Thursday, 17 March 2011

Day 180 Jordan 17/03/2011, Free camp Wadi al-Hasa – at-Tafila – free camp outside ar-Rashadiya 25.38miles/39.79km, 4hr09minutes, Av 6.1mph.

The wind that had been hindering our progress for the last few days, took a turn for the worse last night. Sleep became impossible as gale force winds battered the tent. Fortunately we had pitched it correctly and somehow us, our gear and the tent survived the night. It would have been nice to get more than about three hours sleep though! By morning the wind had gone completely, at least we would only have the climb out of the valley to deal with.

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I have decided to split the rest of the day into sections, the good, the challenging (bad is a bit strong) and the ugly.

The Good:

Nearing the top of the steep climb out of the valley a lorry driver pulled over beside us to make sure we were all right and to have a chat about what we were doing and where we were going.

Stopping for a drink in the small town of Abu Banna the shopkeeper came and sat outside with us and in faltering English had a chat about where we were going.

In at-Tafila the shopkeepers were all really friendly; the greengrocer gave us a banana each and the supermarket manager went out of his way to help us by some bread. Even though the manager didn't know what we were asking for, our phrase book doesn't have the Arabic for bread, he asked around until someone knew and then came and found us in the town to point us in the right direction.

A cleric from a nearby mosque insisted on helping me fix one of three punctures that we had during the day. After the bike was repaired, he took us over to the mosque to get cleaned up, filled our water bottle and then gave us some vegetables.


The next puncture was fixed outside a guys shop who had beckoned us over and offered to help. We were surrounded by friendly but curious locals.

Fixing the final puncture a few people stopped to make sure we were OK. We also received numerous shouts of hello and welcome from some of the nice children in the smaller villages.

The Challenging:

The road climbed relentlessly pretty much all day.

We shouldn't complain about nice weather, but with no real breeze the sun beating down on us all day made the climbs especially difficult.

The lack of sleep caused by last night's high winds, certainly didn't make life any easier.

Three punctures in one day, two of them because previously applied patches failed within a couple of hours of each other.

The Ugly:

Not long after leaving our camp-site two guys in a van drove past and threw stuff at Debs, they then attempted to hit me with a stick that they were waving out the window. Their behaviour was made all the more bizarre by then waving and beeping their horn at me. What did they expect, that I would think it was a hilarious prank that they had just pulled and joyously wave back!

Arriving in at-Tafila kids immediately started throwing rocks at us.

Continuing through the town a lad mimes kicking out at Debs' bike and then grins at me like it's a huge joke.

A college age student beckons me from across the road, when I look over to say hello he spits at me.

In al-'Ayn al-Baydha, Debs is subjected to lewd comments and swearing from a group of lads.

More young kids throw stones, although they do apologise when I challenge them.

The above behaviour is all so contradictory, that it is impossible to figure out. We don't want to let a country beat us, but it is getting to the stage that we would happily take the quickest route out. It is a real shame because there have been moments of genuine warmth and hospitality. Most of the awful behaviour is coming from the young, which makes us concerned for the direction the country could be headed. It is so at odds to our experiences in the other Middle Eastern countries we have visited.

After a tough day we found a bit of ground near the road to pitch our tent and settled in for the night.


Hopefully we will make it to Petra tomorrow, with no repeat of today's incidents. A hotel room beckons; both ourselves and our clothes could use a good clean!

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