A Holy, Off-Road Odyssey: Part 2

It is said that nothing that happens in the Universe is random; but is always by design. How could an adventure trip that I took essentially to drive a Land Cruiser on a challenging off-road terrain turn out to be a destination and  a region that is a sacred centre of not one but three religions? Was it by design that a SBNR guy like me should be sent to experience the surroundings of one of the holiest places on the planet or Was it a mere coincidence?

Unknowingly I had selected a country where major events relating to all the three Abrahamic religions took place; in fact much more than in Jerusalem. Jesus was baptised in Jordan, His time in the Wilderness was in Jordan and he preached in the cities of Jerash(Gerasa). The Miracle took place in Jordan and Jesus sought refuge in a small cave in the North of Jordan in Anjara. Moses led the Exodus and showed the promised land in Jordan and
‘The Blessed Tree’ under which Prophet Muhammad (MPUH) is believed to have rested as a boy when travelling with his uncle to Syria is in Jordan

I was driving on this legendary 2500 year old road called King’s Road (now King’s highway) that passed through these sacred spots without a clue of these facts. But to tell you honestly the landscapes and the setting appeared Biblical.

Each car had a radio and Tushar, the tour leader and promoter of Adventures Overland led the convoy sitting in Car No.1 and the other promoter Sanjay followed the convoy sitting in Car No. 14.Tushar gave us heads up about upcoming turns and curves. The motorcade with 14 cars going one behind the other like a U.S Presidential Convoy made a fantastic sight on the road. The first hour of driving was mainly in the city and the outskirts of Amman and by noon we had hit the highway.

It was around eight at night by the time we reached the eco lodge. It was dark and there were no lights. Hailed as one of the best 25 eco-lodges in the world by National Geographic Traveller Magazine, the award winning, solar powered Feynan Eco-lodge is located amidst natural landscapes of the Dana nature and wild life reserve, it is in the middle of a very desolate but freakishly beautiful setting.

I personally do not believe in paying money to experience suffering sacrificing my luxuries in the name of supporting Eco tourism but had to express my pseudo elation when I was told there were no electric bulbs at the resort. Hence I was not too enthusiastic as we parked our cars in parallel and I got off the car. It was very dark and I finished my stargazing by taking one long look at the sky and stretched my back eager to hit the sack.

Within minutes after having successfully accomplished answering my nature calls in the pitch dark toilet, wearing my shorts and jumping into my bed snuggling into my blanket merrily rubbing my two feet together I heard knocking on the door.

“They are having a get together upstairs. Ma’am is also there and she told me to call you” said Nupur clasping her two hands. I smiled at her and said nothing. There was no way in hell that I was going up even if Jesus Himself was giving an audience. I was done for the day. I slept like a baby.

Day 3 started with an early breakfast of burnt Omelettes and Jordanian bread since I am not a great fan of eating cold and dry food in the morning. We set out at 9 and Tushar declared,“Today’s driving will be the most challenging. We will be driving along the Wadi rum desert that involves a full day of off-road driving on sand dunes. Just stick to the track of the car in front of you and maintain a minimum speed so as not to get stuck in the loose sand. Use H4 mode”.

At around 11 in the morning we came across a path going uphill covered with almost a foot of loose, fine and dry sand.  All the fourteen cars lined up in a row and the Car no1 tried to drive up but came back a few times and it took several attempts before it could go up.  Car no. 2 came back and got stuck in a bush. It had to be pulled out using ropes and the service pick up vehicle. After several failed attempts the Jordanian staff had to drive up the vehicles.  When my turn came I was able to take my Land Cruiser all the way up at one go. The track was probably set or I went back far enough to gather the right amount of momentum required to take it up the 20 feet heap of sand One way or another, I felt a surge of thrill that I was the first car to do it at the very first attempt like a kid in a competition.

Lunch was always in the middle of the desert most of the days that we were on the road on a sand stone or lime stone mountain. A table would be laid out and our buffet consisting of hot potatoes, some pasta or rice, Taboon, grilled chicken or Meat coffee or Tea and of course Hookah or smoking water pipes.

The drive though Wadi Rum was one of the most beautiful landscapes the likes of which I had never seen anywhere else in the world.

Source:National Geography

It was a little bit like driving in the Grand Canyon but on a desert with red rocky peaks and miles and miles of nothing but sand.

