Other trips

Other trips can be accessed by clicking the following links:

Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Copenhagen

Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya, S. Africa, Zimbabwe, UAE and Denmark

Panama, Colombia, Ecuador (Including Gallapagos), Peru, Bolivia, Chile (Including Easter Island), Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10/30: Our Last Mountain Climb - EVER!

When I made the reservation for us to travel for 2 days and nights with Bedouin Lifestyle back in March, our plan for the second day was to climb Jabal Al Hash, one of the smaller mountains in the desert. But when we had arrived at Wadi Rum the day before from Aqaba, Atallah, the tour operator owner, thought we should climb Jabal Um Addami since it would take more time and fill up more of the day. Am I being too cynical wondering if just possibly the factor of his earning more money because of its greater distance was part of the equation? We didn’t realize then that Um Addami is, in fact, the country’s highest mountain!

We were thrilled that Mahmoud, our wonderful driver/guide/cook from yesterday, would be with us again today. But sadly we had to say goodbye to Ben and Dominik who were going camel riding for a couple of hours before leaving Wadi Rum. I hope Ben managed the camel ride OK as he had been sick the night before and the thought of being jostled up and down for even a couple of hours with an upset stomach didn’t sound like the best medicine.
I chatted for a good while with this older couple from Rotterdam, now living in The Hague, Netherlands over breakfast. They were visiting Jordan for 10 days and even though she’s still working, they spend lots of time traveling. They had recently returned from an extended vacation to northern Peru and the Galapagos which sounds like a huge amount of fun too. They were going on the camel ride with Ben and Dominik.
After a cold breakfast of flatbread, jam, hardboiled eggs and hummus, Steven and I climbed back up on the back of the ancient Toyota for the very windy and chilly 20 km ride through the desert to Jabal Um Addami. We were still so cold from not having had much sleep because it had been so cold all night, that both of us wore our heavy coats and gloves. Even so, it was uncomfortably chilly facing forward into the wind, so for most of the drive I was gazing backwards.

Steven and I continued to be flabbergasted how Mahmoud could possibly figure out which of the many tracks that were available to take to reach the mountain. To foreigners, after a while all the mountains, outcroppings of rock, sand dunes began to look very similar yet Mahmoud unerringly knew which track to follow even when faced with several options. Of course, there are no such things as signposts or mile markers anywhere in the vast desert to guide you.

It was all the more amazing considering that Mahmoud had only moved to the deserts of Wadi Rum from the fairly big city of Aqaba to be a driver and guide. Mahmoud told us, in his broken English, that he had only learned to speak English from tourists in the four months since working for Atallah and Bedouin Lifestyle. He had had enough of living in the city and wanted the peace and serenity of the desert. I’m putting words in his mouth here but that was the gist of what he meant! I wonder how long it took him to know exactly which ‘roads’ in the desert to take the tourists when he first started working as a guide and how often he got lost!

There was a surprising amount of green vegetation as we drove to southern Jordan to the country’s highest peak. Seeing so much greenery in the area was a huge difference from the areas we’d been in just yesterday when there had been so little color anywhere on the desert floor. Steven thought the preponderance of short green shrubs gave the impression of the desert appearing totally green as we ‘raced’ by. I could certainly see what he meant.

One of the few times we saw camels roaming the desert with no handler.
When we arrived at the bottom of the mountain above, it didn’t take me long to figure I was going to leave in the locked car, my small daypack which is my constant companion the whole trip, and also my purse which contained my indispensable notepad and pen that I have always with me so I can jot down notes to include in the blog. I knew I needed to be carry as little as possible if I had any hope of reaching the mountain’s summit 800m or 2400 feet WAY WAY above us. I of course did not part with my beloved little Cannon camera that is always on my right wrist ready to take a photo and has become almost a second skin this trip.

Mahmoud thoughtfully asked us if we wanted to have tea and a huge coffee cake up at the top and we said thanks but no thanks, not wanting him to have to lug the kettle, propane and the other paraphernalia up that long way.

Steven carried his backpack and our precious bottle of water for a good part of the way before Mahmoud kindly took it from him and carried it the remaining way up and back. Oh, to be young and agile!

I chose to bring my scarf I had picked up in Haifa along on the hike rather than my hat. Mahmoud thoughtfully wrapped it around my head, keffiyeh style, so it wouldn’t keep flapping in the wind and obstruct my vision.
There was no such thing as blazes on the path indicating which way to go as we’re accustomed to when hiking back in the States. Likewise, there was no one ‘right’ way or route to reach the top, more a matter of climbing on and on over rocks and hoping that they wouldn’t cause a small rockslide for the person behind you. Some parts of the ascent were noticeable easier than others and I felt confident I could proceed without any assistance. But then of course, we’d hit a particularly steep part and Mahmoud insisted I clamp my hand on his wrist so he could half pull, half drag me up until we reached an easier bit. He never extended his hand to me to hold onto though – perhaps a case of Muslim sensibilities?
My ‘cairn’ series of shots follows!
Cairns assembled by previous hikers as they ascended the mountain. Mahmoud built one as did we – I wonder how long it will last before being toppled over by a human hand or the fierce desert wind.

