Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Day 24: Hiking with Donkeys

March 24: We had breakfast at our usual 7:00am with the plan to start at 8:00am, although I suspected that that plan was a pipe dream. During the briefing, Lama asked that we be checked out of the hotel and ready by 7:45am so we would have time to take the bus to Karak Castle where we got off the trail in order to start actually walking at our usual 8:00am time. It seemed like we rarely left on time, however, and trying to squeeze in a bus ride on top of that seemed like a stretch. I doubted we wouldn't actually be walking until 8:30 at the earliest. Which was fine.

But I made sure to be ready and checked out by 7:45 anyhow, then waited around and chatted with other hikers to kill time until the buses showed up which they eventually did. I didn't write down what time they showed up, but it wasn't 7:45.

In any case, we finally did board the bus and took the ten minute ride to the castle to start the day's walk.

The day's walk started by hiking through the heart of Karak, but we hadn't gone more than about ten minutes when Sawsan came up to Karolina and commented on Karolina's underwear. She had washed it at the hotel and had it dangling off her pack to dry, but Sawsan suggested that that might not be politically correct in Jordan. Anyone who saw it might think she was a slut at best or a prostitute at worst, although Sawsan herself seemed to think it was pretty amusing. So Karolina stuffed her underwear into an outside mesh pocket. You could, technically, still see the underwear, but in the pocket it just looked like cloth and there was nothing obvious about what form it took. They could have looked like socks or a handkerchief or any number of innocent items.

Today's hiking wasn't a particularly enjoyable day. There was a lot of road walking, and many of the roads were busy roads which made them even less pleasant.

Lots of produce in the markets!
The one nice perk about hiking through civilization, however, was that we could take a break at a small market in town and grab some cold drinks and snacks. It sounded like a speech was coming from the loud speakers from the local mosque, but it didn't sound like the usual prayer calls. With a few inquiries, we learned that someone had died and they were speaking about the deceased. A funeral eulogy, kind of?

While leaving that same town, we met a couple of people from Holland who were hiking the trail in the opposite direction. Which was unusual in itself--we didn't see many people hiking the trail and it was always a novelty when we ran into people--but these two had actually bought a donkey at the beginning of the trail to help carry their gear and water!

And my thought was, you can do that?! Of course, we had our own donkey hiking with us, but ours was more of a rental and came with a donkey caretaker. It would have never occurred to me that I could fly to Jordan then just buy a donkey. I wouldn't have known how to take proper care of it or get it to follow my directions. And what does one do with it when you want to stay in a hotel in town and rest? When the couple reached the end of the trail, they planned to sell the donkey and then return home. It wasn't until later I wondered how much it cost to buy a donkey, but it was too late to ask then.

Late in the afternoon, dark storm clouds rolled in and it started raining. It was the first time on this trip I actually had to hike while using my umbrella.

The rain stopped as we approached our campsite--at least temporarily. We were wild camping, but the support crew set up a giant tent for use as the common area where everyone in the group could comfortably fit under during dinner and breakfast tomorrow morning. Most of the support crew also planned to sleep there during the night. It was enormous and looked like a small circus tent.

During the late afternoon, the sky actually cleared up partly providing us with a spectacular sunset!

We ate a delicious dinner then headed off to our individual tents to sleep for the night.

Ernie, our resident weatherman, reported that a light rain would start up again during the night and linger throughout the day tomorrow. Nobody was really looking forward to tomorrow. It sounded like it would be a pretty miserable, wet, wet day.

We headed off to sleep, completely oblivious to the exciting adventures that awaited us tomorrow.....

It wasn't unusual to see live chickens in towns either.

Connie from New York always seems to look like a bad-ass! Probably because she's from New York and is a bad-ass! =)
Margaret is a nurse from Canada.

It's like an ice cream truck... except they sell propane instead of ice cream.

I kind of guessed that there was a mosque coming up. I don't think I needed a sign to help me find it!

Amel is one of the new hikers who joined our group for this region. She was born in Lebanon but moved to the US as a kid. And, apparently, a stranger tried to give her this puppy as she walked by. Adorable little thing!
We packed ourselves into this unfinished building to escape the rain outside during a short break.

