Photo of the Week – A Cross in the Desert

As I visited the desert of Atacama in Chile‘s north, it was neat to visit small towns and villages in the area.  On the way back from the Geysers del Tatio, we stopped at a village called Machuca.  Atop some of the houses were small crosses.  Weather-worn crosses that reflected the faith of the locals. Chile, Atacama, desert, village, Machuca, cross, blue sky

Camping and Dining under the Stars in the Wadi Rum

I wrote earlier about exploring the Wadi Rum and how much fun it was to ride around in the back of a pickup truck and admire the magnificence of the landscape of this unique desert.  What made that day even better was how it ended that evening.

We stayed at a Captain’s Desert Camp camp, I am not really sure where in the Wadi Rum, somewhere surrounded by the giant rock formations typical of the Wadi Rum, if that helps any…  The camp was mostly candle-lit at night and the night consisted of enjoying our dinner outdoors, listening to Bedouin music, some dancing, and a lot of star-gazing up above.  It was a wonderful experience.

The tents were spacious and just had the beds – nothing fancy.  The camp had bathroom and shower facilities that, though basic, were not too basic (says he who went a week without showering going up Kilimanjaro…).

In any case, it was the evening activities under the stars that made the night so memorable for me.  The night started with music and Bedouin bread-(“shrak“) making.

We got to sample the shrak right then as the food was still cooking…  In the meantime, we enjoyed listening to local music and shisha (hookah) pipes were also brought out for folks to enjoy.

Bedouin music guitar desert camp "Wadi Rum" Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Bedouin music players (see short video below for a 20sec sample of the music)

Shisha hookah pipe Bedouin "wadi rum" jordan desert Canon EOS Rebel

One of the locals enjoying the shisha pipe

Then it came time to get the food out:  the meats and vegetables were cooked covered up and underground.

Bedouin "Wadi Rum" Jodan food cooking underground oven Canon EOS Rebel

1.  Beginning to uncover the underground “oven”

Bedouin food cooking Jordan "Wadi Rum" underground oven

2.  All the coverings removed, there is the hole…

Bedouin food Jordan "Wadi Rum" meats vegetables

3.  The goods being pulled out

Bedouin food chicken eggplant potato "Wadi Rum" Jordan desert camp

4.  The final delicious product: chicken, potatoes, eggplant, etc. – mmm!!!

"Wadi Rum" desert captain camp dining area food adventure outdoors Jordan

The seating area for dinner – comfy!

No pictures of dinner itself as this traveler was starving and eating -not my blogging- became the focus.  My apologies 🙂

I close with a picture from the next morning of the comfy area (with its great backdrop) where we had listened to the music by the campfire and had enjoyed our dinner under stars in the amazing Wadi Rum – an experience not to be missed during a trip to Jordan!

Bedouin desert camp captain Jordan "Wadi Rum" divan Olympus

The dining area turned sleeping area for outdoor lovers

Following the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia in Jordan’s Wadi Rum

Well, I assume I did follow some of his/his camel’s footsteps in the Wadi Rum in my recent trip to Jordan.  My visit to the Wadi Rum was an amazing experience as I had never had been in such a landscape before.  In an earlier post, I shared how I found color everywhere I went in Jordan.  It is now time to focus on one of the places I explored during my trip.

The visit began at the well-set-up Visitor Center which has great information, a surprisingly good restaurant and an excellent view of the rock/mountain Lawrence himself called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a reference from the Book of Proverbs.

Wadi Rum visitor center Seven Pillars Wisdom

Entering the Visitor Center, one immediately is rewarded by a view of the Seven Pillars!

T.E. Lawrence, his real name, became involved in the Arab Revolt in the late 1910s when the Arab peoples were revolting against the Ottoman Empire.  Lawrence fell in love with the Wadi Rum area and now I can understand why.  I hope sharing this adventure will also do the same for you and that you get inspired to see it in person some day!

Spending the afternoon exploring the Wadi Rum desert

We left the Visitor Center to find the vehicles that would take the group to explore the Wadi Rum well into the evening, prior to arriving at the Captain’s Camp where we would spend the night (and I will write about this in another post coming up soon).

Transportation Wadi Rum desert Jordan

Off we went in these pick up truck -type vehicles!

Soon we got deep in the incredible mountains/rocks formations characteristic of the Wadi Rum as well as have fun running up dunes and actually witnessing a rare rainstorm in the area (mercifully not over us!)

Sand dune in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan outdoors adventure exploring travel

Sand dune soon to be “hit” by us visitors!

Typical vista or panorama of Wadi Rum desert in Jordan outdoors adventure

Note the Bedouin camp

Iconic landscape Wadi Rum rock formations, desert in Jordan outdoors nature adventure Canon EOS Rebel

Typical / iconic landscape the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan is known for

Amazing rock formations and colors in the Wadi Rum desert Jordan nature adventure outdoors Lawrence

Amazing rock formations and colors in the Wadi Rum!

Barrah Siq Wadi Rum Jordan Lawrence Arabia Bedouin history revolt desert outdoors nature adventure

Barrah Siq where the large rock in the bottom has a carving of Lawrence of Arabia; alongside a Bedouin camp

carving Lawrence of Arabia's face in Barrah Siq Wadi Rum Jordan desert outdoors Olympus

Close-up of the carving of Lawrence of Arabia’s face in Barrah Siq

Canyon siq "wadi rum" desert jordan camel sand travel photo outdoors adventure Olympus

This photo offers a better sense of the scale of the place

 

Rain storm Wadi Rum desert Jordan outdoors unusual travel nature adventure Olympus

The rare rainstorm in the distance – even lightning!

And then dusk began in the desert!

