Dana Biosphere Reserve

Our view first thing in the morning at Dana. We were staying in one of those tents.
This gives a sense of what it’s like to stand in front of the tents. We were truly on the edge of the canyon.

After a delicious breakfast, and standing back while the departing guests got rides into the village, and guests paying for guides got advice on what trails to take, Margaret and I waited till everyone else was taken care of, then talked with one of our hosts and tried to decide what to do for a hike. I had caught a cold the night before and was feeling cruddy and didn’t want to exert myself too much, but I had my heart set on going into the canyon. Margaret was worried about how her knees would deal with that steep downhill slope, and was actually hoping to climb higher instead of lower. So we split and she took the high road. I passed on the opportunity to follow trails down the hill, and instead walked to the town and took the road that we had been seeing. If there was a road to the bottom, I reasoned that there was less opportunity for me to get lost or to get bit by the biting plants (the ones with grabby spikes on them).

Looking into the canyon from the door of the tent.
Walking to Dana Village in the morning. Isn’t it the most picturesque, medieval-looking village? These ruins are the 400-year-old bits I mentioned in my last post.
Goats along the road.

I had an easy, lovely walk into the village, and was soon on the road into the canyon. There were several other tourists on the road with me, and I could see them in the distance, far below me on the switchbacks that seem to drop into the canyon forever. I went slowly and took it easy. The steep downhill was rough on my knees, and I decided that Margaret had made a good choice for leg protection.

The hazy skies never cleared, but as I entered the canyon I began to see more clearly the rock formations and the bold variety of colours in the rocks as I got up close and personal. There is no development within the reserve, no structures at the bottom. There is a single sign notifying you that you are about to enter the reserve and should only do so with permission. I assume our reservation at the Eco Camp was our permission? There is almost no trash, which I hope means the tourists and locals respect this land.

I loved the ruins of Dana Village again, as I walked through it the second time.
There’s a good view of our camp from the hills of Dana Village.
I slowly dropped into the canyon.  You can see the road I was following.
Distracted occasionally by things to take photographs of (and rest my legs).
This bird was kind enough to hold still till I got close.

Halfway down the canyon, the road stopped at someone’s house. After that, it was a true trail. But a good trail, and I did not lose it and get myself side tracked on goat trails. However, I did get sidetracked by goats.

Goats were a little interested in me, but not enough to get up. The one in the middle is scratching her neck on a rock.
The trail looks like a road here, but it’s just two parallel walking paths.
This disintegrating rock caught my eye.
Looking back the way I had come. Can’t even see the Eco Camp from here. It’s behind the rock in the center.
More goats. See the goat trails? They criss cross the entire valley and it’s easy to accidentally follow one.
The floor of the canyon is so close.

My goal this morning had been just to stand in the bottom. I wanted to get all the way down, rest, then come back up. If I could do that with a cold, then I would consider my day a success. After a long time, I got within a 25 foot drop to the dry riverbed at the bottom of the canyon. I kept following the trail, but then I saw that it rose in elevation again, climbing back up the steep walls as it continued along the valley. I refused. That is the point where I left the trail and scrambled over the edge and went directly to the bottom. I stood in the sandy riverbed and felt accomplished. Nearby was a huge olive tree casting copious shade over a huge, somewhat flat rock. I took off my backpack, my extra layers, my hat, my shoes, and kicked back. I laid back on the rock and rested in the shade. It was refreshing and quiet. No tourists, not even goats. I was hoping to see one of the endangered Ibex in the canyon, but I did not get that lucky. It had taken an hour and a half to get there – not too bad. I knew the really tough bit would be going the other direction. I rested for a full hour, ate a hard boiled egg and a piece of flatbread I had pinched at breakfast, drank some water, then climbed the bank and found the trail again to head back to Dana Village.

I have a long way home, which is on the side of the farthest canyon wall.
Looking back and it made me feel good to have left my resting place so far behind. But the trail so far is pretty flat. Soon I began the sharp uphill.
Yeah, dog, me too! This climb is rough!

It was a tough slog. I took it easy and rested constantly. I sat when there was a convenient rock, otherwise I stood in the full sunshine in the middle of the trail (and later the road) and remembered to drink water. I think there were more switchbacks going up than down. I was gasping and heaving. I had a hat on to protect me from the sun, but the hat made my head hotter. I switched to a headscarf for awhile (always have one of those handy here in Jordan!), but it was even worse, so I went back to the hat. I chatted a little with tourists that passed me. There were not many (none?) that I passed. Ha!! Finally, I crested at the top, chest heaving. I knew there was a tiny shop right at the top, and that was what I had my eye on.

The young Jordanian man working the shop at the top did not recognize me. I guess all we tourists can blend together after awhile. I told him all I remembered about him, that his name was Ari, and that he had told Margaret and me the day before that he had family in California and Chicago. Maybe he needed her fabulous California girl look to remember who he had talked to the previous evening. Anyway, he couldn’t figure out why I kept talking to him, so he went and got an older man nearby, Jaber. Jaber has pretty good English, and chatted away at me. Once he translated to Ari that I merely recognized him from the day before, the mystery was solved and the younger man went back to his life. That meant: trying to sell me a drink. No high pressure tricks were needed with me because that is exactly why I stopped here in the first place. I found the only pomegranate drink I could find in the cooler (I’ve been drinking a lot of pomegranate here), and when Jaber made a place for me on a carpeted stone wall, I gratefully sat next to him.

Ari carefully picked up the hot bricks from a metal cup that had been in the fire, and placed them on top of the punctured tinfoil (apple inside).
Jaber unwound the pipe and began sucking on the green end, pulling air from the very top, all the way through it, into the water tank below, and then into the pipe.

