The lowest possible point on earth.
Jordan Travel Blog› entry 114 of 251 › view all entries
June 20th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
First off, I was feeling much better today. The day started at the breakfast buffet., where we were able to “secure” enough extra food for a picnic lunch later. That’s right, we are like the senior citizens at Old Country Buffet, loading up the purses with buns and boiled eggs!
And then we were met in the lobby by a man from Payless Car Rental, who was delivering our rental. We got a super deal on this car, at JD27 per day.
We loaded our provisions into our chariot, an old dinged up Toyota Corolla (you get what you pay for) and headed out. They unfortunately left us with an empty gas tank (you get what you pay for), and it seemed to take forever to find a gas station. The one we found was four pumps and a shack -- that’ll do. It cost JD27 (about $38) to fill the tank -- seemed pretty cheap, but I didn’t notice how big the tank was.
Then we drove and drove on the winding road around Amman, trying to find something to point us in the right direction. The signs were in Arabic, with bits of English thrown on every fifth sign just to tease us. After what seemed like an hour, Steve said, “Look there’s our hotel!” And sure enough, there was the Intercontinental, gleaming in the distance.
Somehow we finally got straightened out, and found the Southwesternly highway that led us to our first stop, just north of the Dead Sea -- Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. This place is claimed to be the site of Jesus’ baptism (it is no longer on the shore of the Jordan river though, because the river has narrowed since then). They have found the foundations of five churches build on the site, the oldest being from 5th century. They certainly have gone to great lengths to research the claim and gain authentication. Even the Pope agrees with the claim. (Archeologists have done lots of work here. If you are interested in reading more, go to: www.baptismsite.com).
To visit this site, which is in a sensitive border location (we could see the Isreali flags flying just over the river!), we had to be on a guided tour.
We took a shuttle bus a ways, and then had to walk to the river. It was so hot! Steve’s watch read 106ºF (41.1º C)! And I have never seen such a parched landscaped. Everything looked thirsty. And dusty.
We viewed the river, just for the sake of viewing the river. There was a soldier there to make sure we didn’t stray too far from the group.
Then we visited the baptism site itself, where they had dug down to the water table, and a bit of green stagnant water met some marble steps and other excavated stones.
We visited the new church, and stopped at a vendor -- just a lean-to in the desert, selling ice cold drinks! Of course, he had the market cornered and could charge what he wanted. Everyone paid the price…it was SCORCHING HOT out there.
Then it was time to swim in the Dead Sea. We went to a Spa Resort, Movenpick, where we were able to buy single-day spa passes that allowed us access to their beach and pools for JD35 each (note that Lonely Planet incorrectly lists the price at JD20). This is pretty expensive, but we thought, Hey how many times will we float in the Dead Sea?! Let’s do it in style!
We were greeted in the lobby by a man wearing a very large, ornate metal contraption on his back.
Our first stop was the beach. We secured shaded seats and headed right down to the Main Attraction. The sand was scorching and Steve went barefoot! He hates sand, hates beaches, and this only furthered his low opinion. We entered the water and right away noticed something was not right. My limbs wanted to float! And we could easily lay flat on our backs, bobbing like corks. Swimming was out of the question, as it was too hard to keep our limbs UNDER water! It was a lot of fun, and a great experience. (Tip: do NOT get the water on your face, especially the lips! It burns!).
We tried to rinse off (another swimsuit bites the dust), then used the showers they had conveniently placed on the beach for us. After about five minutes on the chairs, during which time Steve complained incessantly about the horrid sand on his feet, we decided to try out the hydropool, and relocated ourselves back in the spa area. The hydropool was an infinity pool facing the sea, which wound around to several alcoves housing water jets, power showers, and things like that. It was great.
After a little time on the chairs there by the pool, we decided we had certainly gotten our JD70 worth of entertainment, and headed out.
For dinner, we ate at the Intercontinental again (there’s a real dearth of restaurants in our neighborhood…we will have to venture out to some other areas now that we have a car). I went overboard and ordered a margarita with my soup, which made me feel sick. Guess I still need to take it easy with food, even though I felt great all day.
Everything that happened today furthered our high opinion of this country and its people. Even at the checkpoints (because of the nearby border), we were given a friendly welcome from the guards (“where are you from?” “United States” “Very nice.
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