Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jerash, Jordan

The road signs in Syria are unreliable for distances. Zoom in and look at all three distance for Daraa (20, 24, and 13km?).

A migrant worker's tent near the farm fields they work in.

The last town I saw in Syria was very typical of most of the towns I passed through.

My ride out of Bosra in the morning started out really well. I had a great tailwind and was flying out of town. After 3.5km, I realized I had forgotten my GPS tracker at the hotel. Going back against the headwind to the hotel was not nearly as fun. However, the rest of the ride to the border was with that amazing tail wind. I think I was averaging 30km/hr over 2-3 hours without tiring myself out.

Welcome to Jordan!

I love skipping these lines at the border.

My border crossing was easy. I had to buy the exit stamp again. It only cost 500 Syrian Pounds instead of the 600 that I had been charged the last time. Oh well. Once I was in Jordan, the wind turned against me. Then, it got really hot. I pulled off the road into a mini shopping mall to get out of the sun. One store had a couch outside that I commandeered to take a nap. After noon, I set off again. I started a long mountain climb. It turned out, it was still too hot for me, especially while climbing the mountain. Another nap was in order so I pulled into a shady grove and snuggled up in the dirt. After it cooled off, I finished the 15km uphill slog. Then, I was all set to enjoy the reward of coasting back down the other side into Jerash with plenty of day light to spare. Unfortunately, that coast did not happen.

This is the mall I took a nap at. The one store had a couch outside its front door.

Within a kilometer of the top, something was fouling up on my back wheel. The rear gears/cassette was not able to spin independently of the wheel without force. That caused the chain to stay still which caused the derailer arm to pull forward until it hit the chain again and again. If I pedaled, I didn't need to freewheel and it was fine. Unfortunately, I could not pedal faster than the bike was already moving downhill. I pulled over to fix it, but I wasn't comfortable trying to fix it on the roadside. My guess was that I would have to open up the wheel and reset the ball bearings. While I was messing around to figure out what was up, some off duty policeman stopped to help.

Jordan forested mountains were a welcome change from Syria.

They called one of their friends who came up but could not help. Then they called another guy who brought a van up to get me. He said they knew a bike mechanic in town. We went right to the mechanic's shop. He was closed, but they called him and he agreed to come in. It was not a bike shop. I think it was a motorcycle shop. However, the guy was a brilliant engineer who could figure stuff out. He pulled the wheel apart, but got stuck on the last bit. To work on that part, he ground a monkey wrench down on my gear teeth to get a hold of the wheel. I wasn't happy about it, but communicating that was not working. With the monkey wrench attached, he jumped up, down, and all around to impose his will on the wheel. While he did end up making the wheel temporarily functional, he did not fix it. There is no way I could do more than ride it around town. I decided to catch a bus the next day to Amman where I knew there was a quality bike shop that could fix it.

Hadrian's Arch at Jerash, Jordan.

That night, I did not do much. When I was looking for lodging, I met some Austrians who had also come down from the North. They were driving my same route and had seen me taking a nap in the shady grove earlier in the day. I can't believe that I ended up meeting them in town. After finding a spot to camp by some RVs, I went in search of food. I found a place that skipped the sandwich part of falafels and went right to the good stuff. They sold the falafel balls by the bag, fresh out of the fryer. They were fantastic and ridiculously cheap.

Oval Plaza measuring 90 x 80m.

The Cardo street with its original stones that they say you can see chariot wheel ruts in. I couldn't.

The next morning, it was time to explore the best Roman ruins in Jordan. The site is still being uncovered and if you look around, you can see teams of people unearthing old artifacts. The ruins are nice, but watching them work is fascinating. I think that might have been the best part, but I suspect that is because at this point I was Roman ruined. I had just seen too many ruins and needed something different. Jerash was nice, but it wasn't as inspiring as I was led to believe, so I think the problem might have been me.

The Nymphaeum, a fountain constructed in 191 AD.

The Temple of Artemis.

The ruins are basically laid out over a long colonnaded street with a couple side streets. The entrance to the site was through Hadrian's Arch, built to celebrate the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 129AD. Just past the arch is the hippodrome where they are reenacting chariot races twice a day. You have to pay extra to see the race and I had considered doing it. I heard it was hokey, but fabulous because they know it is hokey and make fun of themselves in the commentary. However, after visiting the site, I still had to wait a few hours for the race and was anxious to get to Amman to get my bike looked at so I could back on the road as soon as possible.

North Theater.

Just past the hippodrome was one of the dig sites. The organizers seemed to be western with a few western grad students and locals doing the actual digging. From there on out, it was the usual set of Roman ruins with theaters, a colonnaded street, temples, fountains, and lots of other half buildings to let the imagination run. At the final tetrapylon, there was a woman doing a music video shoot. Her outfit made me think she was Indian, but I'm not sure 100% sure. It looked like she was working hard on a hot day doing the same hair flip or body turn again and again until the director liked it. While she worked, there must have been 15-20 other people standing around doing nothing. It is amazing how one person can sustain their own mini industry.

The North Tetrapylon, where the music video was being filmed.

When it was time to head to Amman, I was going to take the bus. Then, I found out a taxi might be almost as cheap and would take me directly to the bike shop. After challenging negotiations where I was told I'd be paying 10, then was paying 15, I was finally off. When we got to the city, my driver tried to drop me off in the neighborhood. Luckily, I had not paid him yet and insisted he call for directions and take me directly to the bike shop. He whined, but he did it. The bike shop looked promising for getting me out of Amman quickly, but that wasn't going to be the case.

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