In February 2004 we went to Jordan with the Qatar Natural History Group. Late on Day 5 of our adventure, we arrived at Camp Jabal Rum which is near Wadi Rum, the most famous valley in this area of desert lowland and craggy peaks.
We were told we would be staying at a 5 star accommodation, so were surprised when our tour bus pulled into a walled-off area of refugee style tents. We filed off the bus in disbelief. Near us was a building with a large ‘W.C.’ chalked on it, a Bedouin style tent made of goat hair, and a small shack which said “Bar Coffee.”
Tentatively we explored our home for a night. The good news was that there were flush toilets and beer. The bad news was there was no hot water or towels and the toilet paper stock wasn’t going to last long.
The cold of the evening drove us into a Bedouin tent where a wood stove was producing little heat but much smoke because of a poorly fitted metal chimney. As we waited for food, some decided this was as good a time as any to find some cheer in way too much beer.
By the time the belly dancer came out to provide the after dinner entertainment, many were quite jovial – though not jovial enough to listen to very loud Arab music for long. We headed off to our tents for a 10 PM bed time. We rationalized that the sooner we got to sleep, the sooner it would be morning and we could visit the desert.
It was a beautiful, if cold night. The hill behind the compound was lit with pinpricks of light from small lamps. The stars were awesome. When The Car Guy and I got into our tent, we noticed more spots of light – coming in through the holes in the tent ceiling. We hoped it wouldn’t rain!
We decided to sleep with our clothes on (we hadn’t been told we would need cold weather camping attire). Each of our single canvas cots had a narrow heavy quilt that was covered in some sort of really slippery material. We crawled into bed and hoped for the best. Soon a snoring chorus assailed me from both sides – The Car Guy to my right and whoever was sleeping in the tent to my left, which was about 6 feet away.
As the temperature continued to drop, I got increasingly cold. I pulled up the hood of my jacket, then hauled my cot closer to the snoring Car Guy’s cot, hoping to catch some of his body heat. The slippery quilt slid off me every time I moved. After sleeping fitfully for some period of time, nature called… just about everyone. As we stood in line waiting our turn to use the W.C. the topic of discussion was “got any extra kleenex”? The toilet paper was long gone.
Morning came none too quickly. We mustered to any patches of sunshine we could find, then tucked into a breakfast of coffee, hard boiled eggs and cold pita bread.
Then, old open jeep-type vehicles appeared in the compound. We piled into these for our tour of the natural splendors of Wadi Rum. The landscape was dramatic and pristine. We stopped often to take pictures – jagged mountains, rounded hills, rock carvings, and an oasis. Oh, and a chance to take a short ride on a camel.
All in all, it was the worst camping experience ever, but one of the best adventures ever.
How about you – have you had a worst/best adventure too?