Tag Archives: Hiking

Day 10 – We go our separate ways

Tuesday 24 May 2022.

Steve’s Story – Off the blog and on the bog

For once, the tendency to be prolix that I acquired from my father will not detain you long, reader, as I took very small part in the day’s planned adventure. Use of fancy words or sophisticated grammatical and stylistic construction does not hide the bald fact that I got the shits.

Fortunately, we had brought some Imodium, which was brought to bear within seconds of my condition becoming obvious and so the night was downscaled from being disastrous to merely horrid. It was clear that a 15km hike would be beyond me. Fortunately, the arrangements for the day involved our bags being transferred to the day’s destination, the Feynan Ecolodge, by car; so it seemed best that I accompany them. Getting from the Guest House room to the car was about the limit of my mobility, and so I climbed into a Mitsubishi 4×4, expertly piloted by a young lad called Ehab and off we went, with me hoping that the Imodium would protect his seat coverings and good nature from abuse. Ali kindly pointed out the toothbrush I hadn’t packed and the reception also kindly handed me a packed lunch – a nice thought but not really the best idea.

The hike is about 15 km and Saeed had told us that Feynan had a reception that was half an hour’s 4×4 drive from the lodge itself, so I was expecting the whole journey to take about an hour, maybe a little longer, and that seemed a reasonable time for my abused digestive system to maintain a semblance of good order. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the Nature of Dana (see what I did there?), and so the journey Ehab and I undertook looked like this:

(Jane’s route was a straightish although at times arduous path between Dana and Feynan; we had to get to Qraiqreh round the outside of the nature reserve and then wind our way to Feynan.)

Jane left at just after 8am and Ehab and I at around 1130. I got to our room about 5 minutes before Jane did; in other words, the whole car journey took about three hours, with the last 40 minutes picking our way delicately around rocks in the faintest of tracks to get from Qraiqreh to Feynan.

(Something slightly odd took place on this final stretch to the lodge. Ehab stopped by a Toyota pickup and greeted its owner, an older, avuncular- looking Arab, telling him, I infer, that I had a stomach upset. To my surprise, this chap spoke to me in pretty good English and insisted that I take a small handful of some dried, pale green herbs. I had to grind it up between the palms of my hands, swallow it and chase it down with water as, he said, it was “very strong”. He promised I’d be better in ten minutes. He was wrong. Twice. In the first instance, I noticed no digestive improvement. For the second, read tomorrow’s entry on these pages.)

Ehab is a cheerful and friendly chap with a smattering of English, but not enough to sustain a conversation with someone who feels like shit. And I know he meant well when he insisted that I drank a can of Mirinda Apple and wanted me to eat some snacky-type junk food or other, which I managed to avoid doing. I can further report that he has a taste in up-tempo modern Arabic pop music, played slightly too loudly. And when we’d been going nearly an hour and I saw the sign “Petra 20km”, I began to fear that he’d been told to drop me off there; but if you look at the map, you can see the route goes towards Wadi Musa, the Petra town. But the length of the journey, combined with my expectations of that and my general poorly feeling meant that I spent most it of either worrying that we were going to the wrong place or hoping that the next major building I saw would be the Feynan reception.

However, we got there, and I collapsed in our room

and took, frankly, very little part in anything noteworthy for the rest of the day. So I’ll let Jane tell her version of events.

Jane’s Story

The best laid plans and all that – as you’ve just read, Steve was hit by the dreaded Travellers’ Tummy overnight – odd, since we have been eating the same foods and it is usually me who suffers from this sort of thing. Delicate female digestion…!
Anyway, we decided that several hours hiking in likely 30+ degrees heat with a squitty tummy was really not a good idea, so we arranged that Steve should rest until they were ready to transfer the bags from Dana to Feynan, and would then travel with them; while I would do the hike anyway.

So it came to pass that shortly after 8am, after a quick breakfast, I set out with Salim my guide.

There is a fairly sharp descent from the Guesthouse for 2 km or so, the track is well defined but small skittery stones on a harder surface – just about my least favourite surface to go downhill on. Still, I made it intact; after the first steeper section the trail the path winds more gently down into the bottom of the valley.

The Guesthouse is just visible high above

And the end of the valley dispiritingly far ahead!

Once at the bottom of the valley the trail is less clear; obviously you have to follow the valley along, but while there are some newer direct paths Salim preferred to follow what he called the old route, zigzagging between patches of shade and points of interest – such as this beautiful mini-Siq full of oleander and caper blossom.

The path wound on, sometimes rougher, sometimes clearer, through towering scenery.

Fantastic beasts appeared

Rock shapes like tortured faces

And some less fantastic apparitions but much more cute (mother and daughter).

We took the occasional rest stop in some shade as the mercury was rising!

About 3 hours in, I thought I must be suffering heatstroke when Salim enquired “would you like to drink tea?” Being British of course the answer “yes please” came without conscious thought – and I settled in the shade of an acacia tree and watched as he retrieved a battered kettle and tea from his backpack, and lit a fire on a “hearth” that was obviously well used by those in the know.

