No End In Sight – Hiking from Wadi Dana to Feynan, Jordan

Vast, echoing mountains, sandstone gorges, an endless, deserted path, and me… (as wellFeynan,-Jordan as other bloggers from Canada, Mexico, and the US, a guide, and two reps from Tourism Jordan, but that doesn’t sound as good). Hiking the 14 km from Wadi Dana to Feynan, Jordan was one of the most difficult treks of my life. It’s not that 14 km is that difficult under normal standards, but I was battling a cold and strep throat. I hadn’t slept in days and coughing through the night was as common as taking a breath. The dry, windy desert played its role like a fiddle too, not to mention the 40 C temperatures. Ashamed and defeated, I did make it to Feynan but it wasn’t without its trials. Would you have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hike through one of the most beautiful places in the world because you were sick? You might change your mind after I share my story, regardless of your standpoint.

Feynan, Jordan HikeWe started our hike at the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature reserve. The first part of the hike winded downhill with lots of loose rocks. I thought about what it would be like to be a mountain goat who lived its life on the side of this intense mountain, but it’s not a place to find yourself lost in thought so I tried to focus on the steps ahead.

After 45 minutes of hiking, I made it to the bottom of the first hill. The hike still seemed doable but I already noticed that my nose was running more, my throat was parched, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to breath. The entire trip was starting to feel like I was on the tv show Biggest Loser. 

Feynan, Jordan Hike

The valley walk began…. I didn’t want to be one of those complainers who needed to stop every ten minutes, especially since we were only 45 minutes into a 5 hour hike so I distracted myself. It was easy. Just look around.

Feynan, Jordan HikeFeynan, Jordan Hike

Feynan, Jordan Hike

Feynan, Jordan HikeI successfully hiked for 4 hours and I took in every second of it. I led the group. I was awestruck. Photos and video can’t do it justice. Lone trees pushed up from the desert floor like little miracles, their stark greens appearing even more vivid against the pale sand. Mountains created a wall around us; their lines telling the story of time.

Do you remember that I said it was a 5 hour hike? I may have successfully hiked for 4 hours, but I hiked the final hour very, very unsuccessfully. About an hour away from Feynan Eco Lodge, I had to speak up. I was struggling to breath. My nose was stuffed and every time I tried to take a deep breath, I started a fit of coughing. If I didn’t do something soon, I was going to pass out.

Then, I started thinking… what if I did pass out? It plagued my mind and occupied it in a bad way. Someone would have to carry me out. We couldn’t rest in the open desert without shade. We couldn’t call for a truck to come and get me; it was impassable. I would get heat stroke on top of everything else and I was putting others at risk as well. I had to tell the guide.

Feynan, Jordan HikeOur guide, Ibrahim Al Wahash, lived up to his name, “father of many”. He asked what was wrong and I told him that I was stuffed up and couldn’t breath. He fell back and walked with me, allowing someone else to lead the way along the path. He took my bag, later carried by one of the tourism reps, and gave me water while explaining that shade was not far. He distracted me by talking about his children and family. When we did arrive to a saving tree, he poured water into my hands and told me to sniff it up; he literally wanted me to sniff the water up my nose. Hesitantly, I did it. It burned and poured out the first time. I was embarrassed with water coming out of my nose and dripping all over my face. No one looked at me in an attempt to make me feel better. He asked me to do it two more times. Although I hated it and felt like I was drowning, it provided relief. I could breath through my nose again. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough to get to the hotel but it was a start.

After many “it’s just around the corner” replies, we reached a water basin. (A  Bedouin camp was near by and it was their water supply as far as I could tell.)  Ibrahim asked one of the others to wet my scarf. He said, “It’s only 10 minutes away but it might take a little longer because you’re exhausted. Rest and put the water on your face and then we’ll finish up.” Hearing that it was actually just around the corner was the encouragement that I needed to put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

Lower grounds lay next to us. I could see how people claimed that water appeared in the desert. A mirage of water flowed next to me as I neared the end of my journey.

Feynan, Jordan HikeDeep in the heart of the mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve, at the end of my rugged trek, an idyllic lodge rested in the magnificent Wadi Feynan. I had arrived. I might survive after all. Oh the thought of air-conditioning and ice cold water; it was enough to make me pick up the pace. I had “hit the wall”, as runners say, long before that but visions of ice cold water kept me going.

