My Jordan Trek – part 2: descending to fortune and glory, kid
Our Managing Director Jill Lockett recently undertook a 77km challenging trek across the Jordanian desert for a good cause. Read the first part of her blog here.
After the first day of our trek in the Jordanian desert (and such a surprisingly hot and challenging climb), we went to sleep under the stars. We tuck into our sleeping bags, on the side of the mountain. The air fresh and cool, the dark, inky blue sky is beautiful. I'm soon asleep, only to awake two hours later as my face is chilled by a cool easterly wind. Luckily, I have the trusty bobble hat, we keep going, only to realise the wind is getting stronger and bringing lots of sand with it. Our first sandstorm!
We move our gear and sleeping bags into the tent, the wind is whipping up and the noise getting louder as it cracks through the wings of the tents. The best thing is ballast to keep the tent on the mountain and sleep to recover. We awake early, we have our tent and belongs…peeking outside we see that others have fared less well.
We are missing four tents and clothing and kit has danced away down the mountain, but by some miracle my trusty Tilley trekking hat is still tied to the tent where I had left it foolishly overnight. We pack at speed, shoving items into every random space and pack the tents quickly. Thankfully, some hot coffee appears.
We set off across the mountain, knowing the wind is behind us and look at the tall, steep ridgeway of the mountain ahead. We must reach the summit before lunch if we are to make it down the other side before sundown. We walk for five hours by which time the sun is beating down. Most people slept badly, if at all, and are starting to fade in the heat. We drink more and more. It gets hotter, we climb higher. I retch and throw up behind a rock, realising that I am dehydrated and very low on blood sugar. Anti-emetics and rehydration tablets help, as does a short ride on Shakira to the final stage of the summit. Jean pushes on and makes it to the top of the hill. Others are poorly - two are in foil blankets, with others exhausted and sick. The majority however are fine and keep going. Our donkey ambulances take charge of those who are most tired.
We make it to the summit, but we are now dangerously low on water. Our valiant donkeys set off to our next camp and return hours later with 50 litres of water. The sun has starting to cool and we begin our final walk across the ridge tops to begin our descent. We are four hour later than planned and it begins to go dark. Four people are still very unwell and tired and the donkeys are working so hard to support them. The sunset offers some reward, with beautiful pale blue skies fading to violet, orange and deepest dark, with not an electric light anywhere. But still, we are on the side of a mountain, with everyone either really tired or sick. Incredibly, our Bedouin guides are observing Ramadan; not a drop of water passed their lips, on the hottest, toughest day of my life, they had not a drop of water.
We need to get to camp. The descent is over smooth, rounded sandstone….softened by millions of years of rain, wind and sun. It’s great with boots, takes a grip well but it’s treacherously smooth ground to descend and the drop down is long and dangerous.
In the haste of day three’s early morning sandstorm packing, a few of us have packed our torches in day bags but not all of us. My trusty neck torch is strong enough to shine a light on the way ahead for several of the group. We tap our way with our trekking poles, calling out the rocks and boulders and frankincense tree roots. The camp team bring the trucks as close as they can to the foot of the mountain and put their hazard lights on to guide us through at the end.
The next morning on day four, we awake with everyone tired but keen for the day ahead. The team spirit is good, camaraderie high. Those who remain unwell stay in the camp for the morning and meet the rest of the group mid walk at lunchtime. The terrain is rolling hills, with lush Bedouin fields of irrigated land for watermelon.
The sun is high but cooler than the previous day as we walk into Little Petra. The walk goes smoothly, a final descent down the hill requires scrambling and care. With their knowledge of the previous day’s experience, everyone’s skill at this point is improved however, so the mood is good, people look out for each other, we check in on mind and body.
Our final night in camp, somehow sees the appearance of lamb baked in yogurt with fragrant rice and okra. We sit around the campfire with our hot tea, diet cokes and small cubes of luxuriously sweet halva.
So here I am, packing my bag on our last morning in the desert. I think of the 77km of the last few days, not a large distance at all; but 330 flights of stairs and unrelenting heat offered a challenge. Some of the toughest hours of my life, wondrously tired, very grubby and yet elated, full of excitement…today we walk into Petra.
The ancient Nabatean civilisations that built Petra 2.5 thousand years ago crafted a wonderous city, with carved tombs, amphitheatre, churches, a monastery, and the iconic treasury. We enter through the back door, away from the crowds thankfully as we have walked across the desert plain to bring us to this entrance.
The carving is stunning, and the sunlight on the pink, red stone exquisite. Jean plays the Indiana Jones theme tune on her iPhone. We made it.