After breakfast we will begin our first acclimatisation ride. We will ride from Madaba to Makawer, an archaeological site about 40km southwest of Madaba. We will first cycle towards Libb and then continue onto Machaerus. Mukawir was the hilltop stronghold of Herod. Upon Herod's death his son, Herod Antipas, inherited the fortress and it is from here that he ordered John the Babtist to be beheaded. Once we have had a look around the site of Makawer, we will return to Madaba by bus. Madaba itself is best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. It is home to the famous 6th Century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly coloured local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. The mosaic forms the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, very close to our hotel. Next to the church is a small museum which gives more details on the history behind the mosaic. Ride Approx. 40km.
This morning we will have a very short transfer to take us out of the centre of town before we climb back on the bikes. The ride starts with a 7km mild ascent up Mt Nebo. We will take a pit stop at the top of Mt Nebo, reputedly the burial place of Moses but certainly the site for a spectacular view over the valley below. From here it's a fantastic descent to the shores of the Dead Sea. Parts of this descent are quite steep with lots of switch backs, which are great fun. However, if you are less keen on the down hills then you can take it easy. The support vehicle will be on hand at all times. The road is then flat or slightly down hill almost all the way to the Dead Sea. The scenery is fantastic and it is an exhilerating ride. We will then arrive at the Dead Sea Resort Hotel where you can relax and make the most of the hotel spa facilities. You can have a float in the saline waters and cover yourself in the thick mud renowned for its nourishing qualities. In the evening there will be a briefing about the race and organise the teams. There are several rules and regulations that are imposed by the race administration which it is important you are aware of. It will then be a good idea to get an early night as we will have a very early start in the morning. Ride Approx. 45km.
It will be an early start for all racers as you will need to register for the race, this will start from 3am for the individual riders and approx. 3.30 for the teams. The race starts from the southern end of the Dead Sea. You will cycle through the fantastic desert scenery of Jordan as you make your way down to Aqaba. The red sandstone forms the perfect backdrop to make a really memorable day of riding. As the sun rises the colours will change from a dark brown hue, to red, to orange. The roads are all in pretty good condition and the ride is relatively flat so you will be able to pick up a good pace. The race should take around 8 hours depending on the conditions and fitness of the riders. You will have support throughout the race whether you are riding as a team or an individual. If you are riding as a team, each member can do as much as they like, the team just has to complete the whole distance. At the end of the race there is a celebratory dinner for all those who have competed. Race distance 242km in total.
After breakfast we will initially drive out of Aqaba and head towards the Wadi Rum desert. There is then the option to hop back on the bikes and cycle the last 25km into the desert (if you want a rest after yesterday then this is also fine, the vehicle can take you all the way). The ride is flat with the large sandstone mounds rising out of the ground around you. It feels almost like a strange moonscape in shades of deep orange, red and brown. This is where Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal assembled the Arab tribes for the attack on Aqaba in the First World War and also where sections of the film of 'Lawrence' were shot. Tonight we will experience Bedouin hospitality with a traditional meal, sweet tea and camping out in goathair tents in the desert. We will be able to contemplate our week of adventure and look back on the exhiliration of the race as we gaze up at the star-lit sky, warmed by a fire. If you like you can pull your mattress outside and sleep under the stars. Optional Ride 25km.
After breakfast we will leave the Wadi Rum behind us, first by 4x4 and then by bus. We will then cycle along the Kingsway towards Petra. Again the support vehicle will be there if you do not fancy doing some or all of the ride. If we arrive in time there maybe an opportunity to visit little Petra before dinner. There will then be the opportunity to see Petra by night. The entrance and path down the Siq to the Treasury is candle lit, with just the night sky and stars guiding you on your way. The surrounding mountains are all back lit, it is truly magical. As you get closer the path gets narrower with sandstone rising up 80m high either side of you, it then opens out and the Treasury is revealed in all its glory, lit only by a carpet of candles. It is a fantastic experience and one we highly recommend. Ride Approx. 50km.
We will make an early start this morning so we can take full advantage of a day in Petra, the 'Rose-red city, half as old as time'. Petra was hidden for centuries until the Swiss explorer Burckhardt made his great rediscovery of the city in 1812. The Nabateans, an Arab tribe that arrived here in the sixth century BC, founded Petra. The building of Petra was financed by taxes levied on the desert caravans. Two features of Petra are unique: firstly, it is a city made defensible by being built down a series of chasms, rather than on a hilltop; and secondly, it is built directly into the rock - beautiful red and yellow sandstone carved into the most impressive facades which glow in the brilliant sunlight. During our time in Petra we will have the opportunity to explore the site from all angles. We will walk down the narrow Siq with the sandstone chasm rising 80m to either side of us and revealing El Khazneh, the Treasury as we reach its end. Set in stunning sandstone mountains there will also be an opportunity to explore the higher caves and the 'high place of sacrifice' giving a fantastic panorama of the whole site. At ground level we will pass the houses and tombs of the rich citizens, and the amphitheatre. A long walk beyond the centre is El Deir, the Monastery, with its superb facade topped by a huge urn. The Monastery is set in a more remote location of the site and we will have to climb around 800 steps to reach it, but it is well worth it.