Jordan Travel Report Part III - Arabian Nights
Following a frustratingly slow Hertz rental car experience (met us at our hotel about a half our late), we had our rental car for the hour and half Arabic only radio drive to the Wadi Rum desert (desert where Lawrence of Arabia spent quite a bit of time and where the movie was filmed). Jordan Tracks met us at the Visitor’s Center of Wadi Rum, and we shortly thereafter found ourselves coupled up with our camels and guide (Saleem) for our overnighter in the desert. You can easily take a bus from Petra to Wadi Rum (only one a day), but we didn’t want to be stuck to a schedule.
If you have never ridden a camel before (and we hadn’t), they actually are more comfortable than riding a horse. Our guidebook accurately stated, “nothing can compare to the gentle hypnotic swaying and soft shuffle of riding camelback in the open desert.” The whole getting up and getting down is always a little awkward as “they get up from sitting with a bronco-style triple jerk back-forward-back, and if you are not holding on as soon as your bottom hits the saddle, you’re liable to end up in the dust.” While this bronco style triple jerk is going on, the camels are moaning and groaning the whole time…you really can’t help but laugh about the whole situation.
Our mini camel caravan loped through the desert for about three hours with opportunities to stop for photos and run up sand dunes. Throughout the three hour journey, I couldn’t help but notice that my boney butt was not enjoying the ride as much as the previous day in Petra. Light was shed on my camel chafe situation when Saleem took the saddles off for lunch – I had only two blankets on my camel saddle while my wife had four. Chef Saleem pulled out canned tuna fish, pitas, sour cream, and cheese…and we were thinking “how are we going to force this down.” Surprisingly it made for a pretty tasty lunch – I’m sure three hours on a camel might have helped.
Lunch was followed by a rest in the shade for the heat of midday to pass. Our camel journey carried on for another few hours, until we reached camp. The camp, nestled against a huge rock mountain, included a couple Bedouin tents, a fire pit, a little cinderblock block kitchen, and as indicated by Jordan Tracks, a “proper toilet.” My wife’s careful water rationing for the day in anticipation of this “proper toilet” was for not, as the toilet consisted of two feet placeholders and a hole in the ground. Ten other tourist rolled in as well from either horseback riding or 4x4ing for a great chicken dinner followed by Arabic singing from our various guides. At one point, I strolled out away from the light and noise of camp, laid in the sand, and gazed up at the countless stars…all you could hear was the wind blowing sand across the desert.
The overnighter in the desert really was an amazing experience – very memorable. Other people whom we met at dinner had spent a week out in the desert with Jordan Tracks, as I’m sure it is even more spectacular, but our overnight trip gave me the taste of “Lawrence of Arabia” that I was looking for. Jordan Tracks was very helpful and everything was arranged fine. However, don’t expect for the camel leader to be spouting off history and interesting stories. As a “Bedouin Guide” (I did call around and this is pretty much status quo to have them) they will know some English and will be able to point out things here and there, but expect to entertain yourself for the camel riding. It was actually quite peaceful riding the camel in the desert with no one talking. One downside to the overnight trip is that you are never too far away from “civilization.” So while you are loping along on your camel, a pickup truck will drive past as you follow “sand roads” for portions of the journey. We’re talking maybe a truck or two an hour, so it is not a freeway or anything. The accommodations in the desert are pretty much camping so don’t have high expectations for sleeping arrangements. Jordan Tracks provided very adequate large tents, sleeping mats, blankets, and pillows and we slept quite well.
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Jordan Travel Report Part III - Arabian Nights