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Entries about eco-tourism

The Mushroom Farm

Rachel

Oh how we loved you the Mushroom Farm, you get an entry all of your own. On the face of it it’s a simple eco-friendly lodge with only 1 two level huts, a hand crafted mud “cob house” and levelled camping spaces set on the edge of the cliff looking out over to the lake. There’s a little bar and a little dining area come reading area come games room. And that’s about it. But the Australian owners are climbing and abseiling enthusiasts who are into permaculture so the place has all sorts of quirks that add to the whole vibe of the place. The composting toilet has a view. The shower makes you feel that you’re showering in a rainforest (you’d love it Laycock – hi Nick!). The power is solar powered, the food is vegetarian, interesting and really really tasty. They have piglets at the back, ducks and chickens and it’s all set clinging to the side of this hill.

Like I said earlier, it takes some effort for people to get there so there’s a sense of belonging there that’s hard to describe. The usual owner-managers were on holiday and so they pass it over to temporary mangers for 6 months of the year and this time it’s being run by Steve and Carmel – a half scouse, half Yorkshire couple who were taking over from their daughter who had told them they’d love it. I don’t think she quite prepared them for what was in store for them because they were rushed off their feet making small improvements to the place, raising the animals, tending the veg, ordering the food, managing bookings, running the bar and still take time out to try and get to know their guests and nothing is ever a bother.

After having a welcome rest in our beautiful balconied “honeymoon room” we decided we could do with an extra day to chill out, do our washing etc. and recover but our room was booked the following night so we camped the next evening instead – Steve and Carmel let us pinch the cushions from the chairs and borrow one of their tents for free so we still had a comfy night. We’re really glad we stayed because not long after we decided we could cope with camping John and Tisita from the Ilala turned up and we’d already made friends with the other two Canadians staying in the cob-house so we all had a good old natter and hang-out all day.

We also had a really interesting time talking with Steve and Carmel about the surprises they’d had on site like pregnant sows, administering antibiotics to piglets, the difficulties of managing staff, how to stay on top of stock when faced with diesel shortages, trying to rebuild links with the local villages, cooking on a wood fired stove and all sorts of new things they’d like to try out. It was a truly inspirational place.

Posted by rachndave 12:33 Tagged lodging eco-tourism Comments (1)

The big Dana to Petra trek

Rachel

Dana village is an interesting place. Jordan's "national trust" the RSCN has transformed it from a semi abandoned old farming village into a sustainable tourism destination by building a nature reserve centre and ploughing the profits back into the community and training it's inhabitants in traditional crafts and new eco production methods.

There's not much there though: three large families, 4 hotels and 48 cats. And from the dusk chorus we heard echoing round the valley every night I'd guess two dozen dogs and an orchestra of braying donkeys. It's a remote place at the very top of a long winding valley connecting the viallage with another RSCN reserve - Feynan - and all you can really hear is birdsong (during the day that is...see above)

The valleys that make up the reserve are also part of the great Rift Valley which stretches from Africa to Turkey and it was decending into this great valley which took up our first day's trekking to finish of in the wide valley floor passing only the Feynan eco lodge and a few bedouin tents on the way (stopping for tea of course). We arrived in camp, meeting our support driver and other guide Ali for more tea before making a 2 hour further round trip to walk up a stream, to become a river with increasingly large boulder stepping stones to cross on the way. We could have gone further but it was getting darjer and tea was calling back in camp. A sweet reward after 24kms of walking.

That night we slept out under the stars beside the fire on the mattresses they had brought along and even saw some shooting stars :)

Day two was very much off the beaten track and took us through vast canyons of sandstone formations carved by the wind to look like hills of giant skulls. Ali our second guide brought his beloved donkey along (nicknamed "Pause" by Dave and me because every time he stopped he didnt move a muscle as if someone had pressed pause) who struggled on a few bits: he fell down a salty crevice and had to be dug out, and at one point slid off a 2 meter drop but seeemed to be totally nonplussed and merely took it as a chance for a little sit down while we scrambled down to convince him back up. That night we arrived tired and ready for more tea but our support guys were nowhere to be seen - they had gotten their wires crossed about the meeting place. No matter - we gathered some firewood with the headtorch, made some tea at the top of a rock, gazed at the stars and waited for them to eventually turn up and start cooking a delicious bedouin speciality. We were almost a little disappointed to be recued but I'm glad we didnt have to fight for the only blanket Ali had brought with him - all our stuff was in the back of the van.

Day three, after a side trip for a refreshing shower in a waterfall, was mostly hard going desert and steep, sandy, rock strewn, yellowy hillsides with no shade and little variation and, although he didnt like to admit it, our original guide Abdul didnt really seem to know where we were at a few points :-s We finally had to stop walking up hill after hill after hill trying to get some phone signal because it was getting dark so again dave and I collected the firewood from the few scattered trees while Abdul enlisted the help of the passing Ministry of Agriculture workers who were patrolling the reserve for poachers and unauthorised campers to locate the support truck. At least we knew we could always stop with the bedouin who were only over on the next hillside. Eventually everyone was reunited and we had a delicious soup made with yoghurt all poured over bread made in the ashes of the fire.

The final day was more like the impressive skull 'n bones scenery from day 2 and took us down into an open valley leading to "Little Petra" where we had a chance to explore the tombs, stairs and meeting places carved into the sandstone. We finished the next three hours walking the ridge of sandstone cliffs to the edge of Petra itself, bantering with bedouin children along the way, and finished off the last mile or so of asphalt on the back of the support truck to a hotel and hot shower. No sleeping under the stars tonight, not for a few days at least...until Wadi Rum.

Posted by rachndave 01:59 Archived in Jordan Tagged hiking eco-tourism Comments (1)

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