Just when I thought Jordan couldn’t get any better, it had one more surprise for me. Jerash, the Dead Sea, and Petra were spectacular, but there was another gem left for us to uncover – Wadi Rum!
We left Petra early in the morning to drive almost two hours to Wadi Rum. There, our campsite (Teva Milky Way) met us for our full day desert jeep tour. This was my first time spending the day in the desert…and my first time touring in a jeep…and my first time in Jordan, so I didn’t really know what to expect.
One driver appeared and loaded us and all of our stuff into a vehicle – 3 in the front seat, 3 in the back seat, and all of luggage in the back. I would guess the truck was between 20-25 years old. We went to his home for a cup of tea while we waited for our guide to arrive. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sage tea at Petra. After spending the day with the Bedouin in Wadi Rum, I now understand it’s because I wasn’t putting enough sugar in it! They LOAD the tea with sugar. I felt like I was in the south enjoying a sweet tea – only it was piping hot instead of cold and refreshing.
When our guide arrived and we finished our tea, we loaded into the “jeep” for a day in the desert! I wish I knew how old this truck is!
We stopped at the corner store for water before heading out. This small village literally ends in the desert. And yes, you can find camels and cars on the road.
Our first stop was Lawrence’s Spring. (Yes, we were in Lawrence of Arabia country.) The information I received in advance from the campsite said that our full-day jeep tour would include several sites and a couple of small, easy hikes. When I describe things as “easy,” I mean that definitely my mom and possibly my grandma could do them. Apparently, this definition is not the same in Jordan. Our guide pulled up to a cliff / mountain side piled with boulders and pointed out that we would climb up and back down the same way. Easy enough.
Once we started climbing, I started to panic, because I’ve never really rock climbed, and I’m super injury averse. One of my sweet friends came to the rescue and coached me up to the top.
[We were aiming for one of those trees, 3/4 of the way up this picture]
[Somehow I was smiling, even though I felt like I was going to topple off the side of the cliff!]
I don’t know what I expected to find at the top…maybe a fountain or a gushing spring? Instead, this is what we found:
I may have been a wee bit dramatic in the moment, but my first thought was, “I almost died climbing up here for this?!” Good thing there was a pretty fabulous view when I turned around!
The rest of the group kept climbing up higher, but I was over rock climbing and decided to hang out in the big tree growing near the spring. I contemplated taking up permanent residence in the tree to avoid having to climb back down the cliff. But, I was also very aware that a snake could appear at any time, and that thought made me want to get down, so I could eventually come back to Switzerland.
[Seeing a few of these guys sunning themselves on the rocks was one of the reasons I opted not to stay in the tree forever.]
[My super patient rock climbing coach and I are the two tiny dots in the middle of this picture.]
[Celebrating my first successful bouldering experience! Though I’m not sure it’s going to become my new hobby!]
Next, we visited a sand dune. Aside from a few of the sand dunes in Western Michigan, I’ve never been on one. We climbed up the side of the dune and ran down it.
After emptying the sand from our shoes, we were on to the next stop – Jebel Khazali. It is a siq you can climb into to find some ancient drawings.
[Aren’t these ancient drawings so cool?!]
We drove past the small arch (which has nothing on St. Louis!)…
…then we headed to our guide’s favorite lunch spot.
I’m an American, and when I think of lunch on-the-go, I think of sandwiches. I didn’t consider what lunch on-the-go might mean in Jordan, and I definitely didn’t consider that this could be a leisurely, homemade lunch. I was so surprised when our guide rolled out our picnic mat and told us to start collecting twigs for kindling for the fire. What fire?! Why do we need a fire?
[There’s always one who thinks the instructions don’t apply to him…]
[…and then there’s the over-achievers!]
In no time at all, a homemade lunch was being prepared over a fire. What a picnic! It honestly turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the entire trip…a tomato, onion, garlic, bean stew with hummus and tuna.
After lunch, our guide drove us to the entrance of a canyon, he told us to hike through, and he would meet us on the other side. Talk about really having to trust!
The final stop before sunset was “the medium arch.” In order to get to the top of the arch, you had to climb up the side of this cliff – the thought of which horrified me! I immediately volunteered to be the group photographer, because I might be able to get up, but I would definitely freak out on the descent!
[Waving “hi” from the top!]
[The ducklings playing “follow the leader” all the way down…]
After a day of desert adventures, our guide took us to one of his favorite spots to watch the sunset. He started another fire to make us some tea before we climbed up to the top ledge for the best view. It was beautiful – so serene, so quiet, so many lovely shades of colors.
And as soon as the sun sets in the desert, it gets REALLY cold!
We bundled up with what we could on the jeep on our way to the campsite, but I added a few more layers (and a head lamp!) when we arrived. We stayed in the Family Tent. Someone in the US recently introduced me to the term “glamping” (think, glamour camping). I’m not sure if this exactly qualifies, but we had beds with sheets & blankets in our tent. Then, there was a separate shared campsite bathroom with flushing toilets, showers, and running water. Plus, our meals were prepared for us. Close enough to glamping for me to survive a night.
[Our home for the night]
A traditional Bedouin dinner was prepared for us in the sand – chicken, potatoes, and carrots. They took us out to show us how they remove it, and I was amazed (yet again)! Here’s a play-by-play in pictures of how they unburied it and brought it into the tent:
We ate dinner in a big communal tent. There was a bonfire going, but we had to wait for a large family to vacate their place around the fire before we could benefit from its heat. I was so cold. I was literally wearing two pairs of socks, pants, a t-shirt, two long sleeve shirts, a fleece, hat, neck warmer, and gloves…and at times, someone else’s coat! The desert at night is no joke. I slept in all of those things in a bed with three or four blankets! Despite being so cold, the clarity of the stars alone is worth it. The sky was really beautiful. I saw satellites orbiting for the first time, and we think that some of the brightest looking stars were actually planets!
In the morning, I was able to capture a better picture of the campsite to help illustrate how isolated we were.
After breakfast, camels were waiting to take us back to the village. It took us about an hour or so. So much fun! I don’t know how, but I got the mean one. It bit the lead camel in the butthole! Isn’t that awful?!
Our 24 hours in the desert was pretty epic. I don’t know that bouldering or camping will be regular past times for me, but I am very glad we did it! What a way to end 2014!