Trip to Wadi Hidan

This past Saturday, I went on my last trip outside of Amman to Wadi Hidan, a wadi located near Madaba. A few of my friends and I from CLS went with a tour group, Jo Hiking. The cost for this hiking group included the transportation to and from the wadi, guides, photography, and lunch, so it was a pretty good deal.

We met at a hotel in Amman (there were other people who went on the trip too, so we totaled about 14 people) and then took a bus to Wadi Hidan, stopping along the way for a quick breakfast.

At about 10:30 we started our hike. Wadi Hidan is a hike that focuses on swimming, so for a lot of it, we were swimming in deep beautiful clear-green water, with tall rocky cliffs on either side of us. The wadi also had many areas where we had to jump off ledges into the water, slide down waterfalls, and climb down the sides of the slippery rocks using ropes– good thing we had guides with us to help us through it all!

The second half was the “harder” half, though personally I thought the first half was harder since it involved more heights. The second half was mainly climbing over rocks to make our way through the wadi. We ended by looking over a huge waterfall that let out over a gorgeous area of water surrounded by hanging trees. It truly looked like something from a fairytale. We couldn’t keep going because only professionals can climb down the waterfall, so we turned around and climbed the rocks to get out of the wadi and then started the long walk back to the bus by walking on the rocks that overlooked the wadi.

We got back to the bus at around 8 PM, thoroughly exhausted, and ate a quick dinner (that was supposed to be the lunch). The walk, though, was beautiful, and I loved the views the whole time. The only issue was that the guides said they were providing lunch, but they did not tell us that the lunch was given at the end of the hike once we got back to the hike, so no one ate a large breakfast and no one brought snacks or a large amount of water. The hike was supposed to end at about 3 pm, and we were all very hungry and thirsty by then (because they did not tell us to bring food for the hike), so when we got back at 8 without really eating all day and with limited water, we were quite exhausted and very dehydrated. Well besides the tour group’s not-amazing planning, it was a wonderful day and I got the visit the last wadi on my to-do list in Jordan. Though I am still partial to Wadi Hessa as my favorite wadi ever, Wadi Hidan was still quite beautiful.

Speaking of, from the wadis I have seen, here is my list of my rankings of the wadis I have visited in Jordan:

1. Wadi Hessa

2. Wadi Mujib

3. Wadi Rum

4. Wadi Hidan

Even though Wadi Hidan was last, it was still so amazing– it is basically a list of beyond perfectly beautiful to perfectly beautiful because all the wadis here have wow’d me so much.

Wadi Mujib

Today my friends and I went to Wadi Mujib, which is listed as one of the best things to do in Jordan as it is known for its natural beauty. Wadi Mujib is a wadi near the Dead Sea, so we took a bus from Amman to the Dead Sea and then got a taxi to take us from a spot at the Dead Sea to Wadi Mujib (there are not buses that go to Wadi Mujib). We opted to not do the longer guided route because the entrance fee with a guide is very expensive, so we haggled a lower student entrance fee, put on the mandatory live vests and were on our way!

Wadi Mujib was gorgeous. My photos cannot capture its true beauty (and the last 2 photos are of the Dead Sea) and I could only take limited photos because I wrapped my phone in about ten ziplock bags so that it would not get water damaged. A lot of the wadi involved swimming and full immersion in water, so everything we were carrying got completely soaked– thank goodness for my plentiful ziplock bag protection!

A lot of the route was quite challenging and involved climbing up small waterfalls using ropes, shimming up slippery rocks, and sliding down steep tall rocks in waterfalls. Luckily there were some ropes provided to help with the process, but many parts were quite challenging and daunting. I was glad for the challenge though, because it showed me that I can handle this type of physical and mental challenge!

At the end of the wadi is a huge waterfall (if one has a guide, one can actually go up the waterfall) so we hung out there for a bit and ate lunch before heading back. Heading back was a little more difficult because its easier to climb up a rapid than to slide down the rocks to descend, but we made it in one piece!

I probably enjoyed Wadi Hessa more, even though it was far longer and more challenging because it had similar landscapes to Wadi Mujib as well as more landscapes that were all in all, more breathtaking. I also liked how natural Wadi Hessa is– though Mujib is also natural, there are clear manmade constructions, like the ropes attached to rocks, some stairs at some parts, and nails attached to some rocks to keep them in. Wadi Hessa seemed almost unexplored and untouched, which added to its awe.

Overall, though, I had a wonderful time at the gorgeous Wadi Mujib and a great last day of my long weekend. Time for school tomorrow though; can’t believe I only have two weeks left in Jordan!

Wadi Hasa

This past weekend was so wonderful. Truly one of the most amazing weekends of my life as I saw one of the most stunning places I have ever seen: Wadi Hasa.

Wadi Hasa is not in all the guidebooks and in fact, many Jordanians have never heard of it. It should be heard of though, for it is the longest canyon in Jordan and is unimaginably gorgeous.

It is, though, quite a difficult hike (8-9 hours walking/climbing for two days) and you need someone to guide you through it. Luckily, we have a guy on our program who lived in Jordan for two years and is quite familiar with Wadi Hasa, so he offered to lead us through the wadi. 21 of us from CLS went, and I’m so glad that he took us, because without his guidance, it would have been extremely difficult to make it through.

He is friends with a bus driver, so we were able to have a bus drive us the two hours to the wadi at a good price. On the way over, I was constantly reminded of Oman: little coffee shops lined the road and there were small square buildings interspersed in the dusty desert ground. We finally drove through a mountain to get to the start of the wadi and the view was breathtaking. It reminded me of Jebel Shams in Oman with its rocky landscape interspersed with small shrubs. We saw almost no one, though there were a few small houses, tents, and some indoor areas for farming. The landscape shifted to being interspersed with more greenery and then we finally got to a river, tumbled out of the bus, and began our amazing and crazy journey for the next 48 hours.

The way the hike works is that you follow the river that runs through the wadi. The river, however, is interspersed with small waterfalls and strong rapids, so though following the rapids, one has to frequently walk around the rapids by climbing over tall rocks to avoid an even-harder path.

I have to admit, the first time that we had to avoid the river, I was really anxious about the upcoming journey. I have never done anything like it before, so with zero experience, I was worried about how I would fare. We were climbing up rocks, sliding down the sides, crawling through small crevices, and trying to not slip and get our bags wet when crossing the river. Luckily, our group really came together and the more experiences members really made sure that everyone safely crossed each barrier. The journey became more and more beautiful (and more and more difficult), but once I started to get the hang of things, I was able to enjoy myself more.

By lunchtime, we were all extremely exhausted, but there was still a long way to go, so we ate quickly (with the food we packed—there is nothing in the wadi—no people, houses, anything). The landscape became less rocky (yay no more climbing over boulders!) to walking alongside the river. By about 5 pm, we made it to our goal for the day, which is the natural hot springs. The water there is red and is really really warm! We first cooled off by lying in the river and then sat in the hot springs for a bit. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing/swimming and then we slept on a flat ledge near the hot springs. We built a fire and then slept on sheets under the stars. It was warm when we went to sleep but quite cold when we woke up at 5:30!

The next day was more difficult because my whole body was so sore. Most of us were also short on water (luckily, we had a box of tablets to make water drinkable, but it is not advised to drink tons of that water, so there was a lot of water conservation going on).

The walk was even more beautiful on Saturday. It started off as almost tropical, with clear water and green plants lining the stone walks on either side of the river. It then suddenly became more desert-like, with rocky mountain walls on either side of the river. The rocks turned more and more red and suddenly there were smooth ledges for us to walk on and overlook the water. We took various breaks throughout the day to swim in water to cool off and 10 hours later, finally arrived at the end of the wadi, so dehydrated. Luckily, some people from the program went a bit ahead and had water waiting for everyone when we arrived.

I really can’t describe the beauty of Wadi Hessa nor can my photos do justice to show what I experienced. Though this was definitely the most physically challenging thing I have ever done, it was also so fun and invigorating. I know now what people are talking about when they speak of Jordan’s wonderful natural beauty!

Turtle Watching!!

This title is a little deceptive since there ended up not being turtles involved, but nonetheless, seeing turtles was our original intention.

