We loved Jordan, the people, the food, the nature and the historical sites, the start however… was not so smooth. Let me start from the beginning for you.
We were not necessarily planning to go to Jordan, but my mother had booked a trip to the country and it was perfect timing for us to come by so we had no other choice then to cross the border from Israel into the Hashemite Kingdom.
Turns out we only did half of our homework for getting into our new destination, I had bought 2 Jordan passes for us which include the visa fees and most of the tourist attractions fees. It is a very good deal and getting the passports stamped in was easy peasy. Then we proceeded to the customs where they almost gave us a TIP but only to realise we were not from Israel the officers refused to let us in without a tryptik.
It stirred something at the back of my brain and scratching the itch I remembered that they use this word for the Carnet the Passage. The only problem was that ours was in the backpack of my mother in the hotel about 2 hours away from us and they were with their organised tour visiting one of the tourist attractions.
So I asked to borrow one of the agents phones and started with googling the hotel where my parents were staying and looking up the phone number. I called and got a very friendly lady on the phone. She told me they were out and about, but gave me the phone number of their guide. So I called the guide who picked up the phone after some attempts and I explained who I was and asked if I could talk to my parents.
We agreed that it was fine if the hotel reception lady went into their room to get the carnets and arrange a taxi to bring them to the border. And so it happened. We had to wait another 2 painstaking hours or so for the guy to arrive. Not knowing if he would give up halfway and disappear with our most important piece of paperwork. The sun was setting in the meantime and we were getting hungry. I had made friends with the customs officers and especially one was really charmed by me. So around dinner time he showed up with food for us and we at it in front of the desks in the office. It was an absolute hilarious situation, thanking the guy profusely as we were eating the delicious hummus and bread. The taxi guy finally arrived and after we gave him the money, he gave us our Carnets and we were free to go.
Against all our rules we rode through the darkness Madaba just south of the capital where my parents were staying. Google maps sent us over the mountains and even though it was a bit risky it was beautiful at the same time. We arrived safely at our little hotel and we parked the bikes inside the hallway, just the way we like it.
Without even seeing us, my parents had to jump on the bus to make it to their next destination, I guess you either hate or love these types of organised tours, it’s not my thing at the moment….
We took it easy in the morning and walked around the streets in search for an ATM to get some cash before hitting the road. We were heading to Dana national park where I could finally give my mom a hug. There were two options, through the mountains or via the coast of the dead sea. We though it would be fun to see the dead sea from the other side so we opted for the longer but faster option. The views were stunning riding from the higher Madaba area to the lowest point on earth, descending below sea level once again we found plenty of twisties and rising temperatures.
We stopped for a delicious kebab at the smallest street vendor, looking at the traffic and people coming by. Our first day in Jordan we could notice that this was a very different place from Israel. It reminded us of Iran, Turkey and Egypt. We continued along the coast until it was time to turn left to head into the highlands and into the Dana national park. Even though the ground was bar, the rock formations we passed were incredible and we had to stop and make some pictures of this natural phenomena. As we were ready to leave Jojo noticed this rear tyre was flat and we soon found a piece of plastic stuck in the rubber. It looked like the piece of your phone that covers the entrance to the sim card with the tiny hole and its shape. How it got into the tyre is the biggest mystery but the result was the same. We needed to repair this as soon as possible because we would run out of daylight otherwise. Neither of us had repaired a tyre with the plug method on a tubeless tyre.
The perfect time to learn a new skill, with some time pressure and a less than ideal work station, the side of the road. We are the smartest kids on the block, I know… We pulled out the manual and we divided the tasks as a usual couple. I would read the manual and critize Jojo on every thing that he was doing wrong. As he was getting frustrated because we couldn’t get a big enough hole to put the plug through I offered to give it a try. With a bit more patience and confidence because I had watched the motorcycle mechanic work on my bike in Kathmandu about a year back I managed to make it work. Girlpower :D
We pulled out our hand pump that we had bought new just before we left and realised that it wouldn’t fit on the nipple of the big bike tyre. How could we be so stupid not to test if it would fit before leaving the house. Multiple cars had passed before and a few stopped to ask if we needed help, a wonderful sign that we made it to a different place since that doesn’t really happen in Europe anymore, but now that we were debating how to fix this nobody was around. We had one option left and that was to use the CO2 canisters that came with the plug kit. The cable attached to the nipple and we quickly connected the aluminium tube. It looks so small so I really wondered how much it would be able to pump up such a big tyre. It turned ice cold but we could see the tyre inflating. 1 wasn’t enough so we tried the second of the threesome that we had. With 2 we were able to ride so we dumped everything back into the bags and jumped on the bikes to make it to the hotel before sunset.
