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.
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?