Monday, June 24, 2019

Day 8: Slot Canyon Explorations

March 8: Today would be our longest day on the trail to date and to work around that, the time for breakfast was adjusted. The night before it was announced that breakfast would be served at 6:45am, 15 minutes earlier than usual, so I was taken by surprise when they started calling that breakfast was ready at 6:30. I didn't mind the earlier breakfast--the sooner we ate, the sooner we could hit the trail and start hiking! But it took me by surprise so I needed a few extra minutes to finish changing into my day's hiking clothes and get my scarf on.

The pile of luggage that would be transported ahead to our next campsite. (My bag is the yellow one in the back.)
After breakfast, a lunch table was set up where we threw everything we wanted into a paper sack. We were warned that there was nowhere during the day that the support crew could come out so everything we needed for lunch today we had to pack in.

From camp, we walked maybe a mile or so past a mosque seemingly in the middle of nowhere along with several donkeys before descending into a narrow canyon.

We'd follow the bottom of this narrow canyon the entire day--about 15 miles in all. It was a beautiful canyon, turning into slot canyons at places where sheer cliffs towered high above. I was glad there was no rain in the forecast nor had it rained recently because flash floods could certainly be an issue here. The evidence of them was everywhere we looked.

Gorgeous patterns showed in sections where the sandstone rock had been smoothed by erosion.

Karolina admires the beautiful patterns in the rock.

Overall, the day's hiking wasn't especially difficult. All downhill, but a barely perceptible downhill. The biggest difficulty, once again, was the sandy ground that grew tiring. There were a couple of small drops in the canyon bottom when the trail went over a rock and continued several feet down which required a bit of a scramble, but those sections never slowed us down more than a minute or so and I could count on one hand the number of scrambles that were required.

Deep in the canyon, we were in shade most of the day which provided a comfortable retreat from the burning sun and kept the air temperatures cool.

Late in the afternoon, we finally arrived in camp. We camped in the canyon itself where the canyon walls widened into rugged terrain on both sides. The support vehicles were able to drive up the sandy bottom from the other direction.

The slot canyons were amazing!

Today was the last day of hiking with our camel. He had other arrangements, I guess, and I was a little sad to see him go.

Although we covered a longer distance today than yesterday (24 km vs. 22km), I actually took more steps yesterday (39,500) than today (35,672). Several thousand more! I attributed that to all the trash I picked up yesterday, zigzagging through the desert to pick up items.

I picked up trash today as well, but was confined in the narrow canyon which prevented unnecessary zigzagging. And because I knew there would be no support vehicles meeting up with us along the way to take the trash bags, I didn't start picking up trash until late in the day. No reason to pick up trash early in the day, fill up my trash bags, then carry it all day without the ability to pick up more.

And! There wasn't as much trash to pick up in the first place. So I spent a lot less time picking up trash, and zigzagged around much less. I was pretty shocked at how many thousands of steps my picking up trash generated, though! It was the only reason I could think of for all the extra steps I took yesterday.

Today was also Thomas's birthday and the support crew brought out a birthday cake to celebrate. I hoped a lot of people on our trip would be having birthdays during the hike. It would be nice, I thought, if someone had a birthday every single evening of the trip! =)

After dark, I went out again to search for scorpions. I hunted around for nearly a half hour but came up empty-handed. The scorpions just weren't running around at the moment.

But all-in-all, a very satisfying day on the trail.

There were quite a few donkeys we passed near our campsite in the morning.

Here we're descending into the canyon that we'd be following for pretty much the entire day.

Such beautiful formations! Who knew there was so much beautiful scenery in Jordan?!

Today, Lina got to ride our camel for a bit. It was the last day we would have a camel hiking with us.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Day 7: Riding Camels Through the Jordanian Desert

March 7: We woke up, ate breakfast, packed and hit the trail. Same story, different day.

Today's hike was a longer one stretching 22 kilometers (about 14 miles), but it was once again mostly flat and the biggest obstacle was the never-ending sand with its lack of a solid walking surface.

A hot air balloon over Wadi Rum is a popular tourist thing to do. We obviously didn't have time for this sort of thing, but this was the first morning we saw it happening!

We left Wadi Rum for a more traditional desert--a flat, featureless expanse. It seemed like everyone was complaining that the scenery was boring, and I suppose compared to the colors and sandstone sculptures we had been walking through for days, it was--but there was a beauty in the starkness here as well. Deserts are an amazing place, and I still found myself fascinated with the wildlife and plants that didn't just grow in the area but thrived! It wasn't even the hot season right now but the sun could still kill an unprepared person wandering these deserts.

