• 28 April 2015

Riding on bike 400 m below the sea level in Jordan

Riding on bike 400 m below the sea level in Jordan

Riding on bike 400 m below the sea level in Jordan 300 169 Gürkan Genç


Since I have started to ride in Jordan on Friday, the streets are pretty quiet. Otherwise, it would be difficult to leave the city. The shoulder on the right side of the roads is quite narrow not allowing to ride on this lane but fortunately the lanes are broad. If not it had been difficult to ride even on empty roads. For me, the most dangerous the part of the road was the bridge between the 4th duvar (wall in Turkish) and Abdun, also called Abdun bridge. Well, what the hell is the duvar? It means roundabout. All the roundabouts in Amman are given a number. Where is Turkish Embassy in Amman? Just next to the second duvar or ask to anyone “duvar tani”, they will immediately show you or take you there. The numbering starting from one continues to nine or even more. Crossing the bridge I found myself at the outskirts of the city. Till the exit of the city I climbed up and down a couple of slopes. Towards the lake of Lut, also called the Dead Sea it is possible to come upon UN aid tents scattered here and there. These aid tents of UN had been taken by some people and resold. I don’t know how and to whom they were sold but saw these tents all over Jordan. Furthermore, one of the indigenous tradesmen of Amman also confirmed this issue.


20 km after city exit the road starts to gently slope downward. Here we start. I have ridden for years at high altitudes, now it is time to ride at the lowest altitude, 400 m below the sea level. Let’s see what the GPS device will display. At the city exit there are small stores, restaurants and groceries along the road. I stopped one of them just to have a short break after 20 km. Well, people immediately gathered around me. I asked for yoghurt. Yes, at the end I found the kind of yoghurt I was looking for in Jordan. On top of it, it tasted good. Meanwhile an older man asked:

–       Are you Turk?

–       Yes amca (uncleused for elderly men in Turkish) I’m Turk.

–       Why did you come to Jordan? (You must have seen in the manner he was asking with one of his eye brows up and the other down)

–       You didn’t come to look for gold?

–       What the hell? What gold amca?

–       There is Ottoman’s gold in this region but no map. Do you have the map?

–       What map amca? I came here for a visit. I don’t possess a gold map.

–       Wouldn’t they give you a copy of the map from your embassy if you request? I’m sure that the embassy possesses a map.

The issue “Ottoman’s gold” is such: At definite periods the salary of the Ottoman soldiers was sent by the treasury. The troops guarding this gold had been attacked from time to time. The gold had been buried to ease the movement during fight.  Ottoman’s had to immediately leave this region during First World War. Consequently, the sealed gold boxes were left behind at several definite places in the thought to come back after some time. Some of these seals had been found near the railways and in the city center of Amman. The scripts showing these places of these treasures were kept at the Ottoman archives. But there is no way to say “hey, the Ottoman’s gold is buried here, just help us to get it” for the Turkish government to the Jordan government.

After this short break I speeded up downward for 15 km with a slope of 8%. There is a check point at 0 m altitude. Turning right you head towards Palestine – Jordan border. Let me finish my Jordan tour first then I’ll proceed through this border gate. There was no passport control at the check point. So, I didn’t stop. As I reached minus 180 m altitude I had slight tinnitus. I stopped right at the start of Dead Sea at minus 300 m altitude.

– Wow! Dude, that was an amazing descent. Let me gulp. Dude, my ears got plugged.

As soon as I stopped a cloud of flies surrounded me. Ugh! What the hell is this? The temperature changed immediately. Let me check. Hmmm 48 degrees but the high humidity makes me feel much higher. I just drank water before continuing to ride since it is impossible to stop for a longer time due the flies. Although I covered myself, I got these flies in my mouth and they totally covered my bike.

There are pavilions along the shore with samovars and water pipes. Apparently people come at the evening chill to these places. The sun setting over the Palestine territory results in a spectacular view.

While I was strolling a motorbike group passed me. There were any kinds of motorbikes from Harley Davidson, BMW to KTMs. In this country only the rich ride on motorbikes, really the very rich. In the past there were so many motorbike accidents that the government raised the taxes enormously. Only if you have a restaurant with delivery service you can buy a cheap motorbike.  After the motorbike show two Ford Mustangs and a pickup passed me, their drivers stepping on gas “pa paaapaaaaaaaaaaaavv” as if saying: “we are the king of the roads”. Getting amused by the exhaust and carburetor sound is really strange. After 30 000 km there was no sound made by my bike and I shot a video: “Look dude look! I did the maintenance of my bicycle, it is running smoothly. Not a tiny sound as if I’m undercover. This is produced not to make sound.” This might the same sort of amusement.