Entering the building, I realized that it was an eco-lodge and air conditioning and ice didn’t exist. I’m not going to say that I regret the hike because that would be a total lie. Never in my life have I experienced such depth and contrast all in one place. At that moment though, all I wanted to do was cry.  My heart sank and the beauty that surrounded me had become invisible.

Thankfully, I have photos to remember my journey from Wadi Dana to Feynan and if I didn’t experience it I would never have believed that it existed.

I’m here; I’m starting to get better; and although unbearably comfortable at time, I made it. Would you have done the same?

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74 thoughts on “No End In Sight – Hiking from Wadi Dana to Feynan, Jordan

  1. Why yes I would. Presently I’d settle for the gift of being able to navigate steps myself unaided. This story, your gift today, has deeply moved me in many ways. Blessings on your day. The pictures are stunning!

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  2. Good for you – sticking it out! Hell yes, I would have done the same. An opportunity of a life time cannot be missed even for a cold – a very bad one at that. Feel better! Can’t wait to hear about the rest!!

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  3. Wow…what a journey. So hard…glad you got through it! I’m sure you will be remembering this and pondering it for a long time to come.

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  4. Wow – you really are a ‘trooper!’ that is incredible! I think you’re very smart and compassionate to have thought about how your situation would have affected others. You are one tough cookie! 🙂 Keep on truckin’ on! 🙂

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  5. Oh Leslie, I admire you so much! I’ve been to Jordan but I missed out on this hike! Your pictures are beautiful and stunning. What an experience. I’m so sorry you were so sick. I’m glad your guide took good care of you at the end. Take care now and get completely better. 🙂

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      • I have not changed anything. I loaded my blog through Chrome and Explorer and it loaded fine after a few seconds. You’re the first to say something about the site being slow loading.

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          • Actually, Lesley, you’ve opened a line of inquiry for me. I wondered how you’re able to get your words and pictures out. You’ve been to some very remote places–like now–and I wondered if you use a satellite phone/card or just hope there’s wi-fi hotspot wherever you rest for the night.

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          • I use wi-fi, which is why I haven’t been posting or responding as much the last 10 days. We had wi-fi on the bus that we’ve been using on this trip so I’ve had access most days but not always.

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  6. You shouldn’t have felt ashamed and defeated, look at what you were dealing with, and look at what you did!!!! Not many would have gone through with it, they would have whined, complained, and gotten out of it. And based on the pictures you shared, yeah, it sure looks like it was worth it too! Be proud of yourself!!! I’d like to think I’d have braved the journey as well, because I’d rather not look back on it later and wished I had. ❤

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  7. Wonderful account of a beautiful trek under less-than-optimum conditions, Lesley. Your perseverance is as commendable as your relentless curiosity. Thanks for another superb entry. Be careful out there!

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  8. Omg! Its so beautiful! I’m glad you are starting to feel better 🙂
    I am supposed to be in Feynan this month for work and am leaving for Jordan on the 20th. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous and you are right I wouldnt have missed it even if I got sick 😄 Probably would have complained waaayy too much but still would have gone through with it 🙂
    Beautiful account with just breathtaking pictures! 🙂

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  9. Absolutely incredible. Compared to what I see out my window, it’s a whole other planet! Reminds me almost of Tattooine from Star Wars. Or an Indiana Jones movie. Just great pics & story.

    I HATE strep throat…HATE HATE HATE it! Awful stuff! I’ve had it twice. The first time was easily the worst week of my life.

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    • Get ready for the Indiana Jones stuff with my Petra post 🙂

      As for strep throat, it’s miserable and traveling with it is even worse! I hope you never get it again.

      Have a great weekend,

      Lesley

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  10. Lesley! You are so close to Aqaba, and you HAVE to go snorkeling in the Red Sea! There is a strip of pristine beach south of the city center and north of the Saudi border that has coral reefs with beautiful sights just knee deep from the shore. Look for a pier and jump in! You won’t be disappointed!

