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December 25th, 2010 | Asia

Christmas in Wadi Rum…

If memory serves me correct, and I think it does… Then I was meant to be celebrating Christmas in the higher altitudes of Nepal… Kathmandu, to be precise…

Instead, I awoke this morning in the Jordanian desert in Wadi Rum, a wilderness area in south east Jordan… This post will be made in two parts… One will cover the beauty of the area, and the parts I most thoroughly enjoyed, while the second will cover the conditions I stayed in… I felt that the two apposed each other so diametrically, that the one should not be spoiled by the other…!!

Today is Christmas, and I will upload only the photos pertaining to the positive side of my stay in the desert… I will upload the next piece when I get back to Amman…

First we had to stop at the market to get some supplies...

Rory, my Malaysian friend who was the only other guest in the camp...

After leaving Petra at the un-holy hour of 6.15am, the bus that I had boarded outside the Valentine Inn, arrived at the village of Wadi Rum just as the residents of this sleepy spot began to greet the new day…

I discovered that there was going to be just two guests in the camp for the night, and introduced myself to Rory, a Malaysian, who was on a six week tour of Jordan and Egypt…

We climbed onto the back of a rickety land-cruiser, and were taken to the local super-market, to “buy things you might want to eat during the day”…

I bought bananas and biscuits, while Rory opted for apples and dates, which we planned to share later in the day (although I told him what I thought about dates, and what he could do with them…)

Our driver Mohamed, who later turned out to be our guide, cook, wanna-be musician, camp custodian, and any other title we wanted to bestow upon him. was a 19 year old Bedouin, who spoke only a smattering of English…

Whenever we asked him a question about a particular place we were heading for, he would either answer “Yes…!!”, or, “Ten minutes…!!”, but never give us any details beyond that…

First stop Lawrence's Spring. We climbed up to the source and looked down onto the desert plain below... We watched a small herd of camels drinking from the trough fed by the pipe which ran from where we sat, down into the valley below...

Resting in the shade next to the spring... I had kept us both laughing all the way up to the lone Rock Fig which grew above the spring... I did this to take my mind off the fact that it was a long way up and very steep...

We rode out across the desert, between huge mountains that seemed if they had been thrown up from the desert floor… Mohamed stopped near a narrow cleft in the rock wall of one of these mountain, and told us we had ten minutes to explore the area…!! We took off towards the cleft and clambered into it for a hundred metres or so before coming up to a sheer rock wall… Retracing our steps, we stopped to look for a camera lens that Rory had lost, and after finding it, headed back to the pick-up…

Outside Burrah Canyon...

This couple chose to do it the hard way...!! I am not sure how long they had been in the saddle, but judging by the looks on their faces, they were beginning to regret their decision to use "four-legged" instead of "4 x 4"...

While Rory walked up the dunes, I chose to do some rock climbing instead.... I vividly remember my trips up and down the dunes in the Namib Desert of Namibia, and did not need a repeat of this little exercise...!!

"This bag around my "jewelry box" is to stop me getting in among the ladies...!!"

Rory sits at our picnic spot, while I clamber up above him to take some photos.......

We stopped for lunch up against the steep sides of a mountain ridge, where a small dam wall had been built to hold water that accumulated in a narrow canyon… We unpacked our meagre supplies and shared our fruit, while Mohamed went in search of a quiet spot to perform his ablutions…

I watched a large bird circling high above me, it looked like a black cross nailed to the blue sky… It high-pitched cries told me that it was a raptor of some sort, but I could not make out any details of its plumage to hazard a guess at what it was…

Then it plunged down to the desert floor, scattering a small flock of pigeons that were resting in the shade of a dune…

After an hour of clambering about, Mohamed re-appeared and we set off the find Nabetean Rock Engravings… They consisted of a long line of camel engravings on a sheer rock face, and I joked that they represented something similar to a bus schedule, which Rory found hilarious, and Mohamed did not understand…

Which was much the way the rest of the day went for us…!! Rory and I taking the piss out of everyone we came across, and everything we saw, and Mohamed staring at us, blank-faced…!!

We decided that our tour around the desert was something akin to the “Amazing Race”, and we firmly believed that Mohamed was in on this, making aa very valiant attempt to keep us “ahead of the game”…!!

This natural Rock Arch just begged to be climbed...!!

"Don't worry Rory, it's not the fall that will kill you, but the sudden stop when you reach the bottom...!!"

GB makes it to the top of the arch... Photo by Rory.

We took off through the desert at a healthy clip, and at one point we had to get Mohamed to slow down, as both Rory and I felt he could not handle the vehicle properly in the thick sand… I had visions of us being thrown off the back while he fought the steering on the steeper descents off the dunes…

There was no chance to take any photos, as we were both hanging on for dear life…!!

The wind has eroded the rock faces into some fantastic shapes...

In the late afternoon, we reached the so-called “Bedouin Meditation Camp”… More about that in my next post…!!

The best view of our camp was from a distance... I climbed up onto the rocky ridge behind the camp to look over the desert around me...

Chicken stew for dinner... It was tasty, but then we were starving...!!

While Mohamed sat peeling vegetables on the floor of a grubby and dark kitchen, that can best be described as “rustic”, Rory and I went for a walk to a nearby camp which we had seen from our lofty perch above our own camp…

We were welcomed by the staff there, and shown around their site, which was a heck of a lot better than ours…!!