A line of sheep blocked our path to the campsite for a short while
I took a lot of people photos around camp. This is another new hiker who joined our group in Karak, Gareth from England.
The support crew look like they're planning something.... Hmm....
Someone had to get photos of Ali, our resident photographer!
Qussai was the tallest guide we had and can run down a mountain faster than a mountain goat!
Sunset is approaching!
Ermanno from Italy
Ella from Australia!
Okay, I also got a nicer photo where she doesn't look silly with a cup in her mouth. =)
This is Lama, our fearless guide and always with a cheerful smile for everyone!
Thomas, a.k.a. The Real Hiking Viking, is a relatively famous Instagramer. At least in hiking circles!
Amel replaced the puppy with her pad, but the puppy was cuter. *nodding*
This is Femmy from the Netherlands. I don't actually remember for certain if she joined us in Karak, but she was definitely new to the group at some point after Dana and planned to hike to the end of the trail with us. (Amel and Gareth were only out for a week or so.)
It turned out to be a gorgeous sunset! The stars were even out as I fell asleep, but a storm was in the forecast....

Monday, July 29, 2019

Day 23: Karak Castle

March 23: I woke up in the morning with a bad case of condensation blues. The tent walls were covered with water, some of which had leaked into the tent leaving a lot of my gear a bit damp. I hadn't realized that there was so much moisture in the air! At least it wasn't hot out, though.

My leg had regained almost all of its flexibility during the night and I could finally walk without a noticeable limp. Most of the time, I didn't feel any pain at all in it--just when I stretched particularly far.

We had another 7:00am breakfast. This time it included a cake--a first!--to celebrate the fact that we had finished 22 out of the 44 days of the hike. Halfway!

Halfway cake surprise!
Clouds provided a lot of shade during the day leaving the air temperature comfortably cool and, especially later in the day, seeming to threaten us with rain.

Along one section, we were walking along a paved road. Not an especially busy one, but with some traffic when I spotted a slow-moving tortoise trying to cross the road just as a car was rushing towards it. I jogged up to it and picked it up, quickly carrying it to the other side of the road. It ducked into its shell, of course not realizing that I was trying to help it, and wouldn't come out again for a photo even after I put the tortoise back down on the ground. After waiting a few minutes hoping he would come out of his shell, I gave up and continued down the trail.

At one of our rest breaks, I realized that I hadn't been getting photos of the people I'd been hiking with and now that Niels wasn't around doing the job, I figured I should start getting more and focused on taking people pictures during breaks. I wanted pictures of people doing their natural things--not posed--so I lingered quietly on the edges of the group and used my zoom lens to snap shots getting quite a few that I really liked almost immediately.
Kicki from Sweden was one of the first people pictures I snapped during the first rest break of the day.

We took a lunch break at some ruins along the trail. These ruins only dated from about a hundred years ago, and while resting and eating, a few local guys approached us telling us that their grandparents used to live in what are now the ruins and that they're trying to restore them. They didn't speak English so Lama translated their stories about the history of the area for the rest of us.

We pushed onward, finally arriving at Karak Castle, a large Crusader castle built in the 1100s. I didn't know it at the time--it's probably not the kind of thing locals like to brag about--but it was also the site of a terrorist attack in December of 2016 where 19 people were killed (including the 5 attackers) and 34 people injured--mostly Jordanian security forces and local civilians. Despite that, however, terrorist attacks in Jordan are pretty rare.

Karak Castle

Anyhow, we took a group tour of the castle--which is a beautiful fortress! Afterwards, a bus was waiting outside the entrance to take us to our hotel a short distance away. Karak Castle is located in the town of Karak with plenty of infrastructure including hotels, but the actual hotel was a couple of kilometers away from the trail so a bus was provided.

It was the end of the line for several of the hikers with our group. It was the end of the weekend so the people who came out for the weekend were leaving, and Karak also marked the end of the region so region hikers would also be leaving. Although nobody leaving us had been with us from the beginning, we had bonded with Kicki who had been with us for a week or so and Diana who had been out for the weekend but had hiked region 1 with us earlier in the hike so we already knew before she joined the weekend hike. It was sad to see them leaving us.

Some new people would be joining us for the next region, however!

Our hotel had a great view of Karak Castle, and the hotel itself was pretty nice. I headed down to the restaurant for dinner which had a variety of foods we didn't typically get for dinner so it was a nice change.

All-in-all, a pretty nice day!

Sunrise was gorgeous!
But the condensation in the morning was terrible!

Diana from Germany but currently living in Jordan
Ermanno from Italy, putting the rest in rest break. =)

I rescued this tortoise who tried to cross the road.

Ernie from Canada

Streets of Karak
I'm not an electrician, but this just looks wrong.
Karak Castle

View of Karak Castle from our hotel
The dining room where we had dinner was a lot fancier than we usually got at night! =)