Dana to Feynan

I honestly don’t know what to write about today to convey the day that we had. In short we walked. But in between the walk … well… my pilgrim buddy Theresa said recently that outside of your comfort zone is where the magic lies… she’s not wrong!

This morning before moving on we returned to the village shop. We enjoyed his coffee yesterday and so overnight he went to the supermarket for us and bought the best brand so that we could enjoy his coffee at home. We returned before breakfast for the coffee and, as yesterday morning although today armed with more freshly brewed hot coffee, we tucked into another breakfast with eggs and hummus and jams and creams and spice and flat breads and copious amounts of hot sweet tea.

Today we said goodbye to Dana Tower Guesthouse and it felt like leaving old friends. We booked this little hotel with a fair amount of trepidation; we reassured ourselves that it would only be 2 days and that we were there for the hiking. The hotel may not be luxurious like the Dead Sea Resorts but oh my, the heart and soul of Jordan live in Dana. Our room may have been chilly but the bed was so comfortable and the extra big blankets kept us warm. The bathroom may have been a little rustic but it was super clean and the water was piping hot. The community area was warm and cosy and the meals were genuinely some of the best food we’ve eaten. I can’t eat gluten or any kind of milk or milk product and they made sure that everything I ate was safe.

We loved our stay in Dana. It’s one of the best experiences we’ve had. Everyone should go and spend a night there… don’t go for luxury but go for the beauty and become friends with the Bedouin people who have lived in the hills forever. Nabil, (Habiba) the owner told us that we now have a second family in Jordan and he gave us his contact details. He told us that if we needed help in Jordan we should call our family. Honestly it felt so sad to be leaving but we had a valley to cross and so leave we must.

Today we’re hiking to Feynan. 16km across the Wadi Dana, along the Rift Valley. The trail started with a 600m drop in elevation and the ground is quite stoney with loose sand and gravel so we carefully picked our way down. Around us we could hear sheep and donkeys and their Bedouin shepherds. We could also hear the laughing dove, a local bird that we first heard down on the Dead Sea and we were also surprised to also hear cuckoos.

We walked down and onwards passing the Bedouin men with their sheep and goats and donkeys and dogs. We heard them calling from high up in the hills and we heard one guy playing a flute as his music filled the valley. We walked on and soon all we heard were the birds. We stopped for a drink and a snack at 10.30. We’d walked for 2 hours so it was good to pause… and once refreshed we continued on. The trail is fairly flat but its stoney, with sand under the stones. It makes for slow walking and you really have to watch where you put your feet. There are no markers but whilst there are often one or two paths you could take, we know that we must follow the bottom path always.

My shoes were starting to rub. I’m wearing an old pair of Salomon walking shoes and thicker walking socks than normal. My preferred Lone Peak trail shoes were out of stock and so I compromised with this choice of footwear and already I could tell it wasn’t ideal. So we stopped on a rock and I taped my toes.

A bedouin shepherd across the valley shouted hello and offered us tea but he was too high up for us. Instead I continued with my foot care and just as I was sorted and ready to leave our day changed from innocent hikers just in love with the trail to… well… shall we say totally out of our comfort zone hikers!

Four dogs had come up the path and were now beside us at the rock. Gerry told me to walk on. I did and he picked up a stone and the dogs seem to fall back. They followed at a distance for a while and we thought they had gone. We turned a corner and we saw sheep higher up on the hill and the dogs guarding them saw us and they saw the four dogs following behind us. They were not happy and came charging down the hill towards us, snarling as they ran. And then much to our horror two more dogs came from nowhere ahead of us and we felt that were surrounded by angry dogs. I tried to pick up a rock but twisted badly as I did. Gerry told me to keep going so I went up on the other side of the trail and moved away as fast as I could, but its difficult to be fast with the stoney ground. There was barking and snarling but Gerry was past them and behind me again and when we thought it was safe we stopped to catch our breath. I’d twisted awkwardly and hurt my back but I’d also twisted my knee and ankle and it started throbbing and my day had turned from glorious bliss to pain and anxiety.

Gerry told me that the dogs actually weren’t interested in us but each other but that didn’t help to calm me. The spell had been broken. We walked on and a young Bedouin man came out from some shady trees and asked if we would like tea. My leg hurt and I was unsettled and I really didn’t want to stop. We thanked him for his kindness but declined. A few moments later he shouted after us and asked if the dogs that were following us were troubling us. Eeek!!! They were still behind us. We explained what had happened and he said he would deal with the dogs for us. We thanked him and we walked on but a few minutes further along the dogs had circled up and around us and come down the hill from above. Oh my it was all too much for me. I decided to head back to the young guy and ask for help.

My foot hurt and I felt anxious but this young man, who was only out walking and enjoying the sunshine, not only agreed to help us but said he would walk with us to ensure all was ok. Unbelievably he took out a phone and called some of the Bedouin shepherds in the hills and asked about the dogs. He explained to us that they want visitors to feel safe and so now they would be on the look out for the dogs… but we didn’t need to worry as he would keep us company.

So onwards we walked. He told us about his life as a bedouin, the mountains and the history of this region. He told us about how the rains hadn’t come and how the riverbed was now dry and how in just two decades their way of life here was threatened. If ever we needed evidence of global warming, it was here in this valley. We guessed that he was perhaps in his late twenties and he spoke perfect English. He had travelled too but said he could never leave Jordan. He was so knowledgeable about the mountains, the geology, the different type of stone and the landscape. He showed us plants and explained about wildlife; he was just incredible!

After a while he suggested that we have tea. We shared our picnic and he shared his. He talked about life and how the world should be kinder and more fair and we agreed. He talked about herbs, how to make tea, and how to use herbs for your health. Honestly, if not for those dogs we would not have met our good Samaritan. He was just the best walking guide and we were so sad when he had to leave us. He had walked with us for a few hours. He told it was time for him to pray but that we were close now and that other Bedouin were around and there were no dogs. He said that we would arrive in 30 minutes and he was right.

We had an amazing day. Really just amazing. We’re settled in our beautiful eco-lodge which feels a million miles away from the world. The world could learn a great deal from men like Sulieman; we did. He told us that every sunrise is an opportunity and of course he is right.

At the Feynan eco Lodge, Ali greeted us. He had heard from Sulieman already. He brought us a glass of a cinnamon spiced drink and showed us to our room. We showered and did a little laundry and decided to take a little walk… and who should we see but our walking friend, just returning home. We chatted for a few minutes and he told us he’ll look out for us tomorrow. We have to love this Bedouin community, so open, generous and proud of their history and heritage.

Feynan eco-lodge has no mains power and only spring water and yet the hotel is so beautiful. The room is amazing, the shower fabulous and dinner plentiful. After dinner we gathered on the roof to gaze at the crescent moon and bright bright stars. Then we took our hot sweet tea, to our candle lit room and drank it on our own little terrace before deciding that we really should go to sleep.

What a blessed day we had.

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