I have just over nine days before I bid adieu to the home of my childhood. And like most people who are overrun with nostalgia, there is a moment too many, when I have asked myself whether I really want it all to get over this soon. Unfortunately, as heavy as my heart is right now, the answer is, yes. The longer I stay here, the more the memories and the harder it will be to leave. You can’t give up on what you’ve learned to love. But sometimes distancing from it, helps. You appreciate it more and hold on to everything good that the place had to offer. That’s what I want to take back from Muscat. Speaking about memories, I just made a new one today.
Early this Friday morning, when most of Muscat was enjoying their extended weekend siesta, my colleagues/friends and I took off on a short hiking trip in the mountains of Muttrah – a small province in Muscat, which overlooks the sea.
It’s a beginner’s trail and is the best route for any novice wanting to get a feel of the ground realities of hiking. Nonetheless, the two hour-long hiking trip wasn’t such a cakewalk. But this is one route that everyone visiting or living in Muscat must explore, more because of its proximity – it is sandwiched within the city – and also because it can be covered within a matter of a few hours, and doesn’t require you to be an ace trekker. All you need to know is how to “walk on your own two feet”. And we humans have been afforded that luxury.
The trail is just a short distance from Riyam Park – one of the oldest in town. The starting point is not hard to locate. An ascending graded path has been etched out and is clearly visible from the parking lot of the park. It’s from here that we started out at around 8.45 am. To be honest, this particular climb was the only obstacle I encountered during the entire trail. The rocks have been worn by gradual erosion, making its surface smoother and the terrