DAY FOUR: Petra – Roberts Rock (60km)
(written by Neil Hurrell)
An early call gets us up for an early start and we say goodbye to historic Petra. All are keen for the day ahead despite some nursing various injuries and delicate stomachs. Sadly we lose one team member, who is on doctor’s orders to rest (I was happy as I’d mislaid my helmet and could borrow Nick Paling’s!)
The blessing of arriving in the mountains is that there is a cool mountain breeze and good sightseeing. The road ahead rises and falls regularly as we make our way across the central mountain range of Jordan, towards the Wadi Araba (Arabian valley) – the land of Lawrence of Arabia.
The team are getting in the mood as the Arabic head scarves are multiplying, and the support team are keen to help arrange them authentically.
After a very strenuous morning cycling, mainly uphill with headwinds, we are treated to a welcome picnic lunch of hot soup and pasta with salad, washed down with local sweet tea. Our view across the mountain gorge is easily the equivalent of the Grand Canyon – without tourists. What a treat.
After enjoying the shade for a while we set off again, immediately onto some dramatic descents with rough surfaces and sharp hairpin bends. The brakes took a bashing and were only rested when the inevitable climbs arrived. There are many of them too – despite the protestations of our team leader and guides.
The whole team is determined to finish the day as we head into the rolling hills ahead, which begin to resemble a sci-fi landscape. Everyone agreed they have not been up and down the gears from top to bottom so frequently.
Before too long, we are on the last decent in the desert and turning off the main road onto the desert track that leads down to Roberts Rock. This is where our Bedouin tent is set up for our camp tonight – a relief and a welcome sight (though not all would agree – one large open tent with a desert wind blowing sand around). Everything is covered in dust – how will we get to sleep, before our long last day tomorrow?!
The views from the top of Roberts Rock are outstanding and we’re treated to an amazing sunset. Our evening is spent sitting round an open fire entertaining one another – singing to the iPod or good ol’ rugby songs.