***I wrote this 5 months ago….and haven’t gotten the time/energy/desire to finish it so I figure I might as well just post it. Lemme tell you, the last 5 months have been all sorts of shitty. Well, I rather probably not go into detail but hey, who knows. Here’s to maybe finishing up my story almost one year from when I left…
Also, FYI, Jordan will forever be associated with Yeezus in my mind. It was the perpetual soundtrack of that week. Maybe I will spend my Memorial Day weekend reminiscing and writing here instead of actually doing anything fun. How typical. Better than studying though, I suppose. Or doing nothing at all.***
Med school may or may not be the worst thing I’ve ever done. I’m leaning towards may. But who wants to hear about that, not you certainly. And really, I’m pretty sick of thinking about it too. So, here are some more stories and pictures from a happier time.
It’s been so long that I am not sure I still remember much. I guess a few months isn’t all that long, but it sure feels like a whole different part of my life. Or maybe it doesn’t, that’s why I can’t get used to what I am doing now, because I still believe that I can trapeze around the world without any responsibilities or care . Anyways.
I left my hostel soon after the first morning prayer. Some time before 6 AM, according to the time stamp of my picture. From Amman I headed westbound and down towards the Dead Sea. My destination was Wadi Mujib, one of the several Royal wildlife refuge/national parks set up by the Jordanian government. Here are some pictures from my drive, and of Amman in the quiet of the morning.
While the park is extensive and covers a great variety of landscapes and is a sanctuary for all sorts of rare animals, the main attraction to casual tourists/visitors such as myself was the opportunity to walk up this narrow canyon/gorge/stream carved deep into the desert. The explorable part of the river/stream wasn’t particularly long, perhaps a bit more than a mile but it was an adventure nonetheless. Mostly because there is no path, one simply walked up the streambed and scrambled over the rapids until the stream became impassable. Oh, and you hope it hasn’t rained upstream recently, because the hundred feet cleft of rock you’re walking in would then very quickly become very full of water. But as far as I know it hadn’t rain recently, and wouldn’t in the near future. Every other part of the park requires a guide, a group, and a variety of fees/reservations so of course I avoided them at all cost.
I arrived sometime after 7 and before 8 AM. There was no one there. Well, there may have been someone sleeping in the lower level of the dusty concrete welcome center but I decided against knocking. Instead, I wandered around reading the warning signs and ecological reports for a bit, changing into my swim trunks and stuffing my passport in a ziploc bag into my back pocket. I may have read that they would open at 8 or maybe I just had more patience than I can recall. In any case, I hung around long enough for someone to show up in a pick-up. He started to open up the place and I asked him if I could go into the canyon. Sure, he said, and handed me some carefully worded liability form and a barely buoyant life jacket. I made some final preparations, i.e. making the momentous decision to eat half of my Cliff Crunch bars I brought all the way from Connecticut, and put everything in my car other than my car key and my bagged passport. Not sure why I thought it was a good idea to bring my passport into a river, but hey. And I also brought along a 1.5 L bottle of water along with the sandals on my feet.
Off I went. Well, first the ranger man had to unlock the gate to the catwalk into the canyon, but then off I went. The steel path wound around the cliff side for a bit before depositing me on a gravel bar next to the river. Here, its minor flow was dammed by a minor dam and it formed a shallow pool full of wispy algae and tiny fish. Lots of tiny fish, and some slightly larger ones. This was the main outflow of a drainage basin around 200 sq km. I wondered how they grow anything in Jordan. Here the sun was plentiful and the edge of the surrounding cliffs wide apart. The water was warm and gentle, flowing smoothly over the even gravel to rest in its quiet pool. I walked along the river and headed upstream. Soon the gravel banks ran out and the the walls of the gorge closed in. The slope remained gentle, however, and the going easy. I wondered if I would have to turn back eventually on account of time or lack of water.
Soon the air began to fill with the sound of pigeons. Pigeons and a dull steady roar of cascading water. The walls grew close and the light faded. The rocks competed to overshadow the stream with their solid gravity. The colors drained out of the stones to leave a somber deep ocher. The stream grew turbulent and churned around my feet. A silent loudness dominated. Or was it a loud silence. I went on, tossing my waterbottle ahead at times so I can have two free hands. The river grew steep. Ropes and steel handles appeared to help me on my way. I climbed deep into the hills. The walls soared onward and I earnestly hoped that it doesn’t rain upstream. The water became deep so that I could not simply walk in the stream but rather had to pick my way along the submerged boulders, or wade waist deep with some delicacy, careful not to step into a crevasse and twist an ankle. The way became more difficult and I wondered if I had gone past the suggested stopping point. But alas, whenever I felt stymied, there were more man-made hand holds and onward I went. The human detritus, cigarette boxes and water bottles mostly, grew sparser as I proceeded. A single flip-flop caught in the eddies stared at me blankly.
A rope stopped my progress. A rope that had a sign telling me to stop, and that to continue was foolhardy. A rope and a rather significant waterfall. So I turned back and found the going a bit more treacherous heading with the flow of the river, at least initially. But as always, the road back never feels as long as the way forward, and I quickly found the light of day again. I even tried to float my way down some stretches of the river, but where the water was deep enough it was scattered with boulders and where it was smooth it was far too shallow. It didn’t prevent me from trying though, and there were a few segments where I managed to somehow stay in the current and bounce off the walls enough to avoid the cataracts. But really all I achieved was to put a few more rips into my shorts and made sure my passport was as thoroughly soaked as possible.
I sat in the water for awhile after I got to the little pond and soaked up the sun. Then I hung out awhile playing with the fish. I tried to build little impoundments with the gravel and pebbles leading to this trap I made with my plastic water bottle. Cutting it in half, I stuck the top into the bottom upside down, so that it made a funnel with a enclosure at the end. I was channeling The Hachet, Survivorman, and/or a bunch of outdoors show I vaguely recall. I did catch one tiny fish, and then I tried to use its carcass to attract more of its friends. But I don’t think I was patient enough. Nor did I really have anything to do with the fish if I caught any, obviously. Getting my fill of hydraulic engineering, which I sort of considered as a career once, I gathered myself and exited the canyon for good. It was before mid morning, whatever that means. I suppose I remember it feeling early still.
I returned my PFD and spread my limp passport out to dry in the car with some tissues between the pages. Then, remembering that there was a Royal Conservation Society run ecolodge across the highway, I went off trying to find some breakfast there. After getting down the wrong side road and running into the closed gate of some sort of water pumping/processing compound I was directed to the proper buildings. The clerk inside were very confused at what I wanted, but after speaking to some sort of manager dude it was all sorted out.