Risk and adventure go hand in hand and there are always dangers on the trails.
‘Dogs here can be agressive,’ Munthir briefed me as we sat under an oak tree drinking freshly brewed tea. ‘If they come close then you have to take a stone and threaten to throw it. If they come really close then throw it to the side of them.’ We finished off the tea and carried on.
The sun sets really early in Jordan so dusk was approaching, even though it was only half past three, as we started up the last ascent before our first camp in the Eco Park. We’d done 25km and had just one more to go and I was feeling good.
Up ahead of us, a small pack of shepherd dogs started barking threateningly and moving towards us. Two were chained and three were free. Munthir was ahead of me and started throwing stones to the side of them to ward them off. Then, their owner came out of his house and up to us and they quietened.
Suddenly, I screamed involuntarily. An agonising pain shot through my right calf. I looked down and blood was gushing down over my boots, dyeing them red. The black dog that had been ahead had circled silently behind, bitten me savagely and run off.
Warning: photos below show close ups of the bite.
Fortunately, both Munthir and I are calm in a crisis. I sat down, we rolled my trouser leg up and looked at the wound. My journalistic instincts kicked in and I took pictures. Munthir knew exactly what to do. He rinsed the wound, disinfected it and bandaged it in gauze. It was bleeding heavily and lumps of fat and meat from inside my leg had dropped out onto the ground but, oddly, I felt no pain.
We were really close to a road at that point and the farmer piled us into his ancient truck with two other men and we set off for the nearest hospital. That drive probably posed an even more severe threat than the bite – we ignored all red lights and stop signs and just drove.
At the hospital, it all became a communal affair. At one point I counted eight people in the room with me. Because, rabies exists in Jordan, the protocol is clear and the nurse readied the first 4 rabies jabs and a tetanus. My weight was proclaimed to all and at one point I was pretty sure that everyone was going to watch as I got three jabs in my bottom – but fortunately the room was cleared.
The care was fantastic and, thanks to the public hospital system and WHO, who provide the rabies vaccines, free. Then, I had to provide a police report. Munthir had all our documents ready with permissions for me to do the trail from the Ministry of the Interior and letters from the Ministry of Tourism which made life so much easier. I was asked if I wanted to file a complaint but I said no. Actually, now I am going to because we just heard that the same dog bit another hiker yesterday. Apparently, that black dog is well known.
After all was done, we went back to Farraj’s house. Farraj is a fellow guide, who’d given us a tour of the Roman ruins of Umm Qais, and he couldn’t have been more kind. His family cooked us a huge meal, which I thought I didn’t want but actually was so delicious that I ate heartily. Afterwards two doctors came to the house to have another look at the bite and bandage it up for the night. My drama high had worn off by this point and I wasn’t feeling perky. Farraj held my hand and patted my back as they prodded and poked, ‘Thanks be to God for a safe delivery,’ he repeated.
The upshot of all this is that now I am back in Amman. The doctors’ advice is to wait for a week, keep the wound clean and open and then see if I can continue. I am very optimistic that I can.
Being bitten by a ferocious dog is not the way I wanted to start this adventure but it has taught me a lot. There are some real lessons and affirmations for me.
The first is how important your adventure companions and back up are. Munthir, Fouad and Treks have been truly brilliant. If I had been on my own, I think the outcome of this attack would have been infinitely more serious. Not only that but I have had companionship and support at every stage, and lots of teasing which makes everything easier. ‘Your face might not be famous in Jordan yet – but your leg really is,’ from the lads.
Secondly, take out insurance. I had no idea when Battleface came in as a sponsor that I would also be calling on them to help me in a crisis. This accident happened on the very first day of my adventure and to be honest I am not sure I could have avoided it. I didn’t do anything stupid or reckless, I just hit on one of the genuine dangers of the trails. Battleface was on the phone within minutes of me telling them what had happened and has been following up daily, including with detailed medical advice.
Lastly, once again it has been proved to me how kind people are. I have had excellent treatment in Jordan and I feel very secure in the care and advice I have been given. This is a great country. Not only that, everyone has taken time to reassure me and to wish me well. Also, my sponsors have been really understanding and supportive.
So, wish me luck. I am currently being looked after by the Fraiture family in Amman who have opened their home to me and my (still) unpleasantly bleeding leg. I’m going to review the situation on Saturday with Treks but we are hoping to set off before dawn on Sunday morning. I really wanted to walk the Jordan Trail before this happened. Now, I’m totally set on it.