Thursday, 24 November 2011

Day 11 – Previous GARP season’s sites visit day

Today by way of a form of late orientation the bulk of the team travelled to several of the sites previously visited by us over the past five seasons. The main reason for this was to provide a more complete overview of the range of sites themselves, their size, main features, distribution and location in the landscape and in relation to the Hijaz railway.

On the way today – disaster. Nearside front blowout on the bus! Fortunately the skilful driver managed to control the bus neatly to a safe stop. The spare retrieved but no use – slow puncture in that! 

Some swift rearranging of the good wheels and tyres meant a slow careful drive of the empty bus back to Ma’an, and a two hour wait in the desert for the occupants. Undeterred they spent the time chatting and examining their location and it wasn’t long before they were back on the bus, all wheels now with good tyres.

They began by visiting Batn Al Ghul – the camp on the plateau above the 100m drop down the escarpment into the southern desert. This is the place where the landscape breaks from flat basalt land into the more spectacular red and pink sandy hills which are like those at Wadi Rum. From there they hiked up the rocky outcrop to the top of Fassuah Ridge – the fort complex which has the stunning commanding view down into the valley – into Batn Al Ghul itself. The belly of the beast. The Phosphate trains snake their way round and eventually down and on to Aqaba where their contents are loaded onto ships for distribution.

Then back in the transport and down to Wadi Rutm – a location of a tented camp site a few hundred metres from a battered station, itself very close to an ancient stopping place which had been used for millennia for the same purpose by traders and pilgrims. This site was where we observed the Bedouin camped after dropping down the escarpment in a huge train of people, camels, other animals and vehicles a few seasons ago, and when we explored it the next day we indeed found evidence of use there over many hundreds of years. 

The landscape down here is magical and once seen, never forgotten. Whenever we return to Jordan many of us hope we will get down to this region at least for a visit.  It never disappoints. 

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