40 days & 40 nights in the holy land: a 1000 mile walk through Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Part one: Jordan


~900 miles


4 weeks

Elevation Gain

31,000 metres


February – March 2022

In winter 2023 I walked across Jordan, Israel, Palestine and the illegally occupied Syrian territory of the Golan Heights. I made up my own route along with following the Jordan Trail, Israel National Trail and Golan Trail. It ended up being about 1000 miles of desert ramble, including 30,000m of ascent, which I completed in just over a month. I didn’t cache any water along the way, as pretty much everyone else says you absolutely have to do. It’s possible to do this without caching if you plan meticulously and can cover a decent amount of ground each day.

The following texts are taken directly from my Instagram posts I made along the way, so might not appear that coherent when read on this site.

“As shepherds watched their tiktoks by night”

I’m curled up under an olive tree amongst the mountains of Northern Jordan, listening to the pitter-patter of little rain drops falling onto my tarp, while the calls to prayer from distant villages echo and swirl around the wadis (valleys) below. I’m currently 2.5 days, and 100km into a mad idea that I dreamt up on a bleak day in August whilst cleaning the house, and could never really shake off.

Umm Qais was my start point, a little village in the extreme northwest of Jordan, with views out over the Sea of Galilee and towards the border with Syria. God knows where I get these ideas from, but if all goes well I will be walking south down the length of Jordan to the Red Sea, then back up north through the Israeli Negev Desert and Palestine. This could be anywhere between 1000km – 1500km, depending on geographical and political factors which will determine the route I’m able to take – will see how it goes!

Northern Jordan is surprisingly green at times, with pockets of dense forest deep down in the wadis, away from the sun scorched hilltops. I instantly felt at home on the first day as it was steadily pissing it down. On the first evening, as the sun was thinking about setting, I was beckoned in by a shepherd in an isolated wadi. I was up for walking a bit further but he and his mate insisted I come in and dry off beside the fire, drink tea and stay the night. Luckily all these things were fairly easily understood with enough shouting in Arabic and hand gesturing.

Actually, in the end Google translate did come in handy, although it’s ability to interpret and translate their likely strong dialect was, at best, dubious. Hassan spoke into my phone and then pointed enthusiastically at the English translation that appeared below, eagerly awaiting my response. The text read:
“If there is someone with
you who wants to come
from a bag, not a flip-
flop, I will
bring him with you as

Fuck knows, I thought, but just smiled and nodded eagerly and it seemed to be the right answer.

Their home was humble and welcoming. A single wood burner sat roaring in the centre of the room while their two beds were positioned either side. A shisha pipe, a few plastic crates and some bits of polystyrene completed the furnishings. We ate the most delicious meal of flat bread warmed on the stove top dipped into olive oil and thyme, with a pepper scram on the side. Squatting on the concrete floor with my two new friends, eating everything with the bits of bread we teared and shared between us seemed the most intimate and human way to share a meal together.

I was designated to sleep in the corner on the polystyrene in front of the fire. I lay there for some time listening to Mohammed sucking away on his sisha pipe and chuckling at slapstick videos on tictok as I slipped into a dream about bags and flip-flops.

“Bedouin HoundClash”

Walking through Jordan is a bit like riding a rollercoaster, both physically and mentally. The landscape has changed from rolling hills with pockets of green to immense ascents and descents of vast wadis draining into the Dead Sea. These canyons were preceded by a bizarre upland plateau, which resembled those grainy first images sent back from Mars. It felt so remote and desolate, the only signs of life being the Bedouin and their dwellings, which wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi film. I was invited into one and offered tea by the head of the family, while the women peeked out from behind a curtain in the back, quickly disappearing again if I caught their eye. The father rolled cigarettes and spat onto the floor whilst the kids brushed away flies and played games on their phones surrounding a multi plug hooked up to a solar powered car battery.

That’s the beauty of walking across an entire country without an official trail, you are forced to take it all in your stride, and confront whatever lies ahead. I was chased up a hill by a huge pack of wild dogs in a seemingly lawless and canine governed industrial estate and spent the whole night laid under the stars listening to them barking and howling from below. Another night, deep in a huge wadi I was harassed by some Bedouin shepherd dogs who found my camp spot during the night and I was forced to pack up and leave as they stalked me from the ridge above.

