Wadi Rum

I woke to find my rear tyre flat. Try as I might, I couldn’t find the leak so in the end I just pumped it back up and set off cycling.

The leak was very slow, to begin with anyway, and on this road having a little lower tyre pressure was a good thing – it was quite bumpy. There was a brief bit of tarmac as I passed a Bedouin camp, and then I rode out into the sand.

Suddenly my rear tyre was completely flat. Now that the hole had widened I found it easily (on the rim side of the tube), patched it and pumped it back up. While I was doing so a Bedouin man appeared from nowhere to check that I was ok.

I reached the town of Al-Quweira, then set out on a (tarmac) road toward the Wadi Rum Protected Area. I got another puncture, but the patch failed and I decided to just put in a new tube. While I was stopped several people stopped to check I was OK.

The road came to a sudden stop at a power station. I thought the road went around it, but apparently not.

I backtracked, then set off on an alternative route.

I had to push in the deeper sections, and a couple of cars stopped to see if I was lost.
This section of hard clay was very easily ridable and thus very welcome
Back to a mixture of sand and dirt

It took me over an hour to get to the road on the far side of the power station, which would have just been a couple kilometres in a straight line. When I reached the road, there were lots of people, several with guns, with Egypt written on their uniform and cars. That was quite a surprise – had I got that lost?

They showed no interest in me and I rode past, then caught up to some Jordan police who gestured for me to stop. There was an American woman with them, holding several walkie talkies.

“Do you mind if I ask what’s going on?” I asked her.

“We’re shooting,” she replied.

“As in a joint exercise? With Egypt?” I asked.

“No, with Hungary,” was her surprising response.

I was confused for a moment, then realized – when she said shooting…

“You’re filming?”

“Yes.”

Obviously shooting has a different meaning to people in the film industry!

I rode on, heading for the visitor center for Wadi Rum.

After fending off the people who wanted to sell me tours or accommodation, I bought my entrance ticket (5JD – it would have been included in the Jordan Pass) and rode in. The tarmac continued until Wadi Rum village.

I passed another film crew. I asked one of the Hungarian workers what they were working on, but he wasn’t allowed to say. Wadi Rum is apparently often used as a site for filming, including for the 2015 film “The Martian”
A sign outside a school

Past the village, the road turned to sand. I expected this to last for at least 35 kilometres and I wasn’t sure how much of that I would be able to ride, so I stocked up with 8 litres of water.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect – how much of this I’d be able to ride, and how much I’d have to slowly push the bike through deep sand. The first section was probably the hardest part, but even here I was able to ride most of the way.

A few 4x4s passed, and the drivers stopped to check on me, and to ask where I was going. They often gave directions – “go past the next mountain, then to the right.”

I rode and walked until the setting sun got low enough that it was right in my eyes as I turned west. I took a break, waiting until it descended past the mountains, then continued on until it got dark and I set up camp.

I wanted to avoid spending too much time struggling under the hot sun, so I departed as soon as it was light enough to see my way.

After a few kilometres through rocky ground that I could easily ride on, I reached a long stretch of deep sand. As I slowly pushed through the ground gradually became firmer and I could ride again.

After about three hours of pushing and cycling I reached the village of Tutun. There’s a border police outpost there (as Saudi Arabia is just 12 km away) and therefore a tarmac road, which I followed back to the highway.

On the highway, a short climb led me to a truck stop. From there, I began a long descent down to the Gulf of Aqaba.

I made my way to the ferry port, which took a while. I first ended up in the container shipping area, then followed various people’s often contradictory directions. At last I got to the ticket office, and they told me to come back at 8 PM to buy a ticket.

I asked the guy there what the rules were in terms of PCR tests. He initially said I needed one, until I asked about vaccinations. He said if I had 2 doses more than 14 days ago, and a certificate with a QR code, that would be sufficient. That matched with what I’d researched.

It was barely midday so I had several hours to kill. I made my way over to a beach area, where a hotel kindly let me use their wifi. I then went and sat in the shade, until a man came over and invited me to sit in his air conditioned restaurant.

I talked to Hasan for a long time (well, mostly he talked). He was an interesting guy, in his 50s or 60s. He had travelled a lot, having studied in India and England and travelled many countries by motorcycle.

He talked about various protests, demonstrations and marches he’d been on, and about the initial difficulty he’d had (and overcome) with the conflict between his Muslim cultural background and the women’s rights movements he’d come into contact with through such protests. He spoke about his daughter, a 16 year old Muslim, who wanted to cycle around Europe with her Christian best friend.

I spent a couple hours sitting here, then went and used the wifi at a nearby hotel before returning to the port. I bought my ticket, then went and paid the departure tax, and got my passport stamp. The “queue” for the stamp involved a lot of people standing around very close (no masks of course) and most of them smoking. They all had to present negative PCR tests for the crossing, but my vaccine certificate sufficed.

After a few hours waiting around, we boarded the ferry. There was an Egyptian official on board who took my passport. The ferry was perhaps 10% full. I found a spot between two rows of chairs and lay down to sleep, with a lifejacket as a pillow.

I really enjoyed my time in Jordan. It was nice to see somewhere I hadn’t been before, and it felt a lot more adventurous (for want of a better word) than Europe, and I’m very glad to be back cycle touring again, and looking forward to continuing to see new places.

Sept 28: 89 km

Sept 29: 60 km

2 thoughts on “Wadi Rum

  1. Great to be following your tour Sam through your regular updates- hope you can keep them coming. How will you plan your route down through west Africa? Looks and sounds like you’re having a great adventure. Keep up your spirits and of course take care!

    Colin

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    1. Hey Colin.
      I’ll be going down through East Africa and back up through West Africa. For East Africa, my current plan is to cycle from Cairo to Khartoum, fly to Addis Ababa (avoiding the civil war in the Tigray) and then generally meander south trying to visit as many countries and places of interest as I can. Something like Ethiopia-Kenya-Uganda-Rwanda-Burundi-Tanzania-Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique-Zimbabwe-Botswana-South Africa.

      For my return up the west coast a lot of it will depend on the circumstances at the time – that region was never very open, and has not been quick to open back up after Covid. My plan would be to pretty much follow the coast all the way (Central Africa generally being more unstable), crossing the Sahara in Mauretania and ending up in Morocco.

      That’s a long way away though!

      Sam

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