Monday, August 5, 2019

Day 26: The Evacuation Aftermath!

March 26: At dinner the evening before, we learned our fate at a briefing presented by Lama. The schedule we had been following had been wrecked. We took an unexpected zero day. What was going to happen? Would we skip the section we were supposed to do to catch up? Cut out the next zero day that had been planned? Walk longer miles each day until we caught up? We didn't know what was going to happen, but I hoped they weren't planning to skip the day we missed. It would be unfortunate for most of the hikers if we lost the zero day at the Dead Sea--most of them were looking forward to it! But since  I had already visited the Dead Sea before the trip started, I was okay with missing it. Not that I wanted to miss it, but I wouldn't be heartbroken over it either.

The new plan was a combination of walking more miles each day and losing the zero day that had originally been scheduled at the Dead Sea. However, knowing that a lot of people really wanted to go to the Dead Sea, the extra miles we hiked before then would allow us to arrive after a half-day of walking. It wouldn't be a zero day, but it would be a short day so people still had time to float in the Dead Sea. It was a good plan, I thought. *nodding*

But it meant we had to put up some bigger miles the next couple of days through what is often called the most difficult section of the entire trail: the Three Wadis: a series of three deep wadis that the trail descends a 1000 meters then climbs back up again. And again. And again.

So breakfast was scheduled for an early 6:00am in time to catch the buses at 7:00am with the hope that we'd be on the move and hiking by 8:00am. (We still had a bus ride back to where we left the trail!)

And very close to 8:00, we arrived at our starting point for the day. It was a beautiful, clear blue sky but a bit cold. The collapsed tent, I had heard, was still out in the field. Wet from the rain, it was too heavy to move so it was still there, drying in the sun. Damian, who used his own tent, didn't get all of his tent stakes back and wanted to go back to look for them. I joined him on the walk out. I wanted to get photos of the collapsed tent in the daylight.

The area was thick with mud. A heavy mud that clung to my shoes and would try to suck them off my feet, but I made it to the tent. Most of the lumps that had been under it seemed to have been removed, so a team had already removed the equipment that the tent and fallen onto. It looked like the tent has been pushed off to the edge of the clearing a bit as they removed the stuff that was under it.
Not much left of the old campsite!
I took a couple of quick photos, but the rest of our group was leaving down the trail and I rushed back to catch up. Damian was still looking for his missing tent stakes, but I had little doubt that he'd catch up soon enough. He never did find the stakes, though.

The trail veered off the paved road we camped near almost immediately onto a what normally would count as a dirt road but today would be more accurately called a mud road. It was the absolute worst kind of mud you can find, and everyone tried to walk along the edges of the road or even on the grass and rocks on either side of the road, but there were places that it just couldn't be avoided.

The mud made my shoes fell about 10 times heavier, like solid weights had been attached to them. At first I tried scraping the mud off on rocks, but the mud would come back again after just two steps. It was pointless trying to get it off and I finally gave up.

The mud was awful! The storm might have been over, but its effects were still being felt!

The road had dry areas, though, and everyone would stop for five minutes trying to scrape off the mud when they reached one, but it was wasted effort. We'd have maybe a few minutes of easy walking, then another batch of mud to navigate. The group was spending more time scraping off mud than actually walking!

I'm not sure how long it took--it seemed like an hour but was probably less--we reached the paved section of the road. We had never been so happy to walk on asphalt! So dry! So easy to walk on! We scraped mud off our shoes and relished the pavement.

The first half of the day was largely flat and from the ridge at the top of the first wadi, we had our first view of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea (and Palestine behind it) was visible!

The Dead Sea! It's been nearly a month, but the Dead Sea is in view!

After lunch, the trail plunged about 1000 meters (over 3000 feet) to the bottom of the first wadi which also happened to be below sea level. A couple of people with GPSes couldn't agree how far below sea level our campsite was located, though, with Ernie's GPS claiming we were at -73 meters while Lama said we were at -40m. I believed Lama, but everyone agreed that we were definitely camped below sea level: a first for me!

The campsite was located at the bottom of the wadi along a scenic river. Given the heavy rains the previous couple of days, however, the river looked uncomfortably deep and fast. That could be a difficult one to cross, and I hoped it would be lower tomorrow morning.

We were told not to get near the edge of the river or swim in it because it was controlled by a dam upriver and the water level could rise unexpectedly and without warning. It wasn't safe even to be at the edge of the river. I sure hoped that wouldn't be an issue while fording the river tomorrow morning!

After dinner, we gathered around the campfire for a special treat: kanafeh. It's an Arabic dessert made with cheese and I don't know what all, but we got to watch how they cooked it over the campfire, then flipped it over in a pan to cook some more before pouring sugar syrup over it.

Kanafeh cooking over the campfire
After that, we all wandered back to our tents and hit the sack for the night. We had to wake up early for a long day tomorrow!

Returning to the site of the disaster! It seemed like a distant memory now in the light of day--and what a beautiful day!
It was about 30 hours earlier we were evacuating this camp!

The mud was awful, and we tried to avoid it by walking on the side of the road which helped, but it wasn't a perfect solution either!

We were never so happy to have a paved road to walk on! =)

Hey, donkey! That apple is MINE!
Lama points out where the trail is headed. Down, down, down... the first of the three wadis.
Sawsan from Lebanon!

Helena, a.k.a. Bloody Nora, from Australia!

Gareth, from England!
Ali, our resident photographer!
The always wise and thoughtful Ernie from Canada.

We would have to cross this river tomorrow. It looked fairly deep and fast and might be a bit of a challenge to cross!

Our campsite is in view! Which is more than a hundred feet below sea level!
Damian tried to forget his lost tent stakes by losing himself in a book.
Thomas takes a nap.
Sunset from camp.
Kanafeh cooking over the campfire
The kanafeh is ready!

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