The Wadi Hasa in Jordan provided an unforgettable trek during my tenure abroad and proved a fitting end for a long-time friend.
About 30 minutes ago, I returned from a 2-day trip to Wadi Hasa, which is a river canyon about two hours south of Amman near Kerak, home to the most impressive crusading period castle in Jordan; I find myself compelled to provide the tale of the epic war between myself and the Wadi – or perhaps Jordan – and give mourning and honor to a casualty of struggle.
Venturing out in the early Saturday morning, having prepared for a weekend of leisurely canyon trekking, little did my fateful companions know of what awaited them to the south of Jordan; nor did I, with camera and climbing shoes in hand, fathom what was to befall myself that very day! Though the events along the voyage to the wadi were less than notable, the moment of arrival played portentous to the looming war. Setting up just outside the entrance point to the Wadi, protective armor was passed out to the party per election by each member; knee pads were selected by all but none opted for the life-preservers offered. The river, seemingly innocuous at a mere few feet across and perhaps a pair of feet in dept, gaily poured along the rock and down the smooth, steep incline by which we would commence the journey. Our guide, Aboud (wearing the sole life-preserver), threw himself to the current, floating his pack first down the incline where it plummeted over the edge and into the landing. With great anticipation and a sense of adventure, I set my pack adrift as well and followed him into the water after he had cleared the landing. Ten feet down the slide my feet plunged into the water and I was carried but away from the landing by the current. Surfacing, my hand flew to my head where once had been my trusty cap and sunglasses! Unthinkingly, I had worn the pair onto the slide, neglecting to pause for a moment’s consideration of, well, physics. Though the hat surfaced and I quickly recovered it, the glasses were nowhere to be seen. While the remainder of the group flew down the slide into the murky deep, I struggled to find my Oakleys in the deep and wide pool of perhaps 15-20 square yards and better than 2 in depth. Waiting patiently, I struggled to located the glasses for some 10 minutes to no avail, save a momentary glimpse which could not be capitalized upon and succeeded in contributing to my misery. Giving up and sacrificing the eye-ware to stupidity and caselessness, I proceeded out of the pool. Lo! Feeling a fleeting brushing against my leg, I lunged into the water and pulled forth from the abyss my sunglasses! With a mighty celebration, I rejoined my companions and we proceeded down the river with a threat of non-communication from Sara for as long as I persisted in keeping my sunglasses anywhere other than in my bag; after a few minutes of pridefulness, they disappeared into the backpack.
After a short while trekking through water varying in depth from a few inches above my ankles to a few above my head, we arrived at a deep water pool with a glorious overhang certainly intended specifically for bouldering. The party paused to rest and enjoy the warm pond – the water along the course of the river being almost a lukewarm bath temperature – for a spell and my climbing shoes flew to my feet and I to the overhang. Failing miserably in my first many approaches, I refused to give up so long as my companions relaxed around the pool. After a quarter hour, my companions questioned my aim and seemed confused by my diligence; after another quarter they saw me dangling from fingertips and toes having mastered the rock.
We packed and moved along, again wading and swimming, confronted by a plethora of obstacles ranging from unseen boulders under the water to vicious cattails, recalling scenes from a Rambo movie (perhaps lacking a few explosion) as the adventures floated through portions with naught but head and pack projecting from the stream. At one crossing of a bed of silt, one adventurer was nearly doused in the slick, fine mud courtesy of a misstep, but the river did not claim a victim here, despite great efforts to wrench the shoe from my very foot! A pleasant walk later, the canyon opened into a wider area and the group made rest there. Alas, a single glance at my pack on the ground revealed that one of my climbing shoes was no longer attached. Back into the jungle I proceeded, recounting my steps until I returned to the silt-bed, marking that place as my farthest point back along the track, due to the annoyance of crossing it twice again. Again, just as I resigned my loss to the river, I spied my shoe perched upon a reed and waiting for me: victory number three.