This happened about a month ago and I’m super lazy and all, so I just got around to writing about this trip. But as always, better late than never! This trip was to the area near the city of Sur (in the Sharqiyah Region of Oman– ie: Northeastern Oman on the coast of the Gulf of Oman) to go see turtles (or as we found, a lack thereof).

We left Friday night after dinner because a) the turtle watching tours occur either late at night or at sunrise and b) we were too cheap to rent rooms in hotels, so we figured driving through the night would be the cheapest (and most fun) option.

The drive to the turtle watching reserve was an adventure in and of itself. We booked ourselves a tour (5 riales each) at a reserve called Ras al Jinz (located at the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula) and used google maps to for directions. The directions were pretty good until the end, when we were told to make a turn off the road and behind a Mosque. We then started driving through the sand (note, this is the middle of the night and it looked like a scene from a horror movie where the monster attacks the people in the middle of the wilderness). As I scrolled to the final destination listed on google maps on my phone, I realized that it stopped in the middle of the beach, ways away from the reserve. We decided to follow the signs on the road pointed to the reserve instead, a call we probably should have made at the beginning. Our next adventure occurred as we neared the reserve and pulled over next to a car with two Omani men to ask for directions to the reserve (just to make sure we were going the right way). They told us that we were close and that they would take us there, but that we had missed a turn and had to go back a little bit. We were about to follow them but then we looked up and saw a sign for the reserve a few feet away for the entrance to the reserve. So I’m not really sure where the Omani men were planning to take us…

Anyway, it was about 2 AM now and the tour started at 6 AM so we had some time to kill. We wanted to go hang out on the beach for a while, but could not go on the beach at the reserve (people pay to camp near the beach there) and they kindly offered to let us stay in the parking lot, but instead we drove back a little bit in the direction we came from and stopped on an empty beach. We spread out a blanket and hung out there for the next 4 hours (the sky was so clear and I saw my first shooting stars!). We also found a lot of crabs and had fun playing (errr chasing) them.

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Meet our new friend!

Right before 6, the sun started to rise and it was one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced: being on the eastern most part of the Arabian Peninsula (i.e. being one of the first people to watch the sunrise), on a gorgeous beach with our new crab friends (and human friends, so that’s always good), as the Adhan (call to prayer) played on the mosque behind us. I have no words to describe this moment besides “magical”.

We then went back to the reserve and joined the other large groups of tourists there to see the turtles. A bus took us down to a gorgeous beach and a guide informed us that he was on the lookout for turtles.

Unfortunately, we did not see any turtles (the man promised us that they were there the night before— though I suspect they might always say that). I do not, however, regret the trip, because the beach was gorgeous, I got to collect some shells for my collection, and our crab friends were also present on this beach. One of my friends and I climbed some rocks on the edge of the beach and sat on the top of them to get a fantastic view of the beach as the sun rose. It was absolutely stunning.

The ride back was tiring (considering the all-nighter we had just pulled) but the drive was lovely because it the road ran along the coast. Oman’s natural beauty is stunning and I am so glad that I got to experience more of it with this amazing turtle-less trip.

Yesterday’s Excitements

The three exciting things about yesterday:

1. It rained, so of course that was exciting. It was only for a short time though, but it was nice to see some water!

2. After school a band called “AudioPharmacy” came to play and talk to us at AMIDEAST. They are on a tour in the Middle East (funded by the US government) so they stopped at our school. Their sound was pretty cool and I loved their message of positivity, global peace, and women’s empowerment.

3. In the evening my host father’s mother and two of her sisters came over from Bahla to spend the night. We sat around and talked in the living room and then ate dinner.

Wahiba Sands!

This past weekend was our last AMIDEAST overnight trip and it was AMAZING! I don’t even think “amazing” can describe the trip well. Maybe “perfect” or “magical” are better adjectives. Our destination: Wahiba Sands, aka the endless yellow sandy deserts that I only imagined I would get to see.

Friday

We left Friday morning (we rented 4 special cars that can drive over sand and had 4 tour guides/drivers) and our first stop was in a city called Ibri. In Ibri, we stopped at a souk (not an indoor souk, but narrow streets filled with small stores selling fabric, clothing, and meat) and walked around for a short time. Kirby and I each bought an Omani dress (finally, I’ve been wanting one for a long time!) and got to bargain with the shopkeeper in Arabic.

