Friday, August 30, 2019

Day 37: Dams and Toilet Paper

April 6: We woke up for our regular 7:00am breakfast and an absolutely stunning sunrise over King Talal Reservoir, and hit the trail about an hour later at 8:00. The skies were mostly overcast, but temperatures were warm--even early in the morning.

'Twas a stunning sunrise over King Talal Reservoir!

The trail took us down to the lake and across the dam. The dam is a big one with a height of 106 meters (about 350 feet), and is one of the largest dams in Jordan. I wouldn't drink from it, though. Not only is it littered with huge quantities of trash, but it stores treated wastewater from Amman (as well as winter rains) for use in agriculture.

But it's an impressive dam and was fun to walk across.

The wildflowers today were amazing! So much color! So many flowers!

But it was a relatively short and easy day of hiking, and there isn't much to report. The dam and the wildflower superbloom was it.

We reached camp, which wasn't anywhere near as scenic as the one we woke up to in the morning but it got the job done.

The 18 weekend hikers who joined us yesterday morning departed and it was nice to have a relatively small group again.

While chatting with Karolina about Ernie and silly pranks, a new idea popped into my head to TP Ernie's tent. Nobody TPs a tent! People TP all sorts of stuff: houses and cars and such, but a tent? That would be funny! So while Ernie and Jan were chatting with others in the common area, I sneaked over to his tent and threw a little toilet paper around it.

But it was a wasted effort. Jan wound up finding the toilet paper and cleaned it up. I'm not even sure if Ernie ever saw it. *shaking head* And nobody seemed to think it was very funny anyhow.

So that prank turned out disappointing. I'll have to think of something better next time.....

King Talal Dam. That big white area behind it...
Massive amounts of trash. *nodding*

The wildflowers were awesome! Absolutely breathtaking!
But watch out for snakes!
Don't worry--I got him before he bit me! ;o)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Day 36: Rubber Snake Shenanigans

April 5: It rained a bit during the night and I worried about the 'used' toilet paper I left in front of Ernie's tent. Would the rain wash out the color? Would it not look real anymore? Would it disintegrate into nothing? So I listened to the rain in my tent and, perhaps, my prank failing miserably.

By the time I got up in the morning, the rain had stopped and I ventured out of my tent for breakfast and I caught up with Ernie and he had the audacity to accuse me of leaving what looked like used toilet paper in front of his tent.

"That sounds like something Tim would have done," I replied. "After all, you did leave used toilet paper in front of his tent. Sounds like he wanted his revenge."

Ernie was having none if it, though, and rightfully didn't believe a word I said.

These planters are actually used tires!
As it turned out, Jan--Ernie's wife--found the toilet paper first. I had hoped Ernie would be the one to find it, but it worked out really well because Jan did think it was real, used toilet paper--and that Ernie left it in front of the tent! And now it was a soggy mess from the rain.

"Ernie?! What the hell?!"

So everyone got a good laugh out of that, then Ernie wanted to check out my new tat. That, unfortunately, didn't work out so well. It was gone! My henna tattoo disappeared overnight! Poof! I was shocked and horrified. It looked so good when I went to sleep, and now you could barely see the lightest trace of it on my arm. And after spending half the night awake letting it dry. All for nothing. I was heartbroken. It was supposed to last a couple of weeks--longer if you don't wash it very often, and I was taking showers maybe once a week! I had hoped it would last the better part of month! I followed the directions on the henna packaging to the letter and couldn't believe it disappeared overnight without having taken a single shower. Major disappointment.

Our relatively small group of about 20 hikers exploded as 18 weekend hikers joined us in the morning. I was more than a little disappointed at the huge number of people dropping in, but happy that they'd only be with us for two days. One of the hikers, Faiza, had hiked with us from Aqaba to Dana--nearly half the trail--so it was nice seeing her again. She wasn't a "mere" weekend hiker. She was a.... half-thru-hiker? She was my go-to person for learning a few Arabic words and phrases while hiking the trail and she tested how much I remembered since she left the group in Dana. And I learned a couple of new phrases. =)

The morning was cloudy, overcast and cold, but it cleared up within an hour or so of when we started hiking and the rest of the day was sunny and partly cloudy with big puffy clouds.

