WITH the heat pushing 35C, the shade from the steep canyon wall is a godsend.
This respite from the sun is made all the more pleasant by the water surging over my feet.
I reach my hands into the river to scoop up as much as I can, and douse my head, then breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m in Jordan’s Wadi al Hasa — a breath-taking canyon stretching 25 miles between the towns of Karak and Tafilah, with views that must be seen to be believed.
We’re 12 miles along the canyon and have another 12 still to go.
My knees are scratched from the sharp reeds poking up from the riverbank, while the jagged rocks under foot make a mockery of the “comfort guarantee” that came with my new hiking boots.
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But I’m still thrilled by the prospect of what lies ahead, just as I have loved each moment of the arduous trek so far.
I haven’t seen another person, other than my guide, for a full day.
Our only company are the bee-eaters and kingfishers which provide glorious, iridescent highlights to the green, blue and red landscape of reeds, water and canyon.
Nowhere feels more peaceful than right here in the middle of the canyon.
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Although nearly half of Jordan’s residents are refugees, sheltering from conflicts in neighbouring Iraq, Syria and Palestine, it is something of an oasis in this desert region filled with war.
Earlier in my trip, I had cycled on the volcanic plains of the country’s Eastern Desert and along the Baghdad Road that links Jordan’s ancient city of Petra — carved from sand-stone cliffs more than 2,000 years ago and now a protected archaeolgical site — to the Iraqi capital.
The views on the open road were almost as spectacular as those at the intricately etched ancient metropolis — one of the world’s Seven Ancient Wonders, with magnificent canyons and mountains.
And although many people think of Jordan as just Petra, desert and nothing beyond, there is so much more to this country to be enraptured by.
Its beating heart can be found in Amman, a capital city under-going an image change spearheaded by progressive, youthful ideas.
One of the figures at the forefront of this movement, my tour guide Anas, introduced me to a colourful world within the cafes and backstreets of the city’s eastern side.
Magical murals and political graffiti adorn the walls, providing a visual backdrop for the cultural transformation that is afoot.
Murals and graffiti
This fabulous riot of colour and artistic flair is even reflected in some the city’s major hotels — such as the W Amman in commercial district Al-Abdali, where an impressive tree sculpture dominates the lobby.
The rooms are just as gleaming-bright, with spectacular cushion covers and throws for the beds.
Jordanian hip-hop artists have long since stopped trying to imitate American imports and instead started focusing on messages more relevant to their own lives, while everyday life in the city also has a spotlight shone on it by a developing stand-up comedy scene.
There is also a tremendous sense of community in the streets.
This was clear when Anas and I sat down among the many families out enjoying a Friday afternoon — to sample the local knafeh, a sickly-sweet snack made of fried cheese, pistachio and sugar syrup.
It’s hugely popular in this region and can be picked up from pretty much any of the local bakeries.
That same community spirit also shone in the homes I was welcomed into during my holiday.
In the northern city of Umm Qais — a former Roman settlement overlooking the city of Nazareth and Sea of Galilee in Israel — a Syrian family invited me to join their family for dinner.
This involved a spread of rice, stuffed courgettes, an okra-and-potato stew, some chicken and, of course, the all-important flatbread that accompanies every meal.
We sat on floor cushions around a table just a few inches off the ground and shared stories about our various cultures until long into the evening, when my exhaustion eventually caught up with me.
That day, I had hiked a particularly hilly section of the Jordan Trail — a trekking route stretching 675km across the country, that usually takes around 40 days to fully complete.
And I needed my rest — as I would soon be scrambling over cliffs in the middle of the Wadi Rum valley — a place that looks more like Mars or the moon than anywhere on Earth.
Sunsets in the valley emit a deep- amber glow over the towering stone crags, before evening descends to reveal a night sky bejewelled with stars, the likes of which usually require a telescope to see quite so clearly.
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It’s a sight that for me truly sums up Jordan — a place offering dazzling new perspectives on old views, and with much more happening than might first be apparent.
And so, with 12 miles still to trek through the Wadi al Hasa canyon, I can’t help but feel happy — as it’s more time to discover what this historic and colourful country has to offer.
GETTING THERE: EasyJet and Wizz Air fly from Gatwick to Amman in Jordan with fares in December from £111return.
STAYING THERE: G Adventures offer an eight-day Jordan Multisport trip featuring Petra, Wadi Rum as well as hiking in Ajloun, canyon-trekking to the Dead Sea and Dana Biosphere Reserve.
Prices start from £1,229pp, with activities, accommodation, seven breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners. See gadventures.com.
MORE INFO: See visitjordan.com.
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