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Archive for June, 2012

I got engaged last week. Yes, I said Yes. It was a massive surprise and I genuinely believe I went into shock. I was absolutely not expecting it and it came out of left field. Apparently that was the plan.

I’ve had mixed feelings about marriage over the years. From a very early age I swore I’d never get married or have children. I guess I had the spirit of an independent female from early on. I saw marriage as something other people did, something sensible and very grown up. I didn’t dream of living happily ever after in the conventional sense of the word. I believed I could do that all by myself, thank you very much.

It continued through my school years, passing through my girl’s grammar school, believing that everything boys did, girls could do much better, and why do we really need them anyway?

Then I found out why it’s fun to have boys around, but marriage certainly wasn’t the reason.

Swan card from GrandmaThrough my twenties I was still fiercely adamant that marriage did not equal happiness, it wasn’t any kind of reflection of my observations of marriage, just a feeling within that it wouldn’t offer anything new or fill any gaps for me. Friends from university got married pretty quickly, along came children. I’d notice on Facebook that old school friends were getting their own families and gradually more and more people started to join the gang.

In 2009 we attended 8 weddings in one year.

Pressure then shows up. Peer pressure, which is annoying and it makes you lose yourself and your thoughts on the matter. Your opinions get mixed up with those of others, and then I started to read some books. Is it important? Does it matter?

He then announced to me, on the day of my birthday in 2010 that he didn’t believe in marriage. We were propped up at the bar at the time, in a local pub. My head was warm and fuzzy, slightly liquid from the first two pints of raspberry beer that I’d been drinking and my world came crashing down. I remember wanting to cry. OK, it could have been the drink, but I think it was something deeper. And this is when I started to try to listen again.

Maybe I did want to get married after all.

The next year and a bit were strange. I’d convince myself that I absolutely did want to be a wife, to feel “owned”, which is weird given my so called independent attitude when growing up. I wanted a symbol on my finger that I was claimed. I wanted to be part of a unit and proud and committed to that. Then, I’d decide that marriage is the thing that kills relationships, why get married and spoil it all? I’d stumble across articles in magazines about divorce rates in the over 60s as women get a second lust for life and men just fade. I’d be back and forth, confusing the heck out of him, and myself and all my friends.

We visited some incredible places last year – Machu Picchu and the tropical paradise of Borneo – two perfect destinations for a proposal, we came, conquered, and left, without a proposal. Our tour-mates were disappointed.

Then February 29th came along, and I thought I should propose, this could be the chance, but I didn’t quite get round to it.

Then I decided to focus my thoughts on the whole babies dilemma, after all, time is more cruel on that front. We could get married when we’re in our sixties, if we really wanted to. And I parked the issue behind a bush.

I'm getting marriedSo last week I came back from a weekend away and we went to get some shopping. Stopping on a park bench for a rest on the way home from the supermarket, a small box came out and a shiny ring revealed. It was a Monday. Nothing much happens on a Monday.

Time stood still, my mouth said Yes, my brain said “whaaaaa?”. I walked home in a daze. It took a good 24 hours to sink in. And then I fell a little bit deeper in love.

So I’m getting married. Of that I’m sure and it feels right, and now I look back and think about all that time over the years that I spent thinking about it and what was the point because when it happens it all just seems to click into place.

Except that I want to get married in Vegas and he doesn’t, but that’s another chapter.

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I had a little after-work jaunt down to London yesterday, slipping in with the commuter stream and popping out on Leicester Square, a fine and exciting place to be on a balmy Monday evening. I met with my main adventure gal, Lara, complete with fresh bandage (from broken lamp incident) and haviana foot combo. We had hot tickets to THE event of the night, “A Night of Adventure” hosted at the Vue cinema.

This was seriously dangerous territory for us both. Freshly back from our little escapade to Jordan, just about recovering from the come down of post-adventure blues, here we were putting ourselves up for not one but eleven shots of pure, unfiltered adventure inspiration, straight into the ceberal cortex.