Fortified by tea and some of the packed lunch supplied by the Guesthouse, we trudged on through extraordinary rock formations

until after about 4 ½ hours the valley began to open out

and show evidence of Bedouin habitation

and we reached Feynan Ecolodge after about 5 hours hike. I have to say, I was very glad to reach the end; 15km in 30+ degrees was enough for me! Stalwart Salim, however, was going to take a short rest and then hike back up to Dana, since (as you have heard) getting from Feynan to anywhere is a bit of a poser…

I found Steve putting a brave face on feeling really shitty (see what I did there?) so we made him as comfy as possible, with a damp towel to cool him down (sleeping under a damp towel is magic if you are feeling the heat). The Ecolodge of course, being an Eco Lodge, prides itself on eschewing such ecologically dubious but occasionally useful concepts as aircon. There was a fan. There was a nifty porous clay bottle to simultaneously hold, seep and cool (by evaporation) water.

There was an electric light in the bathroom, and candles in niches elsewhere.

I went to explore the premises, called in at reception to set up our transport for the morning and get some matches, then as darkness fell the staff set candle lanterns on the dining tables

we lit our candles

and found lanterns at our doors.

Steve couldn’t face the thought of food, I wasn’t hungry, so we skipped dinner and eventually slept off and on (the loo in Steve’s case). If you want to know how we fared on the morrow, join us in the next thrilling instalment to find out?

Cami-flage: what we didn’t do on our 2020 holiday

September 2020. For us, as for so many people, the novel coronavirus has ravaged our holiday plans. The various excursions my wife and I had planned for 2020 have been put back to 2021 (or possibly later – who knows?) and lockdown meant we had resigned ourselves to a year at home. We’re lucky – we don’t feel this is much of a burden.

But then the government eased lockdown to the point where travel to selected foreign countries was not only permitted but even encouraged as a way of getting the battered travel industry back on the road to recovery. With pleasant memories of Menorca from our recent Spanish sojourn, and Spain being on the “approved” list, we hatched a plan to return to walk the Cami de Cavalls, a 185km hike round the coast of the island over the course of several days. This, we reasoned, would give us a chance for some exercise while keeping us away from crowds and minimising any Covid-type risk.

This plan lasted about a week.

Gradually, virus infections started rising around the world, and first mainland Spain and then the whole country including its islands lost its approved status. We held out as long as we could, but the Foreign Office guidance still says avoid any but essential travel, so this excursion joined the others in the “pending” file.

However, nil desperandum, as an office colleague of mine used to say when events and idiocy conspired to shatter expertly-constructed plans; we decided to stage a UK-based version of the endeavour. The version of the Cami we had planned took 13 days (as you can see, there are levels for hardier, and even, some might say, mentally suspect, folk), so we decided we would do 13 walks around our neck of the woods in Surrey, recording and photographing them as we went, and including a photo of the distinctive bottle of the Menorcan gin, Xoriguer.

So, here’s the plan: to recreate the 13-stage walk

(Image courtesy of Cami-360)

The 13 stages are as follows:

Day number Description Length(km) Length(miles) Elevation gain(m)
01 MAÓ – FAVÀRITX 20.37 12.66 403
02 FAVÀRITX – ARENAL D’EN CASTELL 13.63 8.47 227
03 ARENAL D’EN CASTELL – SES SALINES 9.56 5.94 109
04 SES SALINES – BINIMEL·LÀ 10.90 6.77 160
05 BINIMEL·LÀ – ES ALOCS 8.63 5.36 323
06 ES ALOCS – CALA MORELL 14.66 9.11 278
07 CALA MORELL – CIUTADELLA 18.90 11.74 304
08 CIUTADELLA – CAP D’ARTRUTX 13.05 8.11 25
09 CAP D’ARTRUTX – CALA GALDANA 17.37 10.79 161
10 CALA GALDANA – SANT TOMÀS 11.56 7.18 239
11 SANT TOMÀS – CALA EN PORTER 15.00 9.32 198
12 CALA EN PORTER – BINIBÈQUER 13.73 8.53 141
13 BINIBÈQUER – MAÓ 17.69 10.99 112
TOTAL MAÓ – MAÓ 185km 115miles 2,678m

So the Menorca hike averages just over eight and three quarters miles each day and climbs around 640 feet, which makes the pomada at the end of each day very rewarding.

Some rules of engagement:

  1. We’ll measure our distances using Endomondo on a mobile phone. This tends to be optimistic in its distance evaluation (particularly compared with, say, ViewRanger), but, hey, I’m not complaining. Update: Endomondo has been discontinued in favour of a sister app, also from UnderArmour, called MapMyFitness.  Having imported my Endomondo data thither, posts will reflect the updated URLs.
  2. It won’t be possible to match distance and height, but we’ll do our best.
  3. We’ll plan to include a hostelry on each walk if we can. In desperation, I suppose we’ll have to take a picnic.
  4. We will do the walks in as close to a two-week window as we can, but if it’s raining, I’m sorry, all bets are off for that day. This is a holiday we’re supposed to be recreating, here.

I’m pleased to report that the endeavour was successful and very enjoyable. To see the details of the plan and the actual walks, take a look at the blog section devoted to this.