We made it just before darkness and pulled up to the hotel, walked through the hotel and found my mom and dad sitting in the lounge area. It’s always strange to meet familiar faces when you feel like you have been on the road for so long and already so far away from home. Yet there they were, smiling and jumping up, at least my mom, to give us a hug.
We talked to the hotel owner and when he realised that we had ridden from Europe and that these people were my parents he offered us a room for free if we ate dinner with them. Middle Eastern friendliness is unparalleled.
The next day we took it easy and did a little hike around the hotel before hitting the road again. These organised groups move so fast! Next destination, Petra! Or better said, Wadi Musa, the town next to this spectacle. I’m sure you’ve seen images of this place, even if it was just in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy Returns or Queen of the Desert. This was going to be one of the highlights of the tour and we were also really excited to go.
With the Jordan pass I mentioned earlier we had already purchased 2 days of entry fees, which otherwise are quite steep, so as the sun rose the next morning we walked with the tour group and a tour guide through the meandering gorge. The red rock towering high above us and the place almost empty we felt like explorers of a lost civilisation. As we walked like tiny humans through the rocks and we turned the corner and nature revealed the Treasury to us.
A temple cut out in the red rock on the courtyard in the mountains. This is just the start of the city that was cut out of the rocks, the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom from around 300 B.C. Some people turn around and head back after seeing the treasury but there is so much more to explore. We spent some time with the guide telling us all the little facts about the place until we split up for lunch.
In the afternoon my mom wanted to climb up to the top of the mountain where you have an extraordinary view on the treasury so that is what we did. The climb itself was easy, simple wide stairs cut out of the rock and walked on for centuries. We didn’t really know how far it was and kept on walking up, wondering if around this corner the view would open up. The last steps led us to a tiny hut on the rocks which turned out to be a little cafe and walking to the edge of the cliff we could finally see the temple again. What a place to drink a weldeserved cold drink! We walked back down and made our way back up the gorge, still wondering how people made such wonderful buildings such a long time ago.
The next morning we were feeling energetic and had some time before we had to leave and still another ticket to enter the Petra site, this meant we put on our running shoes and ran down to the Tresury, getting there before anyone else, completely devoid of tourists. Then we continued and made our way to the back of the site to set start of the stairs to the monastery. I will admit there was some walking in between because sitting on a motorcycle all day every day is horrible for your physical fitness. At the bottom of the stairs we met a young Jordanian woman who was also going up, she ran a little shop close to the top and usually got up this early. We talked as we climbed higher and higher. Se told us she was only 25 but already had 3 children that her sister was babysitting. So also told us that on a good day she could earn over $200, we were fascinated getting to know some of the locals and joined her until she decided to take a break. We continued up and were greeted at the top by the cutest puppy and the monastery all to ourselves.
Next stop: Wadi Rum. We have to be there at the time that the bus is going inside, because we are joining them with staying in the desert we just don’t have the coordinates so we will have to follow the jeeps. We arrive just in time to quickly arrange our permits, which are again already paid by the Jordan pass, and register at the gate. I do mention we are on motorcycles but the officer doesn’t seem to care so I just proceed with filling out the form.
The group divides themselves over the cars and some people opt to walk to the camp, giving us a little hint that it is not that far. Yet I am quite nervous because we are riding straight into the desert. I quickly think back to the offload training day we had in the Netherlands before we left. We practiced riding in sand a lot but not with the luggage and we have the added pressure of not losing the jeeps otherwise we don’t know where to go.
