Yes. I’ll just post few pictures, as i don’t have the strength to write about it. The trip itself was tough and long drive from Aqaba to the northern border crossing (the other 2 aren’t good for foreigners). There is enough info on the interwebs of how to actually make the crossing – but I wouldn’t recommend it to any but the most adventure seeking travelers. If you decide to do it get ready for adventure 🙂
From Jerusalem, we went back to Jordan’s Capital Amman, and stayed there for few days until our return to Dublin.
We did go to visit one more place, north of Amman called Jerash, definitely worth a trip – a half day stroll through some of the oldest remains of the Roman Empire.
The other half day we spent in some local climbing spot – bolted, but meh. (on top of that we were all tired as well).
The trip home went uneventful (as expected). Returning the car went smooth (we did get couple of flat tires during the 2 weeks stay, but managed to get it changed and patched up as needed).
I’d like to come back in the future, perhaps better prepared for climbing, and maybe later on in the year, that will give better chance of good conditions.
From Wadi Rum we moved west towards sea side resort of Aqaba. Peter and Phillip aren’t very aquatic, so they mostly sat this one out, mostly chilling out after a week in the sand
Monika and I went scuba diving, which is what people mostly do in this place.
All the dives are from the shore, and have fantastic coral reefs, as well as some cool artificial features (such as sunken plane, a tank and a boat).
It was time well spent, however after 3-4 days you kind of seen it all. One thing that stood out was a night dive. Monika’s first of this type.
The most interesting part was the fast that all the divers had to be escorted by and accounted for by the local military personnel – mostly due to the fact that one technically could swim across the sea to Israel. A big nono.
We did go see the town one evening, but it is a town – nothing special that I remember now.
Next stop from Aqaba was Israel, and oh my, that’s a mini epic of a journey on its own…
The thing with Wadi Rum is that while it is remote desert location, it’s actually surprisingly close to civilization (1h drive to Aqaba, which has airport, hospitals etc).
Generally speaking I think that by general population sees Wadi Rum as 1 or 2 day adventure destination. People want to see the desert, be guided around by ‘the locals’, maybe spend a night in the desert camp, but with all the comforts of modern, western hotel.
I’ll try to describe it form a climbers perspective, people who generally are independent, don’t need much beside a bed.
Wadi Rum is located in southern Jordan. You can get there by number of ways – we opted to rent a car and just drive – it’s a long one – over 4h if to be done in 1 day.
Other methods are a bus from Amman, taxi from Aqaba, or an organized tour by your hotel.
The area can be divided into 2 main categories:
Wadi Rum Village – which is essentially a town of couple hundred huts where locals live. It has very basic facilities, with 1 place where you can eat, and 1 or two mini shops.
Wadi Rum Desert – It is vast area of sand and stone – it is around 720km2, where 40km drive through the desert (no roads!) will eventually get you to Saudi Arabia Border (not recommended!).
Some 30+ commercial camps have been setup, and every local will try to ‘recruit’ you to stay at their site. Those things cost more than a hotel room in a city.
There are no hotels, b&b’s, hostels or other organised accommodation in the Wadi Rum Village – so you have 3 options for accomodation.
camp (wild in the desert)
stay with a local family
stay in a luxury camp
There is nothing stopping you from just driving to the desert yourself and setting up your own camp in the shade of one of many high mountains that are out there. Locals don’t seem to like it though – they seem to be under the impression that it’s their ‘turf’ and one should be using their ‘guiding’ services.
Now, it is the desert – it is VERY easy to get lost or get stuck (driving in sand is hard, there are no roads!), and it would be costly to get rescued.
Either way those are the choices. For serious climbers specifically, I feel the best no hassle approach is to have your own tent, food and water supplies for few days – and just get driven to the area of your choice, climb, and be picked up after few days.
Now, our group was definitely not of the ‘hardcore’ climbers types so we picked middle option – stay with a local family.
Initially I was planning to bring the camping gear and just go to the desert (like we have in Oman), but the group decided we will stay in the village and make our way from there.
It was probably a good choice, since there is plenty to explore on foot, without having to go deep to the desert. On top of that the immense heat meant we couldn’t really climb any way and we cut our visit to Wadi just to 5 days.
Having said all of that, the views are absolutely stunning, but again – it’s not for everyone.
If the weather is not cooperating, there isn’t much to do – its sand & rock everywhere.
On top of traditional climbing, mostly long multipitch , there are plenty of ‘Beduin Routes’ – which is the local name for scrambling to the top of surrounding walls. Those can be all completed in runners and with no rope – mostly run at M with occasional S.
Sport climbers won’t find much – its all about that trad on questionable rock – we did though find 2 spots with bolts, but honestly, they were poor.
The draw is with sense of adventure, breathtaking views and humus. Humus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After getting to Wadi Musa the gateway city to ancient site of Petra, we had to make a decision on how we’ll spend time we have there. The Jordan Pass we purchased before arriving to Jordan gave us 2 days for sightseeing.
The site itself is huge – at first I didn’t realise its just a massive place with many different buildings carved into the walls.
Our itinerary, in short was following Route1 all the way to The Monastery (visiting all the major points, incl Treasury, then its vantage point, some lesser important temples and the amphitheater) the return path from the Monastery was via a route that lead through High Place of sacrifice, a mountainous trail that has easy scramble to get you down to the Treasury.
