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Chapter 29 - Jordan

By Neil and Nikki

sunny 26 °C

Petra - One of the Wonders of the World.

Petra, the ancient Nabataean city carved into the red sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan, is one of the wonders of the World. The iconic Siq, the 2km long narrow sandstone rift that you must pass through to reach the remains of the city, has retained the grandeur and mystery of the site, despite it being made famous by movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Wadi Rum

Just like, perhaps blasphemously, our preparation for our visit to the Holy Land was this:

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Our preparation for our visit to Jordan was the slightly less blasphemous Lawrence of Arabia. A magnificent film with a spellbinding performance by Peter O’Toole. If you haven’t seen it in the last 20 years, get a copy and settle down for 3.5 hours…. It is basically the story of the Arab rebellion of about 1917 to 1920 against Ottoman rule, as assisted by T.E Lawrence.

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With this preparation in place, we travelled from Jerusalem to Jordan via the border crossing between Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan.

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Looking from Eilat to the hills of Jordan less than 10 km away, over the Red Sea.

First of all, a map to allow a bit of orientation…

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Rather than run the gauntlet of the taxi mafia at the border crossing in Jordan, we had arranged a transfer to Petra, via Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is a protected national park between Aqaba and Petra, and is the quintessential landscape of the Bedouin people and the Arab revolt. Indeed, the area was made famous by Lawrence’s book about his time in the desert and you can still visit today the springs he drank from and places he stayed. Some of the movie was also shot in this area.

However, it is the stunning desert landscape that draws people out to this remote wilderness. Towering cliffs, sandstone rifts and rolling sands that give an incredible sense of immensity, as well as a small taste of the harsh desert life of the Bedouin.

It’s best described in photos….

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A view of a Bedouin encampment and desert sands from Lawrence’s spring.

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For the more adventurous (or foolhardy) traveller there was the option of tackling the desert by camel.

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We opted for the open back ute with a local Bedouin driver for the day….

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Umm Fruth Rock Bridge, providing beautiful views over the desert.

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Including some foreign wildlife….

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The contrast of the blue sky and red sandstone was breathtaking.

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Even in the cool season, it was hot in the sun, and the sandstone cliffs provided the perfect relief.

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The siqs were not only cool, but contained amazing rock carvings of the Bedouin people.

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Needless to say, it’s incredibly picturesque

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Petra

Petra is truly one of the wonders of the world and for us exceeded all expectations. The original Nabataean structures are carved directly into the sandstone cliffs, with the only free-standing buildings constructed later by the Romans. Petra was built by the Nabataeans between the 6th and 1st centuries BC. The Nabataeans controlled important trade routes to Gaza in the west, Bosra and Damascus in the North, Aqaba on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf, and built Petra at the height of their influence. Petra is in fact a city of tombs and sacred places, although there are some houses and other structures. Many facades have now deteriorated or disappeared entirely, although it is amazing how much remains in light of the soft sandstone and torrential rains.

The city of Petra is accessed via an incredible canyon path, called The Siq (this term in fact applies to all such canyon rifts). This amazing path winds through the surrounding mountains for 2 kms before suddenly depositing you in front of the breathtaking Treasury façade.

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We set off in the early dawn light to miss the crowds. The Siq was almost deserted (unlike the hordes that we had to fight our way through when returning in the early afternoon). It was such a special feeling to have this amazing place to ourselves!

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One minute in the cool shadow of the Siq, the next the morning sun would catch the top of a cliff and burst through.

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It was the Nabataeans ability to collect and control water that allowed the civilisation to flourish. You can see here the drainage channels carved into the walls of the Siq, stretching the full 2kms, bring precious water to the city.

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That special moment approaching the Treasury building.

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The Treasury facade just as the sun came over the tip of the mountains, lighting the crown.

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The Treasury is in fact the tomb of a Nabataean King, which became known by this more colloquial name due to legends that an Egyptian pharaoh hid treasure here when pursuing the Israelites.

We then wandered down the Street of Facades, where tombs and other buildings cover the cliffs in all directions.

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The facades of the tombs and temples were not only immense but had the stunning natural decoration of swirling red sandstone.

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Crumbling facades stretching up the cliff faces.

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Many of the street level temples now have new residents.

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Looking back toward the Siq from the Street of Facades as the sun finally crests the mountains and settles on the city of Petra.

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The amphitheatre is the only one known in the world to be entirely carved from stone. This one was originally created by the Nabataeans, but later enhanced by the Romans. You know how they like a good amphitheatre!

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The Royal Tombs towering over the street and tents of the Bedouin hawkers.

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More wildlife!

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Looking up from street level at some of the rooms that once would have had a façade enclosing tombs and temples.

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The colours and patterns of the sandstone, weathered over thousands of years, was jut incredible!

The Romans took over the city of Petra in the 1st century AD and decided to expand and add their own unique style. The main street definitely has more of a Roman influence:

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The colonnaded Roman street leading to the mountains holding our ultimate goal, the Monastery.