Not long after this and the accompanied vow to keep all things in my bag at all times, the crux of the tale occurred, but will be shared only at the conclusion, for all this is but an explanation around that event.
A while later, we paused to dine and recuperate on a large rock about 7 feet over another deep pool; all had a merry time of leaping into the calm waters below before we continued on our way. With all of my gear contently stowed inside the pack, I proceeded onward, bounding in celebration from rock to rock as we traversed a stretch of dry land. Without warning, my right foot suddenly dropped from a stable rock and I became lodged at the knee between two boulders and pitched forward suspended a yard above the ground by nothing more than my grotesquely angled knee. Most thankfully, my companions rushed to my rescue, dragging my helpless body back above my knee as I struggled to cast off my weighted pack. After a minute or two of adrenaline-infused systems checking and extricating my leg from its trap, I found myself most thankfully unharmed, save for minor abrasions and a lightly torn shirt. The trek limped on.
The last stop for the first day was spent at a point where a flowing hot spring fed into the main stream, relaxing and consuming the remainder of our afternoon snacks and food. The waters were refreshing and reminiscent of a warm whirlpool, bounding down the worn rocks which happily provided seating fit for the most noble of nobles. The earlier tests were easily forgotten for a time as Circe babbled around us.
The campsite sprawled across a sandy, open terrace above the river and we dined as heroes on lahme (lamb) and djaj (chicken) roasted on the playful fire; the night closed in around us with clouds gently obscuring the stars and moon in the heavens. In wandering during the night, an evening companion, a pint-sized brown scorpion, put forth a mighty display of pride and dominion when he raised up his frightening weapons before allowing restraint to carry him down into his earthen lair. Some time later, I forgot where I was as a minor cloudburst opened over the relaxing company, driving us into the tents for the remainder of the night. The giant raindrops and their seemingly impossible appearance during the dry season recalled to me a cooler version of those amazing August nights in Arizona when the clouds open upon the over-dry Phonexians. When we looked to the east at dawn, the sun surmounted canyon wall and emerged into the immaculately clear morning sky. We took to the ropes.
The campsite sits specifically next to a gorgeous waterfall of some 25-30 feet in a narrow crack down which the river continues beyond the planned hiking route; we repelled through the waterfall for much of the morning before packing the camp and making our way out from the wadi. All had triumphed over nature in the end, despite the best efforts of scrapes and cuts from vicious rocks or an errant step.
As for the point of this tale, I must return to the aforementioned battle and the casualty incurred. As mentioned, I vowed that all extraneous materials would be left in the pack, and most certainly all would be such at any point of deep-water submersion. Thinking on the matter as we approached a small slide, I paused to remove my cap and secure it in my pack, but elected not to do so, since I thought the slide short and the water, calm. This once-white-and-maroon hat and I have travelled for the past three years across eight countries on four continents and totaling hours innumerable and it had taken on a life of its own – faded from the Arizona sun, discolored from the dirt and campfire smoke of many camping trips, well-layered in the salt of my sweat and maintaining an aroma of cigar, nature and airport. More than one woman had threatened to seize upon this hat and subject it to soap and sponge, but we had survived all such threats and attempts. I pitched into the water with hat in hand and was immediate sucked along by an unanticipated current, with my hand running roughly into a wall in the process and my grip releasing my trusty hat. When I came to the surface with an ironic laugh, I handed my bag down the line and struggled back in search of my hat. Being the fantastic swimmer that I am certainly not, I found myself unable to fight the current enough to search at the place the hat would have been stuck and resigned my worthy companion to the victor: Wadi Hasa. My hat had long been my faithful companion to that point and somehow, losing such a friend to the inspirational wadi and to Jordan seems a much more fitting end than mere resignation or destruction by the hand of some well-intentioned woman stealing and attempting to ‘clean’ my amazing cap.
Such concludes the saga of my Arizona State hat; to a fitting place you have gone, my friend, and I shall long cherish the memories we have shared.
To you I raise my glass: