I didn’t quite realise how active dogs and donkeys were during the night and combined with the ‘borrowed’ street light being on, meant a restless night for a few. Camp came to life at 0730 and following a breakfast of the usual suspects (bread, humous, cheese and tea) we set off back down the hill towards the reservoir dam. Starting the long climb, the weather forecast looked to be right, strong winds and an 87% chance of rain. Several clambered on the bus which wasn’t a bad idea whilst the rest of us toiled up the hill passing goat herds and the occasional building. After 12 miles a coffee break brought some respite after which we continued until Tafila the sky turned black and the heavens opened.
Scuttling into the bus seemed the best option and we headed for a restaurant halfway to Dana which being Friday and a holy day was shut so at just after one o’clock in pouring rain we entered the paraffin heated heaven of the Dana Tower Hotel communal room for a spot of dinner.
Dana to Little Petra
Quite a days cycling. From Dana we were transferred up the very steep hill and dropped so that we had a downhill run that would take us past a series of windmills blowing in the clouds that scudded past. Shawbek Castle loomed on the hill above. Built in 1140 it was the original Crusader Castle and it certainly looked the part. We stopped at Bait Abu Ali coffee stop, opposite lay the World’s smallest hotel and the backdrop the castle. Onwards for a gradual ascent to a pair of towers of the Kings Highway where we turned right and up through the Oak Trees to start the downhill run to Little Petra. It was quite some decent, dropping 600 metres to the amazing rock formations within which we would stay the night at Little Petra Bedouin Camp
Little Petra – Daily Diary
The safety talks were a little more numerous today because we were heading downhill on one of the most beautiful roads in Jordan. Out of the site passing the most amazing rock formations of fluffy sandstone to sweep downwards past oaks and purple plastic irrigation pipe through fields along a narrow track. The storms of the previous week had done their job where a section of road was washed away but we were soon on a road only improved 5 years previously. This was an area of early man as the settlement at Shkarat musayid revealed dating from 7300-5900 BC. Stopping at the ‘Why Not Shop’ we admired the expansive view before hurtling further down the road which flattened out into a barren landscape filled with squat trees and the inevitable goat herd, however camels made an appearance. Transferred back we had a lovely lunch at the Bedouin Camp featuring the usual suspects and afterwards Mahmoud took us to Little Petra to check out the Siq that was a miniature version of Petra itself.
Daily Diary – Petra
The highlight of any trip to Jordan is Petra, so today was our day as we bussed the short distance to drop our bags and start our day at 0730. Mahmood having been rested in the van seized his moment where he was to take us all on a wonderful day through this ancient landscape.
Down the track and through the Siq to reveal the treasury and the selfie taker in the yellow dress. Spying an elevated position, a group of us climbed the steps/rocks to a grand overlook, where another Jack Sparrow lookalike resided and a cat slept on the blanket. Down the main part, past the street of facades and theatre with Mahmood doing an excellent job with his anecdotes and history. We climbed the Royal Tombs, admired the Nymphaeum before starting the moderate climb to the Monastery which seemed to go on for ever as we passed loads of trinket sellers along the way. Back for an excellent buffet lunch after which we split into 2 groups. Half returned the way we had come and explored the museum. The rest of us set of with Mahmood whose love was hill walking to take the trail to the High alter of sacrifice and then the Al-Madras trail to finish back at the entrance. It was a glorious afternoon as there were no donkey/camel rides to decline, no trinket sellers, just us, numerous carvings in the sandstone and steps going up and down the mountains. Having walked 13 miles in the day a beer at the end was well deserved
Daily Diary – Wadi Rum
Transferred out of Petra to a viewpoint we set of with quite a climb passing hotels declaring the greatest views and columns scavenged from somewhere to decorate the roadside. The views were expansive to the right, sandstone mountains to the right stretched as far as the eye could see providing an ideal backdrop for a group picture.
Onwards and upwards as the road roller coasted upwards with the hills now littered by windfarms whirling in the tail wind that we now had. You could see the road seemingly stretch for miles ahead as the final throws of the Kings Highway threaded its way South. We coffee stopped at a bizarre claiming 3rd best view in the world. Tea for a dinar and every type of souvenir displayed for the passing tourist trade.
We finished the Kings road with a final downhill flourish that led to the desert highway where we were transported 40km to the Wadi Rum turnout. A dead flat road parallel to the Ottoman railway led to a lunch of bread, large tub of humous, sweetcorn and biscuits, you could tell the guides were male with that choice. Onto Rayabeh Desert Camp where the tents were comfortable and dinner cooked in a pit, opened with finesse and to the crowd.
Umm ad Dami and Camels
At 1854 metres, Umm ad Dami is Jordan’s highest peak and can be climbed in about 2 hours. To get there needed a jeep trick, so 6 of us sat on cushions in the back of the truck to be taken on a 90 minutes trip through the incredible sandstone scenery that is Wadi Rum. As we passed peak on peak, guessing which one was ours we ended on an uphill section at the base of a trail that would lead to the top. Marked by cairns it was a tricky start having to clamber up a few gullies but after that it was a case of follow the trail where it veered left then right to end at a summit with the Jordanian flag fluttering marking the high point. Grand views all round on a peak not a lot different to other peaks in the area. Back on the valley floor we were treated to BBQ chicken, coke and the inevitable bread.
At 1500 we took a camel ride (or camel plod) to the other side of the valley to watch the sunset but with cloudy weather it wasn’t the greatest. Plodding back to camp we settled for a buffet dinner spending the evening round the communal fire
Wadi Rum to Aqaba
‘There’s a storm coming’ Mahmoud gestured having checked him mobile and sure enough as we tried to get going, our legs were waxed by the sand. We tried to go but were pulled over, trying again the police escort decided we were safer in, that out and who were we to argue, so our cycling ended on the bus in Aqaba, where we learnt later that Petra had been evacuated.
We went to a harbour side café. High above the boats we could see the ship that was supposed to take us snorkeling on the Red Sea, but there is was being buffeted by other boats and showered in sea water as the waves cascaded over the breakwater. In the worst storm people had seen in years, trees fell, buildings creaked and litter flew everywhere whilst the locals enjoyed every minute of it snapping away with mobile phones. Our final mission in Jordan was to take a taste home. Coffee, dates and nuts acquired we packed the bikes and flew back to the UK, just 2 days before the whole country was locked down because of coronavirus.