It’s called Jabal Shamss, which translates to “Mountain of Sun” and what a fitting name it is. At an altitude of approximately 3.000 meters (10.000 feet) it’s majestically situated under an almost allways blue sky with the intense Arabian sun shining above it, casting it’s deep shadows into the depths below.
Jabal Shams is not really a mountain as you’d expect, it’s a mindboggling crevasse of immense proportions, therefore the name “Grand Canyon of the Middle-East” is way more fitting. Not only is the viewpoint [Google Earth] at the road through the Al Hajar Mountains range one of the nicest stops in the region: an actual hike through the Canyon is even better as the path is situated halfway up the cliff face of about a thousand meters.
In order avoid the worst shadows we leave early for our hours-long trekking, the sun will be nice above us for most of the trip so we’ll be able to enjoy the best of the views. And boy, are those views amazing! From the early start till the final bits it’s hard to keep your eyes on the small but pretty manageable path. At points it gets close to the edge and one viewpoint is just simply breathtaking when we can see a tiny village more than 600 meters below us. Even with my biggest telelens it’s hard to get it fully visible. Apparently the few kids that live in the dozen or so houses are picked up daily for school but it’s just hard to imagine living there.
Even harder is imagining living in the deserted village Sab Bani Khamis [Google Earth] that we come across after an hour or so. It was abandoned after a dam closed off their water supply that made it possible to live there. Just simply imagine a rocky ledge of no more than thirty meters wide with a deadly drop to the depths of the canyon. A couple of terrasses where they managed to grow crops and a few mud houses underneath a hanging ledge that towers above for hundreds of meters. Now that’s remote living!
After hiking through the tiny place and visiting a fantastic small mountain lake it’s time to hike out: not by going back but by taking the Via Ferrata [Google Earth]. Definitely not as simple as hiking to the village is this climb out while being secured to metal ropes which are placed so falling down is not an option anymore (while scrapes and bruises still are though!). The climb under the deep blue sky is exhilarating: not too easy but not too technical either. And what a great feel looking over your shoulder or between your legs: the massive stone canyon that goes on to the horizon. This is truly one of my favorite vies of the world.
Click here for the full photo-gallery on Flickr (27 images).
If there’s one country that I can really recommend for a visit it’s got to be Indonesia. For our honeymoon we decided to take up an offer from a well-known travelcompany that we simply couldn’t refuse. Exciting as it was going to be my first (non-journalist) group travel ever and also my first time Asia. After having travelled half the world I somehow miraculously managed not to visit that huge part of the world. Something that I quite made up afterwards, travelling to Asia at least six times the next four years.
Java and Bali were going to be our destinations, the latter for diving, the first for round travel in two busses filled with us, tourists! Never figured group travel could be so much fun if you’re just lucky to hit the right combination of age, personalities and the amount of people travelling with you. We simply had a great time and one of the definite highlights of the trip was an old volcano called the Bromo [Google Earth].
It’s not a volcano as you’d normally see, it’s a small but highly active volcano which is situated in an unprecedented sandy area of almost ten square kilometers, the remnants of an even older volcano that blasted itself into history many, many millions of years ago. Seeing the sunrise on that old craters edge is one of the most popular highlights of Java and attracts countless tourist that walk up there very late at night (or better: very early in the morning).
So there we are at 03:30, after a wee night of sleeping getting our tired heads up a steep hill while beeing surrounded by zillions of Indonesian salesmen and women. Hats, umbrella’s, raincoats: guess it must rain here a lot because the majority of little shops are into that sort of stuff. Food is also highly available but who needs something to eat when you’re still in sleep-mode?
As high as the expectations so low is reality: the platform where we wait for the sun to come up over the crater rim is huge and packed with tourists, oh: that’s us then. Hundreds of people from all over the world have their camera ready and wait for the sun to burst through the fog. Which, sadly for us, manages not too. Leaving us with a half-baked sunrise and a good forty minute walk back down the road where a cup of hot soup awaits us. OK, now that’s a highlight!
Actually, the sunrise is nice but it’s the crater itself that’s way more interesting. A nice carride over the massive rim into the flat area where the actual Bromo active volcano resides. And by active, I really mean active: just short over eight months after our visit it suddenly went beserk and killed two tourists and injured five! But the horseride to the edge is amazing. Still can’t understand why all these horsemen compete eachother so massively. All looked like they haven’t got a dime to spare. Guess, if they worked together they could set some overall higher prices and actually make a bit of an income… there’s probably a reason but I felt sorry for them as the competition for tourists looked pretty nasty.
The sight into the grey and yellow crater is one to behold. Smoke still bellowing and a tribe of people walking around in it to catch the flowerofferings that people can buy for a few cents after which they throw them into the volcano. Good bit of recycling I suppose!
Full series (slideshow) here: