28 Oct 2022
Petra Plodders Complete 100km Trek!
By Jo Grey, AMEND CEO and Petra Plodder
Most of the team couldn’t quite come to terms with the fact that we were actually at Heathrow Airport on a Friday afternoon and just about to head out to Amman in Jordan, and to our 100km trek. After a comfortable 5-hour flight however, we were transferred to a hotel for a few hours sleep.
At breakfast, the Plodders and the wider team (totalling 15 people) had the first chance to meet one another, including our two US-based members, Kathy and Kelly. It wasn’t long before we headed off in a mini bus to travel south towards the wadis and desert area of Jordan, where it hadn’t rained in 2 years (it was once green and almost jungle-like), and where they predict all water will be gone by 2050. This was a theme throughout the trek as dried up waterfalls, streams, springs and wells alongside villages abandoned 7 years ago and more were pointed out to us. On the way South to the first camp, we stopped at Mount Nebo, from where Moses saw the ‘promised land’, and in Madaba for a fabulous cardamom-flavoured Turkish coffee.
As the sun was setting we arrived at our camp after the bus guide commented that ‘only God knows where we are!’ A modest Bedouin tent of striped camel-hair rugs sat on the hillside next to a campfire surrounded by 15 small stools. A wonderful rice and stew dinner was served as it got darker and it wasn’t long before the trekkers all began to retire to bed ready for an early start.
On the first day we set off behind our Bedouin guide, Raad, and began our descent into our first wadi, thankfully mainly shaded and still with some pools of water and vegetation, making for some beautiful photos (see below) and wet feet. You could almost feel when cascades of water from many moons ago had swept down the wadi and riven soft swirls along the walls from top to bottom. Some trekkers had a quick dip in a pool of fresh water to cool off after climbing down rickety ladders and rock faces. Once we reached the end, the sun was again setting and we were transferred to our camp in the sand-dunes by 4×4, in time for fabulous dinner with mint tea.
On our second day we set out early across the stony desert back towards the mountains, because it was predicted to reach 40 degrees Celsius at camp. Talk about trip hazards! After plenty of tripping and swearing (from me!) we reached the entrance to our next wadi, where tea and coffee were brewed over a small fire (they did this every day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon). Little did we know that our climb of 1800m would be mostly in full sun, and that the path was only ever used by goats and hunters! It was incredibly tough, but we found a shady ledge for lunch, and then carried on trekking into the afternoon. Eventually one of our front-runners popped their head over the edge of the summit and shouted, ‘it’s okay Jo, we can see the camp from here!’. It was meant to encourage us slower climbers to reach the top, but once we did, we discovered that the camp was across another small wadi on the opposite hillside (almost too small to spot)! As usual, the sun was setting as we finally made it into camp, and after the heat, many of us now opted to sleep outside which was wonderful – watching the Milky Way, ISS, satellites and shooting stars, and waking up the next morning to the sunrise.
The promise on day 3 was for ‘downhill, then a couple of bits of uphill’. Talk about understatement! After a brief morning pause at an eye-shaped opening in a rock (great photo op!), we did indeed head downhill, to the foot of another mountain. Full sunshine and plenty of climbing was definitely on the cards for the rest of the day, along with some perilous rocky ledges along the sandstone cliffs. It was such an enormous relief to finally walk into camp among the strange egg-shaped rock landscape just as the sun set again. This camp had a fabulous view down the wadi from the ‘toilet’! The wonderful Bedouin team looking after us spoiled us with a traditional, celebratory, Jordanian meal of chicken boiled in yoghurt on a bed of rice with wafer-thin bread (Mansaf). Most people ate in the traditional way, reclined on the floor around a communal plate, using their hands. Afterwards we were treated to disco lights and loud Arabic dance tunes! We blasted back with ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ by Diana Ross! A fun evening despite all being so tired.
On day 4 the terrain was more even with a modest climb. The scenery really was extraordinary, with more egg-like rock formations alongside large, red, fin-like formations in which we could picture our intended target; Petra. More walking along mountain ledges followed by lunch under a tree at the top of a steep wadi, and it was downhill for the afternoon, clambering over rocks until we reached the sandy floor for some shade. We found it strange to suddenly be in the presence of airconditioned coachloads of tourists as we rounded a corner to visit a huge (and empty) well carved out of the mountainside. Dodging more taxis, cars and coaches we crossed two roads to reach a basic compound that was to be our camp for the night. This had been where Yousef (the Bedouin team leader) had grown up. Again, after another great meal, most of us slept outside up on the rocks surrounding the little cabin and firepit. That night, those who had written their poems shared them with our Bedouin hosts (see poems below), and the next morning we had to bid goodbye to all but Raad, our Guide.
