So Marc and I had a very different first night in Jordan compared to poor old Susi. We, being the men, were treated quite amazingly. As soon as we arrived we were bought tea, water to wash with and were taken into a separate sitting room area which was an exclusive men only VIP lounge! We were treated like stars in the spacious room lined with lounging cushions and decorated with huge portraits of king Husain. The night was spent talking about their Muslim faith, Jordan and some of the differences in our cultures. All of this was done in a mixture of broken English and sign language. Their hospitality and kindness was unbelievable and the thought of such a thing happening in the UK seemed like an impossibility. Although I have the utmost of respect for their beliefs and their very open and accepting manner, it was hard to have Susi excluded from a very interesting night. The boys and the girl where both fed and looked after very well and we all slept heavily after our exhausting day/night.
In the morning we were woken by a slightly frustrated Susi saying that she needed to get out. The hospitality had been amazing but the constant struggle with communication was (and always is) very tiring and the situation felt slightly claustrophobic. So after breakfast, being given iced water for our camel backs, taking off the blankets that our hosts had covered our bikes with, it was time to hit the road with our escort to the main road. We said our thank yous and good byes and were ready for Jordan.
We had a fairly normal day riding through the hills of Northern Jordan heading south and briefly checking out an old fort on the way. The only thing that wasn't too normal was the tendency children had to throw stones at us! We decided to camp near a Bedouin family for security and from what we could gather they were more than happy to have a few extra tag alongs. The father came over after a few hours with the customary tea made with more sugar than tea. It was one of those interactions were he made no change to his normal speaking whatsoever. So after a while of using suzi's picture book mixed with hand gestures we gave up and just had a two way different language chat. He seemed really chuffed and it was a lot easier just to babble and smile at each other.
Next morning we headed off to the Dead Sea looking for some cheap accommodation. We soon discovered such a thing didn't exist, especially when all the hotels are 5 star and they are all booked out for the world economic conference. We carried on hoping to find a campsite we had read about that may still be cheap and may have some space. We arrived and it wasn't cheap but it had space and it was on the Dead Sea. We spend one night in our little chalet and every time we went swimming in the Dead Sea, we couldn't stop cracking up. The sensation is very strange and quite unique. We soon found out that the 30% salt content causes some pretty major issues when it gets in your eyes, it tastes like absolute shite, small cuts hurts like hell and farting is definitely not advised! So apart from the constant entertainment of the Dead Sea, we were lucky enough to be next to the Wadi Punjab canyon. We had been so concentrated on Syria that researching Jordan had taken a back seat. This amazing narrow canyon with 200m high sides contains one of the rivers that feed the Dead Sea, which is 300m below sea level. We paid 15 Jordanian dollars (nearly the same as euros) for the mandatory buoyancy aid and the pass to get into the canyon. This was a real little gem and the river was warm with lots of little rock slides and pools laced with chunky rope to get up the rapids. We spent a good few hours floating, wading, clambering and climbing our way up and back down the river. On the short walk back to our bikes our clothes had almost dried and we were happy to hit the road and get some wind flowing through our gear, taking a bit of fire out of the mid day sun.
Petra and Wadi Rum
Our next destination was the famous Petra, the amazing city carved into the desert rock. We spent 4 days here and words canít really explain how unique, wonderful and huge this place is. I think Susi and I enjoyed Petra a lot more than poor old marc. He had somehow managed to cook up a temperature of almost 40c for 3 days and he spent most of the time in our cheap, dank hotel room trying not to go bonkers. From Petra we headed south on our motorbikes for the 150km drive to get to the desert of Wadi Rum. We took it nice and easy and enjoyed the empty highways and beautiful desert scenery on the way down. The huge sandstone rock outcrops are 40km east off the highway and itís a bit of a mecca for rock climbers, scramblers and Para gliders. We made it to Wadi Rum village, which was as far as we could go with our motorbikes, as the whole area is a protected reserve. On the way in we had seen our first real deep, fine sand and we couldnít resist pulling off for a blast. We soon found out what hard work deep sand riding is especially with our very loaded bikes fitted road tires running at high pressures. So once in the village we got a camp site for 3 euroís a night and started bargaining with the local Bedouinís for the best deal on a desert trip for a couple of days. We eventually settled with a guy who was a friend of our hotel owner from Petra. The trip was over two days and involved us driving around in a 30 year old Landcruiser checking out all the famous desert sights. These included a natural spring, amazing narrow and deep canyons, natural rock bridges, high sand dunes and the remnants of a house visited by Lawrence of Arabia. We ended the trip in our desert camp set on a big flat desert plain facing west, perfectly situated for a spectacular desert sunset. As amazing as the sunset was our chicken dinner baked in a sand oven the traditional way by our unique cook. I was also pretty chuffed as our two Dutch friends had bought along a crate of beer and it was the first couple of beers I had had in over a month.