Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day 33: Ernie tries on a scarf

April 2: The shockingly loud prayer call from the mosque next door wasn't quite as shocking the second time around, but it definitely woke everyone up. We had a normal 7:00am breakfast which surprised me since we had a bus ride back to where we got off the trail. We usually wake up earlier to account for the bus ride, but for whatever reason, that didn't happen today.

Ernie tries on one of my scarves.
I've been trying to convince Ernie to buy a scarf for himself this whole trip but he'd been holding off, and I had a new idea this morning: I should let him try on one of my scarves for the day. He'd like it so much, he'd finally be convinced to buy his own scarf!

So I gave him a selection of scarves to choose from (I had five of them, after all!), and helped him wrap it around his head properly. It looked good. I took a photo and showed it to him, and he approved of the look as well. I also quietly talked to a few people asking them to compliment Ernie on his look look to help with the cause. ;o)

But it meant we didn't actually start hiking until nearly 9:00 in the morning. When we arrived at the trail, I realized that I was missing my trekking pole. I distinctly remember putting it in front of my tent at the woman's cooperative and somehow, I must have just missed it in my departure. In the meantime, George had a spare trekking pole that he lent me and they'd make a point of looking for mine at the cooperative.

The day started beautiful and clear--definitely a nice change in the weather--but the trail was still wet and muddy not having recovered yet from the recent storms. Later in the day, the trail headed back up on paved roads and it was nice to escape the mud.

As the afternoon progressed, dark clouds rolled in, but the rain held off. 

Today's hike would take us into downtown As-Salt where a "surprise" was in store. Salt was the former capital of Jordan and probably the biggest city along the trail. It was also a new addition to the Jordan Trail having been rerouted in the past year and this was the first year hikers would be going through it. So the surprise consisted of an appearance by the major of Salt, a couple of short speeches that several reporters covered, and it kind of bored the rest of us. We'd rather have been hiking, or head to our hotel for the night and relax at our own pace. It was more a publicity stunt than anything for our benefit, which I could understand, but it doesn't make it anymore fun. At the very least, it would have been nice to have been fed. Hikers always love food!

After the speeches and photos, we were taken on a guided tour of the Harmony Trail through town before arriving at a bus to take us to our hotel. I was really disappointed at another bus ride. Argh! No more buses! We were spending the night in Salt at a hotel and I had mistakenly assumed we'd walk to our hotel on or near the Jordan Trail. I didn't realize it was so far off trail that we needed another bus ride. That was a big disappointment for me.

But we got on the bus because what other choice did we have? At least it was a relatively short bus ride to the hotel (the Saltus Hotel), and I spent the evening washing my clothes in the shower and binge-watching Netflix.

At dinner, Ernie returned my scarf to me saying that he did like it, but it was so late in the trip that he felt it was too late. He wouldn't have enough time to use it much before we left then what would he do with it? I suggested that it was perfectly good to wear when he returned to Canada (I planned to wear mine back in the states on occasion--especially on cold days!) Or he could use it as a Halloween costume. Or as a table cloth! It had a million uses! He had to get one!

I wasn't sure if I convinced him, but he really needed a scarf. *nodding*

It was a beautiful, clear morning!
Tortoise on the trail!
Looking good, Ernie! Looking good! *nodding* =)
We did have a small creek to cross, but this one wasn't a problem.

As the morning progressed, more and more clouds started showing up.

The poppy fields were gorgeous!

Damian, looking a serious

Salt City, here we come! =)
I need a nap.
The mayor of Salt gives a short speech. (He's the guy on in the yellow vest on the left.)
Then we took a short walk on the Harmony Trail through town.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Day 32: Another miserable day on the trail

April 1: Mosques in Jordan will play a call to prayer at an ungodly hour of the morning (pun  intended!), and our location in Iraq Al-Amir was no exception. The difference this morning, however, was that we were located in a woman's cooperative that happened to be located right next to a mosque and it sounded like the megaphones were right inside the tent with me. Scared the crap of out me! From being dead asleep to a blasting music that could be heard for miles away. Not the wake-up call I had been expecting!
Breakfast in the morning

I laid around in my tent trying to go back to sleep but never succeeded.

It didn't rain during the night, but in the morning it started up again and the weather forecast wasn't at all promising.

We got a normal 7:00am breakfast, our first in a while, because we didn't have to take a bus to get back to the trail. One small thing to be happy about!

We also lost another hiker today, Jonathan. This wasn't a shock to the group like Ermanno's unexpected exit. Jonathan had signed up to do a thru-hike hike, but eventually decided to leave the trail early and we knew for the better part of a week that he was leaving.

Much of the day's walk was a road walk, which we actually welcomed because it meant we didn't have to walk through thick mud everywhere. We didn't escape the mud completely, but the paved roads certainly limited it.