Imagine 20 rectangular dark chocolates placed on a bed of red sand. That is exactly how our space village resort looked from atop a rocky peak. I would rate WadiRum Space Village resort as located at ‘ the best setting in the world’.

Our cottage number was 16 and after our cocktail dinner hosted by Adventures Overland. I slept like a log.

Day 4 started with my rock-climbing endeavour alone. I climbed the sand stone peak that was about a 100 feet in height and the view from the top was breath taking. I shot this photograph from up above the peak that Adventures Overland used in their brochure.

Within a few miles radius is the location where the film Martian was filmed. I went and sat on the exact spot where Matt Damon sits contemplating.

85 per cent of Jordan is desert with the lowest point on earth situated around Dead Sea. Jordan has borders with a total of 5 countries, namely Israel, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and a sea border with Egypt on the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba). Geologically, 90% of Jordan is limestone, with the exception of Petra and Rum. Petra and the Rum Valley are made of sandstone, hence the reason they were easily carved into.

Our two nights stay at Wadi rum space Village was a truly unique and out of this world experience.

It is a couple of hours drive from Wadi Rum to Petra and our drive on day 5 would be through the canyons of Wadi Rum to one of the wonders of the world that was discovered only 200 years ago; The Lost City of Petra.It became one of the Seven Wonders of the World when it was chosen in 2007 by a vote of 100 million people. To be sure that you do not visit Petra without knowing the full history, a mistake I made, let me elucidate its background.

The Arabs of the Middle East were the masters of trade from Asia right up until the time a when Europe developed a world class merchant navy and took over world trading. The incense route connected the Egypt and Mediterranean cities passing through the present day regions of Petra in Jordan and Damascus in Syria all the way to India. It was during such a time of prosperity that Petra was built by them.“Mohan I will take the horse cart” said Mamatha who had a foot fracture a few months ago. I set out for the Lost City of Petra from our hotel located right next to main gate leading to Petra. The walk of around 2 miles through the narrow and winding path between the canyons with mountains rising above felt extremely exciting and rejuvenating. 

After passing the final bend of the narrow canyon that led into the site I was suddenly in front of the awe-inspiring spectacle of a towering rock-cut façade, its sun-struck sandstone gleaming through the darkness of the canyon. The spectacle makes you realize, with astonishment and wonder, the immensity of the monument that towers above you.

We left early in the morning on Day 5 for our final destination, the Dead Sea where we would be staying for two days.

We stopped at Mount Nebo on the way to the Dead Sea.Mount Nebo is the mountain considered to be where Moses saw the Promised Landed before he died, according to the Old Testament. At around 1,000 meters tall, Mt. Nebo sits 10 km northwest from Madaba.

It was late evening by the time we checked into Hilton at Dead Sea.The hotel is constructed just a hundred yards away from the tip of the Dead Sea and they have a private beach. Needless to say the location was Fantastic.After a great buffet we retired early to bed.

Day 6 was the penultimate day of our tour. Keen to float in Dead Sea I asked Mamatha if she wanted to join me at seven in the morning the next day. She agreed and we thanked ourselves for the wise decision. By the time it was 9 the sun was scorching and all the other members who came after 9 had a torrid time in the heat. The experience of floating in the Dead Sea was a thrilling experience but the little water that got into my eyes burnt like hell.

A great deal of research backs up claims that Dead Sea mud can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and more. With over 33% salt content (the salt content of normal sea is around 3.50%) a human can easily float in Dead Sea.

“You will look Ten years younger after a therapeutic mud bath in Dead Sea” said the handsome young man pointing to the large lump of black mud kept aside. Remembering Cleopatra’s belief in miracles of mud, I gave it a shot.

After handing over our vehicles on the last day we returned to Amman in a bus with 8 of us in one bus. I sang a couple of Beatles songs much to the merriment of the British. Our flight was schedules depart from Amman the next morning.

I will certainly Visit Jordan again since it has history, great food, culture, ruins and an incredibly beautiful desert with Canyons and Mountains. It is a small country and the people are friendly, welcoming and eager to show the best of their country.

This is the true Middle East not of the one we see on Television full of war and extremism. It is full of warm hospitality from people who are keen ti impress. Do not miss out onThe magnificent ancient city of Petra, The Dead Sea, Jerash, Wadi Rum and Mount Nebo.

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