Madaba, Kerak, Wadi Dana, and Shoubak/Montreal

All of these things officially happened more than a year ago… Can’t say I’ve been busy up to my ears all of this time, but it certainly takes a certain threshold of leisure/free time/relaxation/guilt to work my way through one of these posts. And for some reason I’m not quite ready to just call it quits and just forget about this whole chronicle. The post, inevitably (hopefully?) will become more and more condensed as more and more details slip from my mind…

Anyways, after I woke up and headed out from the Black Ibis Inn I hit up the premier attraction of Madaba: the extremely detailed mosaic map of the Middle East as seen in 542 AD. The map itself was pretty cool, with pictorial depiction of the major cities and the major buildings within them. But what was even more interesting were the school students who cycled in to say their morning prayers. I guess the church is now a part of a Catholic/Orthodox school of some sort. One does not think of Jordan as having a significant Christian population, but it certainly did when it was part of the Byzantine Empire and it was interesting to see that some of that legacy still endures.

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After spending some time reflecting in the church I hopped into my car and headed south down the King’s Highway. First stop: Karak…a crusader citadel of Kingdom of Heaven fame (which I think is an underrated movie, but maybe that’s just because I personally find that time period extremely interesting and EVA GREEN). But before I get there I had about 100 KM of Jordanian highland to cover and the breadth of Wadi Mujib to traverse.  I had spent the previous morning walking up natural outlet of this massive valley, but I was not ready for the scale of the actual thing:

055-DSC_0093-002 057-DSC_0111-002Also need to note that I had finally downloaded Yeezus and the drive through the Jordanian landscape was entirely soundtracked by Kanye’s wailing and moaning. Over and over again until it became an indelible part of the experience. Kerak itself was not particularly astounding, just another dusty ruin at this point. Plus I was constantly worried about having enough daylight to make it to Dana and hiking my way down into the wilderness to the Fenyan Eco-Lodge. But regardless it was easy to see how dominating the fortress would have been on the surrounding landscape.

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After Karak, it was a couple of more hours drive south to Dana…and a supposed 5-6 hrs hike down to the lodge. Supposedly the sane route would be to drive to the village of Mansour at the bottom of the east-west valley and right off the Dead Sea Highway and have one of the Beduoin pick you up in their pickup truck. What I had planned to do was a 9 mile or so mostly downhill hike in the desert/scrub. Oh, and back out the next day. But hey, it was free eh? I arrived around 2 PM….and had to hustle (given the 5-6 hrs estimate I was given and my lack of headlamp) down the valley. In the process I neglected to bring enough water…of course. Here is the view down from the head of the valley, I was staying somewhere beyond the last hill you can see and around the corner.

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And this was what it looked like down on the valley floor. It did eventually get more shady but the sand was pretty annoying to hike on even carrying only my little summit pack. Oh, and I tied one of my Vassar ultimate jerseys to my bag and lost it somewhere on the way…causing me to backtrack and waste ~1hr searching for it to no avail. There weren’t many other people in the valley in the middle of the day, though I did come upon a couple of donkeys and a shepherd boy with his flock and at least a couple of tourists.

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Eventually I reached my destination…after about 4 hrs of hiking and a series of false hopes. They really should give some mileage information or a better map… It was quite a walk though, the vegetation changed pretty drastically as the valley closed in and the humidity raised. At one point I was walking through some legit riparian vegetation in/around a streambed. There were even insects. Passing through a stretch of Beduoin encampment filled with livestocks, dogs, and scattered tents where the employee and ancillary staff of the “ecolodge” lived I come upon my destination: the Feynan Eco-lodge.

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It’s a rather strange place. Cool in concept, but slightly awkward/not too awesome as literally the only guest staying there that particular night. I did enjoy running around the surrounding hills pretending that I was on the moon though. Amazing how much better I felt after chugging some water and not having to worry about getting stuck in the desert after dark. In hindsight, working my way through the valley under moonlight probably wouldn’t have been all that bad.

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Seeing as the place is an ecolodge…there wasn’t any electricity or A/C. Or a fan really. The rooms took awhile to cool down from the daytime heat so I spent the beginning of my night napping under the stars on the roof before stumbling down to my bed sometime in the early morning. Relaxing on the roof with some tea was a pretty peaceful experience, though I suppose a campfire, companions, and some s’mores wouldn’t have hurt. All in all it was quite an unique experience. Budgeting a little more time to the whole thing would’ve been smart, but there was simply too many things to see.

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The next morning I took my breakfast quickly and hoofed my ass back up and out the valley. It was a bit more bearable in the relative morning coolness…but the gain in elevation was not appreciated. Regardless, I was outta there and reunited with my trusty Nissan by mid morning and on my way south again to Petra via Shoubak (another crusader castle).

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Arriving at Petra in the mid-afternoon, I wandered around a bit before having dinner at the hotel and turning in early in preparation for an early start the next day. This was what my pack looked like after the couple of days in the desert (note the salty shoulder straps):

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