The red jebels of Wadi Rum


Look dad, someone's trying to overtake


Heading to Wadi Rum 

Leaving Petra and heading South towards Wadi Rum meant crossing the Jebel (mountain) Mubak chain (not particularly high at 1727) giving us splendid views over Petra. After having spent more than a week along the Dead Sea and the King's highway, we rejoined the infamous Desert Highway and its speeding trucks ! Wadi Rum is of course famous because Lawrence of Arabia stayed here in 1917. 



The Wadi Rum National Park
From what we had heard from fellow travelers it was not a good idea to drive alone in Wadi Rum. One had to rent a Jeep, a driver and a guide at great cost. Lonely Planet did not recommend driving further than 5 km from the village of Rum ! As we arrived at the entrance of the Park with these conflicting reports, we were not quite sure what to expect. The last thing we wanted was to have to leave Troopie at the gate and be carted of with a group of tourists all equipped with a lunch box provided by the tour. We no longer consider ourselves tourists, you see, we're travelers ! We met the man in charge in his office cum souvenir shop who seemed to discourage us from going into Wadi Rum by ourselves but only because that meant he would not be selling us the services of his guide ! We may be travelers but we have no experience of driving in soft sand and we were concerned about Troopie's weight (2.2 tons + at least 700 kg of fuel, water, luggage and... souvenirs) as well as our inadequate tyres (rather stiff 12-ply all-rounders instead of sand tyres). Well, if we're hoping to go to Libya and the Sahara, let's just go ! As we were lowering the pressure of the tyres from 3 and 4 bar to only 1.5 2 Bedouins in their Land Cruiser approached and talked to us as tough we were one of them and we knew exactly what we were doing !  


We discover the warm sunset colours of Wadi Rum as we experience driving in soft sand for the first time


Of course, everything went fine. It is not the first time that we have had to trust the abilities of our Troopie ! The thing to do when hitting a spot of soft sand is to try to keep on going as each tyre is pushing its own little wave of sand. 4wd and the torque of Troopie's 4.2 liter diesel engine meant we never got stuck. Driving on sand is one thing, navigating through hundreds of "pistes" that head in every possible direction is yet another as we entered the park with what seemed like a precise map. Here we were able to count on the experience of 11 months of driving around Asia.



Troopie in front of the "Seven pillars of wisdom" mountain that inspired the title of T.E. Lawrence's book (centre), stunning desert scenery (left & right)


Deep 4wd tracks into the red sand dunes, Wadi Rum, South Jordan


After a few hours of having fun driving around trying to find specific spots such as rock bridges, Lawrence's House or the Qattar Spring we headed for a sunset point where we decided to camp for the night. Even tough we were only 10 or 15 km away (and about 5 billion "piste" intersections) from the small village of Rum, the feeling of loneliness was intense. As the sun quietly set, the mountains around us became more and more red. There was not a *single* noise. That evening we cooked food and went to bed gazing at the stars.



Our first bivouac in the desert was a good one ! We didn't move until noon the next day spending the morning listening to music and taking our time. What a strange feeling to be alone ! The one type of people we were hoping to see is the desert patrol. These camel-mounted men used to be dressed in their "traditional full-length khaki robes, dagger at the waist, pistol and rifle slung over the shoulder". Nowadays they have exchanged their camels for "blue armoured patrol wagons - with heavy machine guns mounted in the back - ... that can achieve speeds of over 100 km/h as they pursue drug smugglers on the Saudi border" (Lonely Planet)


Our first desert camp (centre), a small camel and its mother (right)


Now we know where "Tagliatelle verde" grows


Would you not want to shout "Aqaba" on one of these ?


We did !

The city of Petra Back to Trip page Heading to Egypt