Very quickly we realized google maps was not to be trusted. Seeing road signs giving directions to Iraq and Syria offered a reminder we were strangers in a turbulent part of the world. Our first stop was a small hotel in the countryside where our bleary eyes finally got to rest.
As the sun dipped we arrived at our dessert camp. Far from the Bedouin tents of days past we found luxuries like actual toilets and beds awaiting us. As darkness set we drank tea around the fire and played yoyo with Md before a local feast appeared! Our host retired for the night perhaps just to temporarily escape the relentless questions. Some napped by the fire, others retreated to bed but the hum of a bearing inside of a yoyo spinning was never far, after all the following weekend was The European YoYo Contest and practice never takes a vacation.
Petra is featured in many movies as the quintessential 'exotic' hidden treasure spot. A narrow gorge known as the Siq opens up to reveal a huge carved building known as the Treasury and for three further kilometers a range of tombs, caves and carvings punctuate an already beautiful landscape. After seeing the main tourist spots, we decide to go get lost. Literally. We climb out of the valley (later our phones would suggest we climbed over 100 flights of stairs) to a sacrificial alter and beyond the trails.
Just when we were far from any attractions to a point we might actually be concerned we were lost a local boy on a donkey came up offering Jewelry. 10 years old Ahmed was a smooth salesman but the sight of the yoyo had him off his donkey and intrigued. His mother appeared over a hill asking where we were going and if we needed a guide. As we had no destination we didn't really need a guide but we wanted to hang out with Ahmed more so did the deal, retaining her as a guide, securing him a yoyo as part of the deal and somewhere in the deal was a silver bracelet(?). Regardless of the details she sent Ahmed on his Donkey off over the hills leading us on what started as a trail that soon disappeared as we descended vertically into a valley, bouldering through gaps and around yesterday's rain filled gullies until we emerged above the Treasury to one of Petra's best views.
We soaked it all in before she suggested we get moving as the way back was going to be tricky. Hiking gave way to both climbing and crawling before reaching the plateau where Ahmed was waiting with his Donkey and a fresh pot of tea. We talked about life in Petra, she showed us where the cave they lived in was located and how Ahmed was going to school in the morning before working in the afternoons. Life in the cave sounded hard, but they were tough people and were quite happy.
We passed only some goat headers on the way back to the entrance to Petra. Ahmad offered his donkey to anyone who wanted a rest gladly running barefoot alongside. We paused on the rocks where he shared traditional face markings with an ochre type stone and we perfected his around the world. Sadly, our journey ended and we headed off to our reality of passing through, and Ahmad and his mother returned to their cave. Our biggest regret is not getting mailing address. He will need more strings!
We checked in and rushed down to the water which was surprisingly far from the resort. As soon as we got closer the reason for the distance became evident as we passed beach side amenities every 100m built to accommodate a shrinking sea. The water level was retreating. Finally, we hit the water. It was everything you expected to see. Vashek just crossed his arms and floated towards Israel. Eric immediately tried to play yoyo floating while Igor hit the therapeutic mud before enticing everyone to lather up. We played in the water until the sun set. Talk of practice gave way to a big dinner with Gentry driving the van back for providing some light entertainment. It was to be our last day in Jordan the next day and I think we all thought it was over but as they say, the best was yet to come.
'There they are' google maps and GPS had not been our friend thus far but when it counted we found the crew right where they said they would be. It was a pretty random message to Abood Dani asking him if some local players wanted to hang out but as soon as yoyo players get around yoyo players titles mean little and we all just played. We ate local food, checked out the city. Filmed and just chilled. I think everyone could agree this was the best part of the trip. We talked over coffee asking why no players had made it to international contests to learn very few players were on Jordanian passports and right now it's pretty tricky going anywhere as a Syrian or Palestinian. We talked about the future of yoyo in Jordan. How to grow a scene, a national contest and maybe a multi-national regional event. The enthusiasm was fantastic.
After local desserts the time came to head to the airport and we said our goodbyes to our new friends with hopes to return soon.
We got Eric some much needed McDonalds in the way to the airport before wrapping the adventure up.
This one will be hard to top.