The event invited 11 modern day adventurers and explorers who have traversed continents on foot and on bike, explored polar regions, deserts, jungles, caves, sailed round the world, and round the UK coastline, all sorts, with all manor of personality, shouting out their stories for all to hear and become inspired to have their own adventures. It was hilarious, and sad, and heartwarming, and eye-prickingly moving, and, of course, very, very inspiring.

AND it was all in the spirit of getting our adventure juices flowing, egging us all on to conduct micro-adventures of our own (this is the idea of a very high spirited young man, who is nothing but wonderful to watch in action – Alastair Humpreys

Amazing.

So we were encouraged to think about adventuring, in whatever form that may take, from a small adventure in a lunch hour, to an epic adventure for the rest of your life, whether it’s something you’ve always wanted to do (like run a marathon) or just putting yourself outside your comfort zone for a little while.

Another major enlightenment was the discovery of a new patch of time in which we can conduct our adventures – the idea of “5 to 9” – hours when we are NOT working!!! Hurrah! A whole 16 HOURS of time per day that have been reframed to make space for fun!

And to motivate us to adventure, there is a great cause – raising money for an amazing charity – Home and Hopes – which helps children from areas of conflict around the world.

So the idea is that this summer can be the “Summer of Adventure” and everyone can commit to having a few adventures that will enrich their lives and their worlds, without the need for lots of money, or having to go to far flung exotic locations OR even take time off work! Get inspired here:

The slide shows were amazing, but there were notably less women adventurers and I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it would be for a women to paraglide into Afghanistan, and whether a woman could join a tribe to cross the Mongolian desert. Still, that’s not going to put us off planning and dreaming!

So, after watching these inspiring and incredible stories of travel, Lara and I bounced into a nearby bar for a beer and to start planning our Summer of Adventure, which I had to cut short, realising I was about to miss my train home.

Deciding to change tack on the way home, I hopped aboard the Oxford Tube, and undercover of darkness, plotted and planned my list of ideas for adventures to swap and hone with Lara when I’m on my next little dash to the Big Smoke (Friday!).

SO here is my first draft of adventure ideas (not all mine)…

1. Recreate a day of a favourite trip – so recently Jordan – get together with pals from the trip, eat falafel, smoke shisha, find/ride a camel, get sunburnt, sleep under the stars, visit a castle

2. Have a tube line adventure – so pick one, and take photos at the stop with each sign and make the shot creative, tell a story

3. Enjoy the 5pm-9am (this was one of Alastair’s) – leave work and head for a remote location – mountain/field/woodland – and camp the night there, wake up in the morning, jump in a lake, and then head into work for 9am

4. Contact a random friend (UK based) from Facebook (good check that they actually ARE your friend) and invite yourself over to spend a weekend with them

5. Get on a bus, any bus, and ride it to the end of the line (or somewhere you feel compelled to get off) and spend an hour there

6. Cycle London to Brighton

7. Buy a plane ticket to somewhere you’ve never heard of (for under £100) and spend 24 hours there

8. Walk the Ridgeway

9. Explore a Northern town that I haven’t been to

10. Walk for 15 miles out of town and explore, take pictures

11. Walk a different route to work, go to new bars, eat somewhere different for lunch

12. Dress differently when you go out, wear different makeup

13. Next time you feel like saying no, say yes

14. Next time you feel like saying yes, say no

15. Make eye contact with 7 strangers on the way to work (and perhaps even smile!)

16. Have something you’ve never eaten before for dinner (or something very random)

17. Create a playlist of music that I never listen to and listen to it for a week

18. Sleep on a beach

So, next step is to pow-wow with Lara and work out which of our ideas we can realistically do over the summer, which we’ll be able to raise money doing, and which we’ll need to banish to the dark corners of our imaginations… for now! So, watch out for the short list – coming soon (while it’s still Summer!!)

