In anticipation of the winter rains, we've been spending as much time as we can exploring Jordan's wadis, or canyons - Wadi Mujib in mid-September, then Wadi Hassa two weeks ago, and Wadi Kerak this past weekend. Even though all are within a 100 kilometer radius, each place has been unique. We've climbed up waterfalls, soaked in hot springs, and abseiled down canyon walls. Kerak and the abseiling has been my favorite trip so far because of both the newness of abseiling and the depth and beauty of that particular canyon.
The Kerak trip started with a two hour bus ride out of Amman and along the Dead Sea. We drove up into the mountains and were dropped off at the top of a steep trail that descended into the canyon. I was reminded of the road between Los Angeles and Pheonix, where the bareness is amazing but the rolling ups and downs and then sharp mountains give you something to wonder about.
After a few hundred meters, we reached the first of five waterfalls and got a quick introduction to repelling in the form of "just lean back and go!" I heard a couple of screams and more than a few swears from the people ahead of me, but I was able to control my own nerves by reminding myself of the trust that I had in the tour guides and my general "it probably won't kill me" attitude. (Sorry mom... it definitely, definitely won't kill me.)
The first and second drops were easily manageable - two to four times my height. Instead of hopping down the mountainside like so many videos of repelling show, we actually walked step by step down. It was easy to feed the rope through the metal loop attached to my harness, and just as easy to hold the rope so I would stay put. The initial step or maneuvering at the top of a drop was always the most difficult. I found myself in a precarious position at the top of a ten foot, dry repel when my left leg was reaching down the rock wall and my right leg was between the wall and my face. Not on purpose.
The hike was ten kilometers total, and we stopped halfway through the day to have lunch and hot tea beside a small yet tall waterfall. I wonder what it would be like to grow up beside a place like that. Every time that life got you up, you could celebrate by letting mountain water fall on your head. And every time that life got you down, you could do the same and remind yourself that you are alive. And you could also line the canyon with little plastic army men, or cowboys and Indians, whichever you prefer (to prepare for non-existent-bear attacks).
The landscape of the canyon changed throughout the day. This was most noticeable after lunch as we walked along a curving stream that was grassy and then rocky and the walls changed from white to orange to red to gray. I ran along part of the trail with a mountain-goat-like guide named Hussein (like Barack, or Sadam, as he put it). It felt good to move, particularly in such a spectacular setting. I've been happy lately, and I don't mean about anything specific. It's just a general feeling of enjoying each day and sporadic disbelief that I am here in this place.
I have to offer many thanks to Zach, a Fulbright friend, for the amazing photos. (On wet hikes like this one, someone carries a big plastic pickle jar with the necessities that can't get wet - a camera or two, cigarettes, a lighter for the smokes and to start a fire for the tea, and a first aid kit.)
After the hike, I was able to spend a few more days in Amman. Saturday, J and I walked from Abdali to downtown where we came across a few surprising alleys, lots of silly mannequins (picture Jordan Marsh, mid-1980s, minus something important like hair or a hand or a leg), and a busy market for spices, fruits, and vegetables. A ten year old hawker waved J off as he tried to pay for two tiny hot peppers from a bucket of 500, and I was surprised by the boy's mannerisms and sense.
From the downtown area, which is at the bottom of a number of hills, we walked up a giant staircase to another area of town and met with some rug rats along the way. We had an enlightening conversation or two that went like this: RR: Hello! J&K: Well hello to you! RR: How are you!? J&K: Fine. How are you? RR: Fuck you!! Heh heh heh!!" These kids were between 7 and 12 years old, so I didn't take it too personally... And I remembered all of the snowballs and acorns that I chucked at passing cars on Jan Marie Drive when I was their age.
Other highlights from the past week:
- I started my Arabic tutoring session this morning. I now know about 50 words, which is a good start.
- I had a taxi adventure that involved being asked for a fare that was 5x what it should be, almost running out of gas, and hitting a curb while reversing 100 meters on a one way street.,
- F and I joined the health club at the Movenpick hotel and have found a place where I can comfortably wear shorts.
- J and I found an Indian restaurant with a small menu full of good food and, of course, Amsdel.
- I was at an intersection in Shmeisani and a man in the car next to me littered. Then the man on the opposite side of him got out of his truck, walked around the car, picked up the wrapper, and threw it back in the car. Admirable gall!
- (Oh yeah, and I went to work some of the days in there. Perhaps I will write about that part of my life soon, but there is so much fun to be had and so many pictures to take of more colorful things!)