Petra to Wadi Rum, Jordan, Dec. 2013

There's a long stretch of desert between the two legendary sites of Petra and Wadi Rum. I got to follow a guy on a donkey on a route which became the Petra Region of the Abraham Path. Later, as the Jordan Trail began to gain popularity with locals, they rerouted it to a much more scenically interesting path through the canyons to the west. Still, I'm glad I got to experience feeling the desert wind across these open, sandy plains.

Day 1

Our guy-on-donkey for this trip was our Bedouin guide, Muweija. The donkey was called Alyan. Heading out of Petra to the southwest, we passed more Nabatean tombs...

...and a valley full of rock-carved houses still inhabited by the local Bedouin

Off into the countryside

Past the trail to Jebel Haroun, the traditional site of Mt. Hor, where Aaron (brother of Moses, first Israelite priest) passed his levitical garments on to his sons and then died. The summit has the ruins of a Byzantine monastery and a whitewashed Islamic shrine, which you can see up there

Heading southwest away from Petra; this wadi was probably once a more-used thoroughfare. A short distance down, a Nabatean amphitheater was carved from the cliffs

The wadi incises its way deeper into the sandstone...

...soon becoming impassable to all but foot or donkey traffic. Maybe a hike-and-bike session could get you through, just don't slip

Here we met our guide's brother, who was running the support truck. We did this hike wimp-style and just carried day packs. A more authentic way to do this is by bringing camels and traveling in traditional desert fashion. This has the bonus of a (probably) lower carbon footprint and lower cost - a camel that can graze on wadi vegetation has a very low overhead

Camp for the first night. In a wide-open basin, the stars were incredible

Day 2

Heading out into the dawn

Muweija upon Alyan, waiting for us, was a common sight throughout the trip

Ein Imshit, our first source of natural water. You can do this trek unsupported, as long as you're willing to carry 4 days of food and, at one point, 30km worth of water. I've drunk from some of the wells without purification, but I don't recommend you do the same

Up into the limestone plateau

Winding across its relatively gentler hills

And into narrow wadis

In Wadi Beer Hamed lies a tiny village of the same name, where a wind-powered pump brings up well water for the area

Day 3

Out of the slab of limestone, we crossed over a low pass...

...and out into the sandstone desert, its shapes the harbinger of Wadi Rum

Good camel-riding country. Under vast skies, you can vanish into a dreamlike state - but it's easier on camelback

Going soft: more of the earthly delights of the support truck, bringing lunch to the wastelands

Peering out across the plains, a scattering of enticing peak,s each offering its own complex and craggy geological delights

A strong wind picked up behind us, and we sped across the plains, covering over 30 kilometers this day. The scenery, though it changed painfully slowly, was still new enough that we did not tire of it

Dusk in the desert, never better than with an immense vista before you

Day 4

Plenty of sheltered camp spots are found along the rims of the sandstone cliffs. Of course, this one happened to be within earshot of crackling high-voltage lines, but you can't have everything

Slowly, the mountains we passed grew larger and larger

Our route followed a jeep track here - but old-fashioned transport is still in use

Good spot for a nap

One of the elegant rock arches of Jebel Kharaza - hardly the only natural attraction of this vast stretch north of Wadi Rum, but one of the finest I've seen

Follow the leader

As I write this, I'm planning a fatbike trip to this region. What better way to wander between scrambling routes?

Inexplicably, a lone, perfect circle of jeep tracks on a mud flat

The contrast of orange and blue is apparently universally pleasing to the human eye. For this reason, movies are often color-corrected to maximize this color scheme. Or so I read on the internet it must be true. Maybe it explains the allure of the sandstone desert

And arrival. At the mouth of Wadi Rum proper, a vista of the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (at left) greeted us. The walk down the wadi to the village is surprisingly unphotogenic - it's the large region around the eponymous valley that really stuns.

A proper conclusion to this hike would have been an overnight climb up Jebel Rum, or at least some scrambling adventures up into the red-purple cliffs. If only we'd had the time - we spent a rough night camping behind Rum village's restaurant, woken at 2am by the wildly echoing, incessant yammering of all the valley's dogs and chickens. Fortunately, I had chances to return again and acquire some more pleasant memories