My Jordan trek – part 1: the calm before the sandstorm
Our Managing Director Jill Lockett recently undertook a 77km challenging trek across the Jordanian desert for a good cause. The trek raised nearly £5,000 for the Douglas MacMillan hospice in Staffordshire, and Jill earned every penny in a trip that proved to be more eventful than anticipated.
As I sit in the soft, early morning sunlight of the Jordanian desert, packing my kitbag for one last time, I look back across the mountains and my week in this magical place. After 750km of training, I had arrived full of vim and verve ready to tackle the punishing hills and landscape. I’d been told the nights in the desert were cold, so I had everything needed with me to help me sleep through the night and trek by day. It may be that my cashmere bobble hat and matching socks were too much, but hey… can’t be too prepared.
Along Jordan’s border with Israel & the West Bank sits the Dead Sea. At 605km² it consists of some of the saltiest water on earth, situated on the lowest land-based elevation on the planet.
Five days before we had begun our journey at this beautiful body of water, amazing at the salt deposits that pattern the water’s edge, in a place that seems so ancient. The view towards Israel invokes a sense of the Old Testament and the stories from the land, the conflict and the challenges. Floating is a strange sensation, more a bobbing along and definitely no elegant swimming. Our 30 strong group are in a jolly mood as they try to balance their movement…I lie back, float and read my book.
I was raising the much-needed cash for the Douglas MacMillan Hospice in Staffordshire. Known locally as the Dougie Mac, it’s a place of great compassion with smart, thoughtful care and engaging staff. They were an absolute triumph when my Mum was at her weakest point. They carried the whole family through the longest weeks and nights.
We are off, driving down the 50km length of the Sea and approaching the desert, from here we walk for 3 hours to our first camp. We are all in high spirits, even the impending heatwave is brushed aside. The news of the previous week’s snow in Petra seems a long way off as we hear about the 36–38-degree heat to come. I begin to realise that the cashmere bobble hat may not be needed after all….
Camp is great, good tents, a great team of support staff including a rather brilliant cook, our Bedouin guides, two UK medics and a Dutch guide who has lived in Jordan previously for over 20 years.We have 3 donkeys: Shakira, Michael Jackson and Indiana Jones. Shakira wears flowers in her mane and welcomes the apples I have for her snack. These donkeys will keep us safe and save the day, we just don’t know it yet. So, I eat the roast chicken and saffron rice and decide Baklava is good for energy. My hiking buddy, Dr Jean O’Hara (former Clinical Director for Learning Disabilities at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and for NHS England) and I settle in for our first night out in the desert, amazed at the good and hot meal.This camp has running toilets. We know this is just to lull us into a false sense of security, our shower that morning was our last for 5 days, we know this, it just hasn’t sunk in yet.
We wake at 5.45am, eat a breakfast of frankfurters, courgettes and onions, good flat bread & yogurt. The coffee is strong and hot. We set off…Theo our guide says today will be the “worst” day – long, steep, rugged terrain and the surprising heat will add further to the strain. We climb steeper and steeper up the side of the mountain, with stunning views and glorious colours in the mountains. As we climb higher, the airs and views are spectacular. The sun beats down, its surprisingly hot by 10.00am.Looking round we realise there’s little shade; we will be walking face on into the sun all day. Water, lots of it, rehydration salts, fruit... we keep going. At lunch there’s a few raised eyebrows about the heat, it’s a surprise to us all. Everyone has good hats, kit, trekking poles but there’s a range of fitness. This is not meant to be an expedition, it’s meant to be a level 3 charity trek. Everyone here is raising funds for charity, many having lost family or loved ones to cancer.
We all keep going, today is the “worst” day, so tomorrow will be better, easier... tomorrow is another day.