Jawad Abu Rumman, a guide at Experience Jordan, looks across a canyon as the group prepares to set up up camp on the second day of their journey across Jordan. (Courtesy Photo)

North Bend teen maps biking trail in Jordan

Setting up camp overlooking a canyon in Jordan was the last place Jack Mandelkorn, 15, thought he would be during his week off of school. But the North Bend teen spent his mid-winter break, Feb. 16 to 25, differently from his peers.

A student of Eastside Catholic School, Mandelkorn had been hoping to complete a programming or Web design internship this summer. His travel-agent mother, Laura, got in touch with Matt Loveland, a tour operator in Jordan.

Through their conversations, an opportunity to travel to Jordan to work with Loveland’s tour agency, Experience Jordan, came up and Mandelkorn knew he had to take it. He left for Jordan on Feb. 16, and after a 16-hour flight, he arrived in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.

Mandelkorn initially started helping with programming and working on the website for ExperienceJordan.com, but was soon a part of the company’s next big project, mapping the Jordan Bike Trail. Crossing the entire country from North to South in more than 600 kilometers, the Jordan Bike Trail begins in the city of Um Qais and ends at the Red Sea.

Mandelkorn and Loveland were joined by Andy Nurse and Jawad Abu Rumman, as they made their way along the trail. Loveland tackled the route on his bike, while Mandelkorn, Abu Rumman, and Nurse followed along in a truck, occasionally diverting to an alternate route once they got into areas that only a bike could traverse.

Mandelkorn was tasked with documenting their travels along the trail, and helped out with adjusting the GPS mapping of the bike route and the vehicle route. Equipped with a camera and a camera stabilizer, Mandelkorn shot footage of the trip that will be used to create a promotional video as well as smaller video guides for individual sections of the trail.

“The premise is essentially cycling and camping through the entirety of Jordan, about 80 kilometers per day,” Mandelkorn said. “I would usually bike 20 to 30 km, otherwise I would be in the truck filming or mapping, there was a lot of mapping that had to be done because there were many revisions to the trail.”

To map the trail, he would make notes on the style of terrain, as well as any obstacles or villages they came across.

One of the surprising things about the trip was the environment of Jordan, Mandelkorn said. He was expecting flat desert lands but was met with valleys, rivers and mountains.

“The initially shocking thing was, picturing it I expected your typical dessert flatland. What we got was very green, vibrant terrain and a ton of elevation gain and loss, a ton of valleys,” he said. “The elevation gained and lost equated to going up and down Everest two and a half times.”

The group traveled along the trail for a week, mapping and filming the process. One memorable moment, Mandelkorn recalled, was a morning when he was awakened by a loud noise. When he looked out of his tent he saw hundreds of sheep passing by. Another memory he shared was the group setting up a makeshift camp on a farm. When they met the farmer, Mandelkorn expected him to be furious and not allow them to stay, but he gladly welcomed their group.

“The people were all very nice,” he said. “There is such stigma and fear of middle eastern countries. There can be a lot of fear, subconsciously from the media because it’s more of an impoverished country. The people are still people. Poverty does not equal a lack of happiness.”

After six days traveling along the trail, Mandelkorn’s trip had come to an end. Mid-winter break was ending and it was time to head back before school began. From their campsite, he took a three-hour taxi ride back to the airport in Amman and got on his flight back home.

Now that he is back in North Bend, Mandelkorn is working on editing and creating his own music to add to the promo videos he shot while in Jordan. He is still working with Loveland to get those finished and up on the website.

He feels his videography skills have drastically improved now that he has had to apply his skills in a real life scenario.

“Filming was a lot different than I expected, we were constantly moving and would rarely stop, you would have to become creative on the different angles. I think I got a lot out of it,” he said.

Mandelkorn plans to return to Jordan, he’s hoping this summer, to do some more work with Loveland. He valued the experience of traveling to another country and said he wants to experience more of Jordan’s culture.

“The main thing was a loss of fear and a taste for adventure. It was such an unpredictable not planned or scheduled type of thing… you lose your fear of uncertainty,” he said.

Matt Loveland, Andy Nurse, Jawad Abu Rumman, and Jack Mandelkorn, stop at a restaurant for some food. (Courtesy Photo)

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