Our time in Petra came to a conclusion as quickly as it had started and we didn’t get any time to reflect on our experience in one of the wonders of the world. We were up bright and early the following morning to catch a taxi from Wadi Musa (Petra), to the visitors centre in Wadi Rum, the village at the beginning of the desert.
We decided to spend three nights in the desert to relax and really live the experience. Most people do the dessert of Wadi Rum via a pre-booked 20-hour tour in which they get a jeep tour during the day, spend the evening, and leave very early the next morning. We were definitely a bit of an anomaly out there in terms of the duration of our stay, but we are ecstatic that we decided to spend the extra days as 20 hours isn’t near enough time to fully experience and appreciate the beauty of the landscape.
We had shared the taxi with our new friend Mike and upon arriving to the visitors centre were forced to say our farewells. He had booked through a different company than us so we thought that this would mark the end of our short-lived time together. Luckily, as it turns out, the owner of our company and his company are cousins, and due to the low numbers of tourists this year, they have combined their business into one camp to cut down on staffing costs. We were very happy and surprised to see him show up to our camp a mere 6 hours after our farewells. It was a stroke of luck, as he is an amazing and upbeat guy with whom we share a lot in common.
The camp consisted of 4 tents (see picture below as they are sturdier than camping tents) that could sleep 2-3 people each, and a main larger tent that was the living room space with an open air fire pit. This space was situated under an overhanging cliff jutting out of the rock face in such a way that you could sit near the rock face for shade earlier in the day and hang out in the big tent when the breeze rolled in later in the day. The kitchen and toilet/shower areas were brick buildings.
Our first day was spent relaxing. We climbed the rock face upwards above the camp to find a nice shaded ledge to spend the morning, with the camp far below our feet, the desert views for 180 degrees in front of us, and the most blue sky we have ever experienced above us. Our spot was shaded until midafternoon, when the sun came over the rock face and it was full on desert hot. Our ledge quickly began heating up so we scrambled our way down where we met the camp cook and discovered he was a hilarious character. He made us a fantastic veggie curry for lunch and even played us some music on his traditional bedouin instrument that was a string instrument similar to a guitar (but don’t tell him I said that- he was quick to point out that it is NOT a guitar). He made endless pots of tea, which he called bedouin whiskey and is very sweet (we found out just how sweet on our last night: over a cup of sugar per pot!!!!) but delicious. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing on the comfy cushions found throughout the common area, dozing in and out in the shaded heat.
Later in the afternoon Simon, Amanda and Jake, a lovely family we met briefly during our time in Petra, returned from their jeep tour. Jake is 3 and is a very mature and intelligent little guy. His curiosity was infectious and his boundless energy admirable in the heat. We read a few stories together, and Chris, Simon and he went on an adventure to find secret treasure places (which he was able to find 2 secret places, 4 big beatles, fell twice, but didn’t even cry once). During the adventure, Chris had some time to share some stories back and forth with Simon about life, work, travel, and more. Simon is a well travelled guy that has seen it all but is very humble about it (most likely as a result of all the travel).
Chris and I were both inspired by Amanda, Simon and Jake. We had always discussed traveling as having a definitive end date of “if and when we have kids.” To see this amazing family making it work and continuing to do what they love made us realize we don’t need that end date. Some families will have pictures of their kids posing with Mickey Mouse, others with their kids riding a donkey all the way to the Monastary in Petra (a highlight for little Jake). Both are equally amazing, but each suited to different types of families. We didn’t imagine the possibility of the latter category, but now that we see it is doable, I think we will fall into it. A big thanks to Simon, Amanda and Jake for being such an inspiration! Jordan is the 12th country Jake has visited in his three short years on this earth! I bet a lot of you reading this are trying to count your countries off with your fingers, seeing if you can stack up to him!
