“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
Depending on how you read it, this quote by archeologist, and army officer T.E. Lawrence can seem either ominous or inspiring. Many of the best and worst of humanity’s accomplishments started as dreams in the minds of people who were doers. I myself have ample experience with both kinds of dreams, the kind that you keep secret because you fear they will never come true, and the kind that you force into existence by sheer power of will, so in the context of my own experience I find Lawrence’s sentiment to be an inspiration. I felt that our three day road trip through Jordan echoed what it means to dream with your eyes open since planning it was no easy feat for me. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted to do, but there were so many moving parts, and reservations to be made, and timing that had to be exactly perfect that my ideas sometimes seemed impossible. I was determined however, to see them become a reality, and after a considerable amount of trial and error everything fell into place.
Waking up in the silence of Wadi Rum was a gratifying reward for my efforts. I felt well-rested and content as I walked barefoot through soft, pink sand to join everyone for breakfast in the dining tent of the Bedouin camp where we had just spent the night. The suns rays were already casting a warm glow across the landscape, but the air hadn’t yet grown unbearably hot. We all chatted over a delicious breakfast, then grabbed our bags and loaded them into our host, Mohammed’s, truck. He would be dropping us off at Wadi Rum village after our morning tour of the gorgeous desert where we had just camped.
The six of us (me, Vince, Caleb, Bonnie, David, and new friend, Anna) all piled into the back of Mohammed’s truck and he sped off across the sand toward Khazali Siq. After a beautiful drive, we got out of the truck at the narrow canyon which apparently contains some very well-preserved petroglyphs, but we did not find them while we wandered between tall cliffs and into the Siq.
We did however, find an enchanting landscape that begged to be explored. We wandered as deep as we could into the siq, using the rock walls to help us jump over large puddles of standing water until the canyon dead-ended in a cliff. Mohammed had instructed us to turn around at that point, so we hiked back through the canyon and out into the flat, scrubby desert where massive wadis towered in the distance.
When we returned to the truck, Mohammed drove us to Al Ramal sand dune, a spot where he said T.E. Lawrence had once visited. This distinctive red dune was backed by a craggy cliff, and we climbed to the top, using the rocks to make the ascent easier.
Once we were on top of the cliff, we had the most amazing panoramic view of the desert. Below us, tire tracks criss-crossed the sand in all directions, looking like long serpents slithering through the sand. I was once again struck by the absolute quietness of Wadi Rum. It was almost as if time stood still. There was no wind, and no sound save for our gentle chatter.
After enjoying the view for a while, we decided to run back down to the truck. Vince, Bonnie, and David raced, but Caleb and I loped down at a more leisurely pace as I continued to gape at the beautiful scenery. I was reminded of running down sand dunes along the shores of Lake Michigan back home. It was a familiar activity with a vastly different backdrop.
Back at the truck, I began to chug insane amounts of water. The air was getting hotter, and I didn’t want to be overly dehydrated because we were going on a dive in the Red Sea later that day. The breeze from riding in the back of the truck was welcome as we motored toward Little Bridge, a beautiful rock arch.
We climbed up an easy scramble to get a good view of the arch, then took turns walking across it for photos. It looked precarious from far away, but it ended up being wide enough to walk across easily.
After Little Bridge, we only had one more stop on our tour. Mohammed brought us to Lawrence’s Spring, an oasis that T.E. Lawrence mentioned twice in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. There was a miraculous patch of green growing from high up on a jagged cliff and Mohammed said we could climb up to check it out if we wanted to. We of course wanted to, but I soon realized why he thought we might sit it out.
The hike was steep and there was no real trail so we had to pick our way uphill through a boulder field. It was made more strenuous by the now intense heat of the day so I stopped frequently to drink water. When I finally reached the patch of greenery, I was ecstatic to sit in the shade of a lush tree and relax while enjoying the view below me.
The spring itself turned out to be fairly dry. There were patches of wet ground, and it was clearly enough water for plants to thrive, but it wasn’t much to look at. Once we felt relaxed from the hot hike we started our descent, which was more precarious. We even had to slide down the rocks in a few places.
