Around 2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to find myself at Heathrow airport boarding a flight to Amman, the capital city of Jordan, with 30 or so participants, another doctor, the company rep and our trek leader.
This was my first international expedition since pre-covid and I felt a nervous mixture of excitement and trepidation as the plane took off.
We landed and my kit (pictured above) all arrived safely, ready for our 5 day trek through the Jordanian Desert to the ancient city of Petra. It would have been wrong not to take advantage of our free morning to take a dip in the Dead Sea, so called as no living organisms inhabit it. This is because it has a 33% salt content. Compare this with the Mediterranean Sea, which has a salt content of 2-3%, and it becomes clear why this is the case, however the increased density permits you to float effortlessly on it's surface which is pretty special.
With the dead sea ticked off my bucket list, it was time to get serious and brief the participants on the upcoming trek.
A hot week was forecast with temperatures due to reach 35 -37C whilst we were hiking, a far cry from the snow that had fallen in Wadi Rum and Petra just two weeks previously.
It was going to be crucial to ensure that everyone remained well hydrated and did not suffer from heat exhaustion. Following a coach journey south, we reached the start of our trek. The sheer scale of the landscape and the beauty of the mountains on the distant horizons was truly breathtaking. The geological landforms and weathered sculptures that we saw during our days trekking in the desert were vast and the scale is hard to capture in a photo.
Each evening, we would reach camp and be greeted by sweet Bedouin tea and cardamom coffee, followed by a feast of rice and local cuisine. Despite multiple attempts to sleep under the stars (we were twice thwarted by sandstorms), there was a true feeling of being at one with the wilderness and time really did slow down- a perfect tonic for the past few years of turmoil. Yoga was the ideal answer for tired limbs and the fading desert sunlight made for some great silhouette shots.
We hiked around 15-20km each day with temperatures in the low to mid thirties and minimal shade. It was easy to drink at least 6-7 litres of water a day as we were all sweating so much.
Have you done a pee? Was it champagne coloured?
This became my standard question each day, to make sure that people were not getting too dehydrated. The heat made walking much harder and the added inclines made it tough going. At times our three "emergency ambulances" were called upon to provide respite and get participants safely to our camp for the night. Here we are pictured below with one of our ambulance donkeys: "Indiana Jones" (his stable-mates Shakira and Michael Jackson were equally important!)
Fortunately, despite several cases of heat exhaustion, blisters and many aching feet, the participants were valiant in their efforts, and we reached Little Petra and subsequently Petra the next day. A special mention must go to the proud owner of these boots...which were taped, bandaged, cable-tied and more...
It was great meeting so many inspiring people. Some were raising money for important causes, others were there for the personal challenges. One thing is for certain- a great time was had by all, with the amazing reward of discovering Petra on the last day.
We were also lucky enough to visit Wadi Rum which was pretty amazing. It has been the location for many films and TV series, and you can see why...with it's deep red hue of sand it is reminiscent of another planet.
To find out more about the management of heat exhaustion in the pre-hospital and expedition context, you can read my previous blog entry which was published in the journal Curr Med Issues 2021;19:165-70.
My next adventure is just around the corner, and I am excited to say that I am due to head off to Fiji at the end of next week.
Before then, why not have a listen to the latest episode of my podcast, where I catch up with Dr Christy Hehir, an environmental psychologist and conservationist. We discuss the delicate balance between tourism, our psychology and the environment, which could not be more relevant given the climate emergency that we face currently.