This region of Jordan is apparently known for its pomegranate farms, and we passed by quite a number of pomegranate trees. They largely looked lifeless, however, and I'd have never recognized them as pomegranates if Lina hadn't pointed them out to me. They're harvested in the fall and at this time of year, they just look like dead, leafless trees.

At a short snack break, I deliberately sat down near Ernie. I had a rubber snake that I acquired two days earlier in Salt, and nobody except Karolina knew about it. Yet....

When he wasn't looking, I dropped the snake near his feet among some rocks and chatted him up like normal. We chatted for maybe 15 minutes before we got our marching orders and as Ernie stood up, he finally noticed the snake.

"Is that your snake, Ryan?"

I looked around innocently. "What snake are you talking about?"

He pointed down at the snake near our feet.

"Oh, that one...." I replied. "Yeah, I might know a little something about that...."

It was a prank that completely and utterly failed.

I picked up the snake and slid it into a pocket and thought about what to do with it next. Ernie was so cool about the snake, I didn't think anyone else had overheard our conversation so nobody else knew I had it. I had an opportunity to use it a second time.

Ernie had asked about the snake's name, and I admitted that I hadn't thought of one yet. He suggested Simon, and I thought about it and said, "Yes, I like it! The snake is now named Simon."

Karolina poses with Simon

We passed a large group of about 30-35 day hikers heading in the opposite direction. The JTA also organized day hikes, but they were scheduled to hike separately from today and usually we never saw them at all. But today, our paths would cross somewhere near the halfway point of today, and that's what we did. I didn't know anyone from the day hiking group but it was clear that some people did, because they'd greet each other warmly and hug and chat for a bit before our groups continued on in our separate directions.

Later, during our lunch break, I saw an opportunity to give the snake another try. Helena had laid down to rest and took off her shoes. She was laying there with her eyes closed, not paying attention to her shoes, and I quietly put the rubber snake in one of her shoes. I hoped we'd get a "Bloody Nora!" out of it. =)

I wanted to be around to see what happened when she finally found the snake, so I joined Ernie and Jan who had sat down near Helena and chatted with them. Nobody would think it was odd that I was chatting with them. I always chatted with them.

The fuse was lit. I just had to wait until Helena found this snake in her boot. ;o)

It was maybe 20 minutes later when Lama announced to everyone that it was time to get ready, we'd be continuing our hike in 5 minutes.

I wanted to watch Helena as she sat up to put on her shoes, but I refrained, chatting with Ernie like there was nothing of interest going on. Playing it cool....

Then suddenly, a shout from Helena: "Oh, Bloody Nora!!!!" It was a loud shout that grabbed everyone's attention. Anyone within half a mile must have heard the shout.

Everyone's head turned to Helena, and immediately she continued, "Who put this snake in my boot?!"

There was a half-second pause as she thought about the answer. "Ryan! You did this, didn't you?"

I tried on a surprised look on my face. "Me?! Why would I do something like that?!"

"You, Ryan.... I know it was you."

"Why does everyone always blame me for everything?" I whined.

Lama had an amused look on her face. "You haven't actually denied doing it, though."

Yeah, well....

Everyone seemed amused by the rubber snake incident, and even Helena took it in stride, but her shout out definitely ruined any chances I had of surprisingly anyone else in our group with it.

Our day ended at a beautiful campsite overlooking the King Talal Dam, in a green meadow bursting with wildflowers. It was, perhaps, the most scenic campsite of the entire trail. Absolutely magnificent! The only minor complaint was the wind which was strong enough to be a nuisance for some of the tents.

In case you wanted an update on the Great Red Spot in Karolina's eye, it's starting to dissipate but still isn't affecting her vision or causing any problems.

Pomegranate farm!

Basha picked up a hitchhiker!
Olive grove

This was one of the weekend hikers whose name, I'm sad to say, I've forgotten. But she was training for a race in the Himalayan Mountains, and this device is suppose to make it hard to breath as if she were training at a much higher elevation. (If any of my fellow Jordan Trail hikers remember her name, let me know and I'll update this!)

That's the King Talal reservoir down below.

Turkeys on the trail!
Sarah from the United States
Margaret from Canada
Sawsan from Lebanon

Monday, August 26, 2019

Day 35: Church Camping

April 4: This morning, we did the usual 7:00am breakfast with an 8:00am departure, although the start of our hike took place a bit later after a short bus ride to the center of As-Salt to pick up the trail from where we left off two days earlier.