We stopped for a break near some old ruins next to a the major north-south highway. It was, in fact, the same highway our bus used to drive us down to Aqaba seven days earlier in the pouring rain. The terrain certainly looked a lot different under a sunny, blue sky!

Crossing the highway was like playing a live-action version of Frogger where groups of us waited for a small break in the traffic to dash across one direction of traffic into the safety of the center divider then waiting for another break in the traffic to dash across the other direction of traffic.

Waiting our turn to dash across the highway!

Along the way, I continued picking up trash and after one of our breaks, a few of the other hikers started asking if I would take their trash. Not trash they found in the desert, but their own personal trash they generated. No! They can carry their own trash back to camp. If I volunteered to carry everyone's trash, I wouldn't have space to actually pick up trash from the ground! So no, everyone was to carry their own trash.

Late in the afternoon we took another break at the ruins of Humeima, an ancient trading post that was built nearly 2000 years ago. Karolina asked if she could ride our camel and that's how she got out of hiking the last half hour or so of the trail into camp.

I took pictures of her on the camel, but when the group took off, I backtracked a bit to get my pack as well as retrieve Karolina's which is how I ended up hiking the last half hour of the trail with two backpacks. I think she got the better end of that deal. *nodding* =)

Unfortunately for her, I was never able to catch up and get photos or videos of her riding a camel. I took a couple of photos when she first got on, but after I left to retrieve our packs I wasn't able to catch up again. I think I might have managed to catch up if I had another half hour. I could see her in the distance, though. Since it was the only camel ahead, it was easy to follow her progress visually.

Karolina rides a camel!

Later she told me that as the camel started getting close to camp, it knew it was getting close to camp and becoming agitated almost bucking her off, so she got off and walked the last few minutes into camp.

The wind was quite strong when we arrived and the support crew had put people's luggage into random tents to help hold them down so there was a little confusion with people looking for their luggage and moving it to the tent they had selected as well as confusion over which tents were actually taken and which ones just had bags in them to hold them down but hadn't yet been claimed. Eventually it all got sorted out, though.

Karolina's tent was next a ravine and a strong wind caught in the rainfly of her tent and started pulling it into the ravine. I helped her pull it back off the edge--a real tent wrangler!--and suggested we take off the rainfly. It wasn't supposed to rain so it wasn't really needed anyhow and the wind hitting the mesh top would cause less wind resistance. So we took off the rainfly.

Later in the evening, it was announced that Lina, one of the local Jordanians hiking with us and the former Minister of Tourism, would be the new ambassador for Japan. We were hiking with an ambassador now! It wouldn't become official until later. (I saw her post to Facebook that she was officially sworn in on May 29th, about two and a half months later.)

One of the other hikers--I think it might have been Ernie but I could be wrong!--asked jokingly if we should call her Her Highness or something, and--she's funny--immediately replied that she preferred "Your Excellency," so I started jokingly referring to her as Your Excellency after that.

Turns out, it's a lot of fun hiking with the future ambassador of Jordan to Japan. I asked, hypothetically, if I were in Japan and ran into trouble.... would I get better help from the US embassy or should I maybe check out the Jordanian embassy instead? Could she pull some strings for me? =)

Anyhow.... Shortly after dinner, most of us headed off to sleep resting up for another day of hiking tomorrow. Tomorrow would be our longest day of hiking yet--we'd need our rest!

Puk walked to the edge of camp in the morning... it was the only place where people could get a cell phone signal!
The morning's hike took us past arch #1 which we had checked out on our own yesterday afternoon.
In the morning, we saw some of the last of the beautiful sandstone monoliths that Wadi Rum is known for. They would quickly fade off in the distance behind us. =(
During breaks, we huddled under what little shade we could find.

Taking another quick rest break!

Even in the flat, featureless landscape, I still found the colors in the rocks and sparse life that lived out here very interesting.
His name is Shukran. Which means "Thank you" in Arabic. might ask?
Watch the video to find out how this beetle got its name. ;o)

The mountains ahead look promising!

Ruins of Humeima

This was Karolina's view from the top of the camel.

These flags always marked the entrance of our campsites. And you can tell it's quite windy with how they're blowing!

Sunset over camp!