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Climbing this arch may be the dumbest thing I ever did

The writer and her husband reach the top of Burdah Arch, a wind-sculpted rock bridge in Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

Courtesy of Kanishk Bhatia

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

"Do we need ropes?" I asked our Bedouin host as he told us about our planned hike up the Burdah Arch.

He casually glanced at my wife, Vijiti, and me. "You'll be fine."

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And so began our adventure in the stunning and stark Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.

Our young guide, Oudi, pointed to our ride – a seemingly broken down Land Rover with light fixtures popping out of place and tape holding things together. Oudi assured us this was the best way around the desert. We got in and he gunned his way through the open sands.

The main attraction was a hike to the top of a wind-sculpted rock bridge connecting two mountains, supposedly one of the highest natural arches in the world. When we signed up, this "scrambling" tour had included a warning about fear of heights and the provision of ropes to assist in the climb. Assured that we'd be "fine" without them, however, we confidently set off behind our sandal-wearing guide as he led us up, over and between large boulders.

Within minutes, we were using both our hands and feet to navigate steeper sections of the boulders. There were no marked trails, just Oudi's sense of direction. As we made our way up, the views got better and better – stunning panoramas of rounded, wind-battered mountains and the expansive sands beneath.

So far, so good.

Then we reached a point where our palms started to sweat. Oudi went first, shuffling his way across a thin ledge – fingers embedded in shallow crevices on one side, a steep rocky fall on the other. He shuffled a few feet, disappeared for a second, then made it to the top. Vijiti and I exchanged concerned looks. She went next. With Oudi guiding us from above, he encouraged Vijiti to hook her leg around a curved piece of rock ledge that she couldn't see.

"Are you okay?" I called up.

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"No, no I am not okay!" She was sharp. I don't blame her, it looked dicey. With a bit of help (and a little faith), she found her footing. And so did I a few anxious minutes later.

But we weren't done.

The uneven, rounded rock "bridge" was just over a metre wide, with a sheer drop below. Oudi called out encouragingly from below – he wanted to take our picture. This was a legs-turn-to-jelly moment. We had to fight our desire to sit down but we managed to take a few steps into the middle for photos. Just when we started edging our way to (relative) safety, Oudi cried "One more, with hands up!" That took some serious mental focus on our part.

Later, sprawled on a blanket with a cup of sweet sage tea, I asked my wife, "Was that the coolest thing we've ever done, or the stupidest?"

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