An Amazing Desert Trek in Wadi Rum, Jordan

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For desert lovers Jordan is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The large variety of rocks, the dramatic landscape created by the Dead Sea Rift fault and the numerous amount of hidden water springs combine to an orgy of shapes and colors. In previous posts I’ve described treks in the vicinity of Petra, Rajef and the Dead Sea canyons. On this one we’re heading south, close to the border with Saudi Arabia: The protected area of Wadi Rum.

This area consists of steep inselbergs surrounded with red and yellow sand dunes. It is reached by a road that branches east from the Desert Highway, about half an hour drive from Aqaba. On that road you drive around fifteen more minutes to reach the visitors’ center and the entrance, where there’s entrance fee required, five Jordanian Dinar per person in 2011.

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Trekking in the Judean Desert

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‏The Judean desert is relatively a small desert, located in Israel between Jerusalem and Hebron to the west and the Dead Sea to the east. It’s a rain-shadow desert: The Judean hills on its west block the humid air that arrives from the Mediterranean Sea, and the decrease in elevation as you go east makes it drier and drier. The significant drop in Elevation, from a 1000 meters above sea level, to 425 meters below sea level, makes the landscape very steep, especially on the eastern side, the Fault Cliff. Around 30 deep canyons cut through this cliff forming a dramatic scenery.

This trek crosses the Judean Desert from the town of Arad to the lush oasis of Ein Gedi, and it is one of the best treks in Israel. This description is not for navigation, just to give the general idea of the route, while the navigation should be done by the assistance of a topographic map or with a guide.

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Trekking on the Israel National Trail

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Day 1: walk along the Hatzbani stream

The Israel National Trail is a marked path, crossing the entire length of Israel, from the Border with Lebanon in the north, to the Egyptian border in the south.

I offer a guided trek on the trail, devided into 3 sections. We hiked the first one, from Dan to Caesaria, during 11 days, During May 15th to the 25th 2011.

On the evening before, we gathered from all around, and retired to sleep in order to gain energy and rest towards the trek.

On the 1st day, our logistic-man Moshe took us to the starting point near Kibbutz Dan, where the trail begins. There were four participants to begin with, every one joined for a different period of time, including one, named Arie, that aimed to walk the complete section all the way to Caesaria! Moshe drove to kiryat Shemona to bring some fresh bread for breakfast, and we met him after walking around 7 km at the Snir nature reserve. We continued along the trail, and around 6 pm we were at the camping site, where we met a British participant who was to join us for the next four days of trekking.

The second day was relatively warm, but towards early afternoon we had time to enjoy a watermelon and a siesta in the shade of a tree..

Arriving late that evening to the campsite, dinner was already ready for us. This dinner was based on stew cooked in a Poyke pot, but it competed hard with the other dinners we had during our trek: Sole-fish schnitzels, St. Peter fish wrapped with lettuce and foil cooked in the fire, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Asian Casserole of vegetables and chicken, quality entrecote grilled on charcoal, and many more. Of course all the meals were escorted with nice wine..

Poyke pot, photo by Nathan Dascal

During that night we had some rain, but we woke up the next morning cheerful as ever for another day of hiking. This day we welcomed another British participant, that has just arrived late the night before. This guy preferred not to camp outdoors, so we had booked him nice rooms close to the campsites and drove him there after having dinner with us.

So the trek went on, we walked up Mt. Meron and down to the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, then up to Mt. Tabor and Nazareth, and down to Tzippory. This is where the last of the participants departed, and for the last two days and a half, there were only me, Yoel, the guide, and the persistant Arie left in the group. We decided to speed up, and covered the whole distance from Tzippory to Caesaria (87km) in two and a half days! When we arrived at the aqueduct, the trade-mark logo of Caesaria, we were very please and satisfied. Moshe met us with three cans of beer and drove us home..

Arie and Yoel at Caesaria aqueduct, after 11 days of trekking

The Next guided trek on the trail will take place during January 5th th to the 18th 2012. It will be on the southern section, crossing the Negev Desert from Sde Boker to Eilat.


Jordan – The Rajef Inselbergs

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Newsfeed July 2010

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Hi guys, here are the coming hikes and treks that are open to the public for registration:

Two treks to the canyons of Jordan:

July 9th – 11th: Three days of canyoning, including abseiling in Wadi Karak and Wadi Mujib. The canyons are rich with water and surprises.

