Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The last cycling day. For a start it's again down-falling to the Dead Sea, this time to the Israelian part of it. It took me 45 minutes to go down the road which took 3.5 hours going up. I crossed the border in half an hour: all that Israelis were interested this time was that I pay the exit tax.

I had a lunch before proceeding up to Amman. A long gradual climb of 30 km wouldn't be so hard if it weren't for the wind. The gusts of it moved me all over the road.

Amman is a metropolis with heavy traffic. I managed to get to an excellent hotel untouched by cars, buses or trucks. In all it was an exciting end of a great tour.

Day 13: 96km. Total 1051km.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I grasped the idea with both hands. Mostly, because it meant I could go down the Mt. Nebo climb. Again it was a fast, half hour non-stop downhill. What a shame that downhills last so short. It's almost like freefalling. I can really feel for the sky divers: organizing, preparing the parachute, getting in the plane, flying to the altitude, all that takes hours, just for 10 seconds of free fall enjoyment.

Down in the Dead Sea plane I tracked like a pointer the mysterious, non-signposted road to the Jordan/Israel border. This road is concealed as if it was a drug trafficking path. The border procedures lasted for about 3 hours, but to my surprise the Israelis didn't raise an eyebrow about seeing me with the bicycle. Well, almost. At the final gate the girl in charge broke into a hysteric laugh when she saw me on the bike.
“But you can’t go on a bike”, she said in between attacks of laughter.
“Why not?” I asked, and as she couldn’t answer this simple, logical question, she raised the ramp and let me into Israel.

There is an evident difference in road manners between Jordan and Israel. There was no honking, the drivers seemed to ignore me totally. There is a long gradual climb to Jerusalem, the last part of it with heavy traffic and on highway with a tunnel or two. The roads here are not designed for bikes, cycling seems to be a primitive undertaking here, worse then walking. I came to the town at dusk and it took another hour to find a hotel. No hot water or heating this time.

I took a day of rest in Jerusalem. The shops in the old town were closed due to Palestinian strike because of the Gaza events. Just fine with me - I don't have to wrestle with the touts.

Day 11: 84km. Day 12: 0km. Total 955km.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


This was a Mount Nebo day. It's a 30 km climb from the Dead Sea, as difficult as the one to Karak. Again I was drenched, but this time from the rain that caught me half way up.
Around Mt Nebo there are some teenagers practicing English they learned through TV: the ubiquitous phrases like "you bitch", "fuck you", etc.

I came to Madaba wet and shivering, but again I found a hotel featuring hot water and heating. I really had my lucky star with me on this trip. In the morning I took breakfast with next door neighbors and after I moaned that I run out of ideas what to do for the rest of the tour, they indicated that I could visit Israel.

Day 10: 52km. Total 871km.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dead Sea Highway

I expected a fast and flat ride to the Dead Sea during next day or two. Flat it surely was, but the headwind made it far from fast. Also, there were more check points then watering points. There is no accommodation on this part of the trip, so I had to use my bivy bag and I was very nervous about it. Not without reason. It was cold during the night both from the ground and from above, the bivy bag filled with condensation and I haven't slept more then 2 hours of the whole night - and nights are long here in winter.

One good point about it was that I just couldn't wait for the dawn to get up. And so I started early, at 7:15. I wanted to get to the turn off to Karak that day. The morning was cool but calm, without traffic and I made big progress in a few hours. Wind seemed to have turned or at least ceased. As the hours went by I realized I could get to Karak, avoiding another night of misery in the bivy bag.

I got at Karak turn off at 14:00 and made the majestic Karak climb before the dark at 17:00. I got a different hotel this time, a bit cheaper and a bit better, with hot water and functional heating. It came at the right moment as well, as I was totally drenched in sweat from the climbing effort. So much for technical clothes and wicking materials. I think I'll go back to cotton and wool.

The hotel owner offered to buy my bike after I finish the tour. Selling it for 200 EUR was an attractive idea: I already have too many bikes and I'll have to change the cranckset on this one anyway. But I am emotionaly attached to this one, so I refused the offer.
I was looking forward to the return downhill the same way. It was all to short - it lasted half an hour. The ride along the Dead Sea was exceptional. Great views, smooth road, good wind, I took it slowly savoring the good moments. I met the first touring cyclist - a Dutch doing an unusual 1-year itinerary through Europe, Middle East, Africa and back to Europe. I stopped shortly for a dip in a hot spring close to the road then proceeded to the Amman Beach where I paid entrance and overnighting on the Dead Sea beach. It was another bivy-bag night, slightly more comfortable than the first, but still miserable.

Day 7: 95km. Day 8: 155km. Day 9: 110km. Total 819km.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This day would have been a great continuation of the previous one if it didn’t have a slight fault: I had a puncture.

The night and the morning were freezing: down to 1 C. I was cold under my blankets, I shuddered at a thought what it would be like in the bivy bag that I have.

On the Wadi Rum trek I made a big mistake by taking the bike along. It's practically all sand, so you can't ride and the bike was just a hindrance. The result was that in a 4 hours trek I didn't see practically anything.

On the way to Aqaba (which is a great downhill BTW) a piece of wire get stuck in my tire and punctured it. Later I started inspecting the tires every half hour and once found another wire embedded in the front one. Considering the amount of glass and other debris on the highway's emergency lane, I am surprised I didn't have more punctures.

