"What is it?" "I don't know." Some of them are moving." "Yeah, I can see that." "Oh no."
When I was in high school, the bunch of guys I hung out with used to listen to a lot of stuff from the '60s. I still like a lot of it today, but back then, I really liked it, and I wonder if we were unique or not, listening to music so much before our time, or if every teenage generation is like that. All I know is that everyone around us seemed to be listening to more contemporary stuff. For us, everything was about Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and the Doors. It was good stuff.
The Doors had some particularly introspective stuff, owing I think to Jim Morrison's various hallucinogenic adventures, and today, I almost felt like I was in one of his songs, or maybe two of them. Morrison wrote from his dreams. And there were a couple of songs whose titles escape me that were relevant today. One involved a bunch of horses jettisoned from a ship to make it lighter so that the windless seas could move the ship. The animals all perished in the mayhem, and to this day, I think that there is a region of the sea that is called "horse latitudes" (which was the name of the song now that I think of it), and that it might even be a general terms for windless seas. The other song had a myth about a highway accident where Morrison observed the carnage from his passing family car as a boy, witnessing the spirit of an old Native American man at the scene.
There were sheep everywhere. Some where completely torn apart, intestines and eyeballs littering the highway. Others were only partially hit, frothing at the mouth, heads crooning upwards for mercy toward the arguing truck drivers and shepherds. I felt an enormous surge of sympathy and pain simultaneously as I saw the eyes of a beast knowing that it would perish in the blink of an eye. And then I was sad.
It happens all the time here. A shepherd has to move the herd across the road. Some of the sheep are too slow. The trucks don't slow down. Half the herd gets wiped out in front of everyone. We must have gotten to the scene only moments afterwards because so many of them were still alive. Sometimes when you are a tourist in a group you are in this little bubble of a van that drives you around the country and takes you to places and insulates you from the realities of life. But death is unavoidable. There has to be death. Life could not be called life if it were not defined in the context of death. It doesn't mean I have to like it when I see it, and for animals, the intellectually innocent beings of the planet, it seems even more unjust. One of these days I'm going to talk my way into being a vegetarian.
The drive to the Dead Sea from Amman is nothing but down, and sheep carcasses aside, it's interesting to watch yourself fall from Amman's lofty perch all the way down to the lowest point of the planet, the Dead Sea, at over 400 metres below sea level. That's under the sea folks. The Dead Sea sits along the very northern end of the great African rift valley; the place where two tectonic plates are pulling apart and the world is falling away beneath the crack. The sea is extremely salty and swimming in it is like doing weightlessness tests at NASA. It was freaky. It's so buoyant, that when you go on your stomach to swim, you can't because your legs and back are arched up so much and pushed right out of the water. A very strange feeling! Equally fun is covering yourself in the black mineral mud dredged up from the bottom of the sea, letting it dry, and then jumping back in. Good times! And with the drop in elevation, we picked up almost 10 to 15 degrees of temperature too. The water is warm, and extremely salty, and the sea is receding every year.
We also went to Mt. Nebo, on the precipice of the valley that contains the Dead Sea; the so called Promised Land. From Mt. Nebo, one can see the entire rift valley from the northern end of the Dead Sea almost all the way to the Sea of Galilee. It is an incredible view as you look out over the West Bank and realize what you are looking at. Jericho. Bethlehem. Hebron. Jerusalem. All off in the near distance seeming so close, yet so far away. This is Palestine. Another day was spent at the well preserved Roman city of Jerash just to the north of Amman. Jerash has some fantastic colonnades, along with a great theatre (maybe the best preserved Roman one we have seen) and of course a couple of temples here and there. Roman engineering is evident everywhere from the diagonal road construction to avoid chariot ruts to the sanitation and water handling systems criss crossed throughout the city. Only partially excavated, Jerash is already one of the greatest Roman sites around. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the Forum in Rome itself, and that's saying a bit I think. They we're amazing. The MacDonald's restaurants of the past - they were able to copy their city plans all over the world. And then they collapsed under their own weight and corruption. Here we are.
Yesterday I also saw a sign that in different times might have been less meaningful, but today seems unbelievable - almost like I shouldn't be seeing it. It was simple enough, but served as a reminder of exactly where we are. The sign said, "Iraq Border, Right Lane". Simple enough you might think. But considering the news these days, and considering that Baghdad is only a reasonable 200 km away (give or take a million check points or so); it was a fairly poignant moment. The more I travel, the more I hate the fact that we have to have wars. Yesterday, the university in Baghdad blew up. It seems we are even waging war against our future. Sometimes I think that we are just a malicious parasite that has managed to infect the planet profusely as a result of sentient behaviour, and that if any really intelligent alien civilization arrived and saw what we were doing, they would wipe us out like exterminators; to get rid of termites so to speak; in order to let the "real" owners of the planet survive in peace.
Well, that's it for the Middle East really. Tomorrow we fly to Nairobi with a one night stop in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) to start our 43 day camping and safari adventure to Cape Town. This is going to be one of the highlights for sure. Honeymoonplanet might be a little less active during this time period as there will likely be less web availability along the route we are taking. We're in a purpose built 4X4 group vehicle all the way. Should be fun.
And don't let my politics get you down. We all have a choice. That's why I'm here after all...