Four days in the Canyons of Jordan, July 14th – 17th:

One day in the Wala Canyon, two days in Wadi Hasa and concluding with Ibn Hammad. No abseiling this time…

The Israel Trail northern section:

Details can be read in the May newsfeed, scroll down and find it…

This is the first time a long guided hike on the INT is offered! The northern section covers the Upper Galilee, the Lower Galilee, the Sea of Galilee and the Carmel Mountain and Coast.

A driver-cook will bring our gear to the campsite and prepare field cooking to be ready when we arrive. People who request can stay overnights in rooms, or as recommended – at the campsite. A combination of challenge and fun!

The Poyke Pot – All Inclusive in Field Cooking

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In the previus article regarding field cooking, I described a method that can be used when you are backpacking. Cooking food wrapped in aluminum foil on fire does not require carrying heavy gear on your back! This time I’ll introduce a method which is only suitable when you camp next to your vehicle: The Poyke Pot.

This pot originated in South Africa, but gathers popularity around the world. The pot is made from iron, it’s very heavy and you can get it in different sizes. The cooking is done on open fire, and can be done either outdoors or on a gas stove at home…

This is the classical recipe: Chicken with Vegtables…

Prepare fire and put the pot on it, make sure it is standing stable! Open a bottle of fine dry red wine and enjoy a glass of wine.

Put a little amount of oil, once the pot is hot add the chicken and stir untill it is roasted from all sides.

Add onions, garlic, red peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsley, tomatoes, champignon, and whatever you desire.

Add half a bottle of white wine, some soy sauce, spices.

Cook on small fire for an hour, stir from time to time, drink red wine to let the time pass pleasantly. 

When the stew is ready remove the pot from the fire carefully, and enjoy your meal!

This recipe can be done alternatively with lamb or veal.

When guiding Ellen Botnick in the Judean Desert last year, she asked me to prepare a vegetarian stew. She actually liked it and said I should put the recipe on the blog. Since I don’t fancy having my signature over a vegetarian recipe I hereby dedicate it to Ellen…

The idea is the same, only without the chicken. You might consider adding portobellos for the taste.

The Negev Desert – a Trekking Paradise / The East Ramon Trek

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Makhtesh Katan (Small Crater)

About half of the area of Israel is Desert. There are two deserts in the country: The small one, the Judean Desert, is created by the mountain ridge of the Judean Hills causing a rainshadow effect:  The mountains block the humidity carried from the Mediterranean Sea and reduce the rainfall to a 1/8th.  The Judean Desert, however small in size, is very dramatic and rich with its landscapes, its natural and human history.

The Negev desert is the main desert of Israel, it covers all of the southern half of the country, and it is part of the global strips of deserts, that spread around the 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.

The Negev is mostly a rocky desert, although you can find some sand dunes on its north-west and in small locations of its center and east. The annual rainfall drops as you go south: In Be’er Sheva, the northern edge of the desert, you get around 200 mm. In Mitzpe Ramon around 130 mm and around the Eilat Mountains only 25 mm in average.

The Ashosh basin in the southern Negev, and Mt. Makhbir

 The Negev is a paradise for hikers: From very short hikes, 2-3 hours long, to 4-5 days of hikng, or even more. If you are trekking the Israel National Trail (INT), then you walk at least two and a half weeks in the Negev! The best seasons for hiking in the Negev are autumn, winter and early spring. During the summer, it is possible to hike early in the morning or in the afternoon, finding a nice shade around noon to keep away from the heat.  In that seaon you rather hike in the more elevated regions, rather than around the boiling rift valley, and you must carry a decent amount of water!

Since we are in the beginning of the best hiking seaon of the Negev, I will post some ideas for some cool hiking trails, and here comes the first: 

The East Ramon Trek

This trek begins in Mitzpe Ramon on the west, in altitude of over 900 meters above sea level, and ends in Sappir, in the Arava valley, around sea level. You can easily transport yourself to and from the hike with public busses.

sunset at Ramon makhtesh

Beginning the trek at the Visitors’ Center, operated by the Parks and Reserves Authority (NPA), you can get oriented and collect more and updated information. You can also buy here a topographic map, although in Hebrew, but the rangers can help showing you the trail on the map and give you some hints.