We head off and hit the sand trails within minutes. It’s hard because we have to keep the pace of the cars, but not ride too close so we can pick our own lines but not too far so we lose them. Jojo is struggling more than me. I repeat the mantra: lean back and keep the chain tensioned, hit that throttle! Yet I’m quickly losing sight of Jojo so I decide to stop. He can pick up the bike by himself so I wait to see if he can do it. Luckily the car in the back stops and waits for us so Jojo can catch up. The sweat is dripping off his forehead, the sun is beating down and the sand riding is hard work. We push on, some of the sections are easier than others as the sand is more compact and easier to ride. Other spots it’s deep and loose and the tracks of the cars are hard to follow as soon as you loose your balance. We struggle on, I also fall over once or twice, I don’t remember but have to wait for Jojo so he can help picking up the bike, with the luggage and my non existing muscles I cannot do i t by myself. Somehow we make it to the camp, a small construction in the middle of nowhere in between the mountains on the sand. We pitch the tent on the edge of the dune and watch the sunset over the red desert.
We wake up early, not really on purpose, but if you go to bed when the sun sets you tend to wake up before the sun rises. What does one do with this much time? Since we are taking a rest day today and don’t have to go anywhere we want to practice with riding in the sand yet it’s too early as we would wake up the rest of the desert with our engine sounds. Let’s hike up the mountain to our right and take a picture of the camp from above! Some great ideas are spontaneous so we start our hike without any water and our camera’s. The first step is to climb up the dune the crawls up the side of the mountain, it’s slow going as you sink in deep and slide down every step up. When we hit the rock it’s a relief that now we can make some progress. We follow the trail of stacked rocks till we are on the edge, yet not the edge I imagined. Stupidly I’m a stubborn person and make us push on further. We have to track back because from this point there is no way we can continue. So we follow our instincts and make a trail to get to the other side climbing and jumping off rocks and ledges but always in mind that we have to be able to go back the same way we came. We find a new spot and as we stand there the sun comes peeking around the corner of the mountain on the opposite side. With the red sand on the bottom, the valley below and the other mountains in the distance we are in awe of the view. Down below I see my parents coming out of the camp and admiring the sunrise from below.
A quick attempt to climb the boulder that I envisioned standing on top on turns into a failed ascent as its way to hard to get up on and stupidly dangerous without any proper climbing equipment or any experience so we head back down. Almost getting lost at the last section because we miss the turn off to the dunes but we manage to find it and run down the slope. much easier and more fun then going up!
After breakfast we put on the bike gear and start the engines, the bags are next to the tent so we are light and nimble. Let’s have some fun! We practice our turns, braking, slide turns and riding through the deeper sand. It get’s easier as time passes and we get more confident with each crash. That might sound silly, but every time you fail there is an opportunity to learn. So instead of taking it as a defeat we take it as a chance to look at the mistake and try not to make it again.
In the afternoon it’s time for a little adventuring, there are some sights to see inside the wadi so on maps.me we look some spots up and head out. The sand deepens quickly but we throttle through with our new found confidence and light bikes. The territory is slightly disorientating as all the sand and the rocks quickly start to look alike but with the help of gps and the map on the phone we manage to find one of the overhanging rocks. Pretty cool!
Hot and thirsty we decide to head back so we will be back before sunset, what a nightmare it would be getting lost in this desert without any supplies. We enjoy the views, the skies turning from deep blue to orange to red. Witnessing with full focus this ritual at the end of the day at such an incredible with my parents is a memory I will never forget, this is why we travel!
Morning rolls in and we pack our bags for the final destination in Jordan, the coastal town of Aqaba, our first view of the red sea. We find a hotel that is not too expensive and the allow us to park the motorcycles in a garage box full of cleaning supplies. I’m not too bothered as it’s always best if the bikes are not visible from the streets. We spend 3 nights here, roaming the streets, the shops, the juice bars and the beaches. We have become addicts of hummus and falafel since we set foot in the middle east. We find the smallest restaurant in the shopping street and enter. A friendly man helps us order some food without speaking any English yet we get what we wanted. Mouthwatering balls of falafel with greens, and creamy hummus. The softness fo the hummus with the crusty veggies and scooped up with some bread and topped of with a falafel is just what we needed to comfort our hungry bellies. Best of all, it hardly costs us €3!
In the evening we have dinner with the group my parents have been traveling with at a fancy restaurant in the harbor. Luckily my dad will pay our bills! The end of our tour through Jordan together comes quick and sudden. As they get onto their bus we stand outside and wave them goodbye. I don’t know when or where I will see them again, maybe only in 6 months when we go home again.
We stroll back to our hotel and edit some videos, photos and make plans for tomorrow when we will cross back into Israel and then to Egypt, but that adventure is for the next post.