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MADABA & THE DEAD SEA, JORDAN

Shobak Castle, Madaba, and the Dead Sea.

sunny 20 °C

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Today we drove from Wadi Musa to the Dead Sea. Its about a 3hr drive, so we made a few stops along the way to break it up. Our first stop was the Crusader fortress of Shobak Castle. We didn't go in, as we were in a hurry to make it to the Dead Sea for sunset. But we were able to stop at 2 different viewpoints of it.
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It was built in 1115 AD. It withstood numerous attacks from the armies of Saladin before succumbing in 1189.
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Our 18 seater bus that we toured Jordan in.
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Jordanian flag on the castle.
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Scenery along the way to Madaba.
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Traffic jam! Goats everywhere!
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We arrived in Madaba in time for lunch. After lunch we were given a tour. Madaba is another example of Jordan's religious tolerance. Church bells ring along with the call to prayer from nearby mosques. Muslims make up 2/3 of Madaba, and Christians 1/3. The main attraction here is St George's Church with its mosaic map.
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The mosaic tile map on the floor of the church was unearthed in 1884, but was laid in AD 560. It is a clear map of the Holy Land, including all biblical sites from Lebanon to Egypt, and down to the Mediterranean, including references to the Nile River, Dead Sea and Jerusalem.
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After Madaba we finally arrived at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea visit was not included in my 6 day tour, it was one of those optional add-ons. Well of course everyone wanted to go! How could you come all the way to Jordan and not float in the Dead Sea?! It was an over-priced add-on at $87CAD!!! This included transportation there & back, lockers, and use of a resort's pool. We didn't realize we were being brought to a resort ... that's why it cost so much. But it was very nice being able to use the showers & lockers here.
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Salt on the beach.
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The Dead Sea is located on the border, half in Jordan, half in Israel. It has an incredibly high salt content at 30% ... that's 7 times saltier than the ocean! That is why everyone floats! (and I mean everyone - it doesn't matter your weight, you WILL float).
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It is impossible to sink ... some people in my group actually tried to sink and sit on the bottom ... they couldn't even get their head under, lol! It is the strangest feeling, almost like someone is holding you up. It is actually hard to get your feet back down on the ground!
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After my float, I showered off all itchy salt at the resort. Be sure to NOT shave the day before, and do not get it in your eyes, or you will be in agony for a few minutes! IT BURNS! Then I walked around the pretty resort taking photos and waiting for the sun to set over the Dead Sea.
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The level of the Dead Sea has been falling by about 500cm per year for the last 20yrs, mainly because there is no longer an inflow from the Jordan River, and evaporation is so high. The Dead Sea has fallen from 392m below sea level to 420m (the lowest point on earth). 30% of it has vanished, and experts are predicting it will be completely dried up in 50yrs! So go see it now!!

Posted by ChantelleS 16:24 Archived in Jordan Tagged sea religion holy dead asia jordan float salt madaba Comments (0)

SWAKOPMUND, NAMIBIA

A beautiful town with old colonial architecture, flamingos, stunning sunsets, and the Himba tribe.