There were a bunch of camels at the base of the cliff and Mohammed asked if we wanted to take a ride. We declined because we needed to be leaving for Aqaba, but I did notice that the Wadi Rum camels looked healthier and better cared for than any I had seen on the trip so far. In fact we had been seeing groups of free range camels throughout the day, and all of the Bedouins kept an extra one on their tours in case one got tired and needed a break. I was happy to see camels being treated well, especially in contrast to some of the really sickly looking ones I’d seen in Petra the previous day.
Mohammed drove us back to our car at Wadi Rum Village, and we thanked him and went our separate ways. We got on the rode and made the hour drive to Aqaba, watching the desert scenery dotted with groups of wandering camels along the way.
We arrived early for our appointment with Arab Divers where our dive master, also named Mohammed, fitted us all with wetsuits, fins, and masks. Then he gave a brief lesson on some of the basics of diving since Caleb, Bonnie, and David were doing an uncertified dive.
By the time we were grabbing our BCDs the day had become unbearably hot, and I dreaded the time that I would have to spend in my wetsuit before we got into the sea. With our tanks and BCDs loaded into a trailer, we all piled into the dive shop’s truck and made the short drive downhill to the beach where we suited up and then walked into the water. Vince and I had a separate dive master from the other three, and we got started while they went over a few more things at the surface.
Being underwater was a welcome relief from the heat, and Vince and I started noticing interesting creatures almost as soon as we were submerged. Vince spotted a couple of sea moths right away. At the time I didn’t know that they were sea moths because I’d never seen anything like them, and I had no idea that they even existed. They were strange, sandy colored, dragon-shaped fish that blended in perfectly with the ocean floor, and it later took me a good deal of googling to identify them.
Shortly after our encounter with the sea moths, we reached a sunken tank that was covered in coral and teeming with fish.
The sunken tank
The other group made it to the tank at about the same time, but they didn’t follow us we moved on toward a nearby reef. We floated over some interesting corals and soon we saw a massive shadowy object looming in the distance.
We were closing in on a sunken C-130.
This was by far the coolest part of our dive. We spent a lot of time circling the plane. First we swam up to the cockpit where there was a fake skeleton in the pilot’s seat. The cockpit was also full of lionfish, who splayed their spikes as they twisted and turned in the water.
Then we crossed under the plane’s wing and went inside, which felt really exciting.
We swam straight through a wide opening, then up to the top of the plane where we found a non-stinging jellyfish and plethora of small fish gleaming as they schooled cooperatively through the water.
After the C-130 we made our way into a coral garden that was smattered with bright orange fish and massive hard corals. Along the way, we ran into the others again and waved as we passed by. We we in much shallower water now, but it was teeming with life. There were so many fish to look at, I sometimes didn’t even know which direction I wanted to turn. At one point, I passed over an anemone where two anemonefish dwelled. One of them swam straight toward me to investigate as I floated above its home.
I did not feel ready for the dive to be over when we broke the surface of the water. We met back up with Caleb, Bonnie, and David on the beach, and everyone was in an excited frenzy talking about the dive.
I felt extremely grateful that we had been able to fit diving into our schedule. A year ago I didn’t even know that people went SCUBA diving in the Red Sea. It was our dive instructor from the Komodo Islands that told us about it. Once we had passed our certification he asked us where we were planning to travel next, and when we said Egypt, he told us we absolutely had to go diving in the Red Sea. With such a packed itinerary, it took a ton of planning and research to make it happen. Even then I was only barely able to fit it into the last day of the trip while still leaving a generous amount of no-fly time to allow all of the nitrogen to work its way out of our bodies before our flight home. In the end it was worth every second I spent behind my computer screen reconfiguring our itinerary.
With the dive over, we went back to Arab Divers where we looked through a field guide to identify some of the fish we saw, and to fill out our log books. Then we found the only open restaurant in Aqaba: McDonald’s. Everything else was closed down during the day because of Ramadan.
We made the five hour drive back to Amman feeling happy about all of the amazing things we’d managed to see and do during our short stay in Jordan. I was totally impressed with how much beautiful nature such a small country has to offer. I would absolutely love to visit Jordan again someday. Until then, I’ll be off planning our next adventure!
Here’s a video of our adventures in Jordan! Check out Birds of the Air Travel on YouTube for more.