It is possible to see people buying fresh fruit and vegetables along the road. Since it is the mouth of Jordan River to Dead Sea, it is almost impossible to see an agricultural field after this point. All the produce is sold here but this region is pretty dirty. Leftovers of picnickers are all around. The people are picnicking among this dirt. This part of the road being quite busy, I don’t understand why this region isn’t cleaned up!

There is also a shopping mall next to Dead Sea. : ) I took a look into the parking area of the mall full of latest models of jeeps and cars. Since this mall is outside the city only middle or upper classes come to shop here, or to cafes, restaurants. Along the first 20 km’s after Dead Sea altitude is reached 5 star hotels are lined up side by side.

I had the opportunity to hold a presentation to the Jordanian businessmen in one of these hotels. I sat in lobby while waiting for my presentation: “wow, it was really amazing  No flies, a massive huge glass window, inside comfortably cool.


Passing the hotels I came to the common beach at Dead Sea chock full with people. The cars lining up along the road. I saw small prefab houses on the beach probably for rent.  A real tumult. No way to leave the bicycle and swim here. Most probably I wouldn’t find my bicycle returning back from swimming. The color of sea water was strange but not due heavy urinating. Anyway, nobody would urinate in this sea, it takes guts. Its salt concentration is 10 folds more compared to open sea. If you have an open wound or just after shaving it is impossible to tolerate this high salt concentration. If you urinate you will suffer. : ) There are no shower facilities but a small spring its water coming from the mountains full of women.

After 30 km riding along the sea shore the crowd comes to an end. Only canyons on the left side, Dead Sea on the right and the road in between.

At the evening hours 4 mates barbequing at road side call me for dinner. They in Arabic me in Turkish try to communicate with each other. I helped them to thread the meat on to skewer which was covered with flies. The number of flies decreased with sun set.

First lavash bread was laid on a large metal dish, then pilaf and on top of it all the meat barbequed.  They gave me a loaf of bread. Eat man! I dipped a piece of bread with my dirty hands spotted with oil. Then, Abo Anas and his friends from Georgia leapt to my mind. I laughed not to them but to myself. This is being on the road. The road is rasping my thoughts, my taboos and my dreams year after year. As I said I was laughing to myself.

After having dinner they packed up and left. I looked around, a good place to camp. Dead Sea and Palestine is in my view, what more. As soon as I put up my tent I fell asleep. Strange! I didn’t ride that much today but felt myself so tired. At midnight a car’s headlamp blended my tent. Some people were shouting in Arabic calling me.

–       Ok. I’m coming out. Wait for a few minutes.

I put my shorts on

–          Ahaaaaa. Are you a tourist?

–          Yes I am.

–          Ok ok sorry. You can sleep, sorry.

–          Ha ok..

Hmm. That was an interesting situation. You could control my passport at least, waking me up at midnight. When I was doing my military service as military police I had come upon tourists camping at irrelevant places at night patrols around Istanbul-Catalca. I had them waken up and at least controlled their ID cards. They even don’t do this. But he could also say: “forbidden my friend forbidden, it is forbidden to camp here”. The police officers and also soldiers of Jordan did not cause any difficulties throughout my travel in Jordan. Even, plainclothesmen came next to me and asked whether I had any need.


Once I saluted the plainclothesman following me in one of the countries I was traveling. They changed him immediately since he had been discovered, but the next was even worse than the former. He came next to us while chatting with two central African guys. We hugged each other before leaving. The police officer also got surprised. In some countries I’m not able to discover the undercover cops but usually I recognize them, a strange feeling. Once a patrol car was charged which was not able to follow me climbing towards mountains. They called the embassy to say: “The guy is running away!” Of course I’ll run away followed by a patrol car since people get scared and nobody invites me in the thought: “Who the hell is he?”

The next day I arrived in Mujib Canyon the first attraction on my Jordan travel. It is possible to walk for 4 km inside the Canyon. Actually the entrance of the canyon is quite high up. I saw its signboards on the road back to Amman but could not visit. This place where I’m now is called “Mujib Biosphere Reserve”, one of the places which I was lucky to see in Jordan. This 212 km2 canyon in the Dead Sea region is the lowest canyon in the world.

This canyon is open for tourism from April to November. I guess the water flow rate is pretty high during April and May. Now it is September 27th, even now you need a buddy. I could go to the end of the canyon. There was a last climb to the end of the canyon for which I needed a buddy. I could climb by myself but not with only a life-jacket.  Your feet can slip and you can hit your head on the rock. Since I was alone and nobody to hold me I didn’t let it to the faith and returned.