Some other key notes I scribbled down from the sessions:

  1. It’s all about the 5pm-9am, what can you do in the other 16 hours of your day
  2. Travelling is not about running away from problems, but about running towards your future adventures
  3. Travelling is as much about making new friends, having new connections and having FUN (don’t forget to have fun)
  4. Adventures are supposed to be difficult and scary and sometimes horrible and often challenging and not always fun at all, but the important thing is that you have them and afterwards you’ll always be glad you did.

Now read Lara’s write up of the night, and get involved!

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I just got home from my week long trip to Jordan yesterday on a cloud of shisha smoke with dead sea mud in my fingernails and red desert sand in my backpack. I just had THE most incredible adventure in the Middle East with an amazing group of people.

Camel signSo, the last week, where do I begin? Well, I guess a week ago, meeting Lara at Birmingham airport, full of anticipation, slightly scared at all the comments we’ve had from friends and family, talk of abductions and uprisings ringing in our ears, we had no idea what we were getting into (actually we did, but those comments had spun us out a little). So the first thing was that the outgoing plane to Istanbul had been delayed by 45 minutes, which doesn’t seem a lot, but our connection was pretty short and the entire trip kind of hinges on the fact that our timings are really tight… So that painted the whole journey to Amman with a brush of anticipation, are we gonna make it, and more importantly are our bags going to make it, or will we be spending a week in the desert with just the clothes on our backs and a smile?

The first plane was a 70s throw back, aqua-marine seats and a little creaky on take off. Full of holiday makers to Turkey, all with short connections the other end, so lots of “are our bags going to make it” banter on the way across. Not helpful. Lara and I were lucky to be seated next to our first (actually, only) weirdo on the trip. A forty something “happily divorced”, yes, thanks for that information, chap who has worked all over the world building things. He had just completed the studio for the Eurovision Song Content over in Azerbaijan and had popped back to the UK for a week. It started off OK, but he was a talker, and I had my travel pillow ready to catch some zees, this was going to be a long, sleepless night.

Arriving in Istanbul was a little hectic, our transfer window was shortening by the minute, which didn’t help with the fact that we landed in the cargo area and seemed to taxi on the runway for another 20 minutes. We had heard about having to get special stickers before getting through security and it all led to a rather frenzied dash across Istanbul airport. Of course ended up at the gate in plenty of time. Hilarious.

The second flight was better, partly because I made Lara sit next to the random stranger. She got a good one – a woman who wasn’t interested in small talk.

Got to Amman shortly after 3.30am, luckily we were met before security (?!) by a lovely guy with an “Intrepid” board and bright blue eyes. He was really friendly and smiley (despite the early hour) and pretty much shepherded us through security. Thank god.

Put in a taxi and driven to our Hotel Abjar, checked in, collapsed into bed, 5am, birds singing.

Alarm goes off at 8. Time to meet our new travel pals, time for breakfast and to get our asses to the desert.

Day 1; officially “Day 2” on the tour notes, hours 1-21 in the M.E)

We left Amman early, so our experience was just the buildings flying past the coach window, bright blue sky, lovely heat baking my arm through the window, ahhh so good to be on the road again…

Stopped for refreshment and relief at roadside tourist shop – lots of amazing souvenirs, Arabic Burka Barbie, pouches of Dead Sea mud, ceramics, retro postcards and insane sweet tea

Stopped on the road side for a long view of Wadi Rum – our first destination. Peered through the heat haze out to the incredible rock formations awaiting us. Heat baking down.

Stopped for a view of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – stunning rock formations poking up out of the desert like a fat fingered hand. Excitement building, the desert beckons.

Stopped for picnic purchases, the gang all purchase random pots of what we think (and hope) are yogurt and humous, with suitable dippables – no bread, so crisps will do.

Driving into the desertAll pile into “jeeps”, cracked windscreens and wonky gear sticks. We drive through Wadi Rum village, one minute on the road, the next we drive straight off into the desert, onto the red sand, out into the wild.

Bumping and swerving around the red dust, we find a little Bedouin tent laid out for our picnic. All tuck in to our delicacies, washed down with the most delicious cardamom tea.
Check out some carvings on a rock then back into the jeep, time to get deep into the desert.

