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A Suitcase Full Of Memories (Part 3) - Cycling in Jordan

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Cycling in Jordan

Lara Dunn saddles up and bikes from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea

Description: Jordan is a great place for beginner divers to experience the Red Sea

Jordan is a great place for beginner divers to experience the Red Sea

Think of a beetle on its back, legs waggling uselessly in the air, trying to regain control of its forward locomotion. Right now, that beetle is me, struggling to maintain anything resembling a straight line, as I cycle across the soft sand of Wadi Rum – ‘the valley of the moon’. This UNESCO World Heritage site in south Jordan is cherished for its red sands and huge, bizarre granite and sandstone rock formations rising from the valley floor, but I’m finding it hard going.

Description: the soft sand of Wadi Rum – ‘the valley of the moon’. This UNESCO World Heritage site in south Jordan is cherished for its red sands and huge

the soft sand of Wadi Rum – ‘the valley of the moon’. This UNESCO World Heritage site in south Jordan is cherished for its red sands and huge

It’s the final day of my amazing journey, cycling 280 miles across Jordan from Madaba near the Dead Sea in the north to Aqaba at the Red Sea in the south. It’s been a physically challenging trip, but one where every single detail is indelibly imprinted on my memory. I guess that’s what travelling by bicycle is all about.

During my week here, I’ve experienced the rural landscapes of the Old Testament and the castles of the Crusades. I’ve visited Mount Nebo where Moses died, bobbed about like a cork in the Dead Sea and watched from the back of the van as others viliantly pitched themselves against a brutal 25km climb from the Dead Sea (at 400m below sea level) up to the crusader fortress at Kerak (some 930 metres above sea level)… and failed. Eyes closed in the ruins of Herod’ Castle at Mukawir (where John the Baptist lost his head), I’ve drunk in the silence punctuated only by birdsong and the faint rustle of the wind, the Dead Sea a hazy smear on the horizon below.

Description: The Memorial Church of Moses on Mount Nebo

The Memorial Church of Moses on Mount Nebo

Staying in the home of a Bedouin family, I was shown hospitality unlike any I’ve ever known, including a delicious traditional cardamom coffee that signified I was welcome and that the host would lay down his life to protect me! Sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor of the tent to eat (with our hands) a traditional meal of meat and tangy, creamed rice was a great way of getting to know the rest of the group I’m travelling with. Seven professionals from the UK and Scandinavia, my fellow travellers and I were all looking for a trip to test our strength and stamina while getting a unique insight into an unknown culture.

Description: the home of a Bedouin family

the home of a Bedouin family

The landscape under my wheels has changed constantly, too, from rolling agricultural land, to the furnace-like heat of the Dead Sea road, through broad valleys complete with grazing camels, along some of the most exciting and scenic off-road trails I’ve ever ridden. And that’s all before I reached the heart of the desert itself. I brought my own mountain bike on the trip but you can hire one there, and a support vehicle travels with you, carrying your bags and – occasionally – you and your bike, too. Our accommodation has varied each night – usually simple, small local hotels – but always comfortable. We’ve been constantly accompanied by children calling out ‘hello’ and  ‘welcome’ and refreshed with endless glasses of the local, delicious sweetened sage-perfumed tea, which tastes so good after a day of sweating in the saddle.

A welcome rest came in the form of a day exploring Petra, the ancient lost city. It was crowded but undeniably amazing. The unique architecture, hewn from the bare rock walls of the canyon, shifts subtly in hue with the changing light and the crowds of donkeys and camels make it easy to imagine the hubbub and bustle of this once important city.

Description: The ancient city of Petra

The ancient city of Petra

The cycling has been varied, exciting and at times exhausting, especially this section through the desert. As I look back on the trip, it’s not just a taste of history, culture and adventure I’ll take away with me, but magic and memories to last a lifetime.

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