27- 30 March 2013
I head off from the hostel in Eilat to find a bike shop to replace my tyres. It is most fortunate this day is the one I am within limping distance of bicycle shop for with about 800 metres to go the back wheel that has gotten progressively stiffer lately completely locks up and refuses to turn. I dismount and ended up dragging Frankie awkwardly uphill the remaining distance, which is something akin to dragging the bike through sand except there is a lot of people.
It transpires that the ball bearings inside the wheel hub had some how gotten out of place causing the wheel to become locked. The mechanic replaces them and the tyres. So then we are off riding smoothly to the nearby border crossing to Jordan which is of little hassle and the visa free as I am heading into the Aqaba Special Economic Zone. I cycle into Aqaba to procure a map and some dinars. The city is refreshing with its tree lined streets, picnic tables and actual tourist centre. With map in hand I head north towards Wadi Rum.
The main road is busy and wide and at one point I pass a large group of truck drivers on strike, im not sure for what. I eventually reach the turn off towards Wadi Rum around 530pm as the sun is beginning to cast large shadows on the surrounding rock. The road is quiet and the landscape inspiring, this area is well known as where T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) kicked around during the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918. The sun sets and the moon rises, I have managed to arrive in the desert on the full moon.
I cycle into the tourist centre just as it is closing and am helpfully driven to the nearby campsite in the village of Wadi Rum. There is a Bedouin wedding party nearby, as the full moon in the desert is a special time, many from the village get married then. There are two large separate tents, one for the men and one for the women set up loudly emanating Arabic music. The camp is full of Israeli rock climbers on their annual trip to Wadi Rum. Some of them sleep overnight halfway up the looming cliff faces so they have an early start in the morning to make their way to the top before the heat of the day.
As you can see my tyres are royally fucked.
On the road to Wadi Rum.
Sun set looming.
An empty house on the way to Wadi Rum.
The next day I want to spend some time hiking into the desert but feel a bit isolated and vulnerable to pesky tour guides venturing in on my own. I spot a large tour group that appears to be set for hiking so shuffle over and ask where they are going and if I can join. They are a French tour group with a Jordanian guide from Amman, and of course I am welcome. Some of the women strike up conversation with me as we hike out into the desert and I am happy for the company as the space is so vast. They are planning to spend the night in the desert so after lunch I turn around and head back the way I came.
On re entering the village I am watched keenly by a young girl who asks if I have been in the sahara (desert) to which I reply yes. She tries out her small amount of English then invites me in for tea upon reaching her door. I accept and sit in the courtyard outside her house with her young siblings and rather bemused mother as we browse through her English school book and try to make some sort of conversation. After the tea is finished I make my way back to the campground for another night in the tent there.
I try to leave early the following morning as I know I am in for a long days ride. It is slow steady climb up to the top of the hill range that reveals green grass and a cool breeze. Riding up and down along the hill tops I am spotted by a family drinking tea near the road and called over to join them. Many photos are taken whilst they ply me with tea. There are more rolling hills until the descent into Wasi Musa, the valley where Petra is located. The sun is setting as I look down into the beautiful canyons below, I am exhausted as I eventually find the cheap hotel I was looking for and check in.
The next morning I am waiting for the free van ride provided by the hotel when I realise it has already gone as I am an hour behind the local time never noticing the change until now. Petra itself is the most expensive tourist attraction I have ever paid for at 50 Jordanian dinars (90NZD). You would think at that price they could have a card machine at there ticket booths but ridiculously they only accept cash and I have to hike back to a nearby hotel to take cash out. I decide after this I am done with tourist attractions. It is a spectacular place and well worth the visit though I really do question where all the money goes as the few information boards on site are funded by USAID.
The Wadi Rum camp ground, full of Israeli rock climbers.
Use of long neck number 237.
Following the French tour group into the desert.
A mighty dune amongst the rock and flat desert floor.
Heading into a narrow rock canyon.
The girl (on left) and her siblings who invited me in for tea.
This kid was enterprising enough to charge me a dinar for the photo.
Heading uphill on the way to Petra.
Green grass on the top of the hills, its been a while.
Looking down into Wadi Musa.
The tourists and the treasury.
The endless caves, ruins and stream of tourists in Petra.