Friday, September 7, 2012

The Other Side of Nowhere

We took our second overnight camping trip to the mountains east of Faqra.  Only the high peaks (9,000-10,000 feet) have names, but the locals call the area the Sinein mountains (two teeth).  The area where we camped was very isolated, and about 7,000 feet.

Nowhere is just slightly to the left.

After we passed the last ski resort on the main highway, we drove about 15 more minutes along the highway.  When I say remote -there is nothing.  Not a single building or sign of civilization other than the highway on which you are driving.  There are only rolling mountaintops and valleys, and the landscape is both stark and beautiful.  It is all rocky, both large formations of rocks protruding from the soil, and a layer of broken rock that covers every slope.  There are no trees, only several variaties of very thorny bushes, mostly in the low areas.

I didn't have to bribe them either!

The ecology is based on the snow melts.  Starting in late fall, the whole area is covered in a snow cap that persists all winter without melting.  Even into the summer, snow remains in crevices on the slopes (I saw some in late July on a trip through the area further to the south).  The moisture allows the otherwise desert area to support enough grazing to be worthwhile to  Bedouin shepherds as well as water holes that still have water in September.  However, it has very much a desert feel because there is no rain during the dry season after the snow melts.

There's very little wild animal life to be seen.  On our first trip we saw a single beetle.  This time the children discovered a lizard under a rock, and some frogs in the bottom of a watering hole that was empty but still had moist soil in the bottom.  We also spotted some bats flying at dusk.  Perhaps this is a result of the harsh extremes -snow covering the ground perhaps 8-9 months of the year, and then a dry desert once it melts.

There are Bedouin tribes that move about the mountaintops.  There was a large camp on the highway (5-6 tents) that was not there a few weeks ago.  They keep honey bees near the watering holes, with sometimes 40-50 stands in a spot.  They also have herds of sheep that roam around the mountainsides, and each shepherd has a donkey and at least one herding dog.

"Can we have sheep Dad?"

We turned off the highway onto a rough dirt road and drove perhaps ten minutes through several unoccupied Bedouin camp areas.  We found one on our first trip that looked promising and it turned out to be an excellent campsite.  It sat in a flat area near an empty watering hole and had a great view of the surrounding valley.  There were a couple of rock formations we could climb, and a small trail that went further up into the mountains.  We followed the trail up to where a concrete bunker had been built on the top, with a flag marking the peak.  I always stay far away from abandoned buildings because during the wars there was a lot of mining, and there could be abandoned munitions.  We stay in areas that the goat herds and four-wheelers have already covered.

Being away from everything is my favorite part, climbing the hills and seeing more and more nothing.  It may not sound that exciting, but for a country boy living in urban sprawl, it was so relaxing.

No comments:

Post a Comment