Wadi Rum : 4X4 fun in the red sand desert!

Wadi Rum Travel Blog

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Stevie & the glyphs. [ photo kindly provided by Johanna ]

"Yaaaawn!"  Streeeeeeetch.  Boy. Who woulda thought a night on the dirty, rug covered floor of the spare bolt hole of a Jordanian desert gas station could be so satisfying.  It's early.  We're quite a ways from anywhere but I still managed to catch the morning call to prayer.  Johanna's still spark out under a mound of dust'n'bug riddled ruggage and Thu is vaguely twitching within the made-to-measure blue cacoon of my 7 euro sleeping bag. It's time to hit the desert people.  Just close your eyes if you pay a trip to the bathrom facilities here and all will be ok!

We saddle up and head on down the highway on foot to the Wadi Rum Desert Protectorate junction.  It's about 6.30 - 7.00am and a couple of mini-bus vans are hanging around ready to cart Beduoin staff to the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre and into the park area.

Thu, Johanna & meeee :D [ photo kindly provided by Johanna ]
  Thu & Johanna negotiate cheap transportation on one of these for us and we're soon having coffee in peace and quiet in the Visitor Centre terrace as the sun rises high above the desert landscape.  No plan in particular.  There are a whoooole raft of fixed price foot-trek and four-by-four excursion packages available here to cater for most budgets and inclinations however the Guide Books say the smart money's on making direct contact by phone or e-mail with one of the Bedouin guides who live within the Desert protectorate ahead of time.  Obviously, making sh*t up as we go along we haven't managed any such thing so we hang around, hookup with a french lady Christine and manage to make an off-the-record agreement with a Bedouin guy who runs a Wadi Rum Adventures company (4X4, trekking and climbing etc.
Christine, Stevie, Thu & Johanna [ photo kindly provided by Johanna ]
.).  For 80 JD ($113 a head we get a more or less 'full works' four by four tour of the main sights within Wadi Rum and a nights stay within a Bedouin camp with most meals included.  Nothing is particularly cheap within Wadi Rum and you should not go there expecting to find a "bargain!".  If you think you have got one, it probably means you're gonna have a real sh*tty experience and not see anything worth while is my guess.  There is a standard 2 JD ($4) Protectorate entry fee.

The Wadi Rum is a large, now designated Desert Protectorate area in the south of Jordan encompassing several Bedouin tribes in both the more developed Rum Village and beyond in the often quite captivating desert mountain and valley scapes beyond.  It small ways it is renowned for its connection with the British historical hero/ villain character of T.

Minty! ;D [ photo kindly provided by Johanna ]
E. Lawrence (of Arabia).  First us and our bags are jeeped to this village where we are intorduced to other individuals eager to get their desert adventures underway.  Johanna, Thu, Christine and I after a pleasant group breakfast in the Wadi Rum Adventures HQ are shephered into a shonky old 4x4 with a 'guide'/ driver who must be barely 17 or so.  The car is started not by the aid of a key in the ignition but a long standing system of hot-wiring connections.  A spin of dust and we're off to our first destination.

There is a good amount to see within Wadi Rum provided you're on a good, all day tour that promises to take in most or all of the sights noted in the maps that are given out at the visitor centre.  Firstly a long walk up rocky steps along a mountain base to a curious, uninspiring natural spring coursing down from the mountain's interior encased in a rather ugly concrete surround.

Bedouin tents in the Wadi Rum desert. [ photo kindly provided by Johanna ]
  Then the start of the jeep tour proper.  Next is Lawrence's Spring where the map suggests Lawrence is believed to have washed himself during the Arab Revolt. "Whatever!"  Here though there is a fun rock scramble to be undertaken several hundred feet up to the shade of a large tree where you can look back and get your first, impressive panoram view of the Wadi Rum desert.  Next the beautiful Khazali Canyon.  A small walk/ clamber through a craggy sandstone canyon slightly reminiscent of my recent experience in Petra.  Most fun for me is derived in our moments 4x4ing around the varied coloured dunes of the Wadi Rum, the large often very tall rocky outcrops making for a captivating landscape.  My head stuck firmly out the window. The dust and wind in my hair.  At one point I haul myself up out of the passenger door window and sit astride it clutching on to the roof and laughing and bouncing my way around the dunes and tire-tracks.

We have fun struggling barefoot up sizeable sensously soft red sand dunes.  Thu understandably worries about worsening the unresolved situation with the sea urchin spines burrowed into the side of her foot.  By good fortune Christine has had long years of experience as a nurse and so some impromtu 'desert surgery' is proposed for when we later arrive at the Bedouin camp.  Some of the large rock formations here have apparently ancient carvings or drawn images of Bedouin, Thamadic and Nabatean inscriptions and images on them... predominantly of camels.  We visit one or two natural rock bridges tha can be climbed up to.  We are glad to sit and rest atop these impressive vantage points.  A slight confusion in what we've paid for and expected means that we actually end up with no lunch but instead we bully our driver quite profusely to take us to an extra site, the locally renowned 'Burdah Bridge' of rock.  No time to climb up it today but an impressive(ish) sight in the distance anyhows.  It's then time to burn and bump it back across the deepening reds and yellows of the desert sands to get to the Sunset Sites, one of a cluster of Bedouin camps from where great views of the sun setting into the desert are afforded.

As the sun begins to set there is a hive of activity around and about.  The Bedouin preparing to play hosts again in the evening.  Our tent for th evening allocated.  Thu sits, leg out and stoic on a rocky hillock whilst Christine with the aid of a fag lighter, a needle and some antisceptic wipes pricks and digs away attempting to extract the broken-off urchin spines from the mile-weary flesh of her left foot.  This does not look like a fun procedure!  Some of the blackened prongs that once teased and released suddenly pop out of her skin are preeeetty damn ugly.  To think she's been walking on them for four days straight and more!

The sun bleeds down into the desert by slow, majestical degrees.  People have taken to the highest vantage points possible to capture their views, photos and memories.  Sadly it's farewell to Thu now who's not staying any longer, in need of getting the ferry back to Nuweiba by midnight from Aqaba if possible.  My journey has been greatly smoothed by her language skills and enriched by her pleasant and easy  company.  I will miss her a lot.  Hugs all around and farewells before she climbs into the Wadi Rum Adventures 4x4 and peels off north out of the Wadi Rum desert.  The rest of us turn our eyes back towards the scarlet disc setting in the west.  The evening is spent in the company of the Bedouin.  Traditional music and dance around the fire.  The guests only reluctantly joining in.  Nice food, the consumption of which everyone very gladly joins in.  Johanna and I, by virtue of one of the head Bedouin dudes taking a shine to her, also get a fantastic session behind the wheel of one of the four by fours.  Bumping and crashing over the sand dunes in the desert by the light of the full moon.  The eerie green-jewel sparkle of watchful desert foxes reflected in our headlamp beams.  The stars aren't burnt out by the moon's light tonight.

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Stevie & the glyphs.  [ photo kind…
Stevie & the glyphs. [ photo kin…
Thu, Johanna & meeee :D  [ photo k…
Thu, Johanna & meeee :D [ photo …
Christine, Stevie, Thu & Johanna  …
Christine, Stevie, Thu & Johanna …
Minty! ;D  [ photo kindly provided…
Minty! ;D [ photo kindly provide…
Bedouin tents in the Wadi Rum dese…
Bedouin tents in the Wadi Rum des…
Wadi Rum
photo by: vances