A week’s cycling in Jordan – November 2018
We fancied doing something different so booked a week’s cycling trip covering the highlights of Jordan through Explore holidays. Being November it wasn’t go to be too hot and having done a 90 mile charity ride in October the cycling didn’t look too strenuous so a gentle week of mixing two of our hobbies seemed a great idea……
We didn’t get off to the best of starts as having boarded the plane we heard lots of screaming and shouting from the back coming from a man who was being deported. That calmed down once we took off but after landing and collecting our bags, we appeared to be forgotten by the local agency who were picking us up from the airport. We eventually arrived at our first hotel in Madaba some 90 minutes late around 2am after a bouncy journey in a hastily arranged local taxi.
A bit of sightseeing in Madaba visiting Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics before collecting our bikes and heading to Mount Nebo, reputedly the burial place of Moses. From there it was around 30km all downhill to the Dead Sea – easy! The Dead Sea is a bizarre experience as all you can do is float with swimming being nigh on impossible and getting any water in your eyes or mouth is painful and disgusting! There was also the chance for a slathering your body with mud full of minerals and we had a few giggles doing that.
Throughout the trip we were accompanied by a coach and when cycling, a small van carrying the maintenance crew and spares, plus a local police escort! The latter was mostly for our protection from the madcap local drivers.
After a couple of hour coach journey to our second hotel we were again bussed the next morning to Shobak Castle, the first of the Crusader Castles built in Jordan (cue the dressing of guards at the castle in Crudaser uniforms) and dating from 1115. Today’s destination was Petra so it was to be around 45km of cycling through “undulating” countryside but including 10km straight of gentle uphill along the King’s Highway. After that though it was another long downhill section before the final short and very sharp uphill section into Petra. June took the easy route by jumping on the coach for this section – dodgy gears being the excuse!
Petra had long been close to the top of places to visit and we now had three nights here. One of the optional excursions had been Petra by night where the walk in and the area in front of the Treasury is lit by candles. Everyone is seated on the floor in lines whilst waiting for the night’s event to begin and given a hot drink. I think it’s fair to say that the level of anticipation far exceeded the content of the evening which consisted of what seemed no more than 15 minutes of music and “entertainment” followed by the front of the Treasury building being lit in different colours.
The following day we got to explore Petra properly and this certainly lived up to our expectations. The rock carvings are stunning and after we walking through the main area we carried on to the Monastery – well worth the extra walking. A first tonight with camel kebabs but to be honest they tasted like any other kofta we had eaten!
Back on the bikes today for a short ride (20km) to Little Petra and then back for a visit to the hammam for a good scrub and massage. Wasn’t the best one but at least we came out feeling clean! And tonight was our first taste of Mansaf, a delicious lamb and rice dish which has been recreated a few times at home.
Today was to be our longest cycling day but still we thought, an easily manageable 58km having again been bussed to the top of a large hill. “Undulating” here should really be reworded and a long constant climb and today’s route included 20km of undulating constantly upwards!
We had stopped halfway through the uphill section for coffee (always an important part of our cycling!) and where just mounting the bikes to continue when the accident happened. At less than 5km, so very slow walking pace, in the car park of the cafe Bob’s chain slipped and he crashed to the tarmac and was knocked out when his head hit the floor. Luckily we had an intensive care nurse with us and the tour company called an ambulance which considering we were in the middle of nowhere was there in minutes. Fortunately other than a cracked helmet, no long term damage was done (some may beg to differ!) and with a replacement helmet Bob was back on the bike within 30 mins digging in and getting up the rest of that climb although being “monitored” by TT, our nurse, the whole way. June, on the other hand was a complete wreck who couldn’t get back on the bike that day although the terrain later that day made cycling almost impossible – unmade roads and sand.
One of the other highlights for us was the overnight stay in Wadi Rum. We arrived at the tented camp on the back of trucks, bumping over the sand as the sun was setting. After an evening spent around the campfire it was up early the next morning for the sunrise which was well worth the 5am alarm call!
Our last day of cycling was around Wadi Rum across the Jelada, the hard dried mud. Good fun, all flat and no further incidents!
It was then back on the coach for the trip along the King’s Highway to Aqaba. We arrived in time to have dinner and do a little shopping (luckily plenty of luggage space to accommodate the spices June bought!) with a late evening visit to a sweet shop to eat our way through trays of baclava.
The weather wasn’t great so we didn’t get to fully experience Aqaba. The sea had been rough so the visibility for snorkelling wasn’t good (although some of us did wonder if by this point the guide had given up as we’d had one particularly troublesome member of the group). So after a coffee, what else, and a quick trip on a glass bottomed boat it was off in the coach for a long journey back to Amman for just the one night, and sadly no time to visit anything in the capital.