It seems unkind to my fellow sufferers of dreary old British November to even mention it, but… I’ve been on holiday. To a hot place. 8 days in Jordan, including a 6 day trek from Dana Reserve to Petra. (Yes, that one from Indiana Jones. Yes, we did sing the theme tune.)
It was stupendous. Amazing. Incredible. A country I knew very little about, and now feel such warmth for. Walking through stunning scenery that kept revealing whole new landscapes so far detached from the familiar that it was like walking through a magical wardrobe to a different world altogether. Hot Narnia. Pure magic.
Those pictures? All in one day.
And it was tough, too, with scrambly bits and canyons, ominous ledges and solid chunks of elevation – which made all the lazy bits like a support crew to put up tents and cook dinner for us each night so very welcome.
I’m still dizzy with memories. Sleeping outside my tent, looking up at the Milky Way. The 8-litre kettle. Taking a ‘shower’ balancing on a wobbly draining board with a view of three Israeli kibbutzes lighting up as the sun set. Galayet Bandora knocked up for lunch under a tree (no spoons!). Sitting on a rock with a book, listening to the camels singing. (Camels sound like the UrRu, fyi.) Every beloved inch of Day Three. Jo intent over her mobile phone, reading the messages from home to keep her going. A donkey named Shakira. Multiple Jack Sparrows. Mansaf round the campfire. My first view of the Treasury, from above, carelessly close to the edge of a cliff because I do that now. Our happier Mr Tumnus, guide Murad, lifting us with dates and almonds, jokes, the conviction that we could do it. On the flight home, an aerial glimpse of the poppies around the Tower of London.
And, of course, the people. I’ve done distance walking before but never with a group, and I worried: if I’d be the slow one trailing apologetically at the back; if (whisper it) we’d all get on. Which is daft, because sharing 6 days climbing up hard things and smelling like you’ve washed in a bucket of cold water is the sort of business that unites humans like nothing else.
It was such an astonishing experience, I’ve been in mourning since: waking up confused not to be in my tent; sighing Not in Jordan any more over my rubbish breakfast, no za’ataar and yoghurt on my pita, no sage in my tea.
Which is inconvenient, because I’ve got a book to finish. I went away with only a few weeks left and a lot still to do. For a day or two I wavered. I’d zipped open my flip-top head and let all this amazing stuff inside: how was I going to force it shut again to get on with work?
The answer is, obviously, not to.
My sister joked with me before we left that she knows not to expect replies to her emails when I’m on deadline – but I am, these days, always on deadline. One editorial note (on some early, distant version of this endless book) was ‘Make it bigger’: it was too small, all action in a handful of rooms, a handful of domestic spaces.
Why does that happen? Because, when I’m not going on adventures, my life’s become a little bit small: home, work, fun, all taking place within a tiny radius, centred round my laptop.
I love being a writer – but I forget to love other things, too. I love being a writer, but I let it eat my days and my evenings. On trek, you walk, you walk, you walk, one foot in front of the other, and that’s fine writing advice – but when the sun goes down you’re in camp, work done. Time to gather around the campfire. Eat wonderful, well-earned food. Remember the day. Share tales of other trips and blister tips. Laugh.
I can’t ask for a sweeping desert landscape to knock a sense of perspective into me each morning. I don’t think I can rustle up a campfire in my living room each night. But giving myself permission to down tools and be happy with the steps taken? I can do that. Remember that I love to walk, to talk, to open my eyes? I can do that. And probably, maybe, that’ll help me write better books. But if not, oh well. There’s more to life.
Head unzipped, top flipped. Hello, world.
The current situation in the Middle East is hammering Jordan’s tourist industry, but it remains a safe destination from the UK (November 2014). Please do keep it on your travel list: it’s a phenomenal place and Jordanian hospitality is famous for good reason!
Four of my lovely fellow trekkers were undertaking this trip for charity:
Ian trekked for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity in memory of his friend Keith Hern, who he met on a previous challenge walk in the Himalayas.
If you liked this blog, please click the links and make a donation to support my friends. Many soles of feet were sacrificed in the name of this trek.