Petra: 28th September
I alighted the plane to a wash of claret coloured 70’s/early 80’s fabric on the seats of the plane. I had sent the entire time before boarding the plane trying to spot the Explore! tags on people’s hand luggage – it was like playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ though! I found a couple briefly but then never saw them again. After I had my hand luggage and myself on the correct seat on the plane I was accosted by two ladies ‘oooooh Explore!’ yes ladies, you can indeed read! (The tag was sticking out of the overhead locker) smiles were had and I confirmed that I was indeed heading to Petra and carried on reading my Rugby World – I am not too fond of talking to people on planes at the best of times, the last thing that I needed was two overkeen chatters sitting next to me!
I slowly took in my surroundings . . .noting that the electronic equipment was something ou of the 60’s with a dial for the different radio stations etc and the fact that the whole bit was stuck on to the chair with glue! No way in hell was I being electrocuted by that – there was only 1 screen at the front as well to watch the movie on- it was so old-fashioned it is a surprise that it is still going. The films that were on I had never even heard of so I was not really that bothered about the dodgy electricity on the chair. Something told me that this was the sort of thing that I should be expecting out there.
Thankfully I ended up having a free seat next to me (no huge smelly person like I seem to have on nearly every other flight that I am on) – I took my trainers off in a bid to try and feel a bit more comfortable. After about 5 or so mins I noticed a rather unpleasant stench – I havent used the word smell as it was way too bad for that. I actually checked the usual places for my own body odour but it was SO bad I repeated checking as I became really paranoid – definitely wa not coming from me! After several sniffs in a variety of directions I discovered that it was coming from somewhere further down the plane – clearly not a race for cleaning thoroughly!!
I got my bag down from the overhead locker and the lady sort of in the seat next to me – Jan I think her name was – Oh God I’ve forgotten already , that’s going to be really embarrassing. SHe turned out to be another single female on the trip, but I wont be sharing with her as she has paid a single supplement and only paid £600 before that – need to delicately bring that up with the rest of the group at some point to see if everyone else paid that or the same as me (£695 without single supplement) or less. I kept seeing some random flashing lights – I couldn’t quite decide if it is because of some of the windows have their shutters open and so it could have been from the lights outside – yeah didn’t trust that heap of junk at all – I do feel that I am being rather sceptical but there we go! I wont even go into the whole meal saga – oh bugger I meant to tak a photo of it. Basically suffice to say it was frankly revolting and does not even deserve being written about any more. All that I will say is – PEPPERS!! We went through some pretty bad turbulence – some of the worst that I have ever been through – there was a bloke over the speakers saying something &^%%&*())( seatbelts *&^%$£”!” it was incredibly like the Spanish Football Manager on the Fast Show – you could only hear one or two words that were definitely in English! I just turned my iPod up louder and tried to think why I was on this godforsaken plane and think about exactly what I was actually going to be seeing. Oh GOD the flashing – its beginning to give me a headache now! To top it all off it started to feel like a sauna in here now and some little twerp on here clearly has germs and they have gone straight up my bloody nose which now wont stop running or sneezing. This is a bloody brilliant way to start the trip. At least no screaming children . . . oh no I’m sorry I can hear one over the iPod – HELP!!! It wont go up any more.
I walked off the plane with Jan and looked out for the Explore! sign which we found in the end. We waited for the plane to clear and worked out who was with us for the next few days. There was a young couple but I couldn’t work out to begin with if they were married or brother and sister. There seemed to be another couple as well and then two ladies from the plane who turned out to be sisters and a lady who had a bum bag on and a pen on a string around her neck and a couple of others. There were 11 of us in total and we handed our passports over to the guy who met us who informed us that he would get them all stamped and we waited a little while at the passport control before we all went down to the baggage reclaim sectino. We were being eyed up and down by the Arabs that we passed. I know that Explore! sort everything out and that he works for them but I was pretty nervous about handing over my passport to him and not being with him when he got it stamped – I mean he could have run off with them all. I need to stop being so paraniod.
The bags took ages to come through – I swear that they were bringing them all frmo the plane manually one at a time! I made a trip to the loo and it was not as bad as I thought that it was going to be! I was desperate for a fag – although there were others smoking in the terminal , not from our group, I didnt really want to start off on a bad foot in this country. Once we had all the bags they had to be screened AGAIN before we could leave the airport.
There were families waiting to greet loved ones off the plane clearly the whole family had come to the airport with flowers and presents galore and much kissing and hugging was going on all around us. It reminded my of the beginning and end of Love Actually. They were totally unaware of thier surroundings though as we nearly knocked over a couple of Great Great Grannies on the way through with our pully bags trying to get out. We were directed to a mini bus when by which stage we were outside ,eant that I could finally light up. We said goodbye to the gentleman who had guided us through the airport which was rathr confusing as we all thought that he was our guide! Hazim turned out ot be our guide and he greeted us very chirpily (at about 1am) and was more than thrilled to notice that one of the group smoked. Great – really don’t want to be labelled with that too much.
I managed about 2 puffs of my fag before jumping onto the bus (being driven by a driver whose name I never got) and we headed off to Petra and our hotel. Hazim told us a few bits and pieces about what the airport was called and named after – Queen Alia who, if I remember correctly was one of Kind Husseins wives who was killed in a helicopter crash near to the airport. We headed out on the Desert Highway towards Petra. Hazim lent me a little pillow to lean on so that I could get some sleep on the 2 or so hours drive. I did try looking out of the window once we were well onto the Desert Highway, there were no lights at all on the road to show markings at night and the sky was simply magical dripping with stars. Something told me that the night sky in the desert would be even more amazing than that.
We arrived in the hotel and unloaded the bus. It must have been about 3am and our room numbers were sorted out and I ended up in sharing a room with a lady called Janet, or is it Judith?! We organised a wake up call for 8am all heading out at 9am to see the sights. When we got to our room I sorted out a couple of bits to be ready for the mornings activities. We decided to set the alarm for 7.30am so that we could have some snooze time before getting up for real.