Climbing the rock bridgeDrive deeper into the desert, contrast of the bright blue sky and the red desert unreal. Loving the moment. Right here, right now.

Stop to wander down a gorge, check out carvings, climb up a sand dune, watch others climb a rock bridge, start shooting the breeze with our travel buddies. Awesome.

Get to camp – out in the desert between two rock formations. Climb up to the top for a spectacular view. All shout Salaam into the valley below. Magical. Over to another formation to watch the sunset. Beautiful.

View of our desert campA night in our desert camp, delicious food, bonding with our gang. Hedgehog wanders in. Lots of tea. Wired on no sleep. Out onto the sand to take time lapse photos with our headtorches. Fall sleep on rolled out mats with the gang, sleeping under the stars.

Day 2; Hours 22-45 in the M.E.

Ship of the desertDrove back to Wadi Rum village, took a camel ride around the edge of the village. After 20 minutes started to get a little uncomfortable, but hilarious. The camel owners threw stones at crazy barking dogs that seemed to line the village. Afterwards, back into our bus and headed to Petra. 2 hour journey, in and out of consciousness on the bus. Stopped for a view of the city of Petra from above. Undulating mountains, no visible signs of a city from above.

Falafel sandwich on entering Wadi Musa, then got to the hotel. Never wanted a shower more. Red desert dust swirling down the plughole.

Exploring the SiqAll met at 1.30 for our first tour into Petra. Insane heat outside. Faisal, our fabulous guide, took us on a wander into Petra, stopped to read a sign warning us of the hazardous terrain. Checked out tombs, entered the Siq – the stunning gorge run up to the main city, meandering along, checking out carvings, anticipating the money moment and that first glimpse of the Treasury… Horse carts clatter through the gorge, chaos for a passing moment, wondering whether the horses enjoy the madness of swerving over the cobbles carrying fat tourists on their way.

TreasuryFinally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the crack opening to the Treasury, absolutely breathtaking, even when the view is peppered with tourists (although surprisingly not too many). Brought tears to my eyes, seriously this was a top 5 moment.

Out into the opening and the Treasury itself, I was expecting to be underwhelmed, having seen it on TV so much, but no way, this was seriously incredible, the beautiful pinky orange rock, the delicate carvings, absolutely magical and intense to be there.

Stayed a while, soaking in the moment. Awesome.

Carried on to the city itself. Out into the main drag where you could see incredible carvings and buildings all around, never expected it to be this big and everywhere you look there are beautiful buildings carved into the rock.

Stopped for orange and lemon juice. Need refreshment.

Checked out a church and some murals, over to explore tombs. Heat getting insane, energy failing.

Decided to head back to hotel, more Petra later. Need another shower. And a lie down.

Wake up at 7pm. Should be meeting everyone downstairs NOW! Wake up Lara, giddy with sleep we rush downstairs to meet everyone. We’re eating outside, with our hands this time, the traditional way. Rolling the food around in the palm of our hands, all wet with mint sauce and sticky. Thought I was liberated and down with the traditional vibe, but feel very uncomfortable with this “full palm” approach. Delicious food, but craving my metal utensils.

Petra by nightAll head off for our “Petra by Night” experience. Lara and I hang back to enjoy the peace of the empty Siq. We follow the candles along the gorge. Out of this world. Manage to pick up some followers from within the dark shadows of the gorge. Panic slightly. That’s the one problem with this place, the men. Apparently we’re all shameless hussies in their eyes, despite covering our knees and shoulders. Tints the trip slightly, can’t ever truly relax, unless flanked by our male group mates. Coming up to the entrance to the Treasury we hear haunting cello music and singing. Feel quite emotional. On entering the area in front of the Treasury the whole place is lit up by candles and everyone is sitting on the floor drinking tea. We narrowly avoid being led to a “special place for a good view” by a local, and find our tour group sitting on the floor, join them.

