You can read Part One of Women on a Mission’s expedition across the deserts of Wadi Rum here.
The most challenging ascent however, was scaling the dizzying heights of Jebel Khazali, the most dramatic and difficult of the Wadi Rum mountains. We departed from the camp at 6am, in total darkness and started our climb in the filtering dawn light as the sun started to edge above the horizon.
The team summited Jebel Khazali after only four hours of fast-paced grade 3, 4 and 5 scrambling. We worked like a well-oiled machine… the training had obviously paid off! Without stopping for lunch, and after a short triumphant moment on the summit of the mountain (where we took in the stunning views of the valley below) we continued across the plateau to find our route back down.
We were under intense time pressure to complete the climb before nightfall, since we needed to see where to put our hands and feet on the uneven rockscapes. No daylight would mean a much more dangerous descent — which we wanted to avoid at all cost. Finally, 11 hours of scrambling and five challenging abseils later, shattered and exhausted, our team walked into camp as the daylight faded away.
That night saw us celebrating by the light of our campfire, and as we stared up into the fantastically starry night, we felt grateful to be a part of this extraordinary adventure.
Along the way, we were privileged to witness scenes of remarkable beauty: the crimson sunsets as they cast their burning light onto the rocks at the end of each long day and the night-time sky so dark and vast it was almost too easy to spot shooting stars (we caught several and made many wishes!). At dinnertime, our camp consisted of Bedouin mats and blankets, laid out on the ground or wedged up against the walls of the stone facades, while a large fire gave us light and warmth.
Our guides would invite us to drink sage tea, while they prepared a simple yet delectable dinner of tasty local fares. We discovered how unbelievably mouth-watering the cuisine of Jordan could be. We feasted on fresh-baked bread, cooked in a natural sand-oven under the campfire embers, barbecued fish from Aqaba’s Red Sea, creamy hummus, multi-coloured olives, roasted aubergines, baba ghanoush stew and tabouleh. Finally, on one of the last nights, our guides slayed a young goat in the traditional Bedouin way, and then roasted it for us on the open fire.
On occasion, we encountered scorpions and came across numerous snake tracks. We slept in individual tents that we would assemble every night as soon as we got into camp, and disassemble at first light before we set off in the morning. On some evenings, some of the girls would brave the creepy crawlies, and simply sleep under the brilliant starry sky instead.
When water was available, we were able to enjoy a glorious cold shower in the most beautiful outdoor stone bathroom you could ever imagine. Our guides would wedge a bag of water (with cords) into the grooves in the stonewalls to allow us to quickly wash off the dust and fatigue of the day. Because we were fully exposed while showering, I am almost certain this outdoor contraption earned us the title of “the-fastest-shower-ever-taken-by-12-women-in-a-row-anywhere-in-the-world!”
We learnt many new climbing techniques, which we would never have come across on synthetic climbing walls in Singapore. We worked as a team as we scaled the many Jebels in the area. We even got to float in Jordan’s famed Dead Sea. But nothing prepared us for the euphoria that came when, at the end of our journey, we discovered the ancient city of Petra.
There was laughter, and there were tears of triumph and frustration. But what we discovered at the end of it all was something far more rewarding. We came to know people who cherish their liberties enough to want their country to be free of conflicts and to chart its own path instead. We witnessed the immeasurable beauty of the Valley of the Moon, and the ephemeral nature of those moments is something I want to hold on to for a lifetime.
Deep inside we knew that what had driven us to push ourselves further had been the reason we had committed to this campaign in the first place. We embarked on this journey to support women who had lost everything to war and conflict, women who had been humiliated and robbed of their dignity, their right to live in peace, whose bodies had been violated, whose self-esteem and freedom had been taken from them.
Every cut, every bruise, every nauseating instance where we stared at the vertiginous drops below us, every gut-churning moment on the exposed mountain ledges, every cold-sweat and hair raising situation, every time we pushed our limits – and for some of us – every time we conquered our paralyzing fear of heights, the sum of these experiences made us feel more alive and resilient than ever before.
Our team’s expedition to Jordan is dedicated to these women, mothers, daughters, and sisters who have lost everything to war and conflict. Women who need our help and encouragement, who crave our support and who we must empower at all cost, so that they may climb out of their misery, lay down their shame and sorrow, and in the end, conquer their own personal summit.
Undoubtedly the desert of Jordan has cast a spell on us. Its beauty forever imprinted on our soul, and as a result we will always carry this fervent yearning to return. True to our mission, the creed of our team is simple. Follow your dreams. Live to the fullest. Push your limits. Always challenge yourself. Give back to those who need it most. Celebrate often. Be humble. Be thankful. Travel whenever you can. And write your own rules, because footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down.