Day three in Jordan brought us to the desert region known as Wadi Rum.
Many movies have been made here because the landscape resembles the surface of Mars. While we were there, filming for The Martian staring Matt Damon was underway. We knew this because we saw people from the production team the day prior in Petra. They were easy to spot with their The Martian branded backpacks.
It was astonishing to see the size of the production team which was enormous. I had no idea it took so many people to make a movie. In the photo below, some of the production vehicles can be seen. There was a second area where trucks and additional vehicles were parked and there were also vehicles out in the desert filming too.
Our day trip to Wadi Rum was, unfortunately, low point of our trip to Jordan. The drive from Petra to Wadi Rum was long and the drive from Wadi Rum to our hotel in Amman was even longer (upwards of 3.5 hours) with no break for lunch aside from a stop at a tourist center/gas station about an hour from Amman.
It was at this tourist center/gas station where Peter and I had our 16 JD (~$24) Lunch of Champions while sitting on a retaining wall in the parking lot listening to cars whiz by. We also used our lunch break to dump massive amounts of red sand out of our socks and shoes. Sand has an amazing way of getting everywhere, like in my suitcase which never entered Wadi Rum!
The tourist center/gas station where we ate lunch was a different gas station than the one I had locked myself in the toilet stall and had to scream for help. After Wadi Rum, my bladder was about to burst, so I requested a pit stop. Our driver obliged and I entered the women’s bathroom, randomly picked a toilet stall and closed the door.
As the door slammed shut, I realized that the handle on the inside of the door was missing and that the door had automatically locked. I essentially just just locked myself in a fully enclosed toilet stall (the door was full length and met the floor). I did my business and came up with a plan to free myself of this tiny toilet stall.
I decided that pounding on the door and yelling “Help!” out of the tiny window above the toilet repeatedly was my best – and only – course of action. A few short minutes later, a Jordanian man came to my rescue. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, so I just smiled at him and ran out of the bathroom and to the comfort of our wifi-enabled car. Needless to say, Rad and Peter were confused as to why a strange man entered the women’s bathroom only to emerge after me fleeing the scene.
As for our tour of Wadi Rum, Peter and I were handed off to a specialist guide once we arrived a few miles from the entrance to Wadi Rum. Our guide mumbled English and was hard to understand and he did not understand our English questions, so our “tour” was more like listening to a live audio guide rather than interacting with a real human being. We visited a water well, drove around our guide’s village, drove to an enormous sand dune, looked at some rock formations, and drank tea in a tent. Oh, and we rode camels.
The camel ride was an add-on, one where we felt cheated but later agreed that riding the camels was the most memorable part of our visit to Wadi Rum. Our guide told us the camel riding prices while we were in the jeep and then demanded we pay him before we met the camel owner and “boarded” the camels. We believe that the camel riding price was actually lower than what our guide charged us and he pocketed the extra. This “guide” was my least favorite of all our guides during our tour. He was smarmy and I did not trust him.
Riding a camel is really hard, especially if, like me, it’s the first animal you’ve ever ridden in your entire life. I think normal people start by riding dogs (e.g. very small children) followed by maybe ponies and then horses and finally camels. Not me. I go straight from riding a stationary spinning bike to riding a camel.
Getting on my camel was fairly easy. The camel crouched down and I swung my leg over it and got balanced as best I could. I noticed straight away that the saddle was hard and super uncomfortable and I regretted our decision to ride camels almost immediately.
Then my camel stood up to its knees. I mistook this as full-height and let my guard down. As soon as I let my guard down, my camel stood up to full-height which scared the shit out of me. Oh god. Camels are tall! And, oh god, that saddle was like sitting on a 2 inch x 6 inch board of wood. Oh, god. I have to ride this animal for 15 minutes? Oh, god!
The physical task of riding a camel is difficult. They sway back and forth which makes your body move left-to-right and with each shift to the side, I felt like I was going to fall off. Camels should come with requirements that the rider must have very strong abdominal muscles and no fear.
One reason why it was so difficult to ride our camels was that there were no stirrups. Our feet just hung down the sides of the camels and we were left with nothing to hold on to but this knob thingy in the middle of the saddle.
Another reason my particular camel was difficult to ride was because it was the trouble maker of the group and it kept biting the other three camels’ butts and necks. It would slow down and then sprint to bite them, then slow down, then sprint to bite them. And let me tell you, when a camel moves its long neck quickly – like a snake in the grass – the ride gets real bumpy and uneasy real fast.
My camel was an asshole.
My experience riding a camel was the longest 15 minutes of my life. My inner thighs burned. My abs burned. My eyes were burning from the sun. Everything was burning which is why I think riding a camel is an awful decision.
Below is a video I managed to take during our camel ride.
Getting off my camel was especially jarring. First, it knelt down on its front knees which basically felt like I was going to be catapulted off. Then it collapsed to its back knees and finally, down to the ground. If someone asked me what the highlights of our trip to Jordan were, I’d say:
- Swimming in the Dead Sea
- Hiking through Petra
- Walking through Jerash
- Stepping off my camel and onto the red sand in Wadi Rum
After our camel ride, we met up with our guide who took us to a gigantic sand dune which was the coolest thing we saw in Wadi Rum. By the way, Wadi Rum is full of litter. My camel stepped on crushed plastic bottles twice during our 15-minute journey.
Some dude from New Mexico tried to surf down the sand dune. His attempts failed because the sand wasn’t packed hard enough. It was like downhill skiing in fresh powder, his board just sunk into the sand.
After the sand dune stop, we climbed on some rocks, took some very uninteresting photos.
Following the uninteresting photo ops, we stopped at a tent and drank traditional Bedouin tea which tasted terrible.
After tea, we hopped back in the jeep and drove to meet our driver, Rad, who whisked us away to Amman where we spent the night.
One last random note regarding our Wadi Rum visit…
On the highway from Wadi Rum to Amman, I kept seeing green barrels sitting alongside the road next to roadside shacks. The green barrels looked like these but were not these; this photo was taken earlier in our trip.
I asked our driver, Rad, what the deal was with all the green barrels and he explained that they contained diesel. He said that when truckers go to neighboring Saudi Arabia, they buy mass quantities of diesel for cheap, bring it across the border to Jordan and then sell it to motorists for cheaper than motorists can buy diesel at a gas station. The truckers make money and the motorists save money and this pretty sums up how things operate in Jordan.