Mike arrived back from his tour a bit later in the evening and we all continued to chat about our different travel adventures (and misadventures) and future plans. At sunset Chris, Mike, Simon and I headed to a rock bridge close to our camp and were able to snap some fantastic shots. The sunset was incredible, and as Mike and I discussed, rather difficult to put in words. I will let the pictures do the talking, although it can’t even come close to capture the experience.
Later that evening a large group of Israelis showed up after spending the day climbing the highest mountain in Jordan, bordering Saudi Arabia. Chris got along with them quite well and even got invited to share with them a sampling of their kosher Israelian meal. Chris loved it and thus ended up eating two dinners that night (one kosher Israeli and one Jordanian bedouin). The precious experiences that life on the road offers!!
Our second day was spent much the same as the first, except we had the camp to ourselves for the day. The only person that stopped by was the owner to deliver us lunch, besides that we were alone until the late afternoon. It amazed us how quiet it was, we enjoyed every minute of it and were able to have some great discussions about things big and small.
We realized by the end of our second day that the desert is a fickle place. The heat was tolerable until 2 pm each day, when it became unbearably hot until 4 pm, and then cooled off completely, even becoming quite chilly in the evenings without anything to absorb the heat.
There was only 3 other people in the camp that evening, 2 of which who were insistent on connecting to the internet. It was rather hilarious to watch, considering the setting. One of them even asked if the desert had 4G.
Our third day was spent doing a 6 hour jeep tour through the desert. It was a fantastic day as the scenery was amazing. Also, the owner of our camp and our tour guide Audah was a wealth of knowledge about the area and the people. We were able to ask lots of questions and he answered them graciously. He shed light on the fickleness of the tourism industry recently, and the immense impact it is having in the bedouin people of Wadi Musa whose economy relies exclusively on tourism.
See below for some of the pictures I snapped throughout the day!
The next morning we wanted to head to Aqaba, and thought there may be a bus, but the owner of our camp wasn’t entirely sure if it would be running. He woke us up at 6:00 am and we made our way to the visitors centre with the hope there would be a bus. Luckily, it was running and we were able to make it on. It was only 4 JD vs. a taxi being 20 JD, so it was a big cost saving.
We had messaged a few couchsurfers before heading to the desert to try and stay with them in Aqaba. We hadn’t heard back before arriving to Aqaba (at 8 am) so we had to try and navigate our way to a restaurant with wifi or an internet cafe to check our messages. We found a restaurant with wifi, but they weren’t open yet. We had a quick breakfast of an assortment of different pastries before heading off to find an internet cafe. By a stroke of pure luck we ran into Simon on the street by the internet cafe! He told us they were heading to a lovely private beach for the day and invited us along. We quickly checked our messages and unfortunately had no definitive answers, only a maybe. We sent off a reply and then headed to Simon and Amandas hotel where they were kind enough to let us store our bags for the day in their room. It would have been a very disastrous day had we not run into them!
The private beach had several pools, towel service, a restaurant, snorkel and dive gear, and shower facilities. It was spectacular to laze around and swim for the day. Chris went snorkeling in the Red Sea and saw tons of fish, but reported there were lots of jellyfish so I wasn’t too keen on that. I stuck with the pool.
Around 4:30 pm we caught the shuttle back to re-check our messages to see if we would have somewhere to stay that night. Unfortunately we hadn’t heard back so we began looking at hotels. Aqaba is a very popular tourist spot so the prices for 1 night were more than 3 nights back in Amman. Chris dashed off to the bus office to see if we could catch a bus back to Amman and when he returned with tickets in hand they were for a bus leaving in 30 minutes. We scrambled to gather our things and head to the bus, and thankfully made it. We arrived back to Amman at 10:30 pm and checked into our (much cheaper) hotel. We had no idea when we set out that morning how hectic of a day we were going to have!
For the last three days we have been resting and recuperating for the next leg of our trip. We fly to Dubai tomorrow morning for a 3 night 4 day stopover, and then on to Cape Town. It is going to be a very exciting and diverse month of travel for us and we are so excited for it. We look forward to sharing it with all of you!