I liked Aquaba as soon as I entered the town. Finally I was not shivering in the evening, I had a stroll through the town and had a great falafel and some pastries.

Day 6: 72km. Total 459km.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wadi Rum

On the climb out of the town of Wadi Musa there were some annoying kids, one in particular kicked my back tyre a few times. If I had a gun I'd shoot him. But from there on it was one of those days, when you say "Yes, yes, gi’me more of that!". For a start there is a climb of some 8 km, but nice, sunny, peaceful. Then the downhill which just wouldn't stop and the scenery was incredible, there were some pinnacles in the distance indicating the approach of Wadi Rum rock formations. The turn off from the Desert Highway is even more spectacular, great surface, flat road, excellent rock formations. I came to the visitor center an hour before the dusk, bought some food, had a great dinner and went to my bed in a tent expecting a fantastic trek in the morning.

Day 5: 118km. Total 387km.

Monday, January 5, 2009


A tourist group came later in the evening and I joined them for a buffet dinner. Great. In the morning I had an unhealthy cough. Probably from going too hard on the climbs, heavily breathing the cold air. One of the stuff from the hotel takes me up the Dana climb in his van. I was thankful, that saved my throat a bit.

Today’s cycling day went just fine. Knowing I had short distance to Petra I took it slowly, stopping frequently for a tea. The weather was great too, not a sign of a cloud now for 3 days. There was a massive descent to Wadi Musa where I overtook a couple of trucks. I based myself in a hotel for two days, bought some medicine against the cold and made myself liter and a half of tea in the hotel's kitchen. That should help.

The next day I went to Petra. That was great excursion, despite the tourist invasion Petra was worth a visit.

Day 3: 54km. Day 4: 0km. Total 269km.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dana village

The first thing I did in the morning was to check the pedals: still firm and good. I might get to Petra after all. The flags that I saw from the hotel window were fluttering in the right direction, it seemed I'll have the tailwind. But on the road it was a different situation. Cold wind was blowing from all directions except from behind. And so it stayed for the rest of the day. The ice on the road indicated it had been a freezing night. I crossed my first Wadi today - Wadi Hasa. It dropped form 1000m to 400m, then climbed to 1200m. At places sheltered from the wind it was warm enough to cycle in T-shirt, on exposed parts I cursed the fact that I didn't take a face mask. It was clear soon enough I couldn't get to Petra today.

Fortunately I was informed that I could get a bed in Dana village, some 20 km from Tafila - a big but hotel-less town. The final turn off to Dana village - a 7-family village dedicated to tourism - was fantastically steep downhill. There's going to be some pushing up tomorrow.

Day 2: 93km. Total 215km.

Friday, January 2, 2009


The flight to Amman passed without peculiarities. On the second thought: there was one. Just as we landed I felt something turning in my gut. On no, not again! It seemed like a continuation of the miserable last days of my previous trip. Moreover, the opening of the plane door was delayed due to technical problems. After what seemed like an eternity, the door finally opened and I hurried out, overtaking everybody in search of a toilet. When I got out of it, everybody already cleared the immigration and only my bike box was standing near the luggage trolley.

Early in the morning, when assembling the bike I couldn't tighten the right pedal all the way into the crank. I took a closer look and discovered few scraps of aluminum in the crank thread. Oh my God! I ruined the crank! I tightened the pedal as tight as I could and hoped it would last at least to Amman where I wanted to fix things. After 10 km both pedals started to loosen. It seemed the tour was over before it begun. Out of anger I repeatedly screwed and unscrewed the pedals until they were all the way inside the crank thread. I knew I busted the cranks, but I was resigned and ready to throw the bike in the ditch and continue on foot in case the pedals fall off. After a moment of hesitation I turned 180 degrees around and started cycling south, in the direction of Karak.

When I started from the airport in was extremely cold, around 0 C, but during the day it reached 13 C. Nevertheless the wind was strong and cold and I realized that minimizing the clothes is not always the best solution. I was skeptical about my pedals, pedaled delicately like a ballet dancer, and inspected them every half an hour. As kilometers went by the pedals showed increased stability and the day came to a happy ending 120 km later in Karak.

Day 1: 122km. Total 122km.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the road again!

The after-50 cycle-touring crisis from my last attempt didn't last long. Less then 4 months later here I am again planning another tour - a winter tour in the Middle East.

I cleaned, lubed and adjusted the bike, changed the stem for a higher rise one, took a couple of test rides and it feels perfect. Just can't wait to test it on Jordan's King HWY.
I had a serious thought about my luggage and found it unacceptably heavy. I really had to do something about that. So I cancelled the tent and sleeping bag and replaced them with a bivy bag and silk sleeping sheet. I will carry these in the second bottle cage. Spare clothes and few other miscellaneous items will perfectly fit in the compression bag which will be bungeed behind the seat. Camera, as usual, is in a small under-seat bag on the handlebar. The spare tube and tools will be taped to the top tube, behind the handlebar. Thus, there is no need for a rack. In all it's about 4 kg less from the last time. The bike feels like a racing bike, and, more importantly, it looks so too.

I will start on 1st of January. I expect mild-winter temperatures; I wonder if I will freeze in the bivy bag? Read on to find out.