Dehydration? What is more, in the desert, when there is nobody with you who could help you out. I will not overreact if I say that this is like playing with death.
And when you get a text message saying “Please, faster, I want to live!” from someone important to you, you feel that you lose the ground under your feet. You can not do anything, just wait and keep your fingers crossed that the rescue team will come in time. Because… what if they don’t?
Israel, the Negev Desert. August, which is the worst period in the Middle East – hot, there can be multi-day heat waves. “Hot” means that in the desert the temperature above 40 Celsius degrees is normal. During the worst time of the day (12-3 pm) it can reach almost 50 degrees.
If you’re going in such conditions in the desert you need to have not only a sufficient amount of water, but also go on the trail as early as possible, so you’ll finish hiking before noon, or later, after 4 pm, when the sun is lower and the temperature drops. It is safer, the risk of overheating, stroke or dehydration is not so big.
That day we get up early because we have a morning full of activities. First, we go with Yoash, the owner of the Green Backpackers hostel, to the cliffs 20 meters high for abseiling. First time in my life! Although I can feel every muscle trembling with the effort and I can not look down (to be honest, even at home I stand uncertainly on the chair), I’m an adrenaline junkie, I love strong sensations! Then we make a jeep tour around the desert for few hours. The heat increases, however, we don’t feel it that much in the car.
We’re back in the hotel just after noon. Quick shower, rest and… S. announces that he is going out to run a bit. Everyone looks at each other slightly amazed. But where…? Into the desert?!
“Yes”, S. nods. “I run in ultramarathons, it will be a very good experience.”
I look at him and don’t know what to say. Did anyone here hit his head?!
“Listen” Yoash begins slowly, “It’s not funny. There is 50 degrees outside, no shadow. You want to run, okay, but go after 4 pm, when the temperature drops a little.”
“No no. I understand, but I want to go now. This will be my next experience.”
Aaaall riiiiiight, I admit, S. is not a easy jogger, who runs around the park with a doggie. He runs in the mountains, sometimes even 80 km at a time or more. For several good years, so he has the experience. But, what the fuck?! Forgive me my language, but such a decision really tensed me up!
How much can someone trivialise the risk and go on his first run in the desert ever during the worst heat?! But S. is stubborn, he takes a lot of water, his mobile and goes out. He says he will be back in 2-3 hours. It’s few minutes after 2 pm.
At 5 pm I’m starting to worry. And it is not imaginary anxiety, I instinctively feel that something is wrong. It takes too long, something had to happen.
After several minutes Yoash calls:
“Did S. return to the hostel?”
“Not yet,” I reply.
“The volunteers of our rescue team just got the call to the desert. It may be S. If he contacts you, ask where he is exactly and whether he has something to drink. And tell him not to waste the battery. We don’t know how long it will take them to reach him.”
I’m not sure if I hear correctly. What do I feel? This information It did not make me weak, my world didn’t collapse and I don’t need to sit down, because the legs beneath me not buckled.
Sincerely? I am pissed of. Not only for this situation, because everyone asked him to wait a few hours, but right now I’m reminding myself our quarrels about him learning English, or rather avoiding it.
“Do you understand that when we travel something can happen to us?” I argue. “If something happens to me, and I only speak English here, how will you call for help?! I also want to feel safe when travelling with someone!”
“Oh, come on now, you really do not have to predict the worst!”
And now I’m sitting in the hostel and do not know what to do. Somebody in the desert called for help. May that be S.? But if it’s really him, that means he is conscious and somehow he managed to call for help. That’s good.
But I have no idea where he is. And what if he loses his consciousness? I ask Yoash if there is anything I can do to help.
“Wait and let me know when he contacts you,” answers he.
Wait? Just sit here and wait?!
After a while S. calls., he is broken, probably crying. He says he is so weak that he barely picked up the phone to his ear. He has with him more water, but at the beginning he was unable to take it out from the backpack. As he forced himself to drink a bit, he vomited. He is exhausted, all the strength left him suddenly. He lies somewhere on the trail, on the rocks. Around there is no shade, so he took off his shirt and put it on his head.