But it’s all part of the ride. For every corner you turn and there’s a pack of rabid dogs, there’s another ten corners where you might get taken on a treasure hut my a man metal detecting for Byzantine loot in the middle of nowhere and actually find something, or drink tea over a fire at the roadside with shepherds watching their animals at sun rise, or…whatever. I’m just rambling now.

“Jackie Wilson Said””

As much as I enjoyed the rest of Jordan, it does come as a relief to be in the sparsely populated and rugged south now. The attention and relentless enthusiasm, curiosity and kindness I received was amazing, if not quite intense at times. The desert has its own hazards of course, but at least the baying hounds and questions about my marital status have dissipated, replaced by a constant and eerie silence. The only thing I hear now is the sound of blood whizzing around my brain. That and a stupid Van Morrison tune that’s been stuck in my head for about 5 weeks now, and it’s slowly driving me insane.

It properly hit me the other day exactly where I am. I’m two weeks and 570km into my journey but maybe up until this point there has been just enough of a faint whiff of familiarity in my surroundings to be able to somewhat relate to them. Well, not anymore – I’ve finally made it to the desert proper and it’s so surreal it feels like I’m in an arid fantasy land conjured up by some half-assed novelist, relying on all the old stereotypes.

I’ve spent the last few days traversing through the most ridiculous sandstone mountains, a huge geological clusterfuck (probably not how T.E Lawrence would have described it, but hey, I’m no writer!) of caverns, boulders, scree slopes, and washed out gullies. One canyon was 24km long and narrowed to less than a few feet across in places, snaking it’s way through the landscape in the most impossible way.
Halfway along said canyon I was surprised to see at least a dozen camels wandering about and a few Bedouin sat around a fire drinking tea. I think they were just as surprised to see me, all scraggly and gormless grins. I think they were asking where I was going but to be honest I was just in a daze, standing there gawking at the group of humped beasts while the sunset down the canyon wall behind them.

In other news I’ve walked right through the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, trudged over my fair share of sand dunes and barren plateaus, and found out that if you drink water from an old petrol can, it funnily enough also tastes like petrol.

“You are Boring”

Jordan continued to amaze. After emerging from the labyrinth of canyons I crossed into Wadi Rum, whose famed sheer-walled red sandstone and granite mountains rise out of the desert floor in very dramatic fashion. If you’ve seen a film called The Martian then you’ll known what it looks like as that (among others) was shot here. I had one night backed up out of the wind at the foot of one of these cliffs, wondering how ancient peoples managed to survive out here millennia ago in this inhospitable environment.
The last day I crossed over some rugged mountainous terrain and at the final pass got my first view of the Red Sea before the final descent down. 2km from the end of walking 650km across the country I passed a huge fenced-in industrial estate where a lorry driver screamed at me from afar. I thought I must be trespassing or something such was volume of his voice, but turned out he just wanted to help me. I tried to explain I was only a few minutes away from finishing after a while in the wilderness, but he insisted on passing me bottles of water and snacks over the barbed wire fence, giving it an odd prison smuggling feel.

This morning I crossed the heavily fortified border between Jordan and Israel on foot to begin the second leg of my journey north through the Naqab desert to Jerusalem. I definitely haven’t been to two such visibly contrasting neighbouring countries. The second person I spoke to in Israel worked at the phone shop in a big American style shopping mall. Curious as to what I was doing here I duly told her about my walking trip and what lay ahead the next couple weeks. She stared blankly at her screen and after a slightly uncomfortably long pause just said “you are boring” in a monotone voice without glancing up.
“Sorry, what?” I asked, thinking she might have got her words mixed up or something had got lost in translation.
“I said, I think you are boring” she repeated.
“Fair enough…I’m sure a lot of people would agree…it’s just they don’t usually tell me to my face”, I trailed off.
“Welcome to Israel” she grunted.

Continued in Part 2