Day 5 was our final trek into the ancient city of Petra. Starting just 300m from our camp, we collected entrance tickets from the tourist office at Little Petra (a small carved gate), then began our walk into the Reserve. It wasn’t long before we began to climb again! We were entering the Reserve via the ‘back door’ and fortunately it was relatively quiet (people not willing to leave the air-conditioned coaches!) and shady, with even the odd coffee tent on the way up the mountain. We stopped for some fresh fruit juice (orange and pomegranate) then set off again until, almost unable to handle any more awe-inspiring views, we could make out a strange, stacked rock formation in the distance – this was the top of The Monastery, the highest building in Petra. We were thrilled to finally get to this point, even if it was abuzz with people, but had no idea that, what goes up must come down. In fact, after lunch and a 1JD wee stop, we had to descend over 800 stone steps to reach the main area of the city of Petra. The ‘staircase to Mordor’ as it was nicknamed was lined for much of the way with stalls and ladies trying to entice you to buy their wares. The city of Petra was the capital for the Nabataen people who were extraordinary travellers, traders and inventors.
We had made it! We explored the theatre, the tombs and more, and finally made it through a split in the mountain to alight upon the most famous part of Petra – the Treasury – as several of us hummed the theme to Indiana Jones! After another long and dusty day, the draw of our first hotel in 5 days was too much and we all headed the 2.5km from the Treasury, along the Siq (canyon) to the ‘front door’ of the reserve, and then up the hill a little to our hotel for a shower and, for some, beer! That night and the next morning it actually rained, though sadly, probably not enough to fill any wells to any degree.
The next day we boarded our bus and headed down to Wadi Rum (think Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Army in WWI), staying in one of the multitudinous ‘camp hotels’ in the area, and taking in a camel ride and 4×4 sunset ride. Here they filmed movies like The Martian, Lawrence of Arabia, and others – to us it felt a bit like Mad Max given the number of vehicles and people there! The next morning we headed off on the bus to go 4 1/2 hours North again to the Dead Sea. This was a real treat with a lovely hotel where we could really relax, float in the salty sea, swim in the pool and hold an impromptu pool party. Such a lovely afternoon/evening celebrating our achievement of raising over £14,000 for AMEND!
Arriving back in the UK we all had mixed feelings. Already missing the peace and quiet of the trek, but keen to impart everything we’d learned and photos we’d taken to anyone who would listen! We had a fantastic team (and wider trek group) which made this tough event so much more enjoyable. Until next time!
Our huge thanks go to:
- the team at 360 Expeditions, including our trek representative, Ben (keep on climbing!)
- our Bedouin team: ‘Sheik’ Yousef, our trek guide, Raad, ex-military chef, Mohammed (amazing food!), ‘snake-hips’ Arhad and Artaf for their extraordinary desert dancing!
- The other ‘trek gang’ – Catherine, Georgina, Fiona, Elizabeth, Harriet, and Bridget – for being excellent travel companions and sponsors
- Sarah McComas, a former Sahara trekker in 2012, who surprised us at Heathrow with the fact that she was coming along with us, and for all her support to the stragglers!
- Susan – for keeping us laughing all the way and for being the official AMEND group photographer!
Our Petra Plodders Team
Poems (a tradition of the Bedouin)
The Bedouin tent is our camp castle,
Whilst trekking we tried to avoid any hassle.
Walking through canyons, streams, and the heat,
I feel I can say it has been quite a steep feat.
Delicious food has been made for us each night,
Eating under the stars and the moonlight.
Jordan really is an extraordinary land,
Discovering the mountains and the people, it’s not all just sand.
After a long, sweaty day, seeing camp is a delight,
As we gather round the campfire guided by headlight.
With our tired legs we’ve had to go steady,
As the goat bell rings to tell us food’s ready.
Yusuf and Raad, and all the team here,
You have made the trip unforgettable, and our thanks are sincere.
At the beginning of the week, I thought, ‘who are these strange fellas?’,
But then they cried ‘yalhalla, yalhalla, yalhalla’!
Ode to the Bedouin
You invited us into your community and way of life
And showed us the way of the Bedouin
Raed led us across the desert like a modern day Moses
And we followed like his flock.
But Yosef was in it for the pens.
Arhad following at the rear with the trusty Shakespeare
Strong and silent until the music starts
Then the party boy comes into his own
With the desert disco
But Yosef is in it for the pens.
Our feast cooked by the mighty Mohammed
Fit for kings and enjoyed
By our tired bodies and hungry stomachs
But remember Yosef is just in it for the pens.
[Yosef started hustling at 9 and just wanted a pen from every tourist he met.]
Raad*, surefooted as the long-eared goats, shouts ‘yallah’, and off we go
Down wadis, through stony desert, up mountains, and more,
Each corner or summit reveals a scene more awe-inspiring than before.
Quiet, thoughtful steps, passed down in Chinese whispers,
Shakespeare and ‘snake-hips’ Arhad reassuringly shadowing the stragglers.
The team is lovely,
The scenery, stunning,
But most of all, our Bedouin hosts are completely 5 stars.
We will take the memory of this land and its people home with us in our hearts.
[*Raad (sp?) was our Bedouin guide]
Some of our photos
The Petra Fundraising Trek Experience (Full Cut - 14 mins)