Day 20: Hiking in Burbeita & Afra Canyons
Trip Start May 14, 2008
42Trip End Jun 17, 2008
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As we drive north there are gradual changes in the landscape, from dramatic high mountains to gently rolling hills.We see farming areas with orchards of apples and apricots. We pass goats and sheep. In the towns we pass through we see kids going to school, with the boys wearing western clothing and girls wearing headdresses. As we see all these changes, I get the idea of taking a photo every 5 minutes of whatever happens to be in my field of view, while the car is moving. I want to remember this as a technique in our future travels as well. We learn that education until the age of 18 is compulsory; if a child does not attend; the parents have to pay a fine
We stop at an overlook and see the Dana Reserve where there is a lot of wildlife such as ibex and antelope. Ali points to the Wadi Ruweir where we were originally scheduled to go and said that the water is very low and it would be very hot walking there. Instead we are going to two canyons that have lots of water. The first has cold water, the second has hot water. We have never experienced this and we're looking forward to our hike with anticipation.
The small road to the canyon off the Kings Way Road is not marked. Ali parks near a farmers shed and a stream. The only way you can get to this place is with someone who knows it. As we are to see shortly, Ali knows the canyon intimately and will tell us at different spots where to put our feet and how to traverse or balance with our arms and legs. We are in good hands.
Before setting off, we pack the backpack with 2 - 1 ½ liter bottles of water, fruits, my purse which wrapped in a Ziploc bag, a towel, and one camera wrapped in four Ziplocs. All of this is placed in two large garbage size plastic bags within the backpack. We had been told to be prepared to be very wet and we took that advice in earnest. Ali is carrying our snacks and lunch. We learn that Ali had spent sixteen years in the Jordanian army and reached the rank of major
Within minutes we come to our first 20 foot waterfall; I am not exaggerating! We watch Ali go down it like riding a children's slide and then swim to where you can stand. I take a deep breath and remember today's intention: calmness, receptivity and vibrancy. We smile with excitement and with a little bit of nerve, GO FOR IT. What FUN! Our next waterfall is a little shorter and we watch Ali DIVE in! Harvey pauses, deciding whether to dive or slide down, and before I know it, he dove in! He pops out of the water and waits for me as I slide down on my bum. With my backpack on, I swim over to him and then we both swim to our left around a large boulder avoiding the current that is going to the right into another stream. Around the corner, we find Ali waiting for us. We wonder how the company had figured out that these waterfalls are safe to jump. Ali explains that before he started guiding they avoided these. However, he first tried them by being let down a rope very slowly. Once he had scouted the terrain he felt comfortable jumping and sliding down. He relates some stories about the challenges of guiding tourists who are out of shape. Apparently they now screen tourists before sending us on this trip.
The challenges come one after another. A dry waterfall, where we slide down a large boulder. Water, sometimes waist or chest height, discovering a stretch of boulders that we have to make our way through. Or the current is so strong that we have to hold on to the canyon walls, straddle a large boulder and slide down with the water flow to the next level
We take a break and Ali brings out croissants filled with chocolate, mango juice, marshmallow cookies covered in chocolate. Mmmm.
It is at this point that we enter into the second canyon with the hot water. Ali takes us to an area that is just like a Jacuzzi, with the addition of a small waterfall that pounds on your back. It really is HOT water! But isn't that cool? We wish we could have taken more photos! We did take out the camera in some areas. Today, I decide to get a point and shoot, waterproof camera; even if doesn't shoot in a RAW format, it's better to get a photo than no photo. More new gadgets to put in the travel bag! This hike is a fantastic experience! It is such a blast - so much FUN!
It is now late afternoon and Ali needs to get us to the Jordan/Israel border crossing before 8 PM when it closes. The drive back to Eilat is on a parallel road to route 90 that we drove from Ein Gedi to Eilat - just on the other side of the valley. There are periodic check-points where we are asked for our passports. We note observations towers watching the border.
At our last checkpoint, the guards are taking a long time with the car ahead of us. One of the senior guards recognizes Ali and told the other guards that he would take care of our car
We pay our departure tax and have the Jordanian stamp added to our passports. The guards seemed very relaxed and friendly. We walk through no man's land into the entrance gate for Israel and go through security and passport control. We wait for our pick up from Desert Eco Tours, expecting the jeep that had taken us here to the border. We want to call Desert Eco Tours but our cell phone is with our luggage. We talk to someone and within a few minutes she walks up to us and tells us that she has called Desert Eco Tours for us and that someone is on the way. A taxi drives up and some other people start getting into it. The driver calls out my name and we jump up like we have won the lottery! The driver doesn't know where the hotel is on the grounds of Kibbutz Eilat so he calls his base and he stays with us until we are sure we are the reception desk. Harvey gives him a nice tip and says ...you were really nice and I really appreciate it...are you sure you are Israeli? They both joke
While checking in at the Kibbutz, the young lady at reception helps us out with ordering a pizza and calling Desert Eco Tours to find out our pick up time in the morning. She is watching NCIS in English with Hebrew subtitles. She answers the phone, jokes about having trouble solving the crimes and how tough her job is. We eat our pizza while watching NCIS with her. We then go to our room and Harvey bops out again to ask her where we should expect to be picked up and gets the information. Harvey says "you know everything" and she responds cutely, "that's my job!" Kibbutz Eilat is a "country" lodging that is a quiet place from the 60's. It's clean, quiet, simple and friendly. The landscaped grounds are much like a college campus. It isn't near anything so it is really only practical for those who have a car. It was perfect for us on this evening.
We have just ended our 3 ½ day Jordan tour coordinated by Desert Eco Tours. At the onset, I had expressed concern that we would not have an Israeli guide with us the entire time. With hindsight, I now have more understanding that that was an emotional security blanket, and that the Jordanian people are welcoming and friendly
Click here for today's photos!