Over the edge: our first abseiling adventure

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This post is part of the Digital Nomad project with National Geographic Traveller.

I try not to look down. The only thing between me and a 20 metre drop into the gorge below is the rope to which I’m attached; but thinking about that isn’t going to help. Instead I focus on trying to move slowly backwards and making my way down the wall as if I was back-stepping along the beach; but the dangers posed by my natural clumsiness are never far away.

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We are in Wadi Mukheiris, a narrow canyon which starts at around 200 metres above sea level and empties some 600 metres below into the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. Our guide Atef Hababseh from Terhaal Adventures dishes out the harnesses and helmets, and we start our walk on a gentle downhill slope which provides no indication of what is yet to come.

Soon we are scrambling over and jumping off rocks; from time to time our guides help us across gaps between boulders. As the tallest in the group I have a definite advantage, as so much of the descent requires finding a steady lower rock on which to place an outstretched foot.

There are three abseiling episodes in total, with the final one being a frightening 20-metre drop. Even though Atef does his best to give us the confidence to step out over the edge of the drops, it stills feels like the most unnatural thing to do.

Here’s a video of my less than elegant descent:

After our group of 4 and the other guides had carefully managed to descend the last waterfall, Atef shot down the rope making it look all too easy; so much so that he allowed himself a bit of showboating at the end:

Perhaps harder still than the abseiling was the final 2-hour stretch after the final waterfall. Tired feet and aching muscles meant that the constant scrambles over boulders, plunges into pools and slides down rocks on our backsides became ever harder.

My knees ached for the next two days and the bruises will take a while longer to fade. We were promised an adventure and we certainly had one. I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance or the inclination to abseil again, but when I next look at a waterfall and see someone dangling from a rope against the rock face, I will at least be able to offer sympathy based on my own experience.

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A full-day abseiling trip in Wadi Mukheiris with Terhaal Adventures costs around £75, and includes transfers to and from Amman or Madaba, lunch and water.

You can find other posts from the Digital Nomad project on the National Geographic Traveller website.

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Freelance travel writer

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