Anyone who knows me will voluntarily tell you that I am not much of a nature person. It’s just that I have an unreasonable “oh, that’s gross”-hate for insects, weird plants, bird poop, algae and all other kinds of copious additions that come with nature (which is why I love the Dead Sea, but that’s very much beside the point).
This abhorrence is very unfortunate, because beyond my city-girl squeamish demeanor, I actually do love nature. At least, I love the man-made adventurous attempts at playing along with the environment, whether it is parasailing with the clouds like an eagle, climbing down waterfalls with the water beating against your head, or pretending to be a bird committing suicide with skydiving. I have my mother to thank for this guts-iness, and well, “sense of adventure”.
That aside, the most developed muscles in the body of the person typing this sentence right now are those used for typing (well, not literally speaking, but whatever). I have tried joining a gym several times, but I just find it mindlessly boring to stare at the wall ahead while trying to pass the 30 compulsory minutes on the treadmill and no one around me is willing to take walking excursions around Amman. Point is that I really am not a fit person. I mean, I lose my breath after climbing a flight or two of stairs! The only sort of muscle-using activity that I actually enjoy doing is the one that comes automatically with Arab genes: dancing (and don’t trick yourself into thinking that I’m any good at it).
I’ve been wanting to visit Wadi Mujib for a while now, because the adventure-lover in me totally loves the thought of wading through water for hours and going down gushing waterfalls. Yesterday, I finally got a chance to visit the Wadi Mujib reserve with no other than Hala.
The reserve is gorgeous in every sense of the word, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere as beautiful. The colors and formations of the mountains are absolutely mindblowing, I could stare at the swirls and shapes for hours if there was no water to remind me that my feet can only survive being soaked for so long. The scenery is stunningly diverse and the various waterfalls in their different shapes and sizes are a joy to look at. The deeply cut sandstone mountains of the reserve span an elevation drop of over 1,200 meters: from 900m above sea level to 400m below – the lowest ground level on Earth, so it’s just the most amazing experience to be walking amidst white, dry, arid mountains so desert-like in their appearance to find yourself submerged in a lush, beautiful siq of running water. The walls of the siq are so close and so high that the sky is merely a blue satin ribbon between the rugged red rims of the gorge (a lot of pictures below, so hold your breath).
Beauty aside, it seriously is an exceedingly arduous journey that leaves you scratched up, bruised up, and cramped up. I’m still suffering. My elbows and knees are scraped like they’ve never been (I was a very careful kid), my sides are blue with bruises, my shoulders and arms are sore from the pain of muscles which I don’t think I’ve ever used before, and even my bottom hurts from falling SMACK after descending down a naturally-formed rock waterslide (which is probably a little waterfall, but what do I know). Ouch.
We started the day sitting dangerously packed in the back of a rather small pick-up truck (picture above, left). The whole time I was thinking of my overprotective parents (hi, guys), who will probably freak out when they know that I had to ride in the back of a pick-up truck on a bumpy Jordanian highway. The ride is rough but short, and we soon found ourselves getting dropped off at the lower edge of a very steep mountain trail right across from the Dead Sea.
A little less than 10 minutes after the start of the trail, I start to realize that this was a terribly wrong idea and that I really am not fit enough to go on such an adventure. The mountains of Mujib are way too steep for someone like myself, and the climbs were interrupted by minutes were I would lay down on the hot sandy floor of the sandstone mountains or by unsuccesfully trying to maintain my balance in the vertical descents. For most of the 2 hours of the time spent hiking through the unbearable, I tried to not look up or down so as to not get overwhelmed by the expanse of emptiness ahead of me (pictures below).
Finally, the guide told us to stop and listen. We stopped and held our breath. Running water!
The relief! We quickly climbed down whatever was left of the mountain path (and a lot of us tumbled from the excitement, including myself) and “walked” into the rather warm water of the Mujib stream (walked is an understatement, because I didn’t expect the rocks to be so slippery and sled into the water, getting soaked from head to toe, picture somewhere below, where I’m holding the waterbottle and you can still see the arid land behind). Around an hour or so after the beginning of the gorge, we arrived at the most exciting part of the entire trip, and the probably the very reason I was so excited about Mujib- the 20 meter high waterfall.
The descent of the entire group took over an hour as each person goes down alone and since a lot of the girls were totally freaked out (haha). Although I definitely didn’t go down as gracefully as I hoped (it was more of a “drop” than a climb, so you can imagine me flailing my arms and legs trying to get a grip completely unsuccessfully), I thought it was absolutely awesome and I’d definitely do it again and again. I actually got banged up to death and descending down a gushing waterfall isn’t as easy as I thought it would be (I even have scratches on what were the covered up parts of my body). The worst part though and what made the rest of the hike rather miserable was the fact that I lost my contact lenses because of the gushing water.
With eyesight of over negative three apiece, I’m basically blind without the contacts and really couldn’t see where I was going anytime after the waterfall, so I fell a lot. To make matters worse, the big waterfall is actually only the first of many much smaller ones, including the little waterslide thing of which I’m sure I would have drowned if one of the guys didn’t fish me out of the water after the piercing shock of falling smack on a rock (my lower back is still sore).
It was then that I became really anxious to get out of the water, take my soaking-wet trainers off, and drink a can of icy Diet Pepsi. So Roba, the last person during most of the hike, zoomed to the very front until she finally overtook almost everyone.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we swam through the bird-poop covered pool of river water and climbed up the metal ladder that leads right up to the reserve facility, took my trainers off, and scampered to get my dry clothes from the car. The last bit of humor in the trip was that the women’s toilets were overcrowded with hoards of girls, so a few of us females decided to take over the much bigger men’s toilet to change.
An hour or so later, I was in the shower at home scrubbing my body violently to wash whatever invisible traces were left by the seaweed and bird poop. Hello, Amman, how I love you! I love your dry streams of asphalt and your blocks of stone buildings! I love the dry bird poop on my car windows and the fact that the only seaweed around is that on my sushi platter!
And so, my very first excursion in this beautiful country’s diverse land came to an end. Today, I am still sore and exhausted, but incredibly enthusiastic about the brilliant nature that Jordan has to offer. After three years of living in Jordan, I can pat myself on the back and say, welcome to Jordan, Roba! Yesterday during the hike, I was thinking NEVER AGAIN. In Amman, I was thinking perhaps in a few years. Today, I’m thinking yay, maybe in a few weeks. Might as well get some exercise that’s a heck more interesting than staring at a wall in a gym.
For more details on the pictures, click on each to be taken to their Flickr page which has more details.
For more on the trip, check out what Grace has to say.