Along with Cappadocia, Wadi Rum has been there on my bucketlist for a while. It is amongst the most unique landscapes on the planet – red sand with rock faces that are as high as 150 meters – perfect moonscape.
We had booked a 5 hour tour in Wadi Rum along with a night stay at a camp run by a local Bedouin. As we wanted to enjoy the sunset in the wilderness of the desert, we decided to start our tour at about 1 pm. We reached the Wadi Rum tourist centre about an hour prior to the departure time. We were greeted by our guide, Aoud, at the Wadi Rum protected area entrance and jumped into a 4X4 vehicle to explore the desert.
We sat in the rear open seats as our guide Aoud, took us through the desert. We wondered whether Aoud knew his way around the barren land that had no landmarks; obviously GPS did not work! And oh, no cell phone reception either! Lack of a glowing screen surely did make us feel a little lost but Aoud knew his way around the typical tourist areas as well as the hidden gems of the desert.
Key sites in the Wadi Rum protected area…
Our first stop was Lawrence’s spring – Aoud insisted that we climb to the spring. It looked like a long way up, and I preferred to stay down, sip on a cuppa and click pictures while Ankur clambered up. It was fairly high, as after a few minutes, Ankur was fairly distant and looked like a tiny speck on the rocks, even when my 18-135 lens was in full zoom!
There were a few more places that Aoud took us to: a rockface with Nabatean inscriptions, a pyramid shaped rock cliff, some more rockfaces that we could climb and little mounds of sand – interesting but not too exciting. The exciting part was about to begin – sand-boarding and rock climbing!
Sand-boarding… totally awesome!
I am comfortable roller skating and ice skating as well, but I have never been on a board… on any surface – cement, wood, ice, water or sand! The sand-boarding experience was included in our trip. We reached a big sand dune and Aoud encouraged us to strap on the board and zoom down the slope. Ankur decided to bail on this one but I wanted to give it a try, regardless of my fear of heights. I scrambled up the dune – every step added 100 grams of sand in my shoes… I really didn’t care. I was excited (and a little scared) – all enthused to slide.
Halfway to the top of the dune, I strapped on the board ….standing up was fairly easy. Sliding down wasn’t! I fell on my bum after every 15 meters! I am not too proud of my performance, but I am happy that I have done sandboarding at least once in my life – worth experiencing!
Acrophobia… and my attempt to overcome it!
Next, was getting on top of the Umm Fruth rock bridge. It was high and I wanted to reach the top to face my acrophobia. There was no trail to get to the top – Aoud was walking on the face of the rock like a lizard! He assured us that it was an easy task and Ankur followed. I mustered up all my pluck and meekly followed the two. Step one… step two… find a foot hold… step three… and I was on my way up. It wasn’t as difficult as it looked – a pull from Ankur and some guidance from Aoud – I crawled over the bridge and finally, I was on top! This is a must do site at Wadi Rum!
Aoud then took us to a smallish canyon, which we crossed by clambering over some rocks and sliding down some dunes. We also walked through another small canyon, which had water! Later, we were told that a lot of water has been discovered under Wadi Rum and is being pumped to Amman – it is expected to cater to Amman’s water requirements for the next 20 years at least. It is difficult to imagine such large quantities of water under the sandy and rocky landscape.
Watching the colours at sundown…
It was about 5:30 pm and we headed to a quiet spot to enjoy the sunset. Spring time had made the desert spring into life and the desert plains were carpeted by small white flowers.
We climbed on a rock and watched the desert change colour as the sun set – let the romance begin <drumroll>. The large rocks changed shades from red to brown, purple, gray and then black.
Sleepy time… Zzzzz…
We reached our camp before it got really dark. We were expecting it to be a basic camp – to our surprise, it was a sturdy camp with cots with comfortable mattresses and blankets. There was a concrete bathroom and toilet – happy to see that in a camp in the middle of nowhere! It was closer to glamping than it was to actually rugged camping!
Struggle for vegetarian food… in the middle of nowhere!
Dinner was in a cosy tent, which had a fire to let us toast our feet in the cold evening. The food was fresh and tasty – hummus, rice, chicken gravy and labneh, and we were very hungry. We had specified that we are vegetarians when we had made the booking. The intriguing part it – people in the desert do not know what ‘vegetarian’ is! They believe that eating vegetables with meat/chicken is being a vegetarian. With nothing else to eat and an over whelming desire to eat warm food in the cold desert night, Ankur and I picked the vegetables from the chicken gravy and had it with rice!
Hushh… tell no one at home please!
Baby… It’s cold outside…
Nights are cold in the desert- cold and windy. This is especially true for winters and spring. We had carried our tripod all the way as we wanted to click a good star trail and if possible, the milky way. We didn’t have too much of success with the trail as a long exposure picked up a lot of ambient light from the neighboring village, but I did end up seeing over 6 shooting stars in hour! Yippee!
After a long adventurous day, which was the highlight of our trip so far, we decided to hit the sack and snored under the covers.
We left the next morning after a sumptuous breakfast and passed by the station that still houses the engine that chugged for TE Lawrence during his exploratory trips.
Two cents from my end… some tips…
- Go with the reputable guides: All tour organisers seem to offer similar services. However, some are not too reputable, is what we understood from our guide at Petra. If you are a solo woman traveller, I would strongly urge you to stick the top few on the rating charts – we typically use TripAdvisor.
- Dear Vegetarians…: Vegetarians please specify what is it that you need and the fact that it should not be cooked with meat in the same pot. You will surely get vegetarian cold food – hummus, cheese and salads…worry not..you wont starve in the desert – the Bedouins are way too hospitable to let that happen!
- A little chilly…: Carry a fleece or a jacket for yourself – it does get cold at night
- Photography: If clicking a star trail is one of your joys (like mine), carry your tripod. The desert offers great opportunities to click the trails, shooting stars and the Milky Way
- Take a chill pill: Take a break …..and have a little cup of tea. The local Bedouin guides love to light a fire, boil water in the kettle and have a cup of tea….anywhere and everywhere. It’s great to sit down with them and have a chat. One of the guides wanted to come to India to find a bride for himself!
As always… send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!