Touring Jordan Day 2: Shobak to Little Petra

So we arrived at the hotel last night in darkness – it was a pleasant surprise this morning to wake up to see the Crusader Castle of Shobak across the valley. It was built by the Crusader king Baldwin I in 1115 and withstood numerous attacks from the armies of Saladin before succumbing in 1189 after an 18-month siege. It is now being restored but even its ruins are impressive.

Shobak Castle

Having enjoyed a coffee brewed with cardamom in the visitor centre we picked up the bikes to set off for Petra. Yesterday we left them on the shores of the Dead Sea at over 400m below sea level, today we were starting at 1400m high in the mountains. Whilst it was sunny, the altitude and cool wind meant that most were wearing a couple of layers.

At first the climbing was steady, rising steadily firstly over tarmac and then a short section of gravel to a viewpoint. This looked out over Wadi Feynan where the first copper mines were operated heralding the end of the Stone Age, as well as Israel beyond that. The limestone plateau was both arid and well strataed with layers of flint creating a well broken view.

Viewpoint over Israel and the copper mines

More roads led southwards across the barren landscape scattered with a few settlements. These mostly gated compounds seemed prosperous with more many under construction. Finally a more major road was reached with a steady gentle climb for several kilometers. Reaching the administrative boundary for Petra, we turned off to climb to the ride’s high point, some 1700m above sea-level where lunch was taken, complete with tea boiled on an open fire.

Lunch at the col

Given that the col was almost the highest point in Jordan, the only way was down. A hairpin road led on dropping some 600m in 10km. As we descended, the air warmed with extra layers discarded and we transitioned into an area of low sandstone hills weathered into wonderous shapes.

Sandstone cliffs

Finally the road leveled out, instead becoming a switchback series of short steep downhills followed by equally steep climbs. Finally we reached Little Petra from where our coach took us on to the hotel.

Overall a great day’s ride with wonderful views. Tomorrow is the much awaited visit to Petra.

Published by tbtrekker

Based on both London and the Lake District, enjoys cycle touring -seeing the world from the saddle of a bike.

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