Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Day 18: Rest Day in Dana

Karolina has once again provided a guest blog post about our zero day in Dana! =)


March 18: We woke up in the cold and damp Dana Tower Hotel. Everything there was cold and damp: bedrooms, bathrooms, the dining room. I blamed these conditions on the fact that the hotel was built from rocks – they were probably still cold after the long winter. It is probably much nicer to be here later in the spring or in the summer when temperatures are much higher and you want to cool down.

After breakfast Ryan and I went for a walk around the village. We had heard there were some trails in the area and wanted to find out if we could go for a day hike. We headed towards the Visitor Centre to check out the possibilities.

Dana Visitor Centre was located on a hillside with a magnificent view towards Wadi Dana and Wadi Araba. Unfortunately it turned out that all the trails were located quite far away from the village and to reach them we would need to rent a car with a driver. The only hike that starts/ends in Dana was the one down to Wadi Dana where we came from the day before. Neither Ryan nor I felt like going too much out of our way to reach trails, so we decided to stay in Dana and call it a real rest day – we hadn’t had one since… well, before our arrival in Jordan! We still did some more walking around the village, though – up the hill towards the school and down the hill towards some ruins.

There were quite a number of ruins in Dana – abandoned houses built from sandstone and clay, eroded upon exposure to the elements. The village of Dana is very old – it dates back some 500 years to the Ottoman empire, but the ruins of houses we walked around were younger – “only” about 150 years old. Inhabitants of those houses left Dana when a city was built on the other side of one of the surrounding mountains and many new jobs became available there.

After the lovely walk we returned to the hotel and joined people from our hiking group on the terrace where we could sit in the sun or shade (whichever you prefer – I usually go for the sun while Ryan prefers shade), read books, chat, listen to donkey cries and generally chill out. Since the sun was shining bright I decided to do the laundry in the sink and hang my clothes outside to dry.

The highlight of the day was a journalist from USAID BEST who came to interview us about our experiences on the Jordan Trail. The video interviews can be watched on the USAID BEST social media - #ThruJT.

Karolina is interviewed the USAID people.

Here are a few of the clips I found of our interviews.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Day 17: Dana Biosphere Reserve

March 17: It sprinkled and rained periodically throughout the night, but it was the strong winds that did the worst to disturb my sleep. By morning, the rain had finally stopped although ugly clouds and wind still continued.

We had our usual 7:00am breakfast and 8:00am departure, and almost immediately out of camp we had to ford a creek. Normally, the creek is probably dry most of the year, or maybe a trickle, but with all the rain during the night--which might have been worse higher in the mountains where the creek started--there was a pretty good flow running. It wasn't dangerously high or fast, but there was no way across without getting one's feet wet.

Usually, I'll tromp through creeks and let my shoes get wet but I decided to take my shoes off for this creek. It looked very sandy and easy to walk on. That's the main reason I usually keep my shoes on--to protect my feet from hard rocks that would otherwise be painful to walk on which, at the same time, gives my feet a more solid footing. But the looks turned out to be deceiving and immediately I felt small rocks biting into my feet which hurt. I limped carefully across the creek. With every step, it seemed like I first stepped on soft sand which immediately washed away with every step leaving small, sharp rocks in its place.

I eventually made it across and sat down to put my shoes back on while watching everyone else cross. It was mostly uneventful, although Helena from Australia gave everyone a scare when she tried to throw her shoes across the creek to the other side and almost didn't make it. That could have turned out badly. The current was definitely fast enough and strong enough to have carried her shoes downstream never to be seen again.

We passed some old ruins before arriving at the Feynan Ecolodge where we took a short break and explored the facilities. The place was beautiful! But we would not be staying here. No, our accommodations were further ahead and in the town town of Dana.

Feynan Ecolodge

To get there, we had to walk through the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan's largest nature reserve and a beautiful setting.

But it was uneventful and relatively easy until the last few kilometers when the trail followed a steep, gravel road into town.

We arrived at our hotel but rooms weren't handed out immediately. It was quite cold now that we had stopped hiking. The indoor accommodations for the common area were crowded with people so I continued waiting outside in the cold and tried in vain to keep myself warm. I was really anxious to get a room and pull out all of my layers.

Due to the limited availability of rooms, everyone was forced to double up and share. All the rooms had names.  Later in the evening, we compared notes with other hikers  as to who had the most interesting name such as Crazy Camel, Crazy LoveGateway to the Paradise of Love and Tears of the Night. Tears of the night?! What happened in that room?!

The rooms were unheated so even inside, it was still just as cold as the outside. When I took my shower, I couldn't get any hot water to come out of it at all. It was gone! I suspected that there had been a run of hot water with everyone now trying to take showers at the same time.

I got my hair wet and washed some dirt off my legs, but the water was too cold to do much of anything else so I gave up. I'd take a proper shower later.

I put on my long underwear and all of my layers. Even though we were indoors, it was still one of our coldest nights on the trail!

I was laying in bed trying to get warm when I felt something jump on my back. I almost screamed in fright but it turned out to be a cat. Where did that come from?! Obviously, it snuck into our room. The door of our room had a 5-inch gap at the bottom and I guess the cat felt like it could came and go whenever it pleased. Scared the crap out of me, though, before I realized it was there.

