I have a tendency to smite easily, strongly, briefly then disenchant. This time, however, I am helplessly, hopelessly head over heels!
My first sighting was during a hike in Wadi Rum, I saw him from a far and he captured my imagination, the second sighting was from Petra’s Mountains; standing there, dark, mysterious, majestic, untamed, and extremely dangerous National Geographic listed him among the most 10 beautiful in the world. The final sighting was from the Mountains of Dana Nature Reserve, in that moment, the infatuation turned into love. Hitting all the right notes with me I decided to meet, little did I know how fatal this rendezvous could have turned out to be.
So, with a group of adventurers, I started travelling from Amman at 2 am on the 28th of October heading to the desert of Wadi Arava located at an elevation of 71 meters above sea level in Jordan. It was a rainy day and the more we headed south the worst it got. By the time we reached the desert around 6 am, we were welcomed by frequent lightning bolts turning darkness into daylight and the deafening sound of thunder as if the war in Syria has moved over here.
In spite of the bad weather, we decided to venture further in the desert hoping that the sun will finally come up. The fact of the matter is simple; nothing was going to stand in the way of adventures, mind you a love struck adventurer, not even 10 billion watts charged lightning bolts or the prospect of being swept away by flash floods.
With this gloomy weather, we started the hike, the rain intensifying every now and then, the wind picking up speed and strength turning every drop into a sharp needle prick that hit our faces with no mercy. The mud turned each step into labor and the slippery rocks offered us some solid ground with a promise of serious falls if we were not fully attuned to each and every step we made.
We pushed on to Wadi Abu Al Sakakin, gradually the sky started clearing and there he was in sight, close but not reachable yet. Almost another hour passed before I was finally at his footsteps, looking up as he looked down and that was the beginning of a 12 hours rendezvous.
Locally known as “Jibāl ash Sharāh”, Mount Seir is the longest range in Jordan stretching from the Northern parts of the city of Maan in the south all the way to the Syrian borders in the north. It also stretches through Saudi Arabia and Yemen undermining on its path any man made borders, making it clear to any onlooker the fragility of such borders and the false sense of security they provide. The mountain was once inhabited by many civilizations with its rooftops planted with vineyards and fruit trees, we soon came to see has turned to a playground for wild shrubs and acacia trees as rainfall decreased.
Our hike in Ras Alfaid “1500km above sea level” soon began. Every step we made proved hazardous as the rain has left the sandstone strata slippery and wobbly. Every rock my hands touched for support came out of location followed by an avalanche of rocks, I found myself yelling several times to warn those behind me of an incoming rock attack. Once we reached our first highest point, our efforts proved worthwhile; the view was breathtaking.
We had breakfast then continued hiking through the mountains, covering an area of continued steep ascents and steep descents all the while enjoying the beauty of the wildlife around us. Then we started hearing the sound of the waterfalls and it was a beautiful scene from the top of the mountain. Soon enough, we were going down to enjoy the coolness of its waters, muddy, yet providing an immediate relief to my feet and invigorating me for the upcoming hours.
After finishing the canyon, we started going up again and this is where all the fun began. The final ascent proved to be too long and too far and this is where fatigue began to hit some of the hikers. To stay together, we slowed pace and enjoyed sunset.
Around 6:30 pm, our GPS coordinates sent us to a dead end, or that is how it seemed to us in the dark. What was supposed to be our exit route turned out to be a mountain wall that extended forever. The only available way was through a canyon and in the dark it was impossible to pass. With one really sick hiker now, we sat on the ground, incapable of starting a fire because all the twigs were damp, thinking about a way out. We rerouted the GPS and two hikers went ahead of us to scout a way out, find a phone signal and contact our bus driver to pick us from a new meeting point. I, also, tried to test my phone rooming service, but it didn’t work so I put it in my pocket to keep it close by for another attempt not knowing that this single move almost cost me my life.
We were given the clear to take the new route, we got up and started heading to the exit route. I checked my pockets but could not feel my phone, so I decided to stay behind with another hiker while everyone moved ahead. A long grueling process of search began in the dark, both of us depending on my headlight and disconnected from the entire world. We searched and searched trying to retrace our footsteps and the place where we sat to no avail. Another hiker came back and we continued the search. Slowly and painfully it dawned on me that I will never see my phone again. After another half an hour we decided to quit the search and head out of the mountain without my phone 😦
On our way, we were met by a hiker coming quickly towards us with two locals from the area carrying guns. They raised a flash light to show us what was stalking in the dark and I could see eyes glittering in the distance. As we were unsuspectingly searching for my phone, hyenas were preparing to feast 😦
With guns, torchlights, and sadness in my heart, we finished the hike in Aljaheer village in Akshobak and the locals promised to do a search in the morning. This was the end of 14 hours hike, 50395 steps, covering 28.74km, altitude variation: 1900. Robbed of my joy, I headed back to Amman, thinking that my rendezvous did not end happily as I hoped.
But did it?
When there is a will, there is a way!
Resolute to find my phone, I went back early on next morning, found it sitting there in the open, cold and waiting to be picked 🙂 Satisfaction and happiness kicked in and all the joy that was taken from me yesterday was given back today. Unless competition arrives, I am still deeply infatuated, I think I found the one and will soon have another rendezvous.
1. Your life and other hiker’s lives are more important than a stupid phone.
2. Stay with the group no matter what.
3. Never leave your PUK code in your phone pocket.
4. Thank god for iCloud
5. An extra memory card in your phone means all your data can be easily downloaded to someone else’s phone.
6. Why bring a god damn phone in the first place, extra weight.
7. Animals lurk in the dark, start a fire. If you can’t, make noise, keep headlights and torches on, and stay in a group.
8. Carry pepper spray, it will fend off hyena attacks.
9. Keep your whistle close.
10. Stamp your feet loudly at it, or throw something at it.
12. Move slowly facing the hyena
13. If it attacks, fight back with all your strength kicking its head.
Written by Samar M. Salma
Photos by Me, Menhel Salfiti, Dr Mustafa Azzouqa