Day 16: Karak – Dead Sea: Descending to the Lowest Point on Earth!

Sunday June 5, 2011, 81 km (50 miles) – Total so far: 1,457 km (905 miles)

I woke feeling fairly wrecked so I wasn’t ready to leave til 10:30, a very late start since I usually try to start around 8 or 9 to avoid the heat. Today I was rewarded for all the climbing over the last few days. I had a 1400m descent to look forward to down to the Dead Sea Highway.

Morning View
Hotel View
Karak Valley

It was great to watch the kilometres fly by as I flew down the descent. Unfortunately I chose one of the less scenic descents to the Dead Sea and instead of being one of the steep hairpinning descents further south and further north it was mostly a straight road descending gradually with a few hairpins at one section. This meant I was able to cover the kilometres fairly quickly but it was a bit disappointing not to have the great views I was hoping for.

Descending from Karak
Dead Sea in the distance
Descending to the lowest point on earth

Arriving down at the Dead Sea Highway at 400 metres below sea level I was back into the strong heat which I had been able to avoid in the mountains. I continued north along the highway into a nice headwind. I had expected to find a flat road so was surprised to find it going up and down over the small cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea. The legs were tired from yesterday so against the headwind it took me most of the day to reach the Dead Sea resorts area.

No photos and No Stopping! I had to be a bit more careful where I took photos along this stretch
Dead Sea Coast
Abandoned Watchtower
Dead Sea Coast

5km past the turnoff for the climb up to Madaba I reached the Dead Sea resorts area. The plan was to go to one of the beaches here and spend the evening swimming in the dead sea before cycling back to the Madaba climb turnoff. I was hoping to do a small bit of this climb and then wild camp somewhere along the road before it got dark.

The cost of the entrance to the beach was 15JD so a bit steep. The reason people use the commercial beaches are due to the showers. When you swim in the Dead Sea your body is coated in salt. So if you don’t shower before putting your clothes back on, the salt will remain and there’ll be a lot of itching and chafing! So nearly everyone uses the commercial beaches which have showers by the shore. I found out from the security guard that I would be able to camp in the beach next to this one which was good news and meant I wouldn’t have to find a wildcamp spot on the road to Madaba. So with this sorted I left the bike at reception and headed for a “swim” in the Dead Sea. It was unbelievably strange just to lie back in the water and suddenly have your whole body float to the top. It’s hard to describe the feeling of lieing there with nothing behind you holding you up, it was a strange but wonderful sensation and I spent nearly 2 hours here relaxing in the evening sun. The water was warm, the heat was bearable and I was able to watch the sun slowly setting over Israel on the far shore.

Amman Tourist Beach
Sunset over the Dead Sea

After this I got showered and changed and then tried to enter Amman public beach where I could camp. The security guard had told me that my ticket was good for both beaches but I was told I couldn’t get in on the ticket I had already bought and would have to buy a ticket for this beach for 10JD. This was a bit annoying as €10 is a bit crazy just for a camping space. As it was nearly dark now I was going to camp in one of the parks a few kilometres away but then I thought how nice camping right by the shore of the Dead Sea would be and gave in to the 10JD asking price. In the end I was glad I did as I had a nice evening here.

Ryad, the security guard who had told me about this beach had insisted on getting me some food as all the restaurants here had closed for the day. So when his shift was finished he drove to the nearest town, got a takeaway and drove back to the beach to meet me. We shared a good meal here overlooking the lights of Israel on the far shore. He spoke a little English and I spoke a tiny bit of Arabic so we were able to communicate fairly well. After he left I finished pitching the tent and was able to relax and try and catch up on my journal which I had neglected over the last few days. There was a nice atmosphere here on the beach with many families and groups of friends staying here for the night on blankets or in sleeping bags. There were barbecues built around the edge of the beach and you were able to rent out hookahs at a nearby beach hut. It seemed to be a nice way to spend a night for anyone from the capital just an hours drive away.

Later on I was invited for tea with 3 friendly Jordanian guys. We had an interesting talk about Islam, the current state of affairs in Egypt and marriage in Jordan. I was surprised to find out that marrying a Jordanian woman can cost $20,000-30,000 as money needs to be given to the brides family and many things need to be bought. In Saudi Arabia it can even exceed $60,000. It was great to get a good insight into Jordanian life like this and after a good bit of talking I retired to my tent a bit after midnight.

Ryad and I
Friendly Jordanian Guys

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