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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Drama in the Rum…

So the next morning, I got up and went downstairs to meet Ali at 9:00AM to do our Wadi Rum tour.  The tour which was an overnight in the Wadi Rum desert wasn’t cheap; the guys paid 65JD (USD$91) for the tour that included dinner, breakfast and transportation to and from Wadi Rum.  As an employee, I received my employee discount and paid significantly less but it still wasn’t cheap.

We headed straight for the hotel where the two guys were staying.  Just as I walked in, I spotted Peter but Lee was nowhere to be found.  They had actually thought that they were getting picked up at 1:00PM (they sent me an email confirming time but I never received it) and Lee had stepped out to find a place to cut his hair (he had been traveling for about 3 weeks at this point).  So, Ali and I hopped back into the truck and went around town looking for him; I had to show a photo of Lee since he hadn’t met him yet.  We drove around and because the town is so small, we quickly found him walking down the hill towards Petra.

By about 9:45AM, we were on our way…we drove through desert landscape but it wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before.  I had seen similar scenery in Namibia and even in Arizona….the other thing was that Ali wasn’t much of a communicator so we didn’t really know what was going on half the time….as we were driving, I didn’t know the tour had already started!  I actually thought we were driving somewhere and then were going to head out.  So all the while, didn’t pay too much attention to the scenery since I thought we were just passing through.

We did stop at a few places the first stop having an ancient water system where I even tried the water; I didn’t like it as I thought it tasted very metallic.  Another stop, we climbed up a natural bridge and Ali asked me if I would be interested in joining him for drinks later.  I didn’t want to but I just left it neutral and said ‘maybe’.  As I have been traveling, or I suppose all women know this but through traveling it has become more apparent to me that if I use my female attributes to my advantage (not in the sense of prostitution!) but know that by seeming unsure and dependent on a guy could have its advantages.  I also have learned that not stroking a man’s ego could make your situation less attractive.  So I tried to keep the situation non-confrontational and positive.

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Later we also stopped to get some groceries at a little store so that we could make our picnic lunch which we had along the way.  Soon after lunch, when we tried to get back on the road again, our truck got stuck in the sand and I was forced to drive as the three guys pushed…luckily we got out of that hole within 10 minutes because it was really hot!

Along the way we also stopped at a couple Bedouin tents where they offered us tea under their tent made out of goat hair….all of these stops conveniently had a little ‘store’ with souvenirs and the host always ended up singing and playing the traditional Bedouin musical instrument….I guess this was done to strum up some sort of tips from their visiting guests.

IMG_1889   IMG_1914[1]                       Our stop for lunch                                                          The guys pushing the car while I was driving
IMG_1907  IMG_1882                          Peter getting lost in the desert                                     Lounging in a Bedouin Tent
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                                                                                           This young boy worked so hard serving us tea
   IMG_1914     IMG_1924                               They were trying to put kohl on me and the guy was basically put it in my eye!

At about 3:00PM or so, we finally pulled up to a campsite. I thought from there we were going to start our tour!  At that time we also met the owner of the campsite who seemed like a pretentious fellow. He had this arrogant air to him, which I noticed immediately.  Also when he shook hands with Lee, he squeezed it so hard in a way to antagonize him.  Lee is a very attractive guy so maybe the owner felt threatened but Lee being a calm, nice guy just seemed to grin and bear it but just watching the owner started to infuriate me!

We lounged around on Bedouin sofas and were offered coffee.  I noticed that there was a flagpole so I asked if I could hoist my flag up.  The owner said that it would be okay and said that I could leave it up there.  I told him that I could leave it up there but I would need to take it down the next day.  He joked and said that I should just leave it there or me.  I insisted that I needed to take my flag down but would be able to leave it up until the following day.

IMG_1916     IMG_1923                                     If you look closely, you can see Lee’s hand getting red
flag                   IMG_1917

I soon learned that we were at the camp and would be hanging out until dinner.  Soon, we were told, there would be other guests coming to the campsite.  They showed us our tents and we each had a tent to ourselves.  Each tent had two beds inside and gave us plenty of room.  The only downside was that they were tents so you couldn’t lock up anything. I was a bit concerned since we were told that there would be many people coming through.

Before it got dark, I decided to take a shower which was located outdoors and was pretty rundown with only two sinks and only one with a mirror that was not cracked.  When I emerged from the showers, music was playing and people were dancing around the open center fire pit area.

Later that night, we had a buffet which was not that good.  The spaghetti seemed to have a good flavor but it was burnt and you could taste that burnt flavor. The lamb was probably the best thing on the menu, tender and delicate…but I can’t say much about anything else.  Although it was a ‘buffet’, they quickly closed the line after we went through! After I finished eating my plate, which I piled on, I wanted to go back form more lamb.  I was told that they would be opening up the line again shortly.  They did open the line again for the second group but they quickly closed it so I didn’t have a chance to go back for more of that lamb! So much for a buffet! 

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The dancing was still going on!  It was like a rave except they played random music; from techno to hip-hop to  Arabic…I ended sitting out with the guys, chatting and observing the youth and their dances. I think I’ve said this before in a previous blog but although I was told I was a really good dancer during my high school and college years, I feel too old to dance anymore.  Mainly, I don’t want to stand out as ‘the old lady’.  Also, I have always been the type of person that needed to dance if I knew the song and liked the beat.  Since I was always working and my music knowledge was only limited to the 15 minutes worth of radio music I would get on my commute to work, I didn’t know much!  So, we just sat and watched. Peter eventually decided to retire early, the man was 50 (older than Lee’s father!) but didn’t look a day older than 38! I also thought I’d head to bed soon but because the music was so long, I thought it would be pointless to try to get to bed until I was really tired.