Dinner was at 7:00, so we headed to the restaurant then and ate before returning to the common area and socializing for the rest of the night. I was a little sad, though. We were losing a lot of hikers today who had been with us since the beginning at Aqaba that we'd grown fond of. In fact, the only people left who started from the beginning that weren't leaving were the thru-hikers like me. I don't know the exact number of people who were leaving, but it was a substantial group including my trash bag supplier, Puk. I needed a new trash bag supplier.

And thus ended another day on the Jordan Trail.....

The rooms in the Feynan Ecolodge were beautiful! We were a little sad not to be staying here!

Fossil on the trail!
The Dana Biosphere Reserve was beautiful!
This is Puk, my trash bag dealer and her last day on the trail.

That looks ominous.... Glad I didn't have to go in there! =)

My room was small and cute, but so freakishly cold!

This cat sneaked into my room and scared me! It's also readily apparent how cold I am since I have my jacket on, and my scarf--and I'm under all the blankets! The cat snuggling up with me helped too. =)
Back in the common area after dinner. (And look at all the heavy jackets people are wearing! It's cold, I tell you! Even indoors!)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Day 16: Another Long Day

March 16: The wind picked up and whipped my tent around for much of the night, but the rain held off and the wind died down by morning. It was a beautiful morning, in fact, but dark clouds started blowing in even before we left camp and rain was in the forecast.

George walked around camp with a scorpion that another hiker, Faiza, had found in her tent that morning! George had cut off the stinger of its trail making it harmless and carried it around for people who wanted to get a good look at the scorpion. I felt bad for the scorpion, though. I'd have preferred if George just scooped it up in a cup for people to admire, then released it into the wild unharmed.

This scorpion was found in Faiza's tent in the morning!

Molly is a yoga instructor in real life--or least was a yoga instructor--and had started providing yoga sessions for the other hikers, which I mention so the photos of people doing yoga make sense. =)

The support crew served breakfast and started our day's hike a half hour earlier than normal in an effort to make it through some slot canyons before any rain started and the trail immediately dropped into the narrow confines of a canyon bottom. The riverbed was currently dry and we hoped it would stay that way until we got through and could get out of it.

We weren't in the canyon very long before we started a steep, rocky climb 300 meters (about 1000 feet) up, then a steep and rocky 800 meter (2600 feet) descent during which the wind kicked up and blew us around like rags.

It was rough and tough hiking, and the going was slow. Once we hit the bottom of the steep downhill, the trail mostly leveled out and our progress picked up accordingly.

In the middle of the day, a few light sprinkles hit us--enough that people put on raincoats and pack covers, but they turned out to be largely unnecessary. I had an umbrella but given the strong winds, it wasn't a good time to use it so I kept hoping and praying that the rain wouldn't start.

A few of the hikers from the group were having trouble keeping up and our group seemed to split up with the main, large group up front and a few of the injured and slow walkers in the back. Usually when we took a break, they would have a chance to catch up, but I noticed midway through the day that this stopped happening and we'd continue before the people in the back caught up.

One of the hikers had twisted his ankle badly the day before and was limping badly and I had my suspicions that he wouldn't be able to cover the necessary distance today, and eventually we passed a dirt road where a support vehicle had come out to meet us and pass out the Jordanian version of Twinkies and I told Karolina that I bet they were going to pick up at least some of the slower hikers here and drive them back the rest of the way to camp. We still had quite a ways to go to camp and I just couldn't see how they could make it before midnight at the pace they were going.

We continued onward, now short a few hikers but confident that the support crew had their backs.

We staggered into camp late in the day but before sunset--so an improvement over yesterday! But we were all exhausted. It had been a brutal day overall and I was looking forward to dinner.

I was right in my guess that some of the hikers were, in fact, driven the rest of the way to camp from where the truck met us on the trail, but I was also surprised to learn that some of the slower hikers wanted to walk the entire distance and did so not arriving into camp until well after sunset. As a side note,  I carried my headlamp this time around. I learned my lesson after arriving into camp after sunset the evening before! But I was glad it didn't come to that.

After dinner,  I went out looking for scorpions again and I found one! But it was a tiny little thing, maybe the size of a pinky nail--so small that I couldn't even get a good photo of it. A little disappointing overall, but at least I found something. =)

A few minutes after settling into my tent for the night, it started raining hard! I was really glad the rain waited until I was already done for the day, and fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding my tent.

Molly giving a quick yoga session before the day's hike
The plan was to get through this area at risk of flash floods before any rain started!

The trail was quite rugged and rocky the first several hours!

From here, the trail became a lot flatter and much easier and our speed picked up.
This is Connie from New York, and she's wearing the poncho because an ever so light sprinkle started. But it turned out not to really be needed.

Sarah from Belgium is so tired, that she tries to take a nap during this break.

Karolina spent part of the break feeding Basha her apple core.

It's a goat head. Not fully decomposed....

I spent a little time hiking with  Basha, our donkey who would carry extra water for us through the rest of the hike. He thru-hiked the Jordan Trail last year doing the same thing so he's already got more experience on the Jordan Trail than me
! =)
Relaxing in the common area of camp
Looks like rain clouds!
But it was a beautiful sunset!
There wasn't a bathroom for women, but this "femail" room worked just as well. =)
Thomas, a.k.a. The Real Hiking Viking, apparently needed a trim, and Puk volunteered to trim his 'stash a bit.