Our next stop was an old village that now is mostly ruins. Some people still live there, but the area is mostly old, crumbling houses. Apparently, it used to be a bustling area, though now, it is very quiet, and besides our group and another couple on a tour, we did not see anyone. It was interesting to see the mix of new houses and old houses next-door to each other, and we got a chance to walk inside some of the old ruins.

We then stopped for lunch at a house used for tours, where we sat outside for some Indian food and then went inside and sat on the floor for some coffee and dates. Then, after this dessert, it was to the desert (see what I did there?)!

It is so cool how the landscape changes so quickly from rocky terrain to the typical sand that one would imagine of a desert (since Muscat is a desert, technically I have been in a desert this whole time, but it is a rocky-type of desert so I was pretty excited to be in a sandy desert). Our cars sped through the sand and it was so fun to be able to drive straight up through the hills in the sand (though there were makeshift paths created from people traveling over the same area many times). Soon, we could not see any buildings and were surrounded by miles and miles of sand.

We finally got to our camping ground, or as we liked to call it, “glamping”, as we were staying in an enclosed area that had tents with carpeted floors, lighting, and beds. There were also bathrooms and tents with tables and chairs in them for dining purposes. It was simple but nice.

Kirby and I were beyond excited, so we embarked on an hour and a half trek through the desert. The sand was so soft, the weather was perfect, and it was gorgeous to see sand stretching out for as far as I could see. I was surprised to see so many shrubs in the desert– I had expected it to be just sand and was pleasantly surprised to see lots of greenery. I was also surprised at how hard it was to walk and climb through the sand. We definitely got a good workout. Of course, our first reaction to the sand was to roll through it and try to sled down the hills…

We then went dune bashing, which is basically off-roading through the sand. Our driver was awesome and since he knew we enjoyed this activity, he drove very fast, made quick turns, and drove up and down as many hills as possible. Just as the sun was about to set, we stopped at the top of one of the hills to get out and watch a gorgeous sunset.

The rest of the evening was spent in the campsite; we all hung out together in tents, ate dinner, and got to see the stars… the sky is so clear in the desert and the moon was almost full (there was a telescope in our campsite, so we got a chance to look at the moon through it).

Saturday

We woke up at 5:20 so we could watch the sunrise. It took us a while to climb through the sand, so we wanted to be ready by about 6 when the sun rose. Maybe not as beautiful as the sunrise in Jebel Shams, but still so gorgeous. We even had time to get some morning yoga in!

After breakfast and packing up all our stuff (and avoiding the huge ants everywhere in the desert), we were told that we could ride camels if we wanted! It was about a 5-minute ride (though advertised as 10 minutes) and we went two at a time, so Kirby and I went together. The camels were led by two little boys (they were Bedouin) and Kirby and I tried to talk to them in Arabic. They told us they were 9 and 14 years old.

Our next stop was to a Bedouin woman’s house. She lived in the middle of the desert without very many neighbors (apart from some camels of course). We only saw two rooms in her house and they were similar to each other: walls and roof made out of date tree materials, carpeted ground, cushions lining the walls, and small decorations on the walls (pictures of her family and Omani trinkets). To get to the different rooms, one walked outside on the sand. We first went to one of the rooms and sat on the floor with her to eat dates and drink coffee. She was wearing the Bedouin niqab and a long colorful dress. She also had a tattoo on each of her hands that she said was used for medicinal purposes, but the rest was lost in translation. We then went to the other room and she showed us how to make a weaved-type of bracelet. Now I have a great souvenir that I made!

We then drove to Wadi Beni Khalid (the wadi I previously went to with my host family when we visited the farm). We first had lunch on a large rock in the middle of the wadi (there is a restaurant there and a bridge that connects this rock to the mainland). Then we changed into leggings and big t-shirts and went swimming! We first explored the rock area (one of the tour guides showed us the way) and then we jumped into the water to go swimming (literally, we jumped… off of the rocks. Another item I finally got to check off of my bucket list!).

After an hour of swimming, we unfortunately had to dry off for our ride home. I went to bed so early last night; I was so exhausted, but it was definitely a great trip, if not one of my favorite trips ever. It isn’t every day you get to explore the desert with your best friends!