Monday, June 10, 2019

Day 2: Straying into Saudi Arabia.....

March 2: When we woke in the morning, the skies were gray. It hadn't rained during the night, and it wasn't raining now, but the possibility was still there.

Breakfast was served at 7:00--what would soon become routine. Breakfast would also be a fairly standard breakfast for the trail: pita bread, cream cheese, hard-boiled eggs, olives, beans and such. There was a sweet-tasting, desert-like thing as well which I liked, but it felt wrong to eat a desert so early in the morning. I tried it today, but largely skipped it in subsequent days.

A very typical breakfast in the morning

After breakfast, I brushed and flossed my teeth and packed up my bags. The duffel bag went into a large pile for transportation ahead to the next campsite while my day pack stayed with me. Snacks were provided for the trail which consisted of the usual: apples, oranges, cucumbers, cookies, fruit juice, pita bread, etc. I grabbed snacks and added it to my pack.

Lama announced that we planned to leave at 8:00 in the morning, but it took people a lot longer to get their stuff together and I milled around chatting with others waiting. Finally everyone was gathered and Lama gave us the daily briefing about what to expect ahead on the trail today before hitting the trail at around 8:30.

Today's hike was considerably easier than yesterday's. The terrain was much less rugged. A little bit of up, a little bit of down. The biggest climb was perhaps a mere 200 meters. We were a little concerned after yesterday's hike. Our Jordan Trail book showed each day's difficulty in little boots. An easy day was one boot, a moderately hard day was two boots, and a difficult day was three boots. Yesterday was a tough day and it showed a single boot. If that was a one-boot day, what was a two-boot day like? And would a three-boot day kill us?!

On the other hand, yesterday we did an extra 4 kilometers that normally wasn't expected on the first day. Maybe that pushed it into two-boot day territory?

Today was also a one-boot day, and we were planning to do a couple of kilometers less than had originally been planned since we did more than expected yesterday. Maybe it really would be a one-boot day? (I noted to myself how ridiculous the conversation was. If I was actually hiking with one boot, it would be a very challenging day! Two-boot days would be best!)

Lama overhead of us talking about "one-boot days" and "two-boot days" and said not to pay any attention to any of that. It's wrong. Just listen to her daily briefings for what to expect on any given day.

In any case, the trail today was definitely a lot easier than it was yesterday, and everyone was happy about that. Yesterday took a lot of out of us. *nodding*

Midway through the hike, we stopped for lunch. The JTA crew set up a food table for us to grab lunch. No fast food this time. It consisted of what would become standard lunch fare: pita bread, cucumbers, tuna (in a can), dates, apples, oranges, bananas, cookies and other assorted snacks, juice, etc.

This was a pretty standard lunch, although usually we carried
it as a sack lunch rather than served buffet-style on tables.

In the afternoon, we passed a small village named Titen. It's so small, Google Maps couldn't even find it! It was, I found out, formerly part of Saudi Arabia.  In 1965, Jordan traded a large chuck of inland territory for a small piece of shoreline along the Red Sea--including this small village of Titen. That idea fascinated me. How did something like that work for the people who lived there? They went to sleep one evening as a citizen of Saudi Arabia and woke up the next morning as a Jordanian! Border controls had to be moved. Apparently the people who lived in the town got special permits that allowed them to continue working in Saudi Arabia, but how did they adapt to the new culture? Jordan and Saudi Arabia are two very different places. Women who couldn't drive in Saudi Arabia and had to be fully covered suddenly, overnight, could now drive and walk around with their whole head showing. Or did they keep their old traditions?

I don't know, but it fascinated me. Borders always seemed so permanent in the United States, and you realize how utterly arbitrary they really are. Lines drawn on a map. And Jordan didn't like the lines and worked out an agreement to get more Red Sea shoreline for an inland area they had little use for. Rub out some old boundaries and put in some new ones. That easy!

Titen used to be part of Saudi Arabia.
The mountains in the background probably are still in Saudi Arabia.
So we were hiking through what formerly used to be part of Saudi Arabia. It was Jordan now, but the Saudi border was still just a couple of miles away. We definitely didn't want to wander into that country by accident!

Somewhere along the way, Marcelo--a guy originally from Argentina and now living in the United States and hiking the trail with his daughter--picked up a scarf. I'm still not sure how he acquired one while we were hiking since we passed nowhere to buy them, but somehow he ended up with one and I showed him how to tie it which was a lot of fun. Now Karolina and I weren't the only two foreigners wearing a scarf. =)

Speaking of Karolina, she was having a difficult day of it today with intestinal distress, running off into the desert three different times to poop. Other than that, she was doing well and enjoying the scenery.

We arrived in camp, picked our tents and moved into them. After dinner, Karolina and I went out into the desert to look for scorpions. I brought a blacklight specifically for that purpose since scorpions glow like magic in blacklight, but we didn't find anything except for a crushed dead one in small pieces. The evening temperatures were quite cold so we weren't very optimistic about finding them figuring they were deep in the ground trying to stay warm, but we still had to try!

This was all we found in our hunt for a scorpion. It was nice to find something,
but disappointing that it was already dead and broken apart.

Others, after learning what we were up to, started referring to us as the Scorpion Hunters, which we decided we liked. If we needed a team trail name, we'd be the Scorpion Hunters!

After our failed attempt at looking for scorpions, I tried taking a few star photos, but I wasn't very happy with how they turned out. It was frustrating! The sky in the evening was clear and twinkled with what seemed like a million stars, but my star photos were turning out awful.

With those disappointments, we called it a night and headed back to our respective tents and hit the sack. Tomorrow was another one-boot day and we needed to be ready for anything! =)

The night sky was spectacular! But my photos didn't do it justice. At all. =(

Kind of looks like a wild cucumber, doesn't it?

Baby camel!
If you find goat horns, make a face out of it!

The day's hike was mostly easy, but there was a little bit of scrambling involved!

This is Niels, who hiked half the Jordan Trail last year and came back to finish the other half this year. He also takes a LOT of photos! So I took one of him. =)

You could always find tea and hot water at the campfire!
Karolina eating dinner. Chicken and rice were staples for dinner. (No, this isn't chicken.)


Mary said...

Chicken? That can’t be a chicken bone!

Karolina said...

It tasted like chicken...

Mary said...

Oh Karolina! What was it?

Karolina said...

No idea... Someone thought it was goat but it didn’t taste like goat. Whatever it was I it tasted like chicken!

BlueBerry said...

Scorpions hunters!? I like it!!

Ryan said...

OMG--Blueberry... I can't imagine all the crazy things you'd do if YOU found a scorpion! =)