Ibex, Crusades and Wadis...
Dead Sea Travel Blog› entry 4 of 15 › view all entries
Feeling like veterans now, today started perfectly. We departed the Mariam and retraced yesterdayâs path to the Dead Sea through
But before the hike would begin there was the usual plague of issues. We had reserved our guide for 8JD each, but at the center we were informed there is a three-person minimum (and taxes), so it wound up costing us 30JD instead of 16. Of course we werenât terribly surprised, paid up and pressed on.
The Ibex Trail begins with a respectable climb, but soon levels out for the balance. You get some nice views of the
Our hike concluded at a ranger station, where Makmoud phoned for someone to come pick us up and started brewing tea. We sat in a majilis they had set up in the station and shared a great chat around
Soon we were retrieved by truck and deposited back at the center, where we said our goodbyes. It was refreshing to be away from the airport and all of the groveling for tips. I asked if I was allowed to give Makmoud a tip and he graciously responded âonly if you would like toâ.
Now we pushed forward to Karak to visit what is touted as the worldâs best preserved Crusader castle.
The climb was once again twisty with steep drop offs, another dramatically beautiful landscape. Before long a peak appeared with a large fortification embedded, immediately identified by both of us as
We jumped out and headed towards the square to score some lunch.
Then onto the castle, where we plunked down one dinar to enter. The physical presence of
We spent several hours wandering around Karak, utterly fascinated with exploring all the nooks and crannies. The slightest opening could lead into an expansive underground passage with vaulted archways. Fortunately Mark & I were both packing our headlamps and we could leave most of the others behind as we plumbed Karakâs depths. Our chief regret was that we werenât ten years old again and running about with plastic swords!
Of course another regret was the lack of signage informing you about all these places.
Assuming Karak would be our last brush with civilization, we entered a market to stock up on food supplies. I was only looking for some crackers to serve as emergency snacks (Iâm diabetic), but it was impossible to pin down anything that wasnât chock full of sugar. In fact, when we entered the grocer pressed a small piece of candy on each of us. Fortunately Mark whispered âjust take itâ to end my futile attempt to beg off - much easier to accept and slide Mark the treat later. I abandoned the quest for sugar-free snacks when I saw some roasted peanuts for sale, so a happy ending after all.
We pushed off from Karak late afternoon and continued south on the Kingâs Highway to the Dana Nature Reserve (pronounced âdonnaâ, as I learned from Makmoud). The drive was pleasant, curving through mountain scenery and a few villages. Though things seemed remote, they were positively metropolitan compared to the
This tiny hamlet which sits on a ledge looking down into Wadi Dana had been deserted by the late 1980âs, but an effort to resuscitate the village with sustainable tourism has been heralded as a vibrant success story. We were excited to witness the recovery, but real life is a bit sobering. Most of the ancient Ottoman huts are literally in ruins and those which are inhabited could all use some serious repair.
But we would have to take a closer look tomorrow, for it was getting dark and we had to register at the crown jewel of the revitalization enterprise, the Dana Guest House. The Guest house sits right next to the village and is a fabulous piece of minimalist architecture. Our room had a balcony peering down into the depths of Wadi Dana and the setting is a perfect description of peace. If I had any stress before, it instantly evaporated once I sat on my porch and absorbed the view and quiet. We enjoyed a buffet dinner with the other guests upstairs and then broke out the cards to begin the Spite & Malice championship for Dana on our balcony. Mark took the lead three games to one before we turned in and I enjoyed one of the most restful nights of my life.