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Two weeks across the Middle East on bicycles

3/17/2007 10:30 p.m. Amman airport

It’s dark, cold and rainy. Somehow we came to Jordan with different expectations. At the exit a minivan is waiting for us. Slowly we roll out of the airport through deserted streets and big puddles along the road. 30 minutes later we arrive in Madaba. It’s not very inviting on a dark, windy night.

3/18/2007 Madaba 70 km 1000 m total altitude gain

The next morning, we are greeted with a bright blue sky. We get up early to put the bikes together, check the gear and pack our bags. Besides a few scratches, both bikes survived the transport unharmed, despite our minimal packaging. The first leg will be a casual stroll to Mount Nebu and the Dead Sea without our bags.

Mount Nebu

The first kilometers are very relaxed. The road climbs or falls gently and is lined by shady pine trees and there is very little traffic in our direction. From the summit of Mount Nebu (860 m) we have a beautiful view of the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea and the Holy Land on the other side.

From here, it´s a wild downhill to the Dead Sea. Nowhere is a downhill from 860 m that long. We pass the sealevel sign doing 70 km/h and level ground is still miles ahead. The shoreline is 410 m below sealevel. The air is much thicker and warmer here. But in March temperatures are fine; today it´s 20°C (68°F). At the shore there is a strong southerly wind, but next to the road is a wide service road, so we cycle relaxed, next to or behind each other. Behind the hotel area is Amman public beach. A swim in the Dead Sea shouldn´t be missed, even when the temperatures are below ideal.

Swiming in the Dead Sea

After lunch we have to climb back to the plateau 1000 m above us. There is a new panoramic road south of the beaches that winds uphill in countless switchbacks to Ma´in. The pavement is very smooth, there aren´t any cars on the road and the views from here are amazing.

Panoramic Road

One and a half hours later we get to the hot springs of Ma´in turnoff. The road to the entrance is very steep and the last 4 km fly by. 10 Minutes later we are sitting in 40°C (104°F) hot thermal water. There is no better way to end a hard day on a bike. But the waterfalls around the corner are even more fascinating. I skip the first one, 65°C (149°F) is little too warm for my liking. But the second 20 m tall waterfall has 45°C (113°F) - just the right temperature. It´s an unbelievable feeling getting the neck and back massaged from a hot stream of water that´s pouring down over a high cliff. But enjoying the warmth we forgot about time. All of a sudden it´s 6 p.m. and getting dark quickly. No big problem in Jordan. The first car - a Toyota Hilux - stops and offers us a lift with our bikes. One hour later we are back in Madaba.

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