Simply thrilling: canyoning to the Dead Sea shores

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April 16th 2011
Published: May 13th 2011
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Jordan is truly the Promised Land when it comes to outdoor sports in some “virgin territories”. What might look as desert & arid scenery at the first sight is actually filled with hundreds of canyons, waterfalls and underground springs leading to the Dead Sea, possibilities are thus countless. On this sunny Friday, I settled for my first “off the beaten track” canyoneering experience in Jordan with nothing else than the Wadi Assal – nickname “the big one” although by then I didn’t know it yet.

Leaving Amman & making our way to Wadi Assal

Friday morning 6.20 am, Amman – the day starts with the usual nightmare whenever you need a cab on a Friday early morning. So somehow it was a warm up “trek”, heading on foot to the main streets & keeping my finger crossed that I get lucky! 20 mn later, I not only got a cab but I was having a great chat with the driver, one more of those numerous Jordanian who lived abroad for a while.

7.15am – after the usual disclaimer signature, our group is heading to the canyon. Well actually, I was no longer so sure about which place we were heading to as the canyoneering I had initially booked was canceled two days before so I simply joined the other outing scheduled for the same week end without really checking the details. On the reassuring side, the agency had been warmly recommended by a colleague so I simply followed the flow.

9.30am – waking up just as we pass the Kerak castle, a few more kilometers and our minivan goes off the beaten track on a narrow rocky path, negotiating one turn after the other and managing to stay on the path, mountain on one side and ravine on the other.

Entering into the canyon, and nearly having a heart attack!

10am – walking downhill cutting through fields, still quite green with lots of flowers, a real delight, in the background yellowish mountains and downhill the entrance of the canyon.

10.45am – we are officially in! Our group made of 3 guides, one guide trainee and 7 participants is steadily walking through what is at this stage a very dry canyon. Rocks are bright yellow and red & the path rocky to say the least.
The “I hope we will make it” casually mentioned by the guide trainee was a sudden wake up call for me. When asked the reason for such a statement (I still had not much info about the canyon we were in), he simply explained that this canyon was one of the most challenging in Jordan due to his length (17km). When I heard the number of kilometer we will do within the canyon in one day with the technical aspect linked to the practice of canyoneering in mind I started to wonder as well whether I would make it! Being based in Baghdad, it is not exactly as if I get to do a lot of walking, on the very contrary…
“So, how long do you think it will take?”, he smiled and just as casually said that inchallah we will finish it just as the night will come, all in all a good 10 hours was ahead of us.

Guess by then I pretty lost track of time, remaining focus and saving my energy for the rappelling down & the long hike ahead of us.

Rappelling, declimbing
Slide timeSlide timeSlide time

Wadi Assal
& trekking into the heart of the canyon

The first rappelling down is actually quite impressive, with a good 20 to 25 meters descent, and the fact that it was the first one of the day somehow added a bit of extra adrenaline to it; a few more rappelling down later and I was looking down without one skipped heart bit.

Passed the fourth dry fall, the water coming from an underground spring source starts to show up here and there, the landscape starts to change too. Bushes, flowers, palm trees & hanging gardens are more and more present with the tiny stream of water getting wider at times & the hike slowed down by this lush vegetation.

The two rappelling down along/ on the stream of water giving birth to waterfalls are quite a lot of fun, although keeping the balance along the rock formation is definitely not the most simple thing, so laughs were never too far!

The remaining part involves smaller rappelling down & climbing, sliding down. By then we were all starting to feel the exhaustion both from the heat and the actual hike,

Wadi Assal
wet at times and dry before we realize it, but we could feel that we were reaching the end of the canyon…Well not quite!

As the sun was starting to come down, we could feel that our guides were starting to speed up, we still had a two hours walk ahead of us. A very pleasant & gentle one with beautiful surrounding vegetation which was then replaced by a night hike along & on the stream of water, head lamp on & the energy somehow still there, at least enough to put one feet in front of the other!

Guess I have never been so happy to see the Dead Sea shores! 8.30 pm and we made it…

This canyoneering was truly the most challenging endurance wise I got to experience so far but the thrill added to the discovery of yet another amazing natural site in Jordan were just the right ingredients for me to ask for some more!

Traveler’s Tips

• From Amman: 2 hours & half by minibus and 2 hours drive back
• Agency in Amman:
• Canyon description: a 17km dry & water hike that takes you through nine abseils including two along waterfalls starting south of Kerak city, in Kathrabba/Ai and ending up by the Dead Sea shores.
• Cost per participant : around 40JOD (check with the agency for the latest rate)

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 25



Wadi Assal

Wadi Assal
Yala !Yala !
Yala !

Wadi Assal
Loving outdoor!Loving outdoor!
Loving outdoor!

Wadi Assal
along the wayalong the way
along the way

Wadi Assal

Wadi Assal
short break!short break!
short break!

Wadi Assal
Climbing downClimbing down
Climbing down

Wadi Assal
Night hikeNight hike
Night hike

Wadi Assal

14th May 2011

Looks like you had an opportunity to test your abilities and succeeded! Jordan looks beautiful. Love the photos.
14th May 2011

Re: Bravo
Thanks Dave & Merry for your comment, Jordan is indeed beautiful and so worth discovering! As far as abilities goes, well honestly doubted I would make it (and the next day was terribly painful) but somehow survived it & now asking for now :-)
14th May 2011
Amazing photos and wonderfull narration!!

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