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Waiting Around in Wadi Rum

November 3, 2009: The Explore! tour was called “Lawrence’s Arabia”. So you might think that during our day in the desert we would have visited at least some sites associated with Lawrence. You might also think that with a full day at our disposal we would have done the trek/camel ride when the light was at its best. You would be wrong on both counts. What we mostly did in the desert was hang around.

Natural Bridge

We set off from Petra with the group split between four 4WDs, and after a relatively sedate drive down the highway, turned off into the desert, where some of the drivers amused themselves with a few mildly adventurous manoeuvres which upset at least one of the women in my vehicle. We stopped at a natural bridge for photos, and rather a lot of waiting around. Then we drove a bit further and stopped again, by an undistinguished rock outcrop. And waited again. For lunch to arrive.

Camels - I don't enjoy riding them, but their expressions are always fun

I have borderline hypoglycemia, and need protein at regular intervals, so I was unhappy to find that the only things that might count as protein were processed cheese triangles. After lunch we waited again, this time for the camels to show up. The camel ride to the camp site was one of the optional extras – you could trek or ride in the jeep instead. My roommate and I were sharing a camel – she would ride while I walked and then we’d switch. She’d never ridden a camel before, while I had ridden short distances in both China and Morocco. Camel riding wasn’t something I had particularly enjoyed, but I didn’t think trekking through sand would be a whole lot of fun, either.

With all the waiting around we had done, we didn’t start the trek/ride until

After the camel stayed up

2:30: the middle of the afternoon with the worst possible light and the greatest possible heat. Who on earth planned this? The head Bedouin had tied my Bedouin head scarf correctly for me, so I had some protection from the sun, and I tried to walk in the shade of the camels, but I was actually glad when we stopped for another rest, and it was my turn to ride. Until my camel threw me.

It could have been worse – the camel decided it didn’t want a rider on its way up. It got its front legs up, and then, halfway through getting its back legs up, it fell sideways. Fortunately I was able to swing my legs clear, so the camel didn’t fall on top of me, but the sand wasn’t as soft as you might think to fall on. I guess the handlers gave the camel an effective talking to, because it behaved itself for the rest of the day, but I after a whole hour on camelback I was more than ready to get off. Give me a horse any day.

Sunset in the desert

While we did visit some mildly interesting petroglyphs, we didn’t see anything that anyone said had associations with Lawrence, and in fact, I found most of the rock formations disappointing – perhaps if you see them before Petra they look better. Or perhaps they look better in morning or evening light. After we visited the petroglyphs we saw a village not far away, and then came around some rocks to see a covey of 4WDs and a flock of tourists trying climb up a sand dune. Our camp was round the next rock corner.

Our camp site

We slept (those who didn’t choose to sleep out) in a big, rectangular black tent, full of mattress pads and sleeping bags. The toilets (western and squat, with TP) were a short distance away, requiring a trek through soft sand. The Bedouins lit a large camp fire, and served a surprisingly good dinner, with plenty of food including both chicken and lamb. I had packed for a cold night, but I stayed plenty warm – even visiting the toilets in the middle of the night without getting muffled up – and by moonlight. Just as the moon had overpowered the candles at Petra, here it overpowered the stars – I would suggest doing a desert overnight during the dark of the moon.

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