Sand, Rocks and Bedouins.
Rolling into Petra accompanied by a giddy excitement, an until now latent anticipation that this ancient wonder was going to make every piece of qualifying effort worthwhile. I’d been looking forward to this since daydreaming on the couch in Vancouver, errr Burnaby now I guess. Petra did not disappoint, it’s a wondrous and baffling spectacle. How on earth does this place exist? People spent their whole existence carving and chipping away at these rocks and would never get the reward of seeing the fruits of their collective labour. I walked, bicycle-less for the whole day. The long passageway entrance into the city through a natural split in the rock acts as a sort of drumroll prelude for the city. The sheer effort and the magnitude of effort is the most impressive thing for me. If you stop and think for a second, about the hallowed stones you are walking on it will send your mind into a tailspin, who in history has walked on this very ground, if these stones could speak. There are lots and lots of buildings carved directly from the existing rock. People lived here and some still do, where there is sand, rocks and little else. That is something you can only respect and the Jordanians are more than capable guardians of this snapshot from the past.
Wadi Rum was the next on the hit list, as is becoming the norm I was up at 4:30 and on the road around 5am. Had a lot of ground to cover before the sun began its daily hunt for people with my set of vulnerable genetics. Heading into the desert on my bike is a daunting prospect but I had done my research and was prepared. Wadi Rum is the film location of Lawrence of Arabia and the actual backdrop to the true story. The new Dune film was also shot there. I arrived at the gateway to the desert, a small Bedouin town, caked in sand and sweat. I was promptly whisked away in an old jeep to a campsite in the middle of the desert, along the way I was shown carvings in the rocks called petroglyphs made thousands of years ago. Spent the night staring at the stars and fending off mosquitos who as it happens are also on a daily hunt for people but unlike the sun they show no discrimination. The next morning I had arranged transport to a location in the desert where the sand was a little more solid and it was possible to bike. It’s hard to explain the inner peace that a certain kind of isolation can bring you but it does happen. The local people, the bedouins who have been here since forever are the guardians of this gem, they control entry. The vast openness of desert was also something that I had been ogling and googling for months, and I was thrilled to finally experience it.
The final bittersweet day I spent in Jordan was in the southernmost town of Aqaba, the ride from my camp in the desert to here was not too long. It’s hot in Aqaba, it’s one of those places where the heat feels abnormal, like permanently standing beside a really hot engine. Just walking a few hundred feet for some lunch feels like a project that needs some planning. Reflecting on my whole experience in Jordan is difficult, the journey started in a very frustrating vein and I’ve tried to not let that bear any influence on my travel through the country and meeting the people. The Jordanians have proved themselves to be an extremely kind and friendly people. It’s almost like a personal mission for them to ensure you have the best experience possible, I felt it and it was genuine.