Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Dead Sea Highway and Wadi Mujib, Jordan

The Dead Sea mountains.

Dropping out of the highlands back down to the Dead Sea did not turn out to be quite the bike ride that I had hoped it would be. Instead of taking the same route down, I opted to go another way that would take me over new terrain. I rode the plateau for an hour or two before I got to go downhill. When I did get to the downhill, day light was fading. I was able to enjoy half of the downhill, but it was dark before I got all the way down.

The road across the wadi (river canyon) in the Jordan highlands.

On the way down, I passed a police check point. The regular routine ensued. "Who are you? Welcome, welcome! Where are you from? American? Obama! We like Obama! Where are you going? You are going there? That is too dangerous. You can't go there. Yes, I can. I have been biking since Austria. Since Australia? No, since Vienna. Oh. . . . well, OK. It is very dangerous though. Be careful. Thank you, ma salama." And away I go.

It turned out that they might have been right about the danger. I should not have been riding at dark. As I descended back down to the Dead Sea highway, I saw very few cars but one pulled into my lane as I was going by. I don't know if he was trying to scare me or just wanting to use up the entire road. I didn't like it. I didn't really have a choice about stopping though. Betty had my gear in the cab. I ended up riding at dark because I made a mistake about what time the sun sets. I thought it set at 6pm. It really set at 5pm. I had been caught in a timezone change. Oops!

The Jordanian Dead Sea coast view from our campsite.

By the time, I got down to the beautiful, mountain lined, Dead Sea Highway, it was dark. Very dark. Whenever cars came, I got off the road. As the evening wore on, the wind picked up. It was blowing garbage everywhere. It was swirling. Sometimes helping me. Sometimes stopping me. On one long stretch, I remember leaning to one side to counter act the crazy amount of wind that was blowing. I couldn't believe that I wasn't just falling over. At another point, I was about two feet from my first dog bite. I have had a lot of luck with the dogs this trip because I can usually see the danger coming. In the dark, I didn't see this one until he was almost on me and I was going up a hill. Ugh. Tired legs. Most of the Dead Sea highway is flat. There are some hills. I didn't like them when all I wanted to be is getting is off the road quickly.

Sunset over the Dead Sea.

When I finally rolled into the Wadi Mujib reserve area, it was not clear where the camping was. I had a map, but it didn't seem right. It had me going towards an industrial area and dog filled checkpoint. I thought I must be wrong and continued to the bridge that crosses the wadi (river canyon). After looking around, I realized that the industrial site must be near where I was camping, lovely. I went down towards the site, but luckily some guy stopped me and sent me in the right direction back along a rode that passed the checkpoint with all the dogs barking. I couldn't see them in the night to know if they were tied up or not and I was on a rocky road that I had no chance of outrunning dogs on. I found our campsite a couple minutes down the rocky road.

Our 'campsite' had a fantastic view.

The campsite was not a campsite at all. It was overpriced single room chalets. Each room has a bed, a refrigerator and air conditioning. They share one common bathroom. It was a nice enough place to stay, especially after a tough bike ride, but I had been hoping to save some money by camping. Oh well. Betty had tried to find a campsite, but soon found herself in the uncomfortable situation of being surrounded by men who were trying to help.

The start of the Siq Trail at Wadi Mujib.

The Siq Trail in Wadi Mujib.

The next morning, it was time to explore Wadi Mujib. Most of the hikes in Wadi Mujib require a guide, that cost a little too much. I had heard the funnest hike was the Siq Trail up to the waterfall. Also, it did not require a guide. I had hoped to explore more of the park, but it seemed to strike a good balance between exploring the park, being cheap, and giving us time to get to the next destination.

Watch out for falling dice.

A video of a Japanese guy coming out from trying to go under/around the waterfall.

The hike requires that everyone take a life jacket because most of the hike is in the water. We were visiting at the end of summer, so the water was pretty low. In the spring, you can be forced to swim across certain parts. The start of the hike is in a wide canyon where the wadi is about to run into the Dead Sea. However, as you get up around the first bend, it narrows significantly. It reminded me of the slot canyons of Utah, but not as narrow. The hike ends at a waterfall. In between is a lot of walking, a little climbing, and a few ropes to haul yourself over slippery or steep rocks.

The crazy patterns on the canyon wall in Wadi Mujib.

A close up of the patterns in the canyon formed from the rushing and eddying water in Wadi Mujib.

The colors in the canyon were outstanding. Everything seemed to have a red-orange hue. In some places, it seemed purple. In those colors you could see the different current patterns that had shaped the canyon over the years. We went so early in the morning that we ended up not catching too much sunlight on the way up. On the way back down though, it was good to see the canyon in a different light. I would definitely recommend this hike, especially if you need to get out of the heat or wash the Dead Sea salt off if you went for a swim.

Betty is still a bit hungry from traveling.

Salt capped rock along the salt capped Dead Sea shore (look at the blurry ones in the background).

After finishing up with the hike, Betty and I once again were trying to figure out our next step. Her bike had not arrived yet. It had gone to Brazil. I don't know why it took us so long to decide where to head to. I think it had to do with being lazy, taking a nap, resting in the hammock, and playing on the shores of the Dead Sea. On the shores, it was amazing to see the salt layers that were left behind on the rocks. Some were solid 10 by 12 inch pieces. I couldn't believe that a salt structure could be so strong. When we were finally packed up and ready to go, we went back to the visitor's center to wait for a cab and be attacked by flies. We could have taken public transit, but I didn't feel like switching buses multiple times. Back to the King's Highway!

Oh, the horror, the horror, the flies!

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