I thought we’d be done exploring as soon as it started getting dark and, while that was close to reality, we still got to enjoy dusk driving around – which made me appreciate the Wadi Rum in a different light, so to speak.

Dusk sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan sky outdoors nature  Olympustravel

Sunset begins…

The magical sky at sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan travel outdoors Olympus photo

The magical sky at sunset

Sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan sky cloud light outdoors nature adventure travel photo Olympus

The clouds played nicely in the sunset scene

"Wadi Rum" sunset night light desert Jordan travel photo

The ride is getting closer to ending as the lights come on. Still a beautiful backdrop!

And the method of exploring changes the next morning!

Camel "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan exploration outdoors adventure wild photo travel

Our ride the next morning: Wadi Rum camels!

Riding camels "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan outdoors adventure travel photo

Riding camels! Yours truly in the blue shirt (via J. Festa – thanks!)

And to finish this, a shot taken by a fellow traveler about ilivetotravel in action!

Photographer ilivetotravel "Wadi Rum" Jordan travel adventure outdoors photo

Notice the tarp covering the back of our pick-up truck. And me so focused… (again, thanks J. Festa!)

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Best of Chile Itinerary Recommendations

Having traveled a but through Chile (though, admittedly, I missed some places I hear are worth exploring, like Valdivia), I thought I’d share what I would consider a good itinerary for those with time (but not boundless time either).   I will either expand on some of the items below in other entries or they have been covered already in entries I already made (true for the Atacama and Patagonia bits).

Valley of the Moon, Valle de la Luna, Chile, Atacama, desert, desierto, mountain, color, purple, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Valle de la Luna is one of the key sights in the Atacama Desert

The best of Chile – start of an itinerary

Chile offers a wide range of landscapes due to the fact that it runs a long way in the latitude dimension, therefore, the climates along the country vary significantly.  The presence of the Andes clearly has a major effect in the climate as well as provides a great backdrop to many of the places you should see (heck, sometimes it is not just the backdrop but part of what you will explore).

Cueva Milodon, Patagonia, Chile

View from la Cueva del Milodón in Patagonia

A trip to Chile typically starts of in Santiago, its capital, though one can enter the country from any of the neighboring countries in places like the Atacama, Pucon, the lake district, or Patagonia.

Atacama, desert, Chile, vista, view, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

In the Atacama Desert, near the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)

A good itinerary would cover these seven places:

–  San Pedro de Atacama and nearby sites (4-7 days)

–  Pucón and the Villarica area (3-4 days)

–  Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego including Torres del Paine, fjords, glaciers, etc. (5-10 days)

–  Santiago (a city is a city is a city but I find it worth exploring) (2-4 days)

–  Valparaíso (add on Viña and its beaches but they don’t rank up there in my book) (2 days tops, 1 day is doable)

–  Puerto Montt, the Lake District (perhaps even doing the crossing of the lakes), and Chiloé (4-8 days)

–  Mendoza (OK, this is Argentina but it is almost on Chile and easier to get to from Santiago than from anywhere else!) (2-3 days)

Puerto Natales, Chile, Patagonia, Canon EOS Rebel

A typical house in Puerto Natales, the closest town to Torres del Paine

Readers, please feel free to add or provide other perspectives.  I, by no means, saw EVERYTHING Chile has to offer!

NOTE:  First timers in Chile have to pay an entry fee if they are from certain countries (not many) of which the U.S. is one.  BEFORE you get to the immigration line, make sure you go to the line to pay this entry fee.  Usually, there is airport staff asking for country of origin at the end of the escalators – they can direct you where you need to go.

Why I Chose to Visit the World’s Driest Desert – the Atacama

Visiting a desert?  Isn’t it all just like dry and sandy?  Why?  I had been to the Sahara desert but mainly in the vicinity of the Nile River in Egypt.  And while it is likely not representative of the rest of the Sahara (opinions, readers?), I thought how different can they all be from each other?

Since I had the opportunity to spend a holiday weekend away from Santiago late in June, I decided to explore the Atacama.  There are 3 main areas of Chile that I want to see.  One I saw partially in 1991, the other 2 I had not seen.  The lake district down south near Puerto Montt I visited in 1991 but not fully.  In fact, I probably only “sampled” a fraction of the area.  But it is winter now and not the best time to go (I was set to go in March but the earthquake happened and killed the trip…).  The other area I am wanting to go to is Tierra del Fuego and las Torres del Paine.  But, again, it is winter…  So the third area on my top 3 was the Atacama and this seemed a great time to go.

Flying to Calama in the north requires flying over almost half of Chile’s length, abt 2 hrs (photo: http://www.finetravel.co.nz)

I heard it would be cold since some of the places to visit are in altitude (over 12,000 ft above sea level) but, at least, down in San Pedro de Atacama, things would not be so bad.  In another entry I cover the details of my “getting there”.

I didn’t have a strong notion what it was I was going to see prior to doing some research but it sounded different.  I was up for different.  I figured that seeing the desert at different times of day would offer great colors and images.  I also knew there were “salares” (salt lakes of sorts) that could offer great photo opps for a creative type with a brand new camera based on the pictures hanging on the wall of my hotel in Santiago.

Research, including talking to other visitors in Chile who had been there and locals as well as Internet research, showed me there was indeed quite a good bit to see and do.  My mind was more made up than it had been.  Among the key recommendations were:

–  Valle de la Luna

–  Valle de la Muerte

–  Valle del Arco Iris

–  Geysers del Tatio

–  Salar de Atacama

–  Lagunas Altiplanicas

–  Laguna Cejar

–  Night sky watching

So, the trip was born…

Other entries cover some of these (links above) and some learnings acquired along the way…

Any other suggestions for places to see in the Atacama?

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