He is dehydrated. Fortunately, he called the emergency number that he found in one of the welcome text messages that you get after entering another country. Then the rescue team contacted him directly.
Luckily, he had a map and gave them a place in which he is located.
It’s Saturday, the Sabbath. Everyone celebrates the holidays with their families. Before you call the rescue team (and I’m not saying that no one wants to get up from the table, you just have to find volunteers, who are here and did not leave Mitzpe Ramon for the weekend) and reach him (you’ll not get on the trail by the jeep, you have to go with all the equipment on foot), several hours will pass.
And I can only sit and wait. I’m nervous. S. is alive, but I know this only thanks to the fact that every now and then I get a text message from him. The worst is the one saying “please, faster, I want to live!”. I recieve it around 7 pm.
I am angry because all my worst scenarios just came true. I am even more angry at the stupidity of S., because let’s face it – it was stupidity. Everyone said to wait few more hours. But no. S. insisted. I am upset because I cannot do anything. I’m scared (although I don’t feel it that much), because I do not know if they can find him on time. I know exactly that one month before us, one tourist went on the trail alone. Not for running, just for hiking. He took 2 liters of water. Too little, he died of dehydration.
If hiking 2 liters of water is enough, how much is needed for running, when the body heats up even more?
Believe me, this awareness does not calm me down.
I sit and just wait. I wrote S. not to waste battery. That’s the only thing I can do. Although I prefer when he writes, because I know that he is conscious. But more important at this point is his contact with the rescue team than with me.
The team gets to him near 7.30 pm. They examine him, ask how he feels, did he vomit. They serve him a drip, a small amount of water to drink, cools his body down with the water. They continue to ask if he feels better.
Yoash calls me that they found him. I feel relieved, but rage at the stupidity has not passed yet. At 9:15 pm they come to the hostel and only now all the nerves go down from me and I cried from relief. S. tomorrow has to rest, and if doesn’t feel good, we need to go to the hospital.
Fortunately, S.’s condition was not that bad that he had to be hospitalized. Fortunately, the rescuers were volunteers and we do not have to pay for the rescue. We had the insurance for all the extreme sports, but anyone who has used the services of the insurance company knows why I say “fortunately”. Just arguing with them is exhausting and prolongs.
Our case ended well, but we really had a lot of luck. Not all dehydration in the desert ends happily. I do not even want to think what would happen if the rescuers didn’t find S. in time.
Believe me – any passion, or sport, or experience is worth the risk. And including any other people into it – because on the spot there was also me.
I hope that our story will help others to prepare well to hike in the desert and will be a warning. 90% of accidents in the desert is the effect of downplaying the risk and not good preparation. Please do not risk your life, it’s not worth it.
Did a similar story happened to you or your loved ones? And if not, how do you feel after reading this story? How do you think you would feel in such a situation? Share your opinions in the comments below the text!
Dehydration – how to avoid it?
I have some tips for you in case you are thinking about hiking in the desert:
– Always tell your relatives or owners of the hostel / hotel where you are going, what trail you will take and how much time it can take you;
– Don’t hike during the hottest hours, between 11am – 3pm;
– Always take a map and learn to read it!!!
– Keep in your mobile an emergency number, or even two, in such a way that will help you to find them quickly;
– 2 liters of water per person during activity (even walking) in the heat is not enough! Have together at least 3 liters, and add to the water some fresh lemon juice and a little salt – it will help replenish minerals in the body;
– Drink regularly, do not let to the situation when you feel thirsty;
– Cover your head and neck;
– Learn to recognize the signs of dehydration! (below)
How to recognize dehydration?
Symptoms of dehydration:
– pain and muscle cramps;
– Dry, cracked lips;
– Feeling dry skin, as if stretched;
– General weakness.
Never let that dehydration receive your strength. If you feel weak, immediately call for help and tell relatives what happens.
And if you are planning a few days (or even weeks) of trekking in the Negev desert, prepare your trip with WaterDrp: www.waterdrp.com.
If you are looking for more information about going to Israel, take a look of my practical post about going to this country!
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