sunny 23 °C

From Johannesburg, South Africa I flew direct to Swakopmund, Namibia. I was sad to leave South Africa, but very excited to be heading to Namibia ... I love moving around when I travel, cuz when one adventure is ending, a new one is just beginning ;) Arrving in Swakopmund and stepping out of the airport, the first thing you see is sand dunes! It was instant love!!
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I had a very short time in Namibia, only 3 nights, which I spent at the Sandcastle Apartments in Swakopmund, located only 2 blocks from the beach! The drive from the airport to Swakopmund is a very scenic 45min ... Atlantic Ocean on the left, endless sand dunes on the right :)
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My patio door opening to a nice terrace
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It had a full kitchen with dishes and all appliances. The nice owners kindly showed me to the nearest grocery store.
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Living room ... it had a tv, free wifi , and A/C
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The town is incredibly clean! I didnt see a piece of trash / litter anywhere! For real! The downtown area had a lighthouse and beautiful colonial buildings.
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The houses were surprisingly modern - sharp edges, angled roofs, loads of windows, and very large! I wasnt expecting that at all! This is not a store, Its a house!!
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There is a paved path that runs parallel to the ocean. It went on forever. Everyday I took the scenic path from my apartment all the way to the lighthouse. I never timed the walk, but its probably a 20-30min leisurely walk. Along the path are public beach areas, public washrooms, beautiful flower gardens, restaurants, etc. Locals & tourists alike were walking / jogging, kids were riding bikes, ppl walking their dogs, etc. I felt 1000% safe here! I forgot to take a photo of the paved path, but here are some photos of a path threw one of the flowered areas to get to it.
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Near the lighthouse were some women & children dressed like members of the Himba tribes that live in northen Namibia. Whether or not they are actual tribe members, or just in costume, I'm not sure, but I really wanted to visit this tribe and knew I didnt have time to travel north, so I paid a few dollars to buy a souvenir from them and was then allowed to take as many photos of them as I wanted.
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This tribe is known for covering their skin & hair with otjize - a mixture of ochre & butter fat.
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If you keep walking past the lighthouse, heading south, you will come to a lagoon on the edge of town full of flamingos!! I've always wanted to see flamingos in the wild! (Theres also flamingos at the beach in Walvis Bay).
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So beautiful, yet so awkward when taking off, lol!!
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Mama flamingo with her babies.
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I just love their colors!
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Mama Cormorant and all her babies.
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Swakopmund faces west, so every evening I walked the few minutes from my apartment to the beach to watch the sunset ... a wonderful place to take everything in, and just be thankful I'm in such a wonderful place!
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Sunset view from my apartment window :)
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Posted by ChantelleS 20:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged sea desert ocean trek sand africa namibia lion jeep flamingo chameleon Comments (0)

NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

North Seymour Island | Galapagos Islands | Ecuador January 17th, 2012

overcast 33 °C

There are tour / travel agencies everywhere along the main drag in Puerto Ayora. We stopped at Albatross Tours and booked ourselves 2 yacht excursions. The first one to North Seymour Island, and the next one to Bartolome Island for $570 for both tours for 2 ppl. So today was the North Seymour excursion. A bus picked us up at our hotel and drove us across the island, through the highlands, to the opposite side, where our yacht awaited us (about 1hr of driving). We took a zodiac to our yacht and set sail. The island was approx 1hr away. Its teeny tiny, all black lava rocks, cactus trees and incense trees. This island is a birdwatcher's paradise!
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I cant remember what type of frigate bird this is, but the tree its sitting in is an Incense Tree. These are the trees the incense sticks that you burn are made from.
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Magnificent Frigate Birds were everywhere! I was hoping to see just 1 with his chest puffed out, but there were tons of them! The best part about these protected islands is how tame the wildlife is. The birds did not fly away. You could walk right up to them and they'd just look at you. They have absolutely no fear of humans! Its quite astounding actually!
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Again, not sure what type of frigate bird this is. Sorry :( There were just too many types of birds to keep track of! If you are big into labeling your photos correctly, I recommend bringing a small notepad to write down their names.
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There were a few Yellow Land Iguanas and little Lava Lizards as well.
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We only saw 2 Blue Footed Boobies up close, and a few Masked Boobies too far away to get a photo.
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Theres no beach here, just endless amount of black lava rock!
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Blue Footed Boobie on the lava rocks
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And amongst those lava rocks are sea lions! Baby sea lions! SO CUTE! Also, marine iguanas are camoflauged nicely in the rocks.
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Sleepy sea lions :)
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Young Sally Light Foot Crabs ... when they are young they are black, as they age they get more colorful.
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After about an hour long guided tour, we got back on the yacht. Our next stop was Las Bachas Beach, which is actually on the northern part of Santa Cruz Island. Dont let the clouds fool you, it was HOT! Lunch was served onboard as we sailed to the beach.
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A Blue Heron I believe ???
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A colorful adult Sally Lightfoot Crab.
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After a bit of snorkeling at this beach we headed back to the marina for our bus ride back to our hotel.

Posted by ChantelleS 20:08 Archived in Ecuador Tagged sea wildlife iguana animal lion galapagos ecuador Comments (0)

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