I decided to go to where Jesus was baptized in Jordan knowing full well it was going to be harder than it seems. In theory I could take public transportation the whole way there, but my traveler’s intuition told me it would not go so smoothly.
My friend dropped me off at the Amman bus station on her way to work. From there I caught a bus going to the Jordanian town of Salt, and then from there a bus going to Shona. From here I asked where the buses going to “Al Magtas” (the baptism site) leave from. I had to wait an hour for the bus to leave. I followed where it was going on Google Maps and in the end it left me a solid 5km/3mi from the site.
I got off the bus and walked in the heat to get there. The scenery was amazing, being 400m/1200ft below sea level and fed by the Jordan River, it’s a tropical oasis in the desert. I arrived at the baptism site 4.5 hours after leaving Amman. If I had driven directly it would have taken no more than an hour.
Once at the site you can’t explore it on your own. You pay 12 Jordanian Dinar/$15 and wait for a shuttle to take you. Since it’s the border area with Israel, they are strict with security and you can only visit the sites with this shuttle and the guide.
The site is interesting, showing how much the river has shrunk over time due to a change in the climate and Israeli dam projects further north. A church was built on the site of the baptism and excavations are still being done to uncover it. The church was once on the bank of the river, but is now in a completely dry area a bit away from the river.
Modern churches have been constructed nearby and there are plans to make housing for pilgrims who wish to stay a at the site. Still, there are tons of Dead Sea resorts a 20 minute drive away, which is where visitors to this site often go after visiting.
While exploring the site I told my crazy story of getting there to some people. A nice Canadian couple said they’d ask their driver if they could take me back. After the tour, the driver said no. So I headed back going a different direction than the way I came. On the map it looked faster to just walk back to Shona and from there I could catch a bus straight to a different part of Amman.
I walked and walked and quickly realized the town was farther than I realized. I had never hitchhiked on this trip, over 800 days into it. I had already made arrangements to stay with a nice Israeli couple via couchsurfing the following week and they hitchhiked all the way from Cambodia to France over the course of a year. I told them I had never hitchhiked yet, but that was about to change. Feeling a bit desperate, I turned around as a car approached and I didn’t even need to stick out my arm. A guy slowed down, I said “Shona” and he let me in.
He spoke English, too. He lives in the village after Shona and we had a nice conversation. The drive was much farther than I realized so I’m really, really lucky he picked me up. From there I caught the bus straight back to Amman. I didn’t know where it would drop me, but in the end it dropped me exactly where buses going to where my friend lives depart from. Perfect.
It was a long, grueling day, but a good one. I got to try hitchhiking for the first time and visited a place that in some way contributed greatly to the story of humanity.