Intriguing seeing the different terrain as we climbed the mountain; a small part of it was a rocky path, another just sand, then of course the steep parts where you needed all your wits about you.

Mahmoud had climbed the mountain several times before, he explained, so knew generally the easiest ways to take 2 old folk up but even he had to ask us to wait a few times while he went ahead and scouted out the best way to proceed. We didn’t mind at all his telling us to wait as it meant we could just sit back and recoup our energy before continuing our ascent! Mahmoud made a point of saying to us any number of times that we only need tell him when we wanted or needed him to stop so we could rest our weary bones.

The only flower we saw as we huffed and puffed our way to the summit.
After climbing AND stopping for rest breaks for about 2.5 hours and only seeing 3 other people the entire time, we finally reached the summit thankfully! What an amazing sight to see Jordan’s flag flying in the breeze atop the mountain. Mahmoud explained that the stark, black mountains directly across from us belonged to Saudi Arabia and that his phone, which had stated chirping near the top, had indicated he had a Saudi Arabian internet connection!

Four Israelis had summited before us but from a completely different direction.

Wonderful relaxing for a while and watching 4 desert rodents taking turns drinking water from the bottle cap Mahmoud had filled.
Have never climbed a mountain and been able to touch a flag at the top before so it was neat holding hands with Steven with Jordan’s flag in the background. I wonder how long it had been up there as it didn’t appear too weathered. A number of people had signed it and included their countries of origin too; we chose to leave only our memories.
The summit of Jabal Um Addami is a full 800m or 2400 feet from the desert floor where we’d left the truck! Steven and I felt every inch and foot of those as we climbed the mountain, believe me. We vowed never to climb another mountain as the ascent was, as my mother would have said, bloody hard. I haven’t had a good sense of balance for a number of years so felt both climbing up AND down was more dangerous for me and Mahmoud, who held on to me for a good part of the way, than it would have been for someone with better balance and knees in decent shape. 

 That’s Saudi Arabia across the horizon!

Our guide/cook/driver, Mahmoud, at the summit. He’s a fairly big smoker but he conveyed that it was difficult for even him to climb to the top because of his decreased lung capacity – even so, he smoke a few cigarettes on top.

It ook us about 90 minutes to climb down which was a lot faster than we had gone up but we still needed a few rest breaks to gather our breath and drink the last few sips of bottled water. The thought of the tea Mahmoud had kindly offered us much earlier sounded very attractive right about now!

Finally back by the truck at 1:40 which was such a wonderful feeling after leaving it for the big climb about 9:30. We left immediately to find a shady place to prepare lunch as we'd certainly earned some hot food after all that strenuous activity.
Interesting lines in the hard rock face.
 A huge amount of camel hair near where we ate lunch. I have no idea how it came to be there.

Loved the pale, almost peachy color of these rocks I collected. Little wonder why my suitcase is darn heavy to lug around!

Mahmoud talked to this sheep herder and discovered he’s from Sudan but working in the Wadi Rum area.
A selfie from the back of the truck just on the off chance you might have forgotten what we both look like!!
Since there was no need to return to camp anytime soon, Mahmoud asked us if we’d like to walk for a while in the desert. We both said yes so he drove us to the bottom of another sand dune where clambered up. Saw this huge black beetle there, the first one we'd seen in the desert.
Again, more of the gorgeously rippled sand I’ve always associated with the word ‘desert.'

 Wonder what caused these whispery lines in the sand?
After walking for about 45 minutes by ourselves, we reached the truck Mahmoud had parked up ahead on the desert floor. He then drove us to another interesting rock formation.

It took me several tries before getting the exact timing of this shot – poor Mahmoud, as he had to keep jumping so I could get the shot he wanted!

What a sight to behold after another long day in the desert: Bedouin Lifestyle Camp, our home away from home for another night.

We only saw 8 people the entire day until we returned near the camp – how amazing is that!

Photos of the bathroom I promised you in yesterday’s blog!

The shower area, just to the right in the photo above, shows how the bathroom was built right up to the rock.
What a stupendous view from our little hut, wouldn’t you agree? We couldn’t keep the door open long though because it was getting very cold already even though it was only 5ish.
 The best of all in my opinion: Steven returning ‘home.’ I know that may sound schmaltzy to the extreme but that's the way I feel even after traveling and being together virtually 24/7 for about 90 days by this point.