Hiking the Jordan Trail: Day 26 – Ras al-Feid to Little Petra (14 miles)

Lost in Jordan

The desolate area I got lost in. Navigation is tricky when there is no visible trail, and you’re relying exclusively on a GPS.

“Win Petra Nous (Where is Little Petra)?” I asked.

I was lost and really had no idea how to get back on the track I was supposed to be on. The scenery was so magical I was mesmerized by its beauty. The track seemed rather obvious so I didn’t bother looking at my GPS. Time seemed to melt away as my thoughts were absorbed by this fantasyland. When I finally got around to checking my position I was way, way off track.

I had two choices: either backtrack up the monumental descent I had just completed or go on and hope I could connect with the GPS track. I chose the latter.

On and on I went. Sheer cliffs and a wadi separated me from the direction I needed to head, so I went on diverging further and further from the direction I needed to go. Pretty soon I was a kilometer off track. In order not to diverge any further I was scaling and climbing down wadis and ridges.

I was getting a little concerned; it was very desolate with no roads.  I hadn’t seen a single person in over a day and a half.

“Hee-Haw.”   I heard a donkey braying somewhere down the wadi. I headed in its direction, knowing there must be a person nearby.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally saw a lone figure cooking over a fire. It turned out to be a typical Bedouin woman: open, friendly, and more than willing to help me in any way she could.

“Win Petra Nous (Where is Little Petra )?” I asked.

We sat and drank tea while I explained I was walking to Little Petra but was lost. She understood and pointed to what looked like a sheer cliff, then pointed straight up to the top of it at least 500 feet above the ground.

“No way I’m climbing up there,” I thought, “She must be saying I need to somehow get up there.”

I looked around and saw we were surrounded by unscaleable cliffs with the exception of a trail which headed in the wrong direction. Fortunately the food she was cooking was for her husband who was coming for lunch with his herd of sheep.

When he finally showed up, he spoke just enough English to convince me that atop the cliff is where I needed to be and that once on top, there were a series of trails that would reconnect me with the track I was so desperately seeking.

“Momkin meshi. (Possible to walk)?” I said as I pointed to what I thought was an unscaleable cliff.

He pointed out a small crevice in the cliff that appeared to be a possible way to the top and said, “Iowa, momkin (Yes, possible).”

I never would have thought it was even remotely possible to climb up the cliff via this crevice, yet he probably knew more about this area than anyone.

I put away my GPS and camera, and made sure everything was securely fastened onto my backpack and off I went, purely on the faith that he knew what he was talking about.

Up, up, and up I went, pulling myself toward the top using the many foot and handholds there were in the sandstone. It was very difficult and got harder and harder the higher I went. Soon I was scaling a sheer cliff.

“Damn,” I thought to myself. “What have I gotten myself into?”

I looked down and saw the shepherd and his wife. They were mere specs by now. On and on I climbed, making almost no horizontal distance but at least 500 feet of vertical distance with no end in sight.

I got to a small flat area where a huge sandstone dome completely blocked my way.

“I’m not going back down,” I said defiantly, “I’m going around this rock.”

With my heart pounding like a scared hummingbird I clung on for dear life and slowly edged myself sideways knowing if I slipped I’d be soon meeting Maker. With great relief I made it around this cursed rock.

“Ham de la lah (Hallajulh)!”  I screamed a short time later as I made it to the top and saw multiple goat trails leading in the direction I needed to go.

The goat trails turned into a footpath, then to a dirt road, then YES! a paved road. A few hours later I arrived in little Petra in almost complete darkness.

With all the excitement and adventurous climbing, my focus was all on not getting hurt and finding my way to Little Petra. When I finally made it to the top of the cliff and knew I could make it to my destination, I realized I did a number on my feet. Both heels, the ball of one foot, and multiple toes all had bad blisters on them. That night when I took my shoes off I found out that I’m going to lose two toe nails. I’m going to have to let them heal in Petra for a few days before I push on. Fortunately I have the time.

As I said the scenery was beyond marvelous. The sandstone formations equaled anything in Canyonlands. The color, striations, patterns, and the shapes carved by erosion were unique. But damn this GPS navigation, I learned the hard way to sight see when I’m on the correct track and stopped.

sandstone mountains

I spent the entire day hiking through these rugged sandstone mountains.

 

sore toenail

My poor toenail hurts like the dickens now, and I’m sure it’ll fall off soon. This is the glamorous side of long-distance hiking.

You can find all my journal entries from hiking the Jordan Trail here: Jordan Trail

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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