Saturday, March 28, 2009

Camping in Wadi Dana~just about my favorite place on earth

As a family, we don't do much camping, but there is one camping trip which is the perennial highlight of our year: Camping at the Rummana campsite in the Wadi Dana Nature Reserve with 75 of our closest friends. We started as a small group of families with small children about ten years ago and for the past four years we have reserved the entire camp (20 four-man tents) for this much anticipated March weekend. Food preparations begin in earnest about a week before we head to Wadi Dana as we attempt to simplify yet upgrade our meal repertoire every year. This year's favorites: Sesame Chicken Noodles for our arrival lunch and grilled lemon chicken and vegetables (Shish Taouk) and twice baked potatoes for our second dinner.

The Wadi Dana Nature Reserve covers an area of 320 square kilometers and is a series of wadis (valleys) and mountains which extend from the upper edge of the Rift Valley down to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. Since opening in 1993, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has done a wonderful job of highlighting this remarkable area, home to breathtaking landscapes, about 600 species of plants, 37 species of mammals, and 190 species of birds.

No cars are allowed in the reserve so we load all our gear into a large covered pick-up shuttle and rattle about ten minutes down the dirt road to the campsite. Sleeping tents (the teepees) are fitted with foam mattresses, sheets, pillows, and blankets.

But the large Bayt Sha'r (Bedouin tent) is where we spend most of our time hanging out, cooking, eating,

playing cards and "La De Da",

and catching a few zzzz's.

Early in the morning I have only to walk a couple hundred yards from the campsite to find a sunny rock on which to read and pray.

A Rock With a View

Though I usually stick to photographing flowers, I tried to do a little bird photography on this trip. Very little. Flowers are much, much easier. We were treated to the sight of a few different birds of prey majestically soaring over the valleys, enjoying the warm wind currents found there. I only managed to photography these two Bulbuls, though I saw and heard many other species, this being the time of year when many birds migrating from Africa to Europe for the summer months.

After enjoying some time alone and with God in the midst of his awesome creation, I rejoined family and friends on the patio for a Dana breakfast, prepared by the camp staff: fresh baked flat bread just delivered from the nearby Dana village, homemade yogurt cheese (the creamiest I've ever tasted), hummous, foul (broad-bean dip), sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, homemade apricot jam, and Dana tea--brewed with cardamon.

After breakfast and sunscreen, many head out on the various hiking trails, some gentle, some more challenging. The first morning, Dear Husband lead the way on a trail which took us scrambling around the edge of a valley.

There were caves to explore,

and from every vantage point, stunning landscapes to take in.

Even though the reserve was very dry this year, with very, very few of my flower friends in bloom, I was able to find a few spots of color along the way:

Helianthemum vesicarium (Sun Rose)

Ononis Natrix (Yellow Restharrow)

Afternoons are good for a rousing game of multi-generational ultimate football,

Climbing Fort B (not sure how this well-loved sandstone rock came by this name, but it has endured through our years visiting Dana. I remember when we first starting camping here, when the kids were little, it was a momentous occasion when one of the kids ascended Fort B for the first time),

Fort B

or just hanging out (or laying out) with friends. Plenty of rocks to go around.

Last year our camping weekend fell on Western Easter (we celebrate Eastern Easter in Jordan) and so begun the two year tradition of holding a Sunday morning service amongst the rocks behind the campsite. We sang, we prayed, we took communion, and the kids and youth performed a Resurrection play under the direction of Mr. H.

Soldiers guarding the tomb where Jesus' body is to be laid

Peter, John, and Mary outside the empty tomb.

Around lunch-time we pack our things, all of which smell of campfire smoke through and through. It would be hard to leave our favorite place on earth if we weren't so tired, dirty, and almost out of food!

Wadi Dana 2009


MagistraCarminum said...

What a beautiful spot, M-- and a great trip!

Grace said...

Ooh, I'll bet poor Lauren will have a bout of homesickness after reading this post! All the best stuff in life packed into a weekend. Hey, those rocks, although sandstone and not igneous, remind me City of Rocks in ID. Been there?

kinzi said...

Aw, beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Count us back in for next year!!!!

Tina said...

If I come visit you next March, can I go camping with you? Awesome!

If you come visit me, we'll go "camping" in the Rockies, our backyard.

desert mom said...

Oh yes, Tina, we'll reserve a tent for you! And, I'd love to camp in your backyard as well.