The two men began preparing a shisha pipe. I had not seen this done in its entirety. In Jordan, shisha (an Egyptian word that is commonly used) is found almost everywhere. Margaret and I have seen dozens of these tall, elaborate, silver contraptions at nearly every shop, tent, restaurant, and cafe. We’ve seen people smoke them, but didn’t really understand them. Jaber checked and cleaned parts and put together the big thing while the younger man took off and came back with shredded apple in tinfoil. Jaber explained that his favourite was when there was “Just a little bit” of marijuana mixed in, but most of the time his favourite was apple. He said this time he was using one red apple and one green apple. I have asked around a little, and I’m still not sure if there is anything else in with the flavours – like tobacco or some other stimulant. I just don’t know. He poured water into the bottom. He carefully packed the shredded apple into a cup and tightly wrapped the top of the cup with tinfoil. He punctured the tinfoil with a nail so there were many holes in the top. Then both men sat and waited. “A man is coming with the fire,” explained Jaber.  I spotted him approaching from one of the stone huts across the parking lot. “The man” handed over a blackened cup at the end of a wire. Inside the cup were three tiny hot bricks, and Ari used metal tongs to carefully place tiny hot bricks onto the top of the tinfoil. They waited a few minutes to heat the apple, then Jaber began taking deep pulls on the tube to get the air flowing through. In another minute, I saw smoke swirling above the water in the bottom of the pipe. Then the men began smoking. They offered it to me and of course I tried it! I couldn’t tell if there was anything in there besides apple, but I could definitely taste the apple. It seemed distinctly tart, like green apple, and fruity sweet.

Jaber took a shine to me and talked about his life, his ex-wife, his carvings. He showed me pictures of his carvings on his phone, and photos of arrowheads that he had found in the canyon. Then he showed me a carving that looked like a dragon – and you all know I love dragons! He confirmed that it was the hilt of a knife carved into the image of a dragon. I gushed appropriately. By then I was rested and it was time to head back to camp.

As I left Dana Village, I looked back and could still see Jaber and Ari sitting there on a low rock wall, with the shisha pipe. The red awning of Ari’s store is across from them. Click the image for a larger version. You can see the street disappears just beyond them. That is where the drop off into the canyon begins.
Guess what I passed on the way back to camp?! More goats!

I found Margaret already back at camp and happy with her “upland” hike. She was becoming distracted with news from home, however, as a rapidly expanding fire called the Kincade Fire raged near her home in California. The Eco Camp has one outlet available to guests, and it’s in a common room, but the power is not always on. Also the Internet is available about 50% of the time, but only in the common room and not in the living quarters. So Ms. M was spending a lot of time in the common area trying to get updates.

We enjoyed the second most fabulous dinner of our entire Jordan trip (the first being the night before, also at the Eco Camp). I was still sick and crawled gratefully into the comfortable bed early. Margaret was getting only increasingly worrisome news. I got in touch with my forecaster friend Will and asked him to put Margaret’s city on his watch list. Margaret had AirBnb clients in her home and she was trying to keep them informed and safe, not knowing if her home was in direct danger or not, not being able to contact friends. It was a terrible night for Margaret.

10 thoughts on “Dana Biosphere Reserve

  1. Oh, my goodness, Crystal. The end of this post shook me. Now I’m wondering if Margret’s house is ok? It would be hard to enjoy a trip wondering if your house was going up in flames or it the paying guests were ok. I’m sure if you hadn’t been there the pipe would have contained something other than apple. 🙂 I don’t think I could keep going with a cold unless my life was at stake. 😉 You are plucky. It certainly is amazing how people live and are happy with simple lives.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to respond to the rest of your comments. I was just trying to get back to you quickly so you wouldn’t worry about Margaret’s house anymore. You are so sweet to worry, and I didn’t want to upset anyone. “Plucky” ha ha! That’s a great word. Well, I did really just want to lay in bed all day. And I actually told Margaret I was going to. But that canyon was so close and I was pretty sure I’d never see Dana again in my entire life, and I’d always regret not knowing what was in the bottom. So, I just babied myself and made it happen. The folks at the camp took pity on me that night and mixed a special sage tea for me, which they said would help. I was grateful for anything, and grateful to them for caring and taking special effort for me. Yes, I have often envied people who are happy with simple lives. I can easily see the appeal, but I just don’t know how to be satisfied with a simple life. I am driven to learn and experience, and find it hard to settle down.

      1. I’m much the same way. I’ve got itchy feet too but waiting to see what happens with my sister and if H can get a traveling type job. I want less stuff and more adventure. 🙂 Hope you are feeling better. Glad Margret”s house if ok.

  2. Marvellous views and you did well to hike so much in your state. As for the shisha, I’m not so sure I’d be willing to give it a try. I stopped smoking everything in 2007 and am proud of it and don’t want to expose my lungs to anything. I love the “wildlife”, including that cute pup from the previous post and the extra patient and gorgeous bird. ❤

    1. Thank you! for mentioning the “wildlife.” I thought I was being cute and I was waiting for a comment, ha ha. Margaret and I were disappointed not to see more wildlife in Jordan. There seems not to be much to spot, except stray cats and dogs. Birds were the most common sighting. I’m with you on the shisha. You had mentioned that you stopped smoking and it just doesn’t make sense to tempt an addiction like that. I’ve known a dozen people in my life who tried to quit smoking (including myself), and even if there wasn’t something extra in the shisha pipes, the apple was smoked. I’m sure that would make someone’s inner craving for a cigarette come to life.

      I’m proud of myself for hiking that canyon too, while sick. I just made myself slow down, over and over. Slow down. Be the slowest person in the reserve, it’s ok. That helped.

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