Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rum Job

Mum and I parted company the other day as she headed back to Amman to catch her plane home. Gone are the restaurants, gone are the taxis and gone are the nice hotels as I revert to my routine of ultra-cheapness. Actually Mum didn't have much luck with the hotels, all of which invariably suffered from some problem or another: no hot water, no heating, no satellite (despite all of these being selling points), dodgy food and incompetent staff. It's as if Basil Fawlty is running the Jordan school of hoteliery. It has made me come to the conclusion that it's often preferable to go for the cheapest option because at least then your expectations are lower and you lose less when everything goes pear-shaped.

Our last day together was spent in Wadi Rum, which probably has the most beautiful landscapes that I've seen in my entire trip, or at least the most photogenic. Situated in the south of the country close to the Saudi border the place is all about colour: blood red sand, intense blue sky and sandwiched between the two sheer, craggy sandstone mountains, ranging from pale yellow to dark grey, sculpted into fantastical shapes (they remind me particularly of candle-wax dribblings) by the windborne sand. If this is what deserts are like then bring on the global warming!

The area is home to the semi-nomadic bedouin, many of whom still herd goats and livein large, rectangular tents, though the camels have largely been replaced by battered old Toyota Landcruisers which are slightly less temperamental and prone to running off for no reason. They're also handy for carting tourists around. There are of course various sites that you are shown on a Wadi Rum excursion, such as a couple of rock bridges, a spring, a big sand dune, some rock inscriptions, and the ruins of what was once (supposedly) T.E. Lawrence's house, but they are just an excuse to ride through the desert on the back of a 4x4. The night was spent in a bedouin tent huddled under thick blankets cowering from the excruciatingly chill northerly winds. The next day Mum left but I stayed for another day to explore the mountains on foot. In the morning I duly struck off to try and find my way through a mountain via a series of canyons that I had been told about by other travellers. It was nice to get away from everything else and be surrounded by complete and utter silence. However the route was more like actual rock-climbing than a scramble and half-way along I had, what Ms. Jackson would call, a severe wardrobe malfunction, whereby one of the soles of my shoes half came off and I got an inconveniently-placed, largish tear in my trousers (luckily my boxer shorts are a similar colour, otherwise I might have outraged the rather conservative bedouins). Because I left my big backpack in Amman I have only one change of everything ... except shoes and trousers, and so I had to call time on my mountaineering exertions and return to a more sedate mode of travel that would be more forgiving on my apparel.

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