What a hardship is the desert! Blazing Sun, painful sand ridden wind, dry lips and throat, soft sand making each step count for two if not three, 10 kilos of torture on ones back, so why do it!
Because a friend once told me “If you’re not living on the edge, then you’re not really living” I said Amen and ever since, only on the edge I find life worth living.
On the 15th of September, I had my first encounter with desert hikes joining a group of experienced friends. It was decided that we will take on the desert wilderness of Wadi Rum in Southern Jordan. We split into two groups; some will hike 17 Km and others will do 23. I went for the longer hike believing that the desert will test my aptitude and show me my true colors *^*
We started at 11:30 am due to some delays along the way which put us in straight encounter with the burning sun. It took me less than 10 minute to start panting heavily, my backpack dug in my flesh and I thought to myself “Oh boy, now I have done it”. Thinking that it will get easier, I pushed on relying on the tracks left by Bedouin pickup trucks for solid ground. Little by little these tracks disappeared, were replaced by hot pink soft sand and my feet started acting funny. They made moves, how can I put it, that looked like bad jiving.
Luckily my friends came to the rescue, gave me some breathing and foot techniques and the desert and I started to Tango. I learned to use my nose rather than my mouth to inhale and dear oxygen flowed into my lungs filtered and moist. I walked smartly identifying patches of earth that looked solid, I traced with my eyes the effect of the wind on the sand and learned to identify where the sand is not so deep, I shortened my footsteps, used my trekking poles in snow skating moves, all the while taking sips of water to keep my body hydrated.
Once technicalities were out of the way, the desert decided to open up to me and show me its beauty whispering to me that now we are one. So I walked and walked awe truck by its beauty and grandeur. But what really had me was the silence, the serenity of it all. After 8 hours, we reached the camping spot, and I thought to myself “I am in heaven”. I started setting up my tent when the moon rose from behind the mountains and rocks and what a sight that was. We started fire, ate our sand spiced dinner and I headed to my tent content that I have everything I need in the world and more. I stared from my tent at the moon & stars, listened to the stories being told and to the musical tunes playing outside. Failing to warm myself, I thought next time I am bringing a minus degrees sleeping bag and drifted to sleep.
I woke up the next day to the sound of the beautiful prayer calling by one of the hikers and watched them line up to pray. I packed and set out to finish the remaining 17 km. Even though the hike started early, I started to feel the impact of the first day. Tired and sad that this will be over soon, I slowed down my steps, resigned myself to the end of the line and moved on enjoying the last of the desert. During this hike, I had to force myself to drink water because I was becoming too tired even to drink. We reached the village of Wadi Rum around two concluding 40 Km of amazing desert.
Lessons learned during this hike for newbies like me:
– Always cover everything, your hands, your head, your eyes, your legs. EVERYTHING
– Wear high neck hiking boots or you will be pausing every minute to empty your shoes.
-Wear Wool socks, they prevent blisters.
– Clip your finger and toe nails.
– Bring your trekking poles, they will be great support.
– The desert is really cold at night, and a minus sleeping bag is good.
– Cover your electronics and camera, the sand can damage them greatly.
– Start freezing water: 1 week before, 4 days before, and 2 days before the hike, the earlier you start freezing the longer it will take to melt. On a second day hike, you will still find cold water waiting.
– Shaneneh “drinkable form of yogurt” is a life savior; blood pressure can go low due to excessive sweating.
-Minimum 5 liters of water each day.
– If you are ever lost, don’t move, find a shady spot, sit and wait.
– Fruits and nuts are perfect.
– I always carry energy drinks and bars, they help me a lot.
– Pain killers are good to keep. Why not, if they can give a good night sleep.
– Aluminum foil keeps your drinks cold. Fold.
– Camp away from bushes, you never know what is lurking behind.
-Every Km counts for two, do the math.
– Carry wet wipes and tissues, sand made me really sneeze.
– Ladies, we are at a disadvantage regarding emptying our bladders in an open desert, it means walking extra miles for cover. Thank god for dehydration here.
-Every now and then pause and stretch your legs. Changing the movement of your leg muscles will help you a lot.
-Start doing breathing exercises before the hike, the more you learn how to regulate your breathing the better your hike will be.
PS: Visit the link for more info about Wadi Rum
Samar M. Salma