The Makhtesh looks like a crater, and sometimes reffered to as one, but actually it is something different. You might simplify it and call it an “erosivic crater”. This phenomenon is  unique to Israel and Sinai,  so the geological term comes from Hebrew, meaning a traditional grinding vessel.

The makhteshim (plural…) are created by a very complex sequence of geological processes. To put it in a nutshell, we can determine three stages: 1: Tectonic forces curve ancient “sandwich” layers of limestone, sandstone and limestone, creating an anticline; 2:Ancient rivers shave the whole region, exposing the middle layer of sandstone (imagine an orange that its cap has been removed, exposing the juicy body); 3:lifting of the region as a side effect of the Dead Sea Rift, and bending the flat shaved surface towards the east, causing the erosivic sandstone drift towards the rift, leaving the less erosivic limestone behind (imagination, again: a bucket filled with sand is lifted and diverted, the sand falls leaving the plastic bucket behind).

Now, after standing impressed by the beauty and complexity, it is time to leave civilization behind for the next few days.. We will follow the INT throughout the trek, with its orange-blue-white markings. The first day will be dedicated to crossing the makhtesh to the other edge, on our way we will climb to the “Ramon Tooth” (ignious ancient rocks) and visit the Amonite Wall, where you can find fossils of those creatures that populated the planet during the reign of the dinosaurs, and vanished  with them 65 millions of years ago. We will camp in the Gevanim dry bed, notice that you must camp in the vicinity of the official night camp of the NPA, since we are in a nature reserve. Distance of walking: 15 km.

Nekarot dry river bed

The second day will find us walking up the Saharonim cliff, actually the southrn edge of the Makhtesh. From the top of the ridge, there is a beautiful view of the southern Negev, from the Egyptian border beyond Mt. Karkom on the west, to the Edom mountains of Jordan on the east. going down the cliff we walk through th Nekarot “Horseshue”, where the dry wadi Nekarot makes an omega into the cliffs of the Makhtesh, creating a nice gorge. Out of the horseshue, we ascend steeply to the Karbolet Hareirim Ridge (meaning rooster’s comb) for a beatiful view of the Makhtesh and of the next sections of the hike. After walking on a flat hamada (stoney surface) we cross Wadi Ma’ok dry bed, where one can find lots of shade under the acacia trees, a good place to rest and have lunch, and a noon siesta. Make sure you wake up at least two and a half hours before darkness! Continuing on the trail, we have some climbing to do, reaching a saddle where you can find some more amonites. Descending on its eastern side, you soon reach a beautiful dry fall, the path bypasses comfortably. At its foot there is a frenzy of curving of the rock layers, this is known as the “Crazy Wall”. The next dry bed coming  and joining from the north is significant, because of the very small but permanent spring Ein Geled (“the spring of the leather”) which hides there, an attraction for animals and emergency water for desperate hikers. To reach it go up the bed for some 300 meters following a white marking. Back on the main path, a kilometer and a half away, is another impressive dry fall, which the trail bypasses on its right. Under the fall there is a pothole, occassionally filled with water after a decent flashflood, creating a  refreshing pool. Unfortunately, this pool is often dry… The campsite is 500 meters away, a place to rest after walking 16 km today! Look under large tamarisk bushes in the main Nekarot wadi, which we just reached, for bottles of water kindly left for you by hikers, rangers and jeepers. When you sleep, protect your food from the cheaky wolves that tend to grab your bags away and look inside for yummies, you might waste a meaningful amount of time looking for them in the morning, and finding them a little torn… or not finding them at all!

Day three, rise and shine!

The last day of the trek, we go down the Nekarot dry bed, then climbing to Mt. Yahav for a rewarding view (and cellphone signal!). Going down the trail in a most beautiful gorge , opening up to a magical valley of vanilla-chocolate ice cream,  represented by the combination of the chalk and flint rocks. Some lone hills decorate the vally, remainders of the time before the young erosion designed this valley. The number of acacia trees rise, our sign to look for the ascending path  the Tzvira and Eshborn cracks. These are part of the erosion process, a canyon in creation! A stunning view! On with the trail that winds around some more chalk & flint ice cream, passing an ancient caldera, a real volcanic crater. You can define the ancient crater only by tracing the volcanic rocks you pass by. A volcanic dyke next to a saddle sign the end of the trek: Once on the saddle appears the village of Sappir, and after walking 19 km, we’re back in civilization… Have a cold beer at the grocery, and look for the bus on the main Arava highway!

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