We get up early, to be in Petra before the crowds arrive. Getting to the entrance is more complicated than expected, because there aren´t many signs. Entrance is 21 JD (23 Euros).
The entrance to the city is guarded by a narrow canyon called the Siq. In some places the canyon is barely 2 meters wide, the tall walls seem to touch each other. The tension builds up with every corner. And finally we are at the treasury. The view is just amazing. But Petra has a lot more to offer, the further we walk into the city the more temples, tombs and palaces come into view. We do two long walks to the top of Jebel Umm al`Ammr and the monastary. From the Jebel we have an amazing view over the whole city. That walk is well worth the effort. From the monastry we see the Arabian Desert in the east to the Jordan fault to the west.
3/24/2007 Wadi Musa - Wadi Rum 95 km 1200 t.a.g.
The day dawns grey. After an extended breakfast we load our bikes and start pedaling towards Wadi Rum. After half an hour it starts raining. On top of the next hill we are in thick fog with less than 20 m visibility. What a pity! The views are said to be good. We want to get warm. The road keeps on climbing. After one hour we are soaking wet and stop at a small shop in a village. We are offered tea and soon talk about Jordan, Germany and the world. It’s amazing how many Jordans speak English well or have been to Germany.
After two hours a strong wind from the southwest picks up and the fog is rising. The road is still going up and down. The wind is so strong we have to lean sideways if we don´t want to be blown off the road. After 50 kms we reach the downhill to the Desert Highway, Jordan´s main road to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. It is a motorway and used mainly by trucks loaded with oil from Saudi Arabia. The transarabian pipeline has been out of service since the first Iraq war.
We are cold and it´s not much fun to cycle on the emergency lane. We stop a small truck and get a lift to the turn off to Wadi Rum. But first, we have lunch break in a cold and windy truck stop. The 30 kms to Wadi Rum fly by. Finally the wind is coming from the right direction. Even so, we can’t see much of the scenery because the cliffs are hidden by clouds and rain. Somehow we had a different image of the desert in Jordan.
Wadi Rum is a Bedouin settlement with a population of about 500 between 600 to 800 m tall sandstone cliffs. The village is a striking contrast to Wadi Musa. There aren´t any hotels and filling stations, no coiffures and cramped restaurants. We meet Yousef, who invites us into his house - which is financed by the government - and into his tent, where he prefers to live. I’m creating a website for his small business on the PC of his uncle. The internet has reached the tents of the nomads.
Late that night we pitch our small tent behind the goat hair tents of the Bedouin.
3/25/007 Wadi Rum - Aqaba 65 km 600 t.a.g.
The rain clouds have moved away and we can hardly believe our eyes. The cliffs around here are amazing. Breakfast is a little later because the bakery van comes late. We enjoy the silence and watch the traffic in the village. Most young men earn their money with jeep tours through the desert. The Landcruisers are mostly more than 20 years old and have neither registration nor insurance.
Mosque in Wadi Rum
After a filling breakfast of falafel sandwiches and fresh bread we get a lift from Yousef 20 km through the dunes. Behind a small pass he tells us - is a good dirt road that we just have to follow to Aqaba. We aren’t convinced when we get off the jeep. But after lowering the tire pressure below one bar (15 PSI) I can cycle pretty well on the hardish sand next to the tracks. A good tailwind is pushing me and I ride happily around bushes and bigger stones. Debbie has a much harder time, until we lower the pressure in her tires. The tires surprise me, no pinches, no snake bites, no flats. A dent in the rim is all I get.
After one hour we see the first jeeps coming the other direction. A little later a border patrol jeep stopps and the soldiers ask with disbelief, if we are on our own. A large acacia tree offers a welcome and shady lunch spot.
Lunchbreak below a large acacia tree
Three hours later we reach a paved road again and soon are back on the Desert Highway. Between us and the Red Sea is a steep pass. I use a slow truck for help. From the top of the pass we enjoy a fast downhill from 800 m to the port of Aqaba. From the port we have a strong headwind for the last 10 km into town. A decent hotel behind the mosque is quickly found and we use the warm shower to wash the sand out of our clothes.
We spend the evening at a small Italian place eating pizza. The contrasts in this country still surprise me.