I won’t be getting into details of what’s what – as this can be easily found on wiki, but i’ll give those few tips:
Stay in Wadi Musa and start your sightseeing at 6.15 when Petra opens.
If you are outdoorsy person, you can do the whole thing in 1 day – it took us 11h of walking around around 20km (all the trails combined is around 40km) – but it was a lot. Not a problem for us though
If you are not hardcore hiker, get yourself 2 days – albeit do to the layout of the park you’ll be walking some of the trails twice (mainly since its 1mile between the entrance gate to the Treasure- the first major feature).
Guides are not required to move around, but they are present everywhere and will try to lure you in to avail their services. To be honest it was very good experience for us to explore on our own (make sure to grab a map at the entrance).
Bring plenty of water, but don’t stress out if you run out – I brought 3l with me and finished it after 4h) – local people sell water, often ice cold – it’s expensive – 2JD per 1.5l, but that’s the way it is (to compare 6×1.5 in a shop in the city costs 1.5JD).
Have your own food – it’s extremely overpriced, and only available in 1 spot.
All the ‘best view in the world’ viewing spots are free, BUT you are expected to buy a drink/tip the bedouin that mans the post.
Enjoy yourself – it’s easy to just forget that you are there for fun. Don’t stress out if you get lost – the place is so busy that someone will show you the way!
Either way, the 2 nights at Wadi Musa went fast, and we promptly moved on to Wadi Rum – a desert which meant to be our main climbing destination.
More about Wadi Rum in the next blog… (As i type these words we actually already completed the Wadi Rum leg of our journey, but the net is slow, so pictures are still uploading – and I’m not writing blog with no pictures!)
For holidays 2018 we decided to go back to the Middle East and this time around visit country of Jordan.
This place seem to be one of the less popular destination for climbers (or tourists in general), probably most due to the fact that there are so many other places that don’t neighbour states that are currently at war…
I did my research and all reports make it safe enough for a visit (especially if you stick to the sourthern parts of the country).
And that is exactly what Peter, Phil, Monika and I are planning to do.
The rough plan for two weeks is:
Visit Madaba & Dead Sea (lowest point on Earth)
Visit Petra (main tourist destination)
Visit Wadi Rum (main climbing destination)
Visit Aqaba (main scuba destination)
Visit Jerusalem (main weird access destination)
Visit Amman & go home
While I was hoping for this trip to be focused mainly around climbing (Wadi Rum is world class trad climbing spot) – it seems that on the very first trip to the country it’d be a shame not to visit at least some of the world famous tourist attractions – hence the list above.
Since we are equipped for both sport and trad climbing (both gear and skill), we decided to see how it goes and climb when possible (we are a bit early as far as climbing seasons go, as It’s still a bit hot).
In this series of blogs I’ll write every couple of days on how the progress go.
Part I – getting in & around
We arrived on Sunday morning, after quite interesting flight with connection in Istanbul. It’s a very odd setup with Dub flight departing at 4.30pm on Sat, and with 3h layover in Turkey we were in Jordan Capital city at 4.30am.
Phil’s bag came out VERY last, so it took a while at the airport, but after that we picked up few sim cards, got the car sorted (again, big 4×4 since we have tons of bags) and were on our way to the hotel in Madaba. Luckily enough they let us check in early (7am!, for a small fee) – so we were able to get quick nap (not much sleep on the plane) and make our way to Dead Sea.
The problem with The Dead Sea is that while its public, the best spots are all taken by resorts, so you have to dish out between 20 and 40 JOD to get access (you kind of want to do it anyway, since the supersalt water ruins everything if u don’t shower straight away.
After some floating around and mud baths and lunch we wen’t towards nearby JC Babtism site, however we were to late for 4.30pm tour, and to early to wait 40 mins for next one. Oh well… Back to Madaba for an evening stroll.
Part II – due South
We hit the King’s Highway towards Petra, with a quick stop over at Kerak Castle & some climbing at nearby Weida Slabs.
Castle was ok as far as castle go, it seemed to be restored in some places, but mostly it was ruins. Still worth a visit if you are passing by.
Climbing however was something else – and it wasn’t for the rock or the fact it was all bolted (pretty well actually) – It was the heat. We got there just after 1pm, which isn’t ideal, but there was no other option – we still had 2.5h drive to Petra so couldn’t wait for it to cool down. It also goes without saying that TOPOS are rare and any material on routes you find is priceless. I found THIS website –> http://tropicaldesert.me/kerak-weida-slabs
It seems to have decent descriptions of places (other than obvious Wadi Rum) worth visiting.
With 35C heat it was impossible to do anything other than 1 or 2 climbs – the sweat was rolling in, dehydration was imminent and all of it was attracting those nasty flies – they were everywhere – big nasty flies. I wish I had my head net, so useful on those hot day in Wicklow or the Mournes.
Another thing is that since routes don’t get that much traffic some of it is quite loose. Monika experienced it first hand, when a handhold she grabbed (around fist size) just detached itself and went flying my way. Luckily she had strong feed and didn’t fell off.
We are in Wadi Musa now- which is the gateway town to Petra. Plan is to get there for 6.15am (it’s only 5min drive from our hotel), when they open – and start before the crowds come in. With Jordan Pass, that guarantees no queuing for tickets, as it has tickets to Petra included it should be a good day out.