The owner came by and wanted me to dance but I told him that I didn’t hear any of the music that I liked so he said he would make sure that it got played.  Eventually, a few songs came on, including the one song that will always get me on my feet - Waka Waka - the World Cup song sung by Shakira, and Lee got me to get on the dance floor and we danced with the others.

I stayed up talking with Lee and found him really interesting.  At 23 years old, this was his first international trip which he was doing solo!  I remember my first solo trip was to Nepal when I was 22 but I didn’t go to a ‘hard’ and far away country like the Middle East where I moved through several countries on my own!  I suppose Nepal is no easy feat either for a single female at 22 but still I was impressed.  Lee also had studied Arabic for two years in college which is maybe why he felt a little more comfortable to travel around and the land didn’t seem too foreign to him though it was his first time.  It was nice that I could chat with him and learn more about Arab countries and their history but I also tried to keep my distance because I knew Ali was watching.  Lee was considerably younger than me so I didn’t think anything of him but I also didn’t want Ali to think that there was something going on with us.

I stayed up until about 2:00AM at which point the music had cut off and I could barely keep my eyes open.  Lee said he was going to stay out and maybe sleep under the stars so, I said good-night and went off to bed.  We had a plan to watch the sunrise and were all planning to wake up at 5:00AM….ha, I made no promises…

Although everything about the tour was mediocre, I will say that I had one of the best sleeps that night in that tent.  The mattress was surprisingly very comfortable and there was a cool breeze that passed through.

The guys came by my tent at around 5:00AM.  Apparently they came by several times but I didn’t hear them.  I heard Lee saying ‘I’m going to check one more time’ and at that, I kind of woke up and then heard him call out my name.  I thought I should make the effort to get up and go out with them but then realized, I am pretty tired and look pretty crappy, though I don’t know who I was trying to impress, and then quickly changed my mind a minute later and said that I was going to pass.

I finally woke up a couple of hours later and had my breakfast and was reassured by the guys that I didn’t miss out on anything though after seeing their pictures, it did kind of look cool.  Apparently there were a bunch of them who didn’t sleep and had gone up to view the sunrise together.

After breakfast = which do I need to mention was crappy? - I remembered that I needed to take my flag down!  I asked Ali if he could help me get my flag down.  He said okay but 20 minutes later, my flag was still up and no one looked like they were trying to get it down.  Then I spotted the owner and thought I would ask him to have someone take it down as it would be faster to go directly to the guy who calls the shot.  And, do you know what this jerk said to me?!  “No, I told you, you’re going to keep that flag here. If you want it, you know where it is.'” O-M-G, I was furious!  The nerve of him to talk to his guests like that.  But I did call it earlier, he was an arrogant jerk.  So I was determined to get my flag down. I told the guys that I needed to take my flag down, hoping that they would offer to get it down for me but instead they said that they would help me up so that I could get it down. Gee, thanks.  Okay, well, I was going to do this.  I was pissed.  I climbed up a stack of chairs, about 5’ high and then had to pull myself up onto the concrete platform.  Then, I had to pull out the pole which was about 3 feet in another pole (meaning that I had to pull up the pole 3 feet above my head to get it out) and with the wind, made it very challenging.  As I was up there getting it down, the owner calls out to me and says “What are you doing?” and I yelled back “getting my flag down!” though I don’t know if he heard me…

I got my flag down and at the same time someone FINALLY came up, probably because they were worried that I was going to do something crazy.  At that point though, I got my flag down so I gave him back the pole and jumped about 5’ down from the chairs.  I emerged with some cuts and scratches but at least I had my flag.  After being back on the ground, the owner tells me ‘you didn’t need to go up there, I was only kidding.’  Oh right, that’s why between your comments and the time it took me to go up and get up my flag, no one was getting my flag for me.  I was so done with him and could not wait to be on our way out of there; I was not having ANY pleasant experiences with these Bedouin men!

We waited and watched busloads of people leaving the camp.  Ali had told me the night before that he had made arrangements for a tour bus that was already going to Aqaba to come pick us up and take us to there for 3JD; rather than he take us to the bus stop that would cost us 5JD.  Somehow though, there were no buses and the time of the regular public buses had passed.  Peter was starting to get annoyed and as part of the company that provided this tour, I felt like I needed to see what was going on.


Ali, the owner and the rest of the staff there were just hanging out, smoking their cigarettes and were not bothered that all the tourists had left except for us.  Maybe the owner was still pissed at me, I don’t know.  When I went over to find out what was going on, Ali tells me that the bus broke down.  It seems a bit strange to me because he had all morning to tell us this minor detail and we were all up so we still had time to ride the public bus as the transportation to the bus station was included in the tour.  But Ali not communicating with us on what was going on, we were completely out of the loop.  I shared with him that Peter wasn’t happy and finally about 9:00AM, or whenever he was ready, he said we were going.  He asked Peter if he was okay and Peter also shared his frustration with Ali in a very tactful way.  Ali then, came out with a good comeback story saying that he was going to take us to the highway so that we could catch a passing minibus which would make it the cheapest way to get to Aqaba and was doing it to help us save money.  Still doesn’t excuse the fact that he didn’t let us know what was going on.

Argh, whatever!  We were getting out of there and again, I didn’t want to cause any more confrontation. I am still not sure what Wadi Rum was though.  The other guys seemed to have enjoyed it, Lee more than Peter, but it was all a bit weird to me.  What stands out most in my mind is that there was a lot of dancing - more than 6 hours of it! The tour through the dessert or ‘sleeping under the stars’ wasn’t really all that it was worked up to be.

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