And then we completed the long winding walk up through the hills to reach the secluded and magical Monastery. A leisurely 800 steps! Donkey rides were on offer, but we prefer to use own legs instead of poor animals and so, just enjoyed the walk.

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Some exhausted donkeys that haul tourists up the hills to the Monastery. Not an option we are comfortable with...

Of course, it was all more than worth the effort….

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The first view of the Monastery after a long hot trek up the hill. It would have taken our breaths away if we had any left!

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A magical place perched up on top of the mountains above Petra. It is in fact another tomb, but is thought to have derived its name from the Byzantine crosses carved into the inside walls and the possibility it acted as a church at some stage in past history.

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Cooling ourselves in the shade soaking in the atmosphere.

Alas, the rise of a trade route on the Nile diminished the importance of Petra. Its decline was exacerbated by earthquakes in 363 and 551 AD, until by the 5th century AD the Nabataeans had largely abandoned the site although still living in the surrounding area. For many centuries it was only known to the local Bedouin people.

The city of Petra was eventually brought to the attention of the world by this bloke in 1812.

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Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, born 1784 – died 1817

After an incredible morning wandering and hiking through the site, we pointed our weary feet back toward our hotel for a late lunch and a nice cup of tea….

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A nice cup of coffee for me (also known as (aka) beer), and a cup of tea (aka white wine) for Nikki. There’s a bit of a thing about alcohol in Jordan, so we had to be a bit subtle about it….

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Ending our time in Europe and the Middle East on such a high was a real treat and it was with some regret that we then had to turn our thoughts south to Africa. However, the regrets didn’t last long as we started our journey via Amman and Dubai towards Cameroon, the Serengeti, gorillas in the mist and all of the incredible experiences Africa has to offer!

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Street Art in Amman apparently celebrating differences and equality….

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The Roman amphitheatre in Amman, taken from the roof of our hostel.

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The Al-Burj in Dubai where we met up with friends Dece and Antonio, formerly of Oz, for a great evening.

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Posted by capetocape2017 03:15 Archived in Jordan Tagged amazon petra wadi rum Comments (1)

Chapter 11-Brazil 2 - The Amazon, Deforestation, & Climate

By Neil

rain 32 °C
View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.

I reckon that, if you want to get a real perspective on a country or continent, then it is best to travel by land. This is absolutely true when considering the mighty Amazon and the Amazon basin.

The statistics beggar belief.

It is 80% of the size of Australia – 6 million square km’s

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The size of the Amazon basin compared with the size of the USA.

Of which only 60% is in Brazil.

The rainfall is about 2,700 mm per year (Melbourne is 670 mm/ year, London is 590 mm/ year)

It’s incredibly flat. The Amazon only rises 80 metres from the coast at Belem to Tabatinga, 2,500 km’s to the west.

The width of the river is between 200 and 300 km’s at the mouth of the river, 2 km’s at Manaus, and about 1 km at Tabatinga.

It contains 20 % of the worlds fresh water.

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Because Nik and I wanted to catch the launch of the Sentinel 2B satellite from French Guiana, we had to fly from Cayenne in French Guiana to Manaus, 1,500 km’s west of Belem in Brazil.

Manaus is known as the gateway to the Amazon. It is also where the Rio Amazonia (River Amazon, 22 degrees C, a speed of 5 km/h, and a pH of 7.1), meets up with Rio Negro (Black River, 28 degrees C, speed of 2 km/h, and pH of 4.4). Here there is one of the worlds greatest visual phenomena; the Amazon is brown and the Black River is, funnily enough, black. Due to the difference in temperature, speed, and pH, the rivers take several km’s to mix, causing this:

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Joining of the Rio Amazonia and the Rio Negro at Manaus, Brazil

When we were first researching the Amazon, we were expecting Manaus to be a small town, but actually its population is 1.7 million; the size of Perth, Australia. In the late 1800’s Manaus was a very wealthy town due to rubber and a massive opera house was built where world famous artists like Enrico Caruso, Jose Carreras, and Sarah Bernhardt have came to perform.

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Inside and outside of the Manaus Opera House in Brazil.

We had arranged to spend 3 days at the Amazon Turtle Lodge. This involved getting down the Amazon,

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Fish market at Manaus port, Brazil

Getting on a boat across the Amazon,

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Leaving Manaus port

Getting a people carrier taxi (an old VW Combi) to another river, via a look at the giant lily pads,

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Giant Lily pads on the way to the Amazon Jungle stay

Then onto another boat taking us up a tributary to the Amazon Turtle Lodge.

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Boat up the resort to the jungle resort.

The most striking things about the trip to the Lodge were firstly, just the enormous quantity of water. The river at Manaus is 2 km wide. The high water mark on the trees was 5 metres above the water level when we were on the river. Most transport is via boat. If there are roads, and they are to be all-season, they’ve got to be very high. Our last boat into the Lodge was a one hour trip. In the dry season, it’s half an hour because you can drive closer to the Lodge. The wet season last from January to June and the Dry Season is July to December. Hence the river was rising during our stay.

