This was part of an epic mid summer trek from Dana Biosphere Reserve to Petra – via Little Petra.
RUNNING OUT OF WATER
In temperatures approaching 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit) – perhaps higher in the shadeless rock strewn environment, we started day one of our trek under the searing heat of the mid day sun (to be sure, not the wisest move). After an hour of our estimated 6-hour trek I had already consumed 1/2 of my water allotment.
Extreme conditions called for extreme measures.
I realized we must seek out additional fluid or risk heat stroke or worse. Similar to the description of “cutting an alcoholic drink with water” we began to do the same with urine.
After some experimentation across select bottle sizes we found certain dilution ratios more palatable then others. I am pleased to report that should you also someday find yourself in this unfortunate situation we found that ultimately color becomes the leading indicator of palatability. Lighter yellow is more desirable. The less then appealing odor is reminiscent of dried hay subjected to some moisture all in various stages of mold. The same can be said about the taste.
In a momentary lapse of mental acumen our trip organizer left his nearly full liter piss + water bottle near a small abandoned Bedouin camp. Rue the poor person who perhaps is equally as thirsty as we were and picks up this nasty concoction – thinks it is lemonade and drinks it straight up without smelling it first.
THE FLY MASSAGE
With the thousands of flies in many of the Bedouin camps this time of year one must approach their incessant buzzing from a different perspective then one of acute hostility. Initially I found some difficulty with this. But when changing the mind set to a welcoming one – a serene massage by hundreds of tiny legs – one no longer frantically tries to swat them but soon succumbs to their gentle yet at times slightly ticklish touch. Once you have made this mental adjustment all you wish for is more and more flies to alight upon you so your state of relaxation can be further enhanced. The exception to this is your face.
WADI AL NAKHEEL
One of the lead guides soon developed blisters and kept complaining about the extreme heat. He took a much needed rest day and joined us later in the trek. This was the same guide who informed us that women are like vitamins – giving him more energy whenever he passes by them while hiking. And true to his word he did dramatically perk up the only time we saw women entering Wadi al Nakheel.
This fascinating geological and stark landscape is inspirational – especially when you are hiking along a riverbed surrounded by sheer rock walls – and you reach pools of water where you have no way across but to swim.
Now I am trekking solo with Eid (pronounced like Eed), a very personable local Bedouin who seems to really enjoy the heat like I do. And we both share the same level of fitness as we trek the terrain through the wadis and over the mountains.
As we trek the plateaus we come across Showbak Bedouin camps. We rarely see any women in the camps but the men always shout out from afar when they see us approaching. We enter their tents, sit down and share a cup of tea. They want to know more about me and I want to know more about them. The tents are often made from goat hair that has been weaved into large coverings – which is also water repellent.
They continue to refill our cups with tea until we rock the cup back and forth (this motion indicates we are finished). Their hospitality is very much appreciated from our hot, dusty and thirsty perspective!
THE TINY OASIS
I have always wondered about my affinity for the deserts, heat and fruit. When considering my heritage, I believe my roots are much older then my European lineage and lies therein somewhere among the deserts of the Middle East.
Furthermore in at least one previous life long ago – generations connected by generations leading to the present – I can say with a strong degree of certainty that I was a farmer and perhaps it was the one life in the past where I was most satisfied with my particular time on the planet – directly connected to a simple yet enriching life of farming the land.
I’ve only felt this particular connection when I am in the Middle East and parts of far southern Europe. I have never felt this in North or South America, Africa, Australia or elsewhere in Asia.
I reflect upon this now, sitting in a tiny oasis of fig, olive, grape and pomegranate trees – perched on the side of a dry desert mountain about 30 clicks south of Petra. The only source sustaining this tiny farm is a cold spring trickling out of the hillsides, cleverly channeled into a series of a small concrete aqueducts.
An old man and his son have been working all morning. Crates of fresh figs line the ground in the shade of the trees. The unmistakable dusty, musty odor of this fruit lingers. I also linger, eating a few figs and letting myself be saturated by the silence.
This was my third trip to Jordan; it is one of my favorite countries in the Middle East. Very safe. Welcoming people. So many memorable outdoor experiential activities. Contains Petra, Wadi Mujib, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, some of the world’s northernmost coral, Wadi Rum and so much more. Loads of history to. For more information and to plan a trip to this unique country, visit the official visitor’s guide here: www.visitjordan.com
Tom Bentley says
Dave, an engrossing tale (and arresting images), of a place I’ve long wanted to go. Though if presented with the menu, I’d always choose figs over the urine mix.
Tom – I appreciate the sage words of culinary advice 🙂
Penny Sadler says
Wow Dave. You are a serious adventure traveler. I guess I never picked up on this. ha! Now I know. Next time I meet up with you in California I’ll bring along some figs and urine. Oh and we must have an existential conversation about past lives. Check out April Crawford.
Penny – hehe, yea the wine lifestyle and the adventure lifestyle are polar opposites. I’ll have to tell you about some of my crazy mountaineering stories sometime… or extreme heat stories…or the time we were in Yemen, or in Cote d’Ivoire or ?! Thanks for the mention of April Crawford.
Very interesting Jordan itinerary Dave. Stark Landscape is pretty amazing. So what\’s next? Lebanon maybe? Hoping for your next adventure. Keep safe.
Yes! I was just in Beirut and Baalbeck 🙂
And planning my next Middle East adventure to the northern part of Iraq – still figuring out where to visit in Afghanistan – maybe combined with this same trip. I need to chat with some folks who have recently been there, Johnny Duncan, Johnny Ward and Matthew Karsten.