Day 17: Dead Sea – Madaba: The Only Way is Up

Monday June 6, 2011, 42 km (26 miles) – Total so far: 1,499 km (931 miles)

I had a small breakfast overlooking the Dead Sea and started packing my tent in the fast growing heat. By the time I had packed up I was already covered in sweat and surrounded by those annoying small flies. I began the morning at the lowest point on Earth at -420m so inevitably the only way I could go was up which involved a continuous 1300m climb to Madaba.

Tent by the Dead Sea
Just what I need in the morning!

The sign at the beginning of the climb stated the grade would be over 10% for 5.5km. I had no idea though how tough it would be. My legs just weren’t up to it. After under a kilometre I needed a break, I was completely out of breath and dripping with sweat. I continued like this for the next 5.5km taking an embarrassing number of breaks. I was again surrounded by those annoying flies and the heat was getting to me. I think the heat was the reason I found the climb so tough, I really was here at the wrong time of year. I was offered a lift twice by empty minibuses but stubbornly refused hoping to cycle the complete way. I refused to push so needed a lot of breaks to let the legs recover. Eventually after a frustrating and embarrassing 5.5km doubting my fitness I reached a flat section knowing the worst of the climb was probably over.

Emergency escape ramp
Watchtower overlooking Israel
Hairpins
Barren Mountains

I enjoyed the relief the flat section provided and I eased along through a military checkpoint before the climbing started again. I continued climbing for the rest of the day winding my way up through the barren mountains. The road was usually at a gradual gradient now but every so often there was a tough 15-20% stretch lasting a couple of hundred metres that took a full effort to get up. It was nothing compared to the first 5.5km though and I was starting to enjoy the climb now.

Road to Ma’in Hot Springs

Up and up I went until I eventually reached the village of Ma’in where the road levelled out.

Up…
And Up…
And Up…
And Up…
And Up!

I continued through countryside and small villages until I reached Madaba at around 3:00. I had enough light to continue to Amman but looking at the map there really wasn’t much point in cycling into the chaos of the capital city. The airport lies 30km south of the city so it would be the same distance to cycle there from Madaba tomorrow. So feeling fairly wrecked I gladly ended the day early in Madaba. I found a cheap rooftop bed fairly easily and relaxed after a full day of climbing. The reason I reckon I found the climb so difficult was a combination of the heat and the lack of food I had eaten. I just didn’t have enough fuel for it. I made up for this in Madaba by having a massive meal in the evening.

Dry River Bed
View northwards
Countryside near Madaba

Today was realistically the end of the trip as all I had tomorrow was a short cycle to the airport. It was very disappointing to be going home already as I had really gotten into the swing of things after recovering from the bug. I was really going to miss the thrill that travelling around this part of the world presented and it was a shame to be going home so early.

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