Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Madaba, Jordan

The Dead Sea.

Getting motivated to go ride up 1200m after a day swimming, getting a massage and other spa silliness, and laying around was not easy. I really wanted to stay put. When I eventually drug myself out the door, I found myself going the opposite way from a large cycling group. They were doing a supported charity ride in Jordan. It was great see so many other cyclists on the road.

The road to the highlands.

The road up to Madaba was great. All of the roads in Jordan are great. Actually, almost all the roads in the Middle East are great. They don't have the wet icy winters that we have so once they lay asphalt, it stays in good condition. The biggest worry is how fast cars think they can drive on those great roads. Luckily, there weren't many cars at all where I was. I was taking a back road and, I guess, it wasn't a popular time to be visiting the Dead Sea.

Steep switchbacks.

The 20km uphill to the highlands plateau was brutal. It was not the steepest terrain I was on, but it might have been the steepest over the longest distance. I can't believe that some of the switchbacks had me gaining 20m of altitude around the turn. I know this sounds ridiculous, but look at the picture. Luckily, the scenery was great which I got to enjoy double because I was biking up the hill so slow. There were a few towns and homes that looked like they might only be inhabited part of the year. Outside of that, it was brown fields and brown mountains with the Dead Sea as a back drop.

Abandoned buildings on the ride up to the highlands.

A home.

Jordan mountains.

When I reached the plateau, I was racing against the sun again. I had underestimated how long it would take to bike up the hill. I barely lost that race and found myself biking into Madaba just after dark. Getting into town after dark made finding my hotel difficult. I had to ask for directions three times before I made it. I really wish I had only had to ask two times. I missed a turn after asking the second time and had to double back part of the way and ask again. On the way back, I hit a car. He cut in front of me from the opposite lane to do a U-turn. I didn't think I could stop in time so I just opted to veer to the left. Unfortunately, he couldn't make the turn in one try. Instead of moving onward so I would have enough room to get around, he stopped and I hit the rear quarter panel. I had slowed down enough that it wasn't a hard collision, but I wasn't happy. Neither were a couple of my fingers.

My hotel's idea of secure wireless access. At least they had Internet.

Shortly after that, I found my hotel and checked in. I expected Betty to show up a little past my bed time. I wasn't sure if I should stay up or take a nap. Knowing Betty, she would be very chatty when she showed up no matter how long she had been traveling which would not jive well with me being so tired. I opted to stay up and hope Betty wasn't that chatty. I should have napped. Betty's plane was an hour late, I think. Then, she had to wait until all the luggage was unloaded to find out they had lost her bike. She got in way past my bed time and was very, very chatty. I was definitely looking forward to chats, but I figured we had three weeks of biking to get those in.

Madaba is famous for its mosaics.

Waking up the next morning offered up a whole series of questions. Questions that we were going to try and solve on not enough sleep. We waffled between staying an extra day in Madaba, which we had no major interest in, to wait for Betty's bike, or to move on via another form of transportation. After wasting away the entire morning, we tabled any decision until we explored Madaba. Madaba is best known as the town of mosaics and the home of the oldest known map of the Holy Land, a mosaic on the floor of the Saint George church. The map dates from the 6th century.

The first known map of the Holy Land.

Our stroll around town must have cleared our heads because when we got back, we were sure what to do. Leave Madaba. It had been a nice enough stroll, but we just didn't have time to hang out if we wanted to see everything we wanted. The airline lost the bike. They should be able to deliver it to us anywhere. We decided to put Betty in a cab to Wadi Mujib along the Dead Sea. I would bike back down, but farther south than the resorts, and meet her there.

A statue in a roundabout in Madaba.

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