Amman, the Dead Sea and the Desert

My flight landed in Amman on time and without further obstacle. The Jordanian officials didn’t even check my PCR test, presumably confident in the airline’s thoroughness. I collected my bike, put it back together, then set off cycling into Jordan, country number 83!

I soon left the highway and followed some agricultural roads most of the way to Amman, before having to rejoin the main road. It was busy enough that I was generally able to keep up with traffic.

I rode into the city centre and checked into a hostel. I went out for a walk in the evening to see a bit of the city.

Roman Theatre
Ottoman Mosque
Modern apartments

There were a couple noticable differences with Turkey. Even here in the capital, there were significantly fewer women out in public, and of those most wore at least a Hijab. In shops, masks were no longer common.

Hoping to avoid traffic, I set off from the hostel just after dawn. The streets were empty and, surprisingly, the sky was cloudy and it was raining lightly. Not what I expected my first morning in Arabia!

The road climbed up slightly into the hills west of Amman, then began a long descent.

Past the village of Iraq Al-Amir, the traffic stopped completely as I made my way along a small road into the desert. I passed the occasional goatherd, who always greeted me warmly. One was very concerned, insisting I was going the wrong way, and that there was a highway in the other direction. I was happy with this road though.

The road turned to dirt after a while. From that point I didn’t see anyone for probably an hour. The scenery was amazing – I haven’t been in a desert like this in ages. I was really enjoying riding here.

I reached the highway, but headed off onto some agricultural roads for a shortcut. A driver followed me to tell me I couldn’t go that way. He caught up to me just as the road was blocked, which lent some weight to his words. I returned to the highway.

When I stopped, lots of flies gathered around me. They weren’t biting, and they weren’t a problem while riding, but they did make it so that stopping to eat would be uncomfortable. I stopped just long enough to cut up some cheese and wrap it in a chipata, then ate it while riding.

From my high point of 900 metres near Amman, I descended over 1300 metres. This took me down to the Dead Sea, the lowest (land) point on earth.

I made my way down to the Dead Sea to go for a swim. This is obviously something a lot of tourists do, and there were lots of people selling pony/camel rides, or renting seats next to the sea. With so many people around I didn’t want to leave my bike for too long, so I pushed it as far as I could, before the ground got too muddy as I got close to the sea.

Of course, since I was here I had to go for a swim in the Dead Sea. It’s about eight times as salty as the ocean, so it was difficult to swim with breast stroke – whenever I kicked, my legs would just float out of the water. I did accidentally splash a bit in my eyes, which was painful, but not as bad as I expected – a little worse than getting sweat in my eye.

I stopped at the next shop I saw, which turned out to be a fancy mini-mall. When they saw the state of my shoes (covered in Dead Sea mud) they asked me to wash them first, and brought me a hose. The main reason I was stopping was to wash the salt off me, so I was more than happy with that.

At least a little bit cleaner, I set off riding again, riding parallel to the dead sea for an hour or so.

I don’t know what this sign meant!

I then set off on a smaller road, climbing up into the mountains to the north. Some sections here were extremely steep – even though they were tarmac, I ended up pushing some sections. I was glad for the clouds or I’d have been sweating even more!

The road levelled out around 700 metres above sea level, and there was a small plateau of rocky ground, with a village and a some small olive groves. There were a few goatherds around, usually with a pack of dogs to protect their flock. These usually came running at me, barking wildly, which isn’t my favourite thing.

From here I descended down into another canyon. This was pretty far from a main road and I had a few people tell me I was going the wrong way.

The road turned to dirt near the bottom, and I descended cautiously. At the bottom of the canyon was some farmland, centred on the river. I caught up to a truck who was going even more slowly than me!

The truck driver saw me taking the previous photo, and wanted me to get a picture of him.

There was a pump taking much of the water away for the farm, so the river itself was almost dry. I forded it then began the climb up the other side.

Looking back

As the sun began to set, I reached an abandoned building. There were no dogs around so it seemed like a good place to set up camp.

September 23: 33 km

September 24: 110 km

2 thoughts on “Amman, the Dead Sea and the Desert

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