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).
I find it normally takes a couple of days to get into your groove on any bike-packing trip—figuring out your gear systems, shaking out the bugs on the bike, getting a good understanding of the terrain and your possible daily mileage, and finally just falling into the rhythm of the trip. With the constant changing nature of the trail and the delightful interactions along the way that pull is in all directions, I feel like on the Jordan Bike Trail, the normal groove of eat, sleep, ride, repeat morphs into eat, sleep, coffee, chat, tea, selfie, ride, push, carry, repeat.
Today threw us some steep ascents and sections of quite technical terrain that required pushing and even carrying our bikes, as for much of the day we were following the same path as the Jordan Trail — the hiking trail that runs the entire length of the country.
It all started after the Rmeinmeen waterfall where what should have been a fun technical single-track section became a major haul your bike over boulders and cross a river because of the recent rains. November is the start of the rainy season here in Jordan so a somewhat risky time to plan a bike-packing trip but we have lucked out so far with just a few late afternoon thunderstorms. Alhamdulillah.
Not far after the waterfall we came across a crab on the road. A crab! In the far north of Jordan! We tried to figure out if there was such a thing as river crabs here, otherwise that little buddy was a long way from the Red Sea.
After a long climb up towards the Amman-Salt Highway, we stopped for some water and coffee at a small shop. As we sat outside chatting with the shop owner, Ahmed, a couple of men in a truck saw us and pulled over to take selfies with us. We are starting to feel like celebrities here in Jordan as we get asked for numerous photos every day.
We were psyched to reach the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis just after midday as we wanted to stop into Carakale Brewery — the first microbrewery in Jordan — for lunch or at least to taste their beer. Sadly, the place was shut when we arrived and wouldn’t open for another hour. Knowing we would run out of daylight if we hung around to wait, we forlornly jumped back on our bikes and headed towards Iraq Al-Amir.
The afternoon was spent climbing up and down fertile countryside dotted with small farms and goats grazing on mint, following the dirt track of the old Roman roads. We ran into a group of hikers that were day-hiking a small section of the Jordan Trail. They were headed to the brewery for a late lunch, and said we were missing out on some of the best pizza in Jordan. Aaaarrrgh! Maybe next time...
We had been dodging a thunderstorm most of the afternoon but our luck finally gave out. Hiding under an olive tree, we waited out the worst of the rain before pushing the last few miles into town.
Earlier that morning we asked Ali who works at the Mountain Breeze Resort to help us call ahead to the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative and let them know we would like to stay the night as well as eat dinner. When we rolled in, three of the fifteen women from the surrounding community who work there greeted us warmly, excited we had come to visit.
The women’s cooperative was founded by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation over two decades ago. The goal is to give the women financial independence and to raise their standard of living by increasing their income and preserving local heritage. The women not only offer meals and lodging in a cute stone guesthouse, but also make handmade paper products, ceramics, and handwoven rugs and other fabrics.
Communicating as best we could with a bit of charades and the help of google translate, we found out Latifa and many of the other women had worked at the co-op for 25 years now, since they were teenagers. We shared a beautiful mansaf dinner then sat around laughing and chatting over multiple cups of sweet mint tea. The evening quickly became one of my favorite experiences on the trail so far.
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