Let me start by saying two things… one) WOW! We had the most amazing few days in the desert…two) I’ve never felt so cold!
We left Petra at first light, sharing a taxi with Lotte from Denmark who was going to be our travelling companion for the next few days. There had been a change in weather at Petra and our third day of adventures was lost to the weather. Sadly we never got to hike to Little Petra, nor the Monastery nor Aaron’s tomb; I guess it will have to wait for our next visit! The bright sunshine of the previous day had been replaced with ice, high winds and snow! All night the wind howled and we wondered if the roof of the hotel may actually blow off! As we left on the second morning of the storm we really hoped that the wind would be gone by the time we reached Wadi Rum.
En route in our taxi we swapped stories with Lottie of our adventures so far. We told her about our ‘speed bump’ incident on the Dead Sea highway and our taxi driver was laughing out loud as we explained what happened. He said he hears this so many times, everyone who drives in Jordan gets caught out at some point… at least it’s not just us!
Wadi Rum is a protected area covering 720 square kilometers of dramatic desert wilderness in the south of Jordan. Huge mountains of sandstone emerge from the desert, reaching heights of 1800 meters. We were going discover these and so much more. Narrow canyons and fissures cut deep into the mountains concealing ancient rock drawings etched by the peoples of the desert over millennia.
Bedouin tribes still live among the mountains of Rum and their large goat-hair tents are a feature of the landscape. The Bedouins of Wadi Rum gained notoriety in 1917 when they joined the Arab revolt under the leadership of king Faisal and fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia against the occupying Turkish and German armies. We’d get to climb to Lawrence Spring later and visit his home, albeit the building was actually built by the Nabataeans first.
We arrived before 9.00 am and it seemed that the cold wind had indeed followed us. The three of us met our guide Nawaf and we set off into the desert in his old Toyota Land Cruiser. We sat in the back and whilst this offered spectacular views it’s open to the elements and OMG it was cold.
We first drove to Lawrence Spring, it was a bit of a climb and partway up we both decided we didn’t actually need to see the spring and instead sat on the giant rocks and admired the view. After this we travelled onwards, pausing to scramble up giant dunes or walk through enormous gorges. Nawaf showed us the Nabataean cave drawings and early Arab inscriptions and showed us where we could find water year round in the desert. He showed us herbs and explained why the fig tree was white and why it lost its leaves but still bore fruit. He made us tea and cooked us lunch and told us about Bedouin life. He kept us busy all day long and finally, after a full day of exploring, we paused to watch the sunset over the mountains.
Our first day had been crazy, we’d walked and climbed and scrambled and been burnt in the desert sun whilst being chilled to the bone by the biting cold wind. We were exhausted but wouldn’t have changed a single thing.
We returned to camp and the Bedouins taught us how to use the enormous blankets to ensure maximum warmth; each blanket weighs 7kg and we had 4 between us. It may have been below zero overnight but we were warm. We had dinner in the large camp tent and warmed ourselves by drinking copious amounts of tea around the open fire. Once we’d warmed enough and eaten enough we retired to our own little hut and I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
We’d been too cold to undress last night and I have to be honest it was too cold to shower in the morning! We woke at 7 and made a quick dash to the camp bathroom; the facilities were immaculate but gosh it was cold. We had a Bedouin breakfast with our hosts before setting off again into the desert. The wind had died down overnight, so whilst the air was still cold the sun felt even hotter today but regardless I was keeping my 5 layers on and we took two huge blankets in the truck for added warmth.
We drove to the far reaches of Wadi Rum. We were going to hike the Soft Mountain, Jabal Al-Hash… so named after the soft sandstone. Today was very different than yesterday, it was just us, Lottie and Nawaf for the most part. We drove for an hour and then hiked for a few more. We walked up and up but it was slow and steady. All the while our guide told us about his childhood in the mountains and stories of his grandfather. He showed us rock formations, the array of coloured stone, fossils and even a rock that he thought looked like an elephant… although he’d drawn a happy face on it to ensure we could also see it.
At the top we could see the mountains of Saudi Arabia. You don’t get to realise the scale of the desert until you spot a 4×4 car… a tiny miniscule dot moving across the sand. Every time we spotted one it took us by surprise because it’s so difficult to grasp scale in the desert, you forget just how vast it is.
As with yesterday Nawaf made us hot tea and later made us lunch. It was so hot at lunchtime that we had to move into the shade. And after we’d eaten there were more tales of Bedouin life. We drove back towards the camp, stopping off at a huge underground water source, a dam if you like, that trapped water from the surrounding hills and stored it underground for passing herds in summer. We visited more odd rock formations and tried to throw stones into a hole high up on the cliff, like some crazy fairground game. We laughed at Nawaf’s jokes and talked and walked and climbed some more before returning to our sunset rock to watch today’s very hot sun set.
Just as we did yesterday, we returned to camp, warmed up in the huge tent, ate with our hosts and chatted before bedtime. And just like yesterday I was asleep in no time.
We absolutely loved our time in the desert. Nothing really prepared us for the scale of the desert, nor the cold cold wind or the hot hot winter sun. Our hosts (Wadi Rum Nomads) were amazing, I don’t think you’d find a warmer welcome anywhere.
We made ready for our morning when Nawaf told us our lift had arrived and he also pointed out the white frost that had formed in pockets in the tyre tracks in the sand. We bid farewell to Lotte and our hosts and climbed aboard our camels for the 2 hour long journey back to Wadi Rum village.
I will be honest and say the camel ride was my idea. Gerry was never too sure and having now completed the journey he says it’s an experience he never wants to repeat! I was quite happy for the most part, until my camel got a little excited by a herd of passing females… his enthusiasm made my saddle slip and I felt a tad uncomfortable for the last 30 minutes but nonetheless… for me it was brilliant although it did take a good five minutes before I could walk straight when we finally reached Wadi Village!
Honestly these last few days have been totally magical, truly amazing and an experience we’ll never forget.