In such places a helmet should be given. I saw places in Europe where people went for canyoning. All had perfect equipments. This canyon is great. Pity, that I had only my GoPro camera with me. If I had known I would take also my camera in my waterproof bag and could catch some nice photos. Where ever I put my hands in the canyon I got in touch with bird droppings. The cliffs of the canyon were covered with bird nests. Naturally, the number of flies surrounding me doubled after I left the canyon. There was no facility to take a shower. Fortunately I had 4 liters of water, could at least roughly clean myself. : )

Till evening I could only get forward slowly with many stops. At one point I ran out of steam. I collapsed in a heap. Dude, is something wrong with me or was this geography not good for me? How could I get exhausted so fast? I was in a continuous need to eat something. Meanwhile, I came upon a construction area on the road. The workers gave me something to eat. Chatting with them I found out that they were Christians.

I met for the first time Christian Arabs, how nice. I had been told about the Christian community in this country. They were a much bigger group (more crowded) than I thought.

–           Hey! Want to ask you something. I get easily exhausted in this area. Is there a reason for that?

–           Yes, the oxygen level is higher than the normal level and the air you breathe is salty.

Hmmm. A scientific explanation came. I’m not responsible for that. Look it had a reason, I was saying this tiredness is not normal. That night I slept in a nearby mosque. The next day I set off with the morning pray. I started very early since I had to climb from 400 m below sea level to 1790 m above sea level to arrive in Petra.

I knew that it wouldn’t be easy but had never thought it’ll turn out that hard. I almost only climbed for 5 hours. After up and down climbing for 3000 m on the total I succeeded to arrive in Petra at noon time. At such climbs the chain started to throw, doesn’t hold in place anymore.

I could solve the problem by tightening the chain but then after a few days I had to wash the cassette and chain thoroughly. Frankly, the cassette is worn out but I’m waiting when it gives up.  I have received many questions about the open and closed gear systems. It is hard to say anything about closed gear systems which I used only for short time. But open gear systems to my experience after 120 000 km they become cheaper then closed systems. For the open system, there is more labor required, cleaning, greasing, washing etc. There are not such problems caused by open systems using closed system, just drip a few droplets of oil. Me, I’m satisfied with that. : )

I didn’t want to include Petra to this report. I’ll write about Petra under a different heading. One day after I left Petra I arrived in Wadi Rum. Till that time I had taken only side roads or the road along Dead Sea but between Petra and Wadi Rum I had to take the main road. After 35 km riding on the main road I turned to left at the Wadi Rum signboard and entered a side road.

By the way there is a restaurant called Alanya on the road. The meals are really good! A big bowl of soup, pilaf and a huge plate of meat cost only 4 Dinar. It is almost impossible to find such a meal for 4 Dinar in Amman. It tasted good which it was at a truck park. : D.. Why was its name Alanya? Thought that there may be Turks inside, but there weren’t. One km after this restaurant is another restaurant called Antalya. Well, its owner is a Turk. He had an Arab partner but it didn’t work.  One’s name became Alanya and the other Antalya.

There is a police station at the entrance of Wadi Rum. Since it was already dark I thought to camp there. I asked for permission, they said ok, no problem. I put up my tent 200 m to the right of the building. It was in the middle of desert, nobody around.  Another police officer came out of the building and said: “You can’t camp here”. Dude, I had opened my bag, put up the poles of the tent but he was saying that I have to go to Wadi Rum and stay there. Well, it got dark and I’m tired. Mentioning that I came all the way from Petra didn’t mean anything to them. If this is it, then:

– The next week I’ll hold a presentation at the University of Jordan. Most probably the king will also attend this presentation. If your king will ask me about his country I’ll tell him that the police officers at this station did not allow me to put my tent on and stay. Now, I puck up, think what will be going to happen.        

I started to fold apart the poles, opened my bags, the guy started to say: “Ok. Ok. Stay”

–       No, I won’t stay. You would do the same to another tourist, no. I’ll take this issue to relevant authorities.

The guy held my bags: “Alright, don’t go, no problem” He shouted at his friend saying something in Arabic. His friend brought dates and fruit juice. “Please stay, we apologize.” I’ll stay dude, I’m just bluffing. At least a part of what I said is bluff. It is true that I have a presentation at the university, but why should the king attend my presentation. : )  Since it is impossible to check whether true or not at this late time, no officer will take a risk naturally.