Heat at my back, one of the candles has caught fire and I’m centimetres from a raging fire. Genevieve swiftly puts it out with a slug of red sand. Listen to pipe music and tales of caravans, gaze up at the stars twinkling overhead.

Walk back through the Siq with Audrey, Lara and Gen. Fabulous night.

Day 3; Hours 46-69 in the M.E.

Petra TombsUp early and back into Petra. Worth it for the empty Siq and early glimpse at the Treasury. Hike up to the Place of High Sacrifice. Punishing on the lungs. Sacrifice an egg with Gen and Lara. Leave the boys as they head off on the long trek and we head back down for more orange and lemon juice.

Enter the city along the promenade, checking out the church and ruins, pass the guards and begin the 800 step climb to the Monastary. The climb is punishing. Not the climb so much as the heat, which is amping up already. We tsk at the tourists that overtake us on donkeys. Poor donkeys clattering up and down the steps, they don’t want to be here.

MonasteryFinally get to the top and round the corner – WOW – the Monastery is INCREDIBLE. Towering high and carved deep into the rock. Worth the sweat and thigh burn. It’s awesome. We take pictures and sit in the shade watching the boys taking photos of themselves jumping from the rocks.

Climb up to a view point to look down on the city. Feel on top of the world.
Then the long walk home, back down and through the city in now the blistering heat. Stop frequently to buy earrings (1 Dinah), strings of camels, postcards, drink, and just to enjoy the small pockets of shade.

Back by 2pm, grab our bikinis and head to the Movenpick to enjoy their pool and bar food (for just £15). The boys somehow manage to get in for free. So nice to dive into cool water, enveloping our hot bodies, lazing by the pool and baring our shoulders and knees (finally!)
Chase the sun back up against the wall and when it’s gone we head home for a shower and to put my feet up the wall – sore legs from all the climbing today!

Out for dinner at “The Red Cave” tasting local cuisine, washed down with Lemon and Mint.
Afterwards head to the “Irish Bar” inside a hotel. Sample 8% Petra beer, drinking games, finally let hair down. Want to keep going, head to the Cave Bar, try to order shisha but it’s too late (nearly midnight), so head back to hotel for an impromptu party (well, shisha and ipod music through Lara’s speaker). A lot of fun, hanging with new pals, letting loose.
Bed late, as ever, I always want to carry on, luckily Lara is there to calm me down and tell me to go to sleep.

Day 4; Hours 70-93 in the M.E.

Lie in. Needed. Up for breakfast and to find some Coke and Water. Back on bus, feel pretty lively, considering. Long drive to Dana Nature Reserve. Try to sleep but I’m too awake. Stop for more falafel sandwiches. Checked out a Crusader castle on the way (Shobak).

Arrived at Dana Nature Reserve – absolutely stunning valley, our hotel a Tower with amazing outdoor lounge area – sofas in the sunshine – perfect! Had welcome drinks – the sweetest tea ever. So relaxing chilling on the rooftop, THIS is where I need to be. Work and life seems a million miles away, so peaceful and quite, so chilled. So good to relax.

Check out a local Silver shop, beautiful pieces. Buy a ring to remind me of Jordan, shaped like a shell.

Chill out on the roof, in the shade, spectacular views of the valley and a cool breeze.

Head out on our “easy trek”, Faisal leading the way. Follow a spring, pass apricot trees, let the boys climb and pick some, snack on the apricots and wander along, past beautiful flora, not so much fauna. Down the side of the mountain, getting incredible views of the valley, stretching out to Israel. Seriously breathtaking.

Take the return journey along a bramble path, which quickly turns into a dense bush lines path and then gets swallowed up by dense brambles. Faisal insists there is a path and pushes through. We all get ripped to pieces on crazy thorns and prickles, stung and battered. Dead Sea tomorrow, intense pain imminent. We’re stuck in a traffic jam of people with bushes up either side. Having to duck and dodge thorns, walk through a stream. This is ridiculous.

