It was Friday, the beginning of the weekend in Judaism and Islam. That meant the border was only open in the morning, so I set off early from Jerusalem. Soon I began a long descent, from 800 metres above sea level to 300 below.
I reached the border and took a taxi to cover the last couple kilometres that I wasn’t allowed to cycle. Leaving Israel my bike didn’t need to be scanned – this time the delay was in paying a “Passenger Fee” – an exit tax, really. The queue for this moved inexplicably slowly but eventually I was through, paid, and was allowed out. I bought a bus ticket (again, not allowed to cycle) and we started heading over to the Jordanian side.
Our passports were taken off us as the bus crossed into Jordan, before the bus took us to the immigration office. After waiting a while our passports returned and we were free to go. It had taken a couple of hours – significantly less than crossing the other way had taken.
I cycled away from the border, making my way toward the Dead Sea. It seems to be a massively popular tourist site with lots of people around. I passed a Marriot and a Hilton – both somewhat out of my price range. For locals there were picnic benches by the road with hookah pipes.
It’s easy to see why the Dead Sea is a popular destination; it is beautiful. I found the salt beaches particularly impressive.
I rode along the Dead Sea for a few hours. Most of the way the mountains came right to the sea, but there was a large, flat section at the mouth of a (dry) river. Here there were some fields and a village.
At this point I turned away from the Dead Sea and began cycling up into the mountains. I’d climbed up about three hundred metres before I decided to find somewhere to camp. The riverbed formed a bit of a gorge, hidden from the road. I managed to clamber down there and set up camp.
The way down to the riverbed was steep, and I’d more slid down it and walked. I took my bike up unloaded, returned for the bags then set off, slowly continuing the climb.
Over the next couple of hours I climbed about a thousand metres, and reached the town of Kerak, on the King’s Highway. I’d ridden through here last time I was in Jordan, but didn’t visit the castle as it was late in the day. I decided to go there now.
Entrance was a remarkably cheap 2 JD(a little over £2) and definitely worth it. Most of the castle was gone but there were a few fragments remaining, set over quite a large area. The castle also had tunnels, going inside the hill. They were unlit and it was quite a cool experience climbing up some narrow steps and through dark rooms, just by the light of my phone.
It was now around midday and I decided to put on a long-sleeved shirt; my arms had begun to burn slightly the previous day. I rode on for a little while along the King’s Highway, for about 20km retracing my steps from eighteen months ago.
Then I took a turning off the highway heading east. The road was much quieter here. I rode past a few villages, and some grassy fields. As I continued east the grass reduced as I approached the desert. One section of the road was unpaved (albeit very smooth) and it felt very nice to be out there in the middle of nothingness on this dirt road with just my bike for company.
After a time I reached a highway, the aptly named Desert Highway. I rode south for a couple hours before setting up camp under a bridge, in a dry riverbed.
In the morning I continued cycling along the highway for a while, before reaching the town of Ma’an. I stocked up then set off cycling south. On the way out of town I saw two touring cyclists going the other way, and stopped to chat. Verina and Niklaus, from Germany, were cycling around the world. Like me, they planned to go to Saudi Arabia, but they intended to visit someone in Ma’an first.
I continued cycling. The road condition soon deteriorated, being riven with cracks. They might not have been noticable in a car but were uncomfortable on a bike; it felt like I was riding over a pothole every couple of metres.
As I cycled along this desert road, several times people stopped to offer me water and/or a soft drink. They generally didn’t speak English, and didn’t want anything – simply passersby wanting to help a traveller.
I passed a police checkpoint in the evening and the road improved very slightly from there. I cycled until I reached a dry riverbed, and wandered along to reach some bushes that would provide a little shelter for my tent.
Feb 24: 121 km
Feb 25: 100 km
Feb 26: 116 km