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  11. When I was in India I became extremely ill with Delhi Belly. Despite the many precautions I took, I had tummy troubles nearly the whole time, but they were manageable and not too bad. Not the case this time, however. We were in Calcutta, and I couldn’t even dream of leaving the hotel. Feverish, shaky, and I couldn’t keep anything down. AND it was 106 degrees. So I decided to stay at the hotel. I missed seeing the Kali Temple and all the other sights. I regret so much that I didn’t see them, but at the same time, I would have been a horrible burden to the group and may have prolonged my illness by pushing too hard, and we still were going to Nepal. I think when you are traveling you have to make calls like that and it is so hard. I hate missing out on anything, but in this instance I knew my limits. I am glad you were able to complete your adventure.

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  12. So glad you are getting better! The trek was worth it, no way I could do this with my heart though… sucks. The water up your nose makes sense, glad it helped. Get well!

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  13. Glad you are starting to feel better – that would have been a very tough journey! No shame in asking for help though – people get sick. I recently had the stomach flu on a road trip to California. I tried to keep going and keep on seeing the sights. It was hard, but I’m glad I did it.

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  14. I am glad you survived your amazing journey… I am not sure if I would be up to it but if I said I was going to complete the journey then I wouldnt have backed out I would have slowed down and put one foot in front of the other and focused to continue… Rest up and get well quickly…

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  15. After just coming back from Jordan, I understand what you did fully. The beauty of the place is enough to push you to the limits of your comfort zone. We drove 800km leaving caution to the wind and accepting the fact that we may/will get lost in the pitch black mountain roads. In the end, like you very well know, it’s all worth it.

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  16. hope you feel better soon Lesley! Such a shame, on such an incredible trip… but part of life’s adventure, right? You may remember, my trek in Peru. Salkantay trail: it was the hardest thing I’ve EVER done! I think I posted with Bucket List for that one? Each step was painful for the last 2 hours of my 13 hr trek… and I found out 2 months later, that I had in fact torn my meniscus. That said, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Would I have done the same… yes. And you are a strong woman, so you did too! 🙂 Way to go friend.

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  17. My son and I battled sinus infections this week, and I thought we were doing well making it through school and work. Congrats to you and your endurance on your journey. Your photos, as usual, are beautiful! The eco lodge looks like a well-crafted sandcastle. I hope you feel better! ~ Rebecca

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  18. You did it! That was quite an accomplishment – one that I’m sure in the same circumstances I would have felt was beyond me but you persevered and conquered! I would have been so grateful for such a good guide as well- he took good care of you.

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  19. I probably would have skipped the trip. Strep throat is no fun and strenuous activity usually exacerbates the symptoms. That being said, I can understand not wanting to miss out on Jordan and all the beautiful sights to see. I’ve only ever gotten sick once on a trip once (food poisoning) and well I don’t know about you, but the last thing on my mind was sight-seeing! I was in Berlin and my companions had suffered the same thing as well (it was definitely the restaurant we were at). We were all nauseous, weak, and so we took a day off and just napped the day away at the hostel. Might have missed out on a day discovering Berlin but my body thanked me later!

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  20. I would like to think I could do it but likely not fit enough to. Certainly beautiful! You’re a trooper. As you implied, in time you’ll likely remember only the good parts and beauty. Take care!

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  21. Lesley, I know you haven’t had time to answer my first question yet, but since I’m living vicariously through you I’m trying to discover whether I can make that real someday. I’ve heard that Israel is very handicapped-accessible, but what about neighboring countries?

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    • I noticed yesterday that some places are not handicapped-accessible, but I’m sure if you planned carefully with a tour guide you could make it a reality. I’m not sure if solo travel would be advised if it needs to be handicapped-accessible though. Most of Jordan is filled with hills and rocky passes.

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      • Yep! It’s those rocky passes and having to chug along uphill that raised the question now. I so want to see Petra for myself. Of course, the rest of Jordan is beautiful, but Petra is definitely the crown jewel.

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  22. Great stamina, but you might have fared better with your head and the back of your neck in some shade. I always had to wear a hat with a wide brim when in the sun. It stood me in good stead. Only forgot once; like you, ended up prostrate and with someone’s spare shirt draped round my head and shoulders . Great pictures. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  23. Pingback: I Know This Feeling! | Sassi Italy Tours

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