Karolina had a large, red spot in her eye. It was quite dramatic, and everyone gathered around her looking at it. Karolina didn't know it was there and didn't seem concerned about it, and three nurses in our group agreed it was a burst blood vessel which could have occurred from something as simple as a sneeze or blowing her nose and would fade and eventually disappear. Nothing to worry about. It didn't affect her vision and wouldn't cause any permanent damage. It just looked scary!

There was no mirror for Karolina to see what her eye looked like, but I had the idea to take a photo of it, which I did, then showed it to her.

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed, suddenly freaking out about the Great Red Spot on her eye. "It's huge! You didn't tell me it was that bad!"

Karolina didn't freak out about the Great Red Spot in her eye until I showed her this photo. "Oh my GOD!"
"But... it's not bad.... you heard the nurses! And your vision is completely normal!"

Maybe I shouldn't have shown her the photo....

Originally, our schedule had us at a wild camp tonight, but the support crew drove out to the site of the campsite and canceled those plans. The site was too muddy from all the rain. New plans were made and we would be returning to the woman's cooperative again.... on a bus. The bus again?! Ugh!

Today's walk was relatively short at 14 kilometers--less than 10 miles--and we finished the day's hike at 12:30pm. As the crow flies, we probably covered half that distance. Despite being maybe 5 or 6 miles from the woman's cooperative (as the crow flies), the winding, narrow, gravel road took the bus 40 minutes to navigate back to the cooperative.

When we arrived, we met a new arrival: Maciej from Poland. He had hiked the Jordan Trail from the northernmost point to our location here the year before and returned to finish the trail this year. He was hiking southbound and had made reservations to stay there--originally a lonely place by himself but now crowded with 30 or so people from our group that stayed an extra night. Being from Poland, Karolina and him talked a lot in Polish, but much too fast for me to really understand anything that they were saying. I'd say some stuff in Polish, but I'm not sure if he was impressed that I knew any Polish at all or embarrassed at how bad it was. Probably a little of both. ;o)

In the afternoon, the rain stopped, so Ernie, Jan, Karolina and I walked out to some nearby caves carved out from cliffs to explore. The caves had been built and used for thousands of years and people lived in them until just a few decades ago, but now they're tourist attractions.

Ernie looks inside one of the nearby caves

Then we returned to the woman's cooperative. We socialized, had dinner and generally enjoyed ourselves.

When it was time for the briefing about tomorrow's hike, I was anxious to see how Lama and Ernie would play it. It was April Fools Day, after all, and they said they'd make up a fake briefing before the real one.

Lama started the briefing saying, "We will go down, then up and up and up...." with exaggerated hand gestures and I thought, "Yes! She's doing it!" =) then it turned into a normal, run-of-the-mill briefing. What happened to the fake briefing?!

Ernie followed Lama's lead and provided a weather forecast that included a lot of sun and pleasant weather.

What happened? I didn't understand it....

Later, I asked Lama about what happened to the fake briefing and she had a look of surprise. "I forgot! I totally forgot!"

It was now the end of April Fools Day and not a single prank was played. I was disappointed. =( Well, I still enjoyed the prank I played on Atlas Quest which I was able to follow because I was able to get a wi-fi connection at our location, so I enjoyed that. But no pranks were played in Jordan....

Ernie blows his nose in the morning. Somebody had to document everyday life! =)
Jonathan would leave us in the morning. Good travels, good sir!

We passed this wall with a bunch of rocks hanging from string over the top. It was a little weird and I couldn't think of any logical explanation for it.

You could definitely tell that the infrastructure in Jordan was having trouble with all of the recent rains!

Most of the day was a road walk, but when it wasn't... it was very, very muddy. *nodding* This was the kind of mud that the support crew decided wasn't a good place to camp!
Sheep blocking the trail!
Our bus! Time to get out of the rain and mud!

View from inside one of the caves
Yousef, one of the support crew who is looking a little too clean and dry if you ask me! ;o)
Sawsan from Lebanon
Connie (R) and Hiba (L)
Maciej from Poland
Sarah, from the US

Friday, August 16, 2019

Day 31: Oh, the horrible, horrible rain!

March 31: Waking up for a 6:30am breakfast was starting to become the norm, and we did it again today primarily because we had a bus ride to get back to the trail before we could start hiking. I was kind of getting tired of the bus rides. This was the sixth bus in a row we had taken to or from an off-trail hotel, and the bus rides were my least favorite part of the day. The luxury of a hotel was nice, of course, and escaping the rain was heaven! But the bus rides themselves.... I didn't enjoy. Felt like a waste of time sitting around doing nothing.

And it meant we had to wake up earlier. Which we did again. Today. This time, however, we would be checking out of the hotel. During the night it had poured buckets of pain, a drenching downpour and, if I remember correctly, even a bit of lightning. It was a good night to be indoors! But the bus...  *sigh*

'Twas a wet, wet morning....

When we arrived at the trailhead, it was raining. And within minutes of starting the day's hike, it was raining hard! Our raincoats and umbrellas seemed inadequate for the onslaught. Sheets of water ran down the streets and normally dry creekbeds flowed with muddy, brown water.

I walked up to Jonathan, who had taken the day off the day before, and joked, "You took yesterday off from hiking--which was mostly a pretty nice day--but joined us today.... for this?!"

We arrived at what I imagined was normally a small creek if it was running at all, but this morning it was a torrential river running off a small cliff creating what looked like a chocolate waterfall. The guides huddled together trying to decide the best way to get around it while the rest of us tried to press up against a small, overhanging ledge that provided a small bit of protection from the rain.

Eventually they decided on a route and we walked downstream a short way, under a second waterfall in the creek, and crossed where the water was shallower.

The heavy rain stopped after about an hour, but intermittent rains continued throughout the rest of the day. It was a miserable day of hiking. The trails were muddy, but wet enough that the mud didn't cling to our feet in thick, heavy layers like they did a week earlier.

But it was a pretty miserable day of hiking, and we had 21 kilometers to cover.

Halfway through the day, we ran across a busy highway Frogger-style where there was a small market. The front had a large, overhanging roof, and we huddled under it to get out of the rain for a short break. Most people went into the market to buy drinks or snacks at some point, then we ate and drank them under the covered area in front. I got an ice cream sandwich. I had had an urge for ice cream throughout the whole trail but it was surprisingly hard to find in Jordan. You'd think in a desert that was normally impossibly hot that ice cream would be a popular treat, but that didn't seem to be the case.

So I saw ice cream instead and had to get it, even if it wasn't particularly hot or refreshing today. But it was delicious. *nodding* =)

Further down the trail, we arrived at raging river that was normally a slow-moving creek, and this crossing looked positively dangerous. The water was about knee deep, but it was moving fast! I noticed a lot fewer people took their shoes off than they did at previous river crossings, and I suspected it was probably because their feet were already soaked through due to the rain so it didn't matter as much.

The guides brought the rope which they stretched across the creek to help us across. I was definitely glad for it here, but I was still careful not to slip or fall. Sawsan and Lama had close calls and almost fell in while crossing, and Helena struggled a bit, but everyone eventually made it across okay.

And, for the first time in a few days, we didn't have a bus waiting for us at the end of the day. Nope, we hiked into the Iraq Al-Amir Womens Cooperative where we would be spending the night. We would be camping in our tents--the cooperative didn't have facilities for a group this large, so we had to partly rough it. We did have access to flush toilets, an indoor room for dinner and breakast, and a covered area outside that protected us from rain. The tents were located under a partly-covered area that did not keep out the rain because the bamboo roof was more about provided shade on a sunny day than protection from rain which isn't common in Jordan most of the year.

A pile of boots showed up around the campfire, all in desperate need of drying, and we were all thrilled to change out of our wet clothes and into our dry camp clothes.

Living the good life!

At the women's cooperative, they sold handmade paper products and ceramics. I got a couple of small notebooks but passed on the ceramics knowing that they'd probably be broken before I finished the trail.
During the briefing after dinner, it was time for my April Fools joke to play itself out. It wasn't officially April Fools Day until tomorrow, but the briefing was to describe tomorrow. And Lama gave the briefing... and it was a real briefing! We weren't waking up at 4:00am for a 35km day. We weren't hiking past any toxic waste dumps or maximum security prisons. And when Ernie followed with a normal, run-of-the-mill weather report, I was disappointed. What happened?!

Later, I asked Lama what happened, and she said it wasn't April Fool's Day--she thought she was supposed to give the fake briefing tomorrow! Ah, shoot. We had a different perspective about how April Fools worked. I wanted the joke to be the briefing for April 1st, while she wanted the joke to be the briefing on April 1st. That could still work, though. The joke was still on. Just delayed a day....

I pulled Ernie aside and told him as much. "It's still on for tomorrow. Make up a horrible and crazy weather report for tomorrow's briefing," I told him. "Make me proud!" =)

With my shenanigans done, I headed back to the tents to get some sleep.

It's a chocolate waterfall!
You can really see how big and powerful it is as a video!

Even Basha looked pretty miserable in the rain, and he had a raincoat!

I was still amazed at how green everything looked!
And the wildflowers were still amazing!
Black iris
We stopped for a break at this small market

This was definitely the most extreme river crossing we faced so far!
Go, Ernie! Go!

Near the end of the day, we huddled in this small, abandoned building to take a break out from the rain.
Ruins of Qasr Al-Abed
There are a lot of shoes and socks being dried out here!
Ceramics for sale!