Petra Trails, Jordan, 2011
Sarah Ritchie, Far and Ride.
From 3rd – 12th November 2011, Sarah from Far and Ride escorted a ten day Petra to Wadi Rum tour in Jordan. The tour consisted of three nights in hotels, five nights camping and one night in a permanent desert camp. There were six days of riding, a visit to Petra and a visit to the Dead Sea. Tailor made programmes can be designed for groups wishing to spend longer exploring Jordan.
Below is Sarah’s report on the week…
“I arranged to meet Far and Ride clients Karl, Ann and Emma at Heathrow Airport before our departure so after a brief coffee we headed to our boarding gate and we were off. The flight to Amman took approximately five hours and as soon as we arrived we were met by an Airport Representative who was there to assist us in obtaining our visas. This proved to be a very fast and easy process followed by a driver waiting for us as soon as we had collected our baggage. I do recommend having Jordanian Dinars to hand though as the ATM in arrivals was empty. We waited a very short time for another rider to arrive on a flight from Paris before setting off to our hotel in Amman for the evening. We were all handed our welcome packs containing information on Petra and Wadi Rum along with our weekly programme detailing each day.
We were driven to the Larsa hotel in Amman for our dinner and overnight stay. The buffet dinner consisted of various salads, chicken and beef dishes, pasta and a variety of delicious desserts.
In the morning after a breakfast buffet of eggs, flat bread, cereals, fruit, tea, coffee and juice we were picked up and driven to Petra via the Desert Highway. The drive takes approximately three hours and it soon became apparent that, generally speaking, people in Jordan do not drive very sensibly! Nevertheless we made it in one piece after a brief stop en route to admire the views over Wadi Musa and checked into the Petra Palace Hotel. Jessica and her assistant manager Areej were already there and waiting to greet us. We all had more of a chance to introduce ourselves to each other as some of the riders had arrived very late the previous night. We were a rather large group of fourteen – thirteen ladies and Karl (he never complained about this!). We took the short walk to the entrance of Petra and were met by our experienced private guide for our three hour tour.
There are various options once you have entered Petra of how you wish to travel; by foot, by camel, by horse, by donkey or in a horse and carriage. Most of the group opted to stay on our feet knowing we had many hours of riding to follow in the coming week. Although I had seen many photos of Petra I think we were all in agreement that it has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The whole ancient city is far greater than I anticipated and it seemed as though you could explore this archaeological treasure for days. Our guide was superb; friendly, passionate and informative. We were introduced to the famous Treasury as well as the old amphitheatre and various other tombs. It felt as though we had stepped back in time.
We stopped for lunch at the Basin restaurant in Petra; another huge buffet meal of salads, meats, vegetables and many desserts before wandering back to the hotel at our own leisure. Unfortunately at this time of year the sun sets at around 5pm and we would have all loved to have spent more time in Petra. One of the riders opted for a camel ride on the way back and I was almost tempted myself but I decided it didn’t look as comfortable as horseback!
Several of the riders chose to visit the newly installed Turkish bath at the hotel that evening where guests can enjoy a body scrub, massage, steam room and jacuzzi all for around 20 Jordanian Dinars. After yet another buffet dinner (we ate very well on this trip!) Rami came to visit the group to introduce himself, discuss the tour and answer any questions we had. He quizzed us each individually about our riding experience and the type of horse we would like to ride and handed each of us a Jordanian scarf (Kafihe).
The next morning we were driven in several taxis to the stables of Jessica and Rami where the horses were saddled and waiting for us. Rami carefully matched us all to our horses before splitting the group into two smaller groups to begin our adventure. Rami did a fantastic job of matching us to suitable horses. I completely fell in love with mine on the first day, a handsome, charismatic Anglo Arab gelding. There were quieter horses available for the less experienced and less confident riders as well as many spare horses in case any needed to be swapped during the tour.
Rami individually checked every rider was happy with her, or in Karl’s case, his mount once we were on the trail and he proved to be a fantastic guide. We were made to feel very well looked after and safe. He was always checking on every member of the group and always alerting us all clearly before any change in pace. We also had one of his dogs joining us for the entire ride (this was not planned!) although we never did find out his name so he was known by all simply as “dog”.
