Now We Are Camel Family

22Dec15

We awoke to a beautiful desert morning and had some hummus and bread and tea before heading out for a day of adventure, guided by Fa’ez, to various sites of note in Wadi Rum.

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The sun was out when we left the campsite and I didn’t bother to bring a jacket or anything because… well, desert.  I figured once we were hiking we’d be plenty warm.  Zach particularly wanted to climb up to and walk across a very high natural bridge on one of the mountains… which I knew I wouldn’t be doing, but would at least hike along a bit.

Branden attends to hijab his loved one, with turban-ish results

Asking B to tie my kaffiyeh was a mistake.

First stop was a smaller bridge, which was none the less too tall for my tastes.  I stayed on the ground and served as photographer.

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backwards-spider-crawl, common traversal method in Rum

It was here that things turned cloudy and thunderystormy (yay!) and cold (boo!).  Thankfully Fa’ez had a gigantic jacket he lent us to huddle under in the back of the truck, but it did end Zach’s bigger-bridge-dreams for the day.  There’s plenty else to see though, so it wasn’t a huge tragedy (says the girl happy she didn’t have to wait on the side of a mountain for her friends).

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We headed off trying to get away from the clouds a bit when we came across a surprise waterfall.  It had stormed badly the day before, so water was still cascading down the side of one of the mountains.  The ground here also looked really weird and from a distance we couldn’t tell what it was.  We stopped the truck to get out and have a look, and holy shit..

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It was hail!  My weird dream about it snowing in the desert sort of came true!  Fa’ez said that he and Suzie were caught in a storm the day before and the hail had been golfball size, we weren’t sure if this was remnants from that or fresh.

Note the waterfall in the middle of the picture.
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A desert “snowbank”. IMG_2390

SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!
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Our next stop was the opening of a canyon for us to hike through, where Fa’ez dropped us off and pretty much said “welp, catch you on the flipside” and went off to drive around the mountains and meet us at the other end.  It was actually pretty nice, since it blocked the wind and made things much warmer.

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The rocks in the canyon were gorgeous, and since it was protected and water tends to pool there it was just about the only place we saw trees the whole time we were in the desert.  The path did get a bit dicey after a while and required a bit of climbing and some very, very uncomfortable wading.

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We made it through to the other side without loss of life or limb and thankfully our chariot awaited and we headed off again to Lawrence’s House, aka the place where Lawrence of Arabia stayed when he was wandering through the desert.  Thankfully by this time the sun was starting to come out, so it wasn’t as horrible cold.

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Since Lawrence’s House is one of the main tourist attractions in Rum, there’s a little tent there set up by some Beduins who are selling a few little things and, of course, making and handing out tea.  Surprisingly, one of the Beduins there that day is another of Zach’s old friends named Omar who had guided him on another trip out to Wadi Rum, that time with his parents.  Amusingly, Zach’s parents acquired cats not long after their trip, so they named them Suilemon and Omar after the guides… so we got to meet the other cat namesake.

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These rocks basically say “Lawrence was here”

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Definitely the most exciting part of Lawrence’s House was the awesome lizard that was hanging around.  Lizard!

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Man, I still can’t get over it.  Wadi Rum is seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

After Lawrence’s House, we went to go play on some sand dunes while Fa’ez and Suzie prepared us some lunch.  We had a snowboard (sandboard?) with us, so we could climb up the dunes and then ride down.  Seeing as how board sports do not cater to my best abilities (being up high, having balance, etc.) I had never tried it before and was a little nervous, but the sand is quite soft so wiping out was no big deal.  Which is good, cause wipe out I did.

In my head I looked much cooler when doing that.  I guess it wasn’t too bad for my first try.  Zach was the best of all of us, but because I am a dolt I screwed up taking a video of his expert run.

Here is B being Branden of Arabia:

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In case anyone was wondering what sports might look like once we destroy the Earth and have to colonize Mars, this is probably a pretty good guess…

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After sandboarding we were all starving, but thankfully it was just a short walk to where Fa’ez went in a little sheltered nook to make a fire and prepare lunch for us.

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While we were waiting, Zach did some climbing.  Immediately after I took that picture, he remarked that he had no idea how he was going to get down and was just going to have to become desert folk and live there.. but thankfully he figured it out.

Lunch was tomato slices, soft cheese, hard boiled eggs, bread, and a tomatoey, garlicy stew called guhliyeh (or quhliyeh..  as Zach says “there’s no correct way to spell it in English).  It tasted pretty much like angels singing in your mouth, as any food will after a morning of hiking and tromping about.

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When we finished lunch, the sun was finally out for a bit and we headed off to our last spot, a canyon that has ancient petroglyphs in it.

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Since the petroglyphs are in this tiny, tight cavern that probably has been filled with sand at various times in history, they have been very well preserved even though they’re in soft sandstone that is prone to wear and tear.

They ranged from “super freaking old”

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To “we did not yet know how to use our words” old:

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The canyon itself was also really awesome, though too filled with random pools of water to go in too far.