The Lodge consisted of numerous cabins spread out from the access to the river and a great restaurant bar.

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The first day consisted of getting to the Lodge and then a boat trip out to see the wildlife.

A couple of Caipirinhas and beers in the evening followed by a morning walk through the very hot, very mosquito infested rainforest. We went a bit native….

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Moses, our jungle guide, weaving.

It was 18 months ago following a trip to Bhutan that I was hospitalised for a week with a, to this day, unidentified tropical infection. During the hospitalisation, I was tested for just about everything and it was found that at some point in the past (Cameroon ?), I’d caught malaria and dengue fever. The malaria is not that much of an issue; I’m taking malaria pills and if it flares up, I get to hospital and it’s all ok. Dengue, however, is a bit trickier. There are 5 strains, of which I’ve caught one. If I catch the same strain again, it’s not such a big deal, but if I catch a different strain, it can lead to “Dengue Haemorrhagic fever” which is bad. Definitely hospital bad. Possibly intensive care bad. So the tropical diseases doctor at Medical One in Melbourne’s advice was firstly, don’t get bitten. So lots of mosquito repellent and cover up. The next thing is know the symptoms of Dengue, and if I get them, don’t muck about. Get to a hospital.

So, whilst we enjoyed the Jungle Walk, the concept of a night time walk or, as some people were doing, a 3 day, or even an 8 day walk in the jungle ? Yeah, No.

Also there is how Nikki feels about “butterflies”. The 8 legged variety. Sometimes called spiders. Nikki really doesn’t like them at all. She was living in an apartment once and there was a spider in the kitchen. Nikki closed the door to the kitchen, taped it closed, and ate take out for 3 days until a friend came over.

Suffice to say that, whilst I told Nikki that there were no “butterflies” in the Amazon, that might have been a bit of a fib. Whilst on the jungle walk, the guide, Moses, asked Nikki to go 10 feet away and showed me a 6 inch hole in the ground and poked a stick into it to get the spider, that I reckon was 7 inches across and very hairy, and Moses said was very poisonous. (By the way Nikki reads these blogs before they are posted and all of this paragraph was blacked out when Nikki read it….. )

In the afternoon, we went piranha fishing. Well, Moses and I did. Nikki, being a vegetarian, didn’t want to hurt defenceless animals. It absolutely threw the rain down.

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Piranha teth.

On the way back to Manaus, Moses was incredibly sharp eyed and spotted a Sloth !

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It’s a sloth in the wild !

We were back in Manaus overnight before jumping on the express boat for a short 1,100 km, 36 hour express boat ride up the Amazon to Tabatinga on the Tri-State border; Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.

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Map showing our little boat trip from Manuas (a) to Leticia (b). 1,100 km’s. 36 hours.

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Amazonian sunset. Yes, that’s a river, not a lake.

Our Brazilian odyssey drew to a close. Brazil is amazing. An incredible country. Great people. Beautiful. Awesome nature !

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Deforestation of the Amazon.

As I wrote earlier, the Amazon is huge. Imagine Australia not as a land of many deserts but as a land where 80% of the country was covered by thick forest. Travelling 1,100 km’s up the Amazon, it all looked green. There were trees. But we’ve heard a lot about deforestation of the Amazon and how it’s really bad. So I thought “Is it bad ? How Bad ? What does it mean for the climate?”.

When we look at the deforestation of the Amazon, this is what it looks like:

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It doesn’t look that bad. Until you look at the rate of deforestation. If 1970 is taken as a baseline then Brazil has lost 19% of it’s forest in 45 years. However 10% of that loss has been in the 25 years since 1991.

Why?

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Cows!

Why did it increase significantly in the 1970’s ? The Trans Amazon Highway.

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It opened up high swathes of the Amazon to development. Fortunately, it is yet to be finished.

What does this mean in terms of climate? Exactly what you’d expect:
- The Amazon acts as a massive moderator of heat. When the forest isn’t there (or is replaced with pasture), the daytime heat increases and the night time temperatures decrease.
- The Evapotranspiration, or recycling of the rainfall in the Amazon decreases resulting in massive decrease rainfall, runoff and health of the local climate (eg the massive drought in the Sao Paulo area in 2013, 2014, and 2015).
- The Amazon absorbs billions of tonnes of Carbon each year. If the forest is destroyed, not only is this not absorbed, but the carbon held in the vegetation is lost. And because most of the land is used for cattle, and cattle produce a lot of methane that is 21 times worse for the environment than CO2, you can see this is an incredibly serious problem.

Just thought you’d like to know…..

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However, now on to Columbia !

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Posted by capetocape2017 17:45 Archived in Brazil Tagged the change amazon climate deforestation Comments (1)

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