We trudged back as the sun began setting behind a distant range of rocky outcrops… The temperature seemed to drop a dozen degrees in as many minutes, and the desert took on the look of a hard and forbiding place…

I pointed out the tracks of various animals as we came across them: lizard, mouse, various bird tracks and that of a medium sized snake, which had worked its way down the side of a dune…

I followed the track for some distance before I lost sight of it when it entered a section of smooth flat rock… I was disappointed not to have found the reptile, while Rory, who is deathly afraid of snakes, was delighted…!!

His cries of “No, no, Ronnie…. Please leave it…!!” echoed off the cliffs behind us…!!

By 5.00pm, it was already dark, and having discovered that there was no water for a shower, we sat down to dinner a short while later…

Afterward Rory and I sat watching the stars light up the night sky, diamonds on black velvet… Rory saw a shooting star which I missed, and then we looked for satellites….

It was deathly quiet, and neither us spoke much, and when we did, it was in whispers, to point out a constellation or merely to describe what we were seeing…

Then we retired to our “cubicles”, muttered our “good-night’s” through the woolen walls that separated us, and drifted off to sleep, alone with our thoughts…

So many shades of red...

I was up early, to watch the sun paint the desert in so many shades of red and orange…

Nothing stirred out in the valley below… It was cold, and a light breeze made it even more so…!! I went back inside and put my windbreaker on and then walked out into the desert…

If ever you need to be alone with your thoughts, then this was the place to do it in…!!

Today marked many things for me… From a practical standpoint, it was the 300th day of my journey around the world, and I had already accomplished more on this trip than many people thought I could… At times, myself included…!!

I thought about the “numbers” for a while; 3 Continents, 64 countries, over 52 000 kms, 3000 litres of fuel…

And still so many more to go, so much more to see…

And then my thoughts turned to my family…

“Christmas Day…” I mumbled to myself… “Come to haunt me once again…!!”

Rory stumbled out into the open, blinking in the early morning light, forcing me to shake off the sadness that was threatening to overwhelm me…

“Merry Christmas my friend…!!” he called out to me, trudging through the thick red sand towards me… We shook hands, embraced, and then burst out laughing again…

“What the hell are we doing out here, Rory…??” I asked, looking our across the silent sands and not expecting an answer that would shed any light on our situation…

The only guests wish each other a Merry Christmas...!! Even though we laughed and joked about where we were on this special day, I felt a strange hollowness that was hard to deal with...

Bedouin Biker, Christmas 2010... The "eyes" have it...!! More mischief in store for 2011...!!

Fellow bus passengers stop for a look at the view...

After a light breakfast, and I mean “light”, we were hustled back into the land-cruiser, and headed back to the village of Wadi Rum, rattling and creaking our way across the open desert, then through a narrow pass and out into the open again, the cold wind screaming over us, making our teeth chatter…

We scattered a large flock of feral pigeons on the outskirts of the village and watched as they wheeled above us and then settled down in another patch of sunlight to the east of us…

A small herd of camels passed us on their way to Lawrence Spring, the only drinking water for them for miles around…

Rory managed to find a taxi to Aqaba just as the bus going back to Petra arrived… We said our farewells and then he was gone… He had tried to convince me to go to Aqaba with him, and then catch a bus back to Petra from there… But knowing how notoriously unreliable Jordanian bus services are, I declined…

It was hard to believe that I had been just one person away from spending the previous day and night alone in the camp…!! What a bummer that would have been…!! I know that Rory felt the same way… We considered ourselves lucky in the end to have met here in this isolated desert village, to share a mere 24 hours together, and promised to remain in touch… See you in Malaysia, Rory…!!

I slept most of the way back to Petra, and rather than get on the bike and ride to Aqaba as I had planned, I opted to spend another night in town and leave on Boxing Day, heading east and then north on the desert highway, for Amman, eager now to get the Big Fella ready for our flight across Saudi Arabia…

I also needed to take a shower after our “waterless” stay in the Bedouin Meditation Camp…!!

©GBWT 2010

6 comments to Christmas in Wadi Rum…

  • Charmz

    As the year winds down and the Christmas lights twinkle, here is our wish for you Ronnie; May you always feel loved and valued by those you hold dear. May you always have purpose and meaning in your life. May you know the love of true friends and the blessing of good health. May your loved ones be safe, healthy and happy. May your bed be warm, your belly full and your concience clear. May your journey be smooth and peaceful with God always by your side. Have a Blessed Christmas and all good things for the New Year.
    All our love and hugs,
    Dad, Mom and Charmz xxx

  • Although that table cloth suits you and unless you are planing to be a Bedouin and they add another clothe to your lower part of your body he he he …. when are you getting out of there?
    PS: Merry Christmas!!!

  • Tibor

    GB is in the desert again!
    But where is the snow?

  • Tibor… I can’t understand it either…!! There’s just SAND out here…!! Who would have thought…??!! R.

  • Mark Behr

    Merry Christmas and Blessings to you and your family all over the world.

  • Rory

    Hi Ronnie, Thank you so much to include me here. I am so honoured to be part of your journey. Last but not least, thank you and thank you God, that I wasn’t alone in that camp. I welcome you to Malaysia and look forward to seeing you…

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