The morning ride was a steady and mountainous one with fabulous views of Petra. It wasn’t long before several Bedouin families were coming over to wave and say hello as we rode past. We stopped for lunch after around 3 hours, tended to our horses before tucking in to a delicious lunch with hot and cold drinks. There were two support vehicles with us the whole way transporting our luggage, food and drink supplies, mattresses and tents. I have no idea how they managed to cram so much stuff onto the two trucks but we were certainly never short of supplies. At every lunch stop the horses were untacked, watered and fed and given time to take a well earned rest.
After lunch we would all give our horses a good groom before saddling up and setting off for another 2-3 hour ride before setting up camp for the night. The first night of camping was a real shock to us all; we were still in the mountains and clearly not prepared for how chilly it was going to be with the strong wind adding to the coldness. Most of the group knew how to set up their tents having camped before but I, for one, was a camping virgin so those of us who needed assistance were shown how to set up our tents once the horses were settled for the night. After a couple of nights in a tent I opted for sleeping under the stars which, although I was skeptical about at first, I would certainly recommend and would do again.
Every morning, lunchtime and evening we were served sweet mint tea which very quickly became a highlight of our camping experience. The meals consisted of salads, soups, meat dishes, flat bread, hummus and they never failed to disappoint. Breakfasts were also excellent consisting of eggs, bread, cheese, jam, fresh fruit and cake (my personal favourite breakfast choice!). Wine and beer are also available for an additional cost at meal times.
In the following days, after crossing the highway into Wadi Rum, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. There were many opportunities in the desert for long trots and canters and for a faster canter/gallop we went one at a time so that we all stayed in control of our horses. This also increased the confidence of the less experienced riders no end.
Rami showed us the main highlights of Wadi Rum including Burrah Canyon, Burrah Bridge, Um Frouth Bridge, Lawrence of Arabia’s house and many ancient inscriptions. We camped every night in pleasant cove like areas which kept us far warmer than on the first night!
Days four and five of the ride are in the protected area of Wadi Rum. This involves a change of vehicles to the ones that are used as back-up vehicles in previous days as general vehicles are not allowed to enter this area. This is no problem for the team who are happy to transfer all your belongings from one truck to the other.
On the final evening of camping in the desert it was one of the rider’s birthdays. She only let us in on this fact early that evening so the support team quickly transformed the typical breakfast cake into a birthday cake for her and provided us all with red and white wine which was a truly lovely touch. The next day we were all very excited to be staying at the Oasis Desert Camp, the thought of showers was almost heavenly! Before arriving at the camp Rami allowed us all to have a good long final gallop or even a race if we wanted which was the perfect end to our riding experience. Rami also allowed me to swap horses with him on this final riding day which I greatly appreciated having admired his beautiful horse all week. We said a sad farewell to our horses this evening, who had been very good to us, before heading into the campsite. The Desert Camp was by no means luxurious but it was great to be able to wash away the sand and enjoy a real bed for the night. There was also the added entertainment of music and dancing all evening and the buffet dinner was absolutely amazing.
In the morning we were picked up and driven to the 5* Marriott Hotel at the Dead Sea and this was certainly the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. After checking in we all headed out to float in the Dead Sea which, although a rather surreal sensation, really only requires one short visit. It is definitely worth noting that after a week of “roughing it” your attention will soon be drawn to even the most minor of cuts and scrapes by the extremely salty water! Our driver kindly offered to drive us to a local shop for some souvenir shopping before dinner that evening. The hotel contains a fabulous spa for those wishing to relax or for an additional cost massages can be booked.
This trip is an absolute must although I would certainly recommend spending extra nights in Petra. The hosts are kind, genuinely caring people who go that extra mile to make sure you have a memorable trip. Nothing is ever too much trouble. Rami and Jessica have a large selection of quality horses who are very fit and well cared for. The whole back up team do an absolutely fantastic job of taking care of the guests needs. Put this together with fantastic scenery, great weather, delicious food and unbeatable organisation and you have the trip of a lifetime.”
If you would like to read some more about this spectacular ride then please click here: Petra Trails, Jordan.