The next day early in the morning I rode towards Wadi Rum, almost 8 km were left. At the entrance of the valley there was a grandiose gate. In this valley famous movies had also been made.

Even at these early hours there were tourists waiting in front of the gate. While waiting in the line one of the Bedouin officers asked:

–          Turkey?

–          Yes, Turkey.

–          Are you Muslim?

–          Yes.

–          Ok you can pass.

–          The ones behind me are Christian. Their prophet is also a messenger of God, they should pass also.

My sentence must have made him angry, because he added “go and pay”.  It cost 5 Dinar to enter by car. I went there and paid. I was about to go:

–         You won’t be able to ride with this bicycle in the valley.

–         I’ll try as far it goes.


During the tourism season staying overnight in a Bedouin tent, dinner and a small tour by jeep costs about 70 USD. Dude, I’m spending my life camping in deserts and I’ve also experience riding on bicycle in the desert. I have enough meal and a tent. I would be absurd to spend that much money. But, those guys were right I had to push my bike for almost 3 hours. My arms were aching, also my back calf. But did I stay at this spot? Yes, I did. But the reason I was angry to that guy was he did this discrimination in a way that everybody could here!


I discovered a back road in the desert the next day. I saw that road while I was pushing my bike, dude there is a paved road but not visible. Throughout the day I was riding on my bike just across the people driving their jeeps. The entrance of the road was barricaded with sand. Even a jeep would hardly cross this part. I was told that this was due to desert wind piling up sand but hardly believable.

All the remaining part is free of sand piles but only the entrance? It is really hard to recognize this road in this valley which I only recognized it by chance. I went there wondering why there is upland and saw that it was paved. I immediately pushed my bike over there. For free I was able to tour in the valley.

Since I came to Wadi rum at nightfall I didn’t recognize what was around. During day while I was riding towards Aqaba I saw the Turkish flag waving on the train staying at the Wadi Rum Train Station.


“Dude, what the hell is this?” Just across the station was a building, a man came out of it recognizing me, but I walked towards the station. First, I entered inside the station. On the walls there were photos of Bedouins who had fought against the Ottoman soldiers. I asked to the man there what these photos were about? He started to explain proudly. The soldiers fighting against Ottomans, this and that happened and so on. Outside he saw my bicycle and the flag waving at the back while I was going to the train

–          Are you Turk?

–          Yes, I’m.

After this minute the excited narration came to an end. The train was still in perfect condition. I was told that this happening is animated to the tourist groups during the season.

I didn’t know that there was such a place in this region. It was a nice coincidence. I was about to go, a man called me coming out of a building across. “Come over drink tea, come on drink tea.” I accepted this invitation.

Dude the name of this guy was Yahya, a really interesting man. If you happen to go to Jordan one day and visit Wadi Rum, his place is just across the Hejaz Railway Station. He would host you in his house and cook a delicious meal. At least drink tea with him and chat. You will like him very much. He sends me New Year messages, asks how I’m, celebrates my birth day and so on from the middle of desert, that kind of a man. : ) Go to Jordan and listen from him the history of the country. And don’t forget to present my compliments, believe me he would be happy about this.

After leaving this place I came to a check point. The function of this check point was both making the last controls of the trucks exporting goods and also to control the luggage of the tourists going to Wadi Rum, Petra and Amman from Aqaba. During my return I saw that the bus trunks were controlled. But I don’t think that this is done on regular basis at this hot. After this spot it was downhill for 30 km till Aqaba.

I arrived in Aqaba late and also hardly found the hotel. I don’t remember the name of the hotel but it was just next to Dive Aqaba Center. Also, after two days I went out with this company to explore underwater of Red Sea. The hotel was very nice with enough breakfast and moderate internet. I stayed and rested for 3 days in this hotel and recovered myself. I spent 80 dinar for one day’s diving and stayed underwater more than two hours.

Underwater of Red Sea is colorful. The fishes don’t run away. Moray eels, lion fish, puffer fish were among the ones I saw. I also saw many other colored fishes. Honestly, I must say that I would stay for 10 days at the hotel if I would have enough many and dived every day.

Aside this there is nothing worth to visit in the city. There are castle, museum etc but all touristic attractions, forget about them. It is much better to stay longer in Petra.

Besides, the national museum in Amman was pretty good about which I’ll mention in my next report. Let’s ride back to Amman but this time taking a different route towards North.

I smile. My father comes in my mind: “My son, stop strolling around as if in neighborhood and continue on your road”

Kiss you

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