Still Faisal pushes on, half the group splinter and scramble up the side on loose rocks to escape. Start heading off on an alternative path. I hear a yelp from Gen – the path is found! We’re saved! We all slide back down onto the path, battered, and relieved to find something that resembles a path. Faisal has lost his scarf in the chaos. We trudge up the mountain and get to the edge of our village – we made it!

Sunset at DanaHead out to catch the sunset over the valley, sit on a rock with the others bathing in the warm orange light. Lara and I discuss setting up a yoga getaway.

Traditional dinner at the hotel, a spread of weird and wonderful mezes and meats. Plates piled high.

Afterwards retire into a cushioned lounge. Get some card games started and order some Shisha. Blow smoke rings and play cards. Gradually everyone drifts to bed. Dogs barking in the distance.

Lara gets sick in the night, along with others at the camp.

Day 5; Hours 94-117 in the M.E.

Gen and Lara both really sick. I have knots in my tummy. Faisal thinks it’s because our stomachs are cold, we think it’s the food from last night.

Dead SeaBack on the bus heading to the Dead Sea. First though, Karak castle. Faisal buys us some Arak to help soothe the tummies. Shots on the bus, warms the cockles! Wander through Karak Castle, pretty cool exploring the shadowy rooms. Stop for more falafel sandwiches and bananas.

Driving down below sea level, the bright blue Dead Sea stretches out in the distance, a sight for sore eyes – water! Stop on the approach to view the waters and the salt deposits on the edge – incredible – looks like ice, Contrasting colours so beautiful. Spot lazy lizards basking in the sun.

Dead Sea InstructionsArrive at the Dead Sea – head to a resort. Hotter than hot here, 400m below sea level. Strip off and down onto the beach. All anticipating pain from the thorn scratches. Wade into the waters. It feels like water (expecting thicker, but not), waiting for the weirdness. Get up to my thighs then pop onto my back, ping! Legs up in the air! Hillarility over-riding the little stings all over my body. Having to use my abs to stop flipping over, battling to not splash, no water allowed in mouth or eyes! Laugh a lot, float around, pulling shapes and taking photos. Stings building.

Get out and head over to the mud pots, exchange 3 JDs to cover myself in black Dead Sea mud. Completely black up in the goo, covering all my white bits, turn down the kind offer from the local guy to help me with my inner thighs… Lara and I draw camo stripes on our faces and we bake in the sunshine. Stings building.

Can’t wait the allocated 15 minutes, it’s starting to burn now, back into the Sea to wash off and enjoy our youthful soft skin. Takes ages to get it all off, seems to have sunk deep into the thorn scratches!

Shower off and head to join the others by the pool. Enjoy sunbaking, swimming and ice cream.

Next stop Mount Nebo, the scene of the final vision and death of Moses. Clearly an important pilgrimage spot, with tourists having spiritual experiences, singing and overlooking the view down to the Dead Sea and the West Bank. More amazing mosaics to view.

Final stop, in Madaba itself, to a Greek Orthodox church to view the Map of Mosaics, first up a history lesson with Faisal, then resting in the church in front of the amazing mosaic map on the floor. Nice to be inside a cool church. Peaceful.

Headed to our final hotel, a couple hours to relax, unpack. Lara still not feeling great, she’s going to sleep tonight. I head out for dinner with the others. Faisal walks us through Madaba, like a herder with his prize goats. Everyone stops and stares at the debacle, horns blare, shouts of “Welcome to Jordan”, so cool. We’re lead on a merry walking tour of Madaba, past mosques and tourist shops and the archaeological museum, but all we want is to eat. Hilarious. End up at “Adonis” an amazing huge restaurant, which looks like a series of giant caves. Out come the meze, Baba Ganush, Humous, Tabboleh, Arabic Salads, followed by huge pates of meat. Can’t handle all the food, but the noises coming from further down the table suggest it’s amazing.

