The mountains formed a lace of interlocking patterns behind us. The village we had left two hours ago was distant and tiny, a reassurance to how far we had walked. Thick bushes of red oleander carpeted the valley floor. As we pushed our way through the greenery, brushing against flowers which burned with the late afternoon sun and breathing in air fragranced with the scent of Artemisia- I had one unrealistic wish- let this walk go on forever.
We had left Amman fairly early after breakfast hoping to reach Dana village by at least 11 am. Delayed by some traffic and more by the beauty of King’s Highway which beckoned us to stop every 45 minutes, we ultimately reached Dana around 1 pm. Re-packing our backpacks and stocking on water, we ultimately started off at the impractical hour of 1:30 pm. The hike could take up to 7 hours but also as less as 4 and a half. With fingers crossed we set off at a steady march.
We walked to the edge of the village where the trail started; a steep crumbly path that winded down the mountain towards the floor of the valley. A grand vista of interlocking mountains opening into the red plains of Wadi Araba greeted us at the start; an awe-inspiring view which gave us a hint of the beauty awaiting us and the journey to be taken. Khalid, our Bedouin guide waved his hand towards the distant vista, tracing his finger through the valley floor indicating the path that we would walk in the next few hours.
Starting late meant that other walkers were far ahead in the trail. We were the only hikers in sight and selfishly hugged the wild beauty to ourselves. The first one and a half hours were on a slippery slope which claimed attention on the road. After that we reached a ledge that bordered the mountains on the left hand side, allowing a grand view of the cliffs on the right which rose parallel- steep and rusty red. Khalid stopped to point out the valley floor to us- it appeared a velvety purple-red- spring had carpeted the rocks thick with red oleander.
Walking steadily down to the valley floor.
Other wild flowers sprung in lush richness. Sprigs of yellow, pale lavender and bright green bordered our path. Khalid stopped to break off a few green twigs and crushed them between his fingers before dropping the pieces on to our palms. Heady scent cruised through our senses. ‘Artemisia’, said Khalid.
Another two hours on the ledge and we reached the valley floor. The purple red carpet of oleander bushes was now bordering our way. Tall as humans, drooping with blossoms, the wild forest burst with an unmanicured lushness. Our walk took us through the pebbly valley floor which was possibly a dry river bed with streaks of streams coursing through it in the dry season. Soon a jungle of bamboo like tall grasses interlaced with the oleander to form a riot of rich green and red. The sun was now hanging further towards the west and everything seemed tinged with a coppery glow.
Red Oleander (Korobi flowers) carpet the valley floor.
Mid-way through the walk we reached an open meadow. The interlocking mountains were now all behind us and the winding road through them straightened into a long path that would take us to Feynan. We stopped for a late lunch. Khalid set up a fire and boiled Bedouin tea in an antique blacked pot. As we sipped the sweet-scented concoction wondering at the unfamiliar exotic flavour, he explained the secret- Artemisia. Pitta bread heated over wild fire, crusty and smoky accompanied the tea.
The rest of the afternoon would take us through a path by more cliffs and rolling hills. The colours would change with the course of the sun, deepening from copper to rust. We would reach Bedouin villages, goatherds tending to their flocks or people simply dozing on slopes untouched by the rush of modern life. Two Bedouin girls would follow me and smile with glee when gifted with candies. Sunset at Feynan would be a colourful end to the day.
For now, as I pushed through more bushes of red oleander- I had just one wish- may this trail go on forever.
Sunset at Fenyan