Having been spoiled rotten by the greatness of Petra, we now headed for the desert and in particular Wadi Rum. Two other guests in our hotel were making the same trip so we shared a 4×4 for the 106 km drive towards Jordan’s southern tip.
We were dropped at the bottom of a dirt track and walked a couple of hundred metres to our Wadi entry point. We had booked a day and overnight in the desert, an area made famous by the film Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole.
We met up with our guides and soon found ourselves speeding along the orange-brown sand in a land rover, seemingly to nowhere in particular. The reception building soon became invisible – we truly were in the middle of nowhere.
What I remember most about Wadi Rum were the vivid colours. Beautiful cloudless cobalt blue sky, the huge honey-coloured sandstone rocks and the sand itself that changed colour as the sun moved along the earth’s axis and the moonscape like cliffs cast longer shadows. Golds and browns and reds, picture perfect conditions.
We walked towering dunes, slipping and sliding as we went, stopping intermittently to empty the sand from our footwear, and gazed at incredible rock formations.
After several hours it was time to make camp. Our vehicle took us to our large Bedouin style tent, which was to be home for the night.
Our dinner of mutton stew (veggies only for Hamish) was cooked for us on an open fire. A generator powered a single lightbulb in our tent and more importantly a refrigerator housing milk, salad and thankfully cold beer. They could have charged whatever they liked, we were having a couple of those beauties whatever the cost!
By 9pm it was pitch black, darker in fact than I had recalled seeing for many a day. We sat with our second beer on a rocky ledge, hardly speaking as we stared up at the amazing starlit sky, totally unpolluted by man made light. It was one of those moments that was augmented wonderfully by listening to music. U2 was my choice, but I had definitely found what I was looking for.
I had decided to get up to watch the sunrise. As everybody else slept I quietly dressed and slipped out of the tent and under torch light climbed up a large rock close by. With Arabic chill out music to enhance the experience, I did not have to wait long for the great orb to slowly show its face. The rocks turned from black shadows to giant sandstone formations and the desert floor serenely blinked into daylight.
I was most excited to see jerboa tracks in the sand, instantly transporting back to my childhood ladybird books of world animals when the small hopping rodent with large hind legs and the fennec fox had been my favourites. A sighting of either of those would have topped things off wonderfully, but seeing as both are nocturnal, the tracks were the closest I would get.
My fellow campers began to appear, each regretting not doing as I had done. Sunrises are one of travel’s great experiences, something rarely sighted when at home. This one went straight into my top three alongside Machu Picchu and The Valley of the Kings, the difference with this one being that I had been totally on my own as the majestic landscape had revealed itself.
As breakfast was being prepared for us, a train of camels appeared on the horizon. The rest of the guys were going on a desert camel trek and this was their rather uncomfortable looking transport arriving.
As creatures go, camels are up there with the strangest looking. Pretty ugly and unpredictable, they are however endearing in a comical sort of way. I think they are great and synonymous with perhaps my favourite region of the world, hence my chosen avatar.
After breakfast we bade farewell to our fellow guests, each of whom looked decidedly awkward and a little nervous as they bobbed along across the sand and into the distance.
It was four wheels for us, a jeep back to the highway and then a minibus to Amman……..