Faisal leaves to go back to visit his family, we start the journey home back through town and take a wrong turn. Lost in Madaba. Luckily a friendly car stops and point us back in the right direction. Back at the hotel stop for drinks in the poolside bar. Arak and water as a nightcap. Cloudy and gnarly, think I prefer it neat.

Day 6; Hours 118-141 in the M.E.

JerashUp early to attempt breakfast on the rooftop. Lovely views of Madaba. Head to Jerash, an old Greco- Roman city. Wasn’t expecting this at all – it’s absolutely amazing – and HUGE. We pass through the gift shop where I bag a string of camels. Head to Hadrian’s Gate and into the city, which is vast. A pipe guy turns up and destroys the peace with crazy pipe music NO! I turn round and Lara’s bought a pipe NO NO NO! Funny. Cruise to the Hippodrome, along the promenade, passing ruined churches, theatres, gates. The whole place is incredible, Faisal gives his tour banter and walks us up to his favourite spots to get the best views of the sprawling city. We go to an amphitheatre where we climb the steps for a photo. A bagpipe player appears from out of nowhere and his drum banging friend. Faisal is battling to take photos with 8 stings of cameras around his neck. Surreal and hilarious.

AmmanStop for a view of the citadel on the way home. Took pictures of Amman, yellow buildings stacked up on top of each other, listening to all the noises coming out of the city – dogs barking, music playing, a man shouting, the hum of cars. Love it. A giant Jordan flag flutters over the city.

Back to the hotel. Final pool time, we find a spot at the back of the pool in the bright sunshine, all the beds taken, so rearrange the chairs to make room for our homemade sunbeds on the floor. Gradually everyone joins us and we have our little Intrepid corner.

Pool freezing but refreshing, hang out, jump in, attempt human pyramid, rubbish at it. Last few hours enjoying the Middle Eastern sun.

Swap contact details on Facebook with new friends, it’s been amazing, everyone in the group have been so much fun and really easy to hang out with over the last week, it’s kind of sad to say goodbye, also painful to hear of their continuing adventures and Lara and I pack to go home. Last ones in, first ones out!

Dinner at a local restaurant, say goodbye to Faisal, best Faisal moments – we each have at least one, he’s been amazing, so funny, so knowledgeable, so lovely. We pass him his tips and wave him off. Final shisha pipe passed round, tastes like Arak, supposedly strawberries.
Walk back to the hotel (we know the way this time) via the Liquor Store, purchase 10% Petra (jeessh!) in black bin bags and head to the hotel bar for our final official drink.

After a long drink in the bar, with staff dropping hints it’s time to go to bed, the whole gang retire to room 414 (our room) to continue the farewell party which continues into the early morning. Learn secrets about each other with amusing games. My team loses the final “name game” so our forfeit is to jump in the pool. We all go in, clothes and all, actually really refreshing, but probably not for the others in the hotel who are trying to sleep.

Say goodbye to everyone, wishing them well on their continuing adventures, funny how you can feel so connected to people you’ve only known a week. It feels like it’s been a month!

All of a sudden it’s 4.30 and Lara and I have to dress for the airport. I suddenly have a last minute panic as I’ve lost my gold bag with my passport and money in, wreck the room trying to find it. It’s under the bed. Phew. Run downstairs, taxi driver is waiting. He whisks us off to the airport, the sun rising over the Madaba skyline. Beautiful.

Day 7; Hours 142-148 in the M.E.

The journey home was straightforward – flight to Istanbul, 3 hour layover and then flight to Birmingham. Slept a lot, drowsy throughout. Every time I opened my eyes, things were becoming more Western and less Middle Eastern, until finally I was in Birmingham airport waiting at the baggage carousel with Lara thinking Jeeez, it was only a week ago we were meeting here, anxious to get started on our Middle Eastern adventure and wandering what would lie ahead.

Unforgettable momentCrazy how time passes in the blink of an eye, yet each moment is so packed with incredible experiences, conversations, laughs, emotions. Travelling is truly the way to feel each moment,amazing moments, with complete strangers who suddenly become your friends, and this last week has been immense…

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