Once in a while, the occasional adventurer in me shoots up, asking if I’d like to dare a wild trip that would push me to the hilt and rid me off all my fears and anxieties. I have come to realise that ever since I moved to Muscat two years ago, that side of me keeps coming back to haunt my parents, who would rather that I play badminton in a garden than frolic in the mountains and wadis (valleys/ravines) of Oman. Their worries are justified, but they have little to fear because to be honest, I’m not bold enough. I like an adventure, but a good one, where even though I exhaust myself completely, the full glory of nature resists me from feeling the pain and fatigue that comes along with it. So yes, I would only brave an adventure, if the place has something breathtakingly beautiful to offer. What’s the use of putting your life at risk, when your eyes don’t assure you that this adventure is worth that effort. It’s like being in love. What’s the use of giving your heart away, if your mind doesn’t convince you that this could be worth it after all, even if it means a heartbreak someday. When it comes to adventure, we could swap the heartbreak for broken bones, bruises and fractures. It couldn’t get any worse, trust me. Unless you decide to do something very, very foolish.
Just two months ago, I made this crazy trip in the Hajar (name of the range) mountains of Oman. The immediate motivation was a travel feature, which had to be written for the publication, where I work. But it was more than just that. I wanted to do something that I would take back with me when I left this country. I wanted something that I could remember on a very bad day, and then tell myself, “If I made it through this one, I can make it through a rough day too’.
That’s how I ended up going with a group of avid trekkers, who willingly complied to be part of my story on the hiking route near Wadi Bani Khalid – a popular tourist spot in the Sharqiyah region. Located 200 kilometres (four-hour drive) from the capital city Muscat, Wadi Bani Khalid is quite popular among tourists looking for a quiet weekend getaway by the lake. But the 4.5km-long trekking trail, which is a few metres away from the lake spot and is near Baadah village, is an anomaly. Forget comfort. Forget leisure. Because what awaits you is a string of six to seven aquamarine pools that surprise you with its limitless capacity to never end. I had just learned some basic swimming a few months before this trek, so this was where I was going to put my skills to test.
The good thing about the Wadi Bani Khalid trail is that because it is a valley, it offers a wider scape that is less claustrophobic, and offers more choices within the terrain, for hikers to negotiate through.
The hike is actually very basic with your feet mostly navigating boulders and cave-like passageways naturally created within the mountains. The relief comes from the swims that keep you cool throughout. What makes this hike tough, especially for a novice, is the long stretches of water that one needs to swim through. The length of one stream spans over 300m, wearing down even the most skilled swimmer. The fact that the water is deep means that wading the pools without life jackets would be dangerous.
On one occasion, I did avoid a pool because I was too tired to swim. That meant, I had to brave through the narrow ledges of the mountains. There was an instance where I nearly missed my footing, and risked falling into a deep crevice. Thanks to a local lad, who joined us for half the trail, I was guided safely to other end.
The good news is that if one is too drained to complete the entire course, you can return halfway. Then there are the cliff jumps that you can enjoy – unfortunately too fearful of landing down with broken bones, I steered away from attempting any such stunts.
Coming to the vista of this wadi, I know that no matter how much I try describing this spectacle, mere words – as cliched as it sounds – would never do justice to what I saw. Every pool opens up to a different shade of blue – sometimes turquoise, sometimes teal, on other occasions cerulean, and often, even green. My advice when swimming: “Don’t push yourself too hard”. Just let yourself float skywards, so that you can observe everything above you. The sheer vastness of the craggy mountains, which narrow in from either side, humbles you. Your body may be fighting severe ache and exhaustion, but when you see what you see, you know it’s worth every bit of that muscle you are stretching and that battle you are fighting in your head. Stop when you see the magic unfold before you, soak in everything and then move on. Remember this is not a race. You are on a ride – a dreamy one that too. Care little for what your body tells you.
We finished the trek some six hours later. And am happy to say, I came home intact. The parents were happy too. After heaving a sigh of relief, they however asked me if I had had my full of such maddening adventures. Just for the record, I haven’t made any commitments yet.
What you need for the trek?
A guide is a must or at least someone who has covered the trail before/ Wear a life jacket/ Good walking or aqua shoes/ Waterproof camera if you want to take pictures/ A waterpoof bag for food, water etc