We walked a few miles through the city, all road walk along busy, nosy roads, and it was a relief to finally escape the hubbub.

The day was beautiful. Partly cloudy, but mostly blue skies and comfortably warm. Given the fact we mostly walked on paved roads or very good gravel roads, mud from the rains earlier wasn't much of an issue. Flowers were blooming.

I had stopped picking up trash along the trail because of the rain and mud, but started up again today.

We made good time in an otherwise uneventful day of hiking. There was a short, initial climb up from the city center but then mostly a shallow downhill the rest of the day, and we completed our 16 kilometers by 2:00 in the afternoon.

Our campsite for the night was located in the small town of Rmemeen. More specifically, at the Orthodox church in Rmemeen. Tents were set up around the perimeter of the church, and we had access to the bathrooms in a side building with a dining room and small kitchen.

Home, sweet, home! For tonight, at least....

Being in town, many of us walked to a small market for cold drinks and snacks, and I did the same. Not so much because I needed anything but more just to look around the area and explore the town a bit. If I happened to find a little ice cream... who was I to complain? =)

And I did find ice cream, which I bought. Along with a Coke and a few snacks. But I also discovered that the market had a henna kit! It was a surprising and unexpected find! And I had to buy that too. =)

I didn't want to apply the henna immediately. I'd need my arm for eating dinner and such, but I figured after dinner would be a good time. I was going to put Karolina to work! And she didn't even know it because she hadn't walked with me to the market so didn't know about the henna kit.... yet.

After dinner, I rolled up my sleeve and let her go to work on my arm. The kit included instructions in English, so I was careful to follow them. I didn't give Karolina any direction--just to draw something interesting on my arm, and she probably spent 15 minutes making patterns on my arm and the back of my hand.

Then, I had to let the henna paste sit there. For a few hours. I don't remember the exact amount of time anymore and didn't write it in my notes, but waiting until after dinner to apply it was a bad idea because I basically couldn't go to sleep until 11:00 at night. I never stay up that late!~

And the later it got, the colder the evening became. But I couldn't roll up my sleeve or cover my hand or arm. I wound up huddled close to the fire waving my arm over it to keep it warm.

My new tat, while waiting for it to dry. It's gonna look awesome!

Karolina headed off to sleep, as did pretty much everyone else. I was left to myself to wonder how I ended up alone by the fire, wishing to go to sleep but unable to.

After the required wait, the instructions said it was okay to wipe off the dried henna paste, so that's what I did using some spare toilet paper because that was all I had readily available and the effect looked gorgeous! I couldn't wait to show it off to everyone in the morning!

I was about to throw the toilet paper away when I realized that the dark henna paste looked a little like poop. On toilet paper. And an idea formed in my head.... I could put it next to Ernie's tent. He'd never suspect me! After he put his used toilet paper in front of Tim's tent, Ernie would immediately think Tim was finally getting his revenge? Right? Well, okay, I knew Ernie would immediately consider his number one suspect, but I'd cast suspicion on Tim anyhow. *nodding*

So I sneaked over to Ernie and Jan's tent and threw the used-looking toilet paper in front of their tent. They were going to get a surprise in the morning! It killed me that I had to wait until morning to find out his reaction, though.... *sigh* Patience, Ryan! Patience!

This street was so steep, they put grooves in it so cars (and people!) would have more traction going up and down it.
This store looked like fun! But no time to stop! Gotta hike to do!

I'd never seen a fence made out of pallets before. I kind of like it! =)

Nienka from the Netherlands
Helena isn't trying to hide from me... she's putting sunscreen on! A very important thing in Jordan!
Sarah from the good old USA.
Jan from Australia (and living in Canada), and Ernie's wife. I hoped Ernie would find my "surprise" tomorrow morning and not Jan! =)
Lina, the new Jordanian ambassador to Japan. Gotta stay hydrated out in the sun!
Femmy from the Netherlands (and Nienka's mom)
Gary from the USA.
Maria from the Netherlands
Ernie takes a nap. He's a brave man, closing his eyes when I'm around. =)
Basha, a local Jordanian donkey. *nodding*

That's me coming out of my tent.

Looks like Connie got to a slow part in her book.