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According to Fa’ez, most of the writing was some variation on the theme of “Praise Allah”.

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After the canyon, we made the trek back to our camp, followed by ominous clouds.

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It soon started raining after our return, so we all retreated to the big dinner tent to read and try to stay warm.  Soon the rain ended and Suleimon arrived back to camp and made us a fire, while Fa’ez and Suzie made us a chicken and rice dish called muqlubeh for dinner.

Suleiman by the fire

It's muqlubeh time!

Those are the faces of some weary desert travelers, lemme tell you.

After dinner we once again sat around the fire and drank tea while Suleimon entertained us.  I forgot to include this in the previous evening’s entry so this is actually from the first night..  but that doesn’t matter…  anyway, he sang for us while playing an instrument called a rababah, which is a stringed instrument popular with the Beduins. The video doesn’t offer much in the way of visuals because it was dark, but gives you an idea of what it sounds like.

I can’t say I’ll be rushing out to buy the Super Sounds of the Rababah compilation album, but it was cool none the less and very appropriate for sitting out in the middle of the desert.  The particular song above was about lost love or something, though to be fair all the songs he played us kind of sounded like they were about lost love…

Even though the rain had moved out, it was pretty cloudy that night so no stargazing for us and once again we slept in a tent rather than outside (particularly because of the threat of rain).  Without the moon and stars it was DARK out there.  I totally got up to go to the bathroom and had a “Pa Ingalls” experience like when he thought there was a black bear in front of him in the Big Woods but really it was just a stump…  except replace “Big Woods” with “desert” and “stump” with “shrub”.

The next morning Zach arose early to try and make his bridge-crossing dreams come true, and Kate accompanied him.  B and I slept in a bit, and then hung out around camp and climbed about on our mesa since I hadn’t been up to the top yet.  It was a beautiful, beautiful morning.

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Look, ma!  I’m on a mountain kind of thing!

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I basically had Life on Mars stuck in my head the entire time we were out there.

Meanwhile, Zach and Kate were off on a (terrifying sounding, to me) adventure trying to find the rock bridge…  which, despite their best efforts they were not able to do.  Apparently the trail was not well marked in the least and a guide would be advisable, which they did not know until they were precariously inching along the side of a mountain.

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The most visible sign of human intervention

wall-jumping up the mountain

Yeah, that all is a big ol dumptruck of HELL NOPE.

While they were on their way back from death mountain, our noble steeds arrived.  Camels are actually way cuter than I thought they would be.  They’re so fuzzy!  They have such kind little faces!

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We loaded out bags into the truck for Fa’ez to bring back to the village and we mounted our steeds for what we then learned would be about a 2 hour trip back to the village.

Salem the Camel Master decides who gets which camel

As you can see, my camel was not thrilled by the prospect of the journey.

So, it turns out that camel riding is fun for about 15 minutes, and then it just gets painful.  Their “saddles” weren’t so much saddles as big piles of blankets… mine was relatively cushy but some of the others were not as lucky and saddle sores abounded.  I managed to avoid that, but I was pretty sure I was going to be bowlegged for the rest of my life though.  The ride was also prolonged by the camels wanting to stop and nibble every single shrub we came across… which, I mean, I’m not one to deny anyone snacks, but c’mon dudes, you’re on the job.

This is pretty much how it all went:

AAAAARRRRRRAAAAAABBBBBBBIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAANNNNNNN NNNNNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHTTTTTTTTS

Halfway through we stopped to let the camels have a rest, but for some reason we could not get off them so my poor bowed legs did not also get a break.

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Finally the village appeared over the horizon.  Please don’t be a mirage, please don’t be a mirage, please don’t be a mirage.

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Yay, not a mirage, we made it!

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Thanks for getting me back safe and sound, my humped buddy.

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We stopped back at the visitor center to say our last goodbyes to Suleimon, who I barely recognized wearing western clothes.  We chugged a warm beer from the car while we got reorganized and then we headed out of the desert.

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As soon as we got back to a main highway and found a convenience store we stopped to get a variety of snacks as we were all starving.  The consensus on Jordanian junk food is that it’s all pretty damn good.  A+, would snack again.

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We soon were back in the mountains, and good fortune came our way as we rode down the King’s Highway (heyo, gratuitous Petty reference), which was beautiful and terrifying.  We stopped to take in a scenic vista and got yelled at a bunch by a dude who thought we were going to climb over the wall and fall down the mountain (we were not even close to doing either thing).

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We arrived in Petra just before dark, which was fortunate because driving at night in Jordan is not something we wanted to do, particularly along sketchy mountain roads.  Our hotel was right at the entrance to the site, so we got settled in and took the best goddamn shower I’ve ever taken, got some dinner, considered going on a Petra at night tour but deciding against it, and instead chilled out for a bit in our awesome hotel bar that was built right in to some of the ruins.

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As Zach had suggested we get in to Petra at the crack of dawn, we called it an early night to get some rest for all the hiking we’d be doing the next day.

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