for a ride, but we continued on.
Here is where the 2 bus loads of other tourists caught up with us. They rode in on their 20 vehicles yipping and yelling like a bunch of cowboys—or maybe it was Indians—Aladdin said they were a group of Lebanese. They sure made their presence known, and disturbed the peace of the place that we were experiencing. They all roared off ahead of us, but at the next stop, we caught up with them again. They made it a little difficult at the next stop to get good pictures and hear what Aladdin was saying as they were noisily all over the place, climbing the rocks and posing everywhere so that they were constantly in the way, but eventually they left and we had this space to ourselves. Aladdin encouraged us to walk in the sand and feel it—Val had bare feet in sandals so she luxuriated. I had socks and shoes and didn't feel like pulling them off. After that we were off again, and on our way back we were heading into the sunset. As we kept driving around various outcroppings, we got to photograph several sunsets as we literally raced with the wind. Each time we passed one set of rocks, we would come up to another and so got more sunset shots. After our last actual stop to photograph the setting sun, our driver RACED back like mad, giving us quite the ride in the back. We figured quitting time must have been 7:00, as it was about 7:15 when we arrived. It reminded me of how a horse who might have been plodding along slowly on your ride will suddenly develop speed and energy once you turn his head back home. I wonder if camels do the same?
So that was the end of Wadi Rum (I did not mention that this is the area that “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed in—or maybe I got that wrong, and it was the area of the REAL Lawrence of Arabia??I forget...) We had an uneventful drive back to our ship, in plenty of time before final boarding at 9:30. In fact, I think we were back about 8:00, and I had about an hour to wait before Mark got back from his Dead Sea excursion. We compared notes of our day, and as we each enjoyed our day, it didn't matter that we went separate ways. One day, I would like to float on the Dead Sea too, but I would not have missed what I did today....
PS A note about the photos posted to this blog: Because of the limitations with the internet and netbook cpu speeds etc., it was not worthwhile posting photos from our good camera. As we went to each place, I tried to remember to take a photo or two with my cell phone as using the email posting with it was really easy. So, they are just an idea of what we saw. Eventually, I'll get better photos posted to Picasa.