March 25, 2012 :: Day 3 –
We were determined to catch the sunrise the next morning and make the most of our time in the desert so we got up at 5.30am and quickly (and sleepily) climbed up the soft sands to scout out the best vantage point to witness the first rays of the day over the Sharqiya dunes. The rest of the camp was still fast asleep and there was total silence. It was a crisp and cool morning and up on the dunes and there was an absolute feeling of tranquility. There is just something special about the desert that makes you feel at peace. I love the smooth contours of the dunes, they way they rise up against the desert floor and the fine grains of sand that almost looks liquid as it flows down the crest of the dunes. You can’t help but feel reflective as you sit there, in the vast expanse of the desert as you eye scans over wave upon wave of dunes stretching all the way to the horizon. Most of all, its the contentment you feel as you sit there in the silence and experience the emptiness of it all.
Once the sun was up we knew we didn’t have long until it would start getting hot so we climbed back down by which time there was already some activity in the camp as the other tourists were making their way to breakfast. We did the same and waited for Youssef, the guide we had met in Ras Al Hadd to give us a ride back out of the camp along with the Italian couple he was showing around. On the way out of the desert, we stopped by at another bedouin house for some dates and coffee. He dropped us off where we left our car the previous day and we parted ways from there on but not before reminding us to visit Wadi Shab on our way back to Muscat.
Wadi Shab is situated just after Tiwi. You can get there from the coastal road that links Muscat to Sur. There are brown information boards that guide visitors. We parked our car by the dual carriageway and walked down to the mouth of the wadi. This must be one of the most beautiful wadi’s in Oman because it is flanked on both sides by high cliff walls and the water is a clear blue with date palms on either side of the banks. There were some local boatsmen who offered to take us across to the other bank for 200 Baisa (USD 0.50). Our guy who offered to take us was an old man, Said. He dropped us on the other bank and told us that by 4pm, the water would recede and that we wouldn’t need to get a boat back. As we walked into the wadi, Said turned his boat around and made his way back to the other side, possibly to ferry more random tourists who might’ve stopped by on their way.
Walking on what seemed like a dry river bed full of white round pebbles, the mid afternoon heat got more and more intense as we walked further in. On both sides were the rocky walls of the mountains and the place looked surreal, like something out of Indiana Jones or even Jurassic Park. After about 15 minutes of walking, we saw the first signs of water. Again, what seems like the trademark turquoise blue of the Omani wadi’s. We followed the footpath further in, climbing up rocks and walking along the side walls of the wadi. We finally reached a pool of water and by then it was so hot that we decided it was time to step in and take a swim. It’s no wonder that they describe oases as pockets of paradise because after seeing these wadi’s, it’s hard to see these clear blue pools of water surrounded by green trees as anything short of paradise.
After some time there, we made our way back to where our car was parked and true to form, as Said had said, the water had receded somewhat but not to the extent that we had hoped it would. By the time we got back, the boatsmen were also nowhere to be found. I reckon they were having their siesta so there was no other choice but to wade through the knee deep water, over the sharp little pebbles to get back on to the other bank. It was probably not more than 50 meters but it was definitely not an enjoyable experience, having to walk barefoot over the slippery pebbles. It was painful to say the least but we made it eventually.
We were finally back on the road and on our way to Muscat (with a slight detour at Bimmah to see the sink hole).