On November 13, 2019, Amy Jurries departed from Um Qais on a 454-mile bike ride on the Jordan Bike Trail, reaching her final destination of Aqaba on the Red Sea. This 13-day bike ride is comprised of 12 stages and passes through three regions of the country (Northern, Central and Southern).
Our ride offered a nice change of pace today as instead of dropping all the way down into the wadis and back out again, we got to stay up along the rim, rolling along the dirt roads hovering above Wadis Dana and Feynan. I visited both of these wadis on my very first trip to Jordan, staying at the Rummana Campsite in the Dana Biosphere Reserve before hiking Wadi Ghuweir to Feynan Ecolodge. So today it was a treat to peer down into these deep canyons from above for a birdseye view of the terrain.
Every day we come across someone who is convinced we are lost. On a particularly chunky section of trail, a Major in the Jordanian Army waved me down as he thought there was no way I should be riding a road like this on a bike. After I convinced him it is actually something we really enjoy doing and the bikes are built to handle the surface, we shared some cold coffee from the Thermos in his car to celebrate.
After one of the most crazy technical single-track descents I have ever done, not helped by the stunning views over Wadi Dana which pulled your eye away from the trail, we stopped into Dana Village for some snacks and strong coffee. Ali, who owns the Stars Cafe and Shop made me some fresh Turkish coffee while fondly recalling his time spent in New Orleans and Chicago. “New Orleans was too hot and Chicago was too cold,” he told me.
The Dana Village area has been occupied for over 6,000 years. Archaeological evidence indicates that Paleolithic, Egyptian, Nabatean, and Roman civilizations have been drawn to the area by the fertile soil, water springs, and strategic location. Nearly abandoned at one point, the village has since been restored and is now bustling with home-stays and small cafes — it makes a great starting point for hikes down into the canyon.
Dana is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, covering some 320 square kilometers of spectacular mountains and water-filled canyons along the face of the Great Rift Valley. The only reserve in Jordan that encompasses the four different bio-geographical zones of the country (Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian), Dana is a melting pot of species from Europe, Africa and Asia.
The wind seems to be our constant companion on the trail, slowing our progress most days. Because of this, it only makes sense that Jordan would erect huge windmill farms that we rode through on our final stretch into Shobak. Rolling the final few miles through this lunar landscape just north of the town, with its different colored sandy mountains and the propellers whirring above, was almost otherworldly. We could see the turrets of Shobak Castle on top of the hill in the distance, guiding us in like a beacon as we raced to beat the setting sun.
Upon arriving at the Montreal Hotel in Shobak which overlooks the castle, we decided to see if a driver would take us the 15 miles along the highway to Wadi Musa and back so we could experience Petra by Night. Held only on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, the walk along The Siq, the main road that leads into the Nabatean City, is lit up by candlelight.
Upon turning the final corner of the over 1 km hike flanked on both sides by 80-meter tall canyon walls, you arrive at the Treasury to hundreds of candles casting their ambient glow on the facade. Despite the crowds, it’s absolutely magical. I found a remote corner to steal a quiet moment and soak in the romantic atmosphere.
All of Wadi Musa was in celebration mode as the 1 millionth visitor for 2019 crossed through the Petra gates that day. There were fireworks, a band playing next to the Cave Bar, and a party all up and down the main drag — Tourism Street.
Our driver, Salem, laughed as he brought us back to Shobak when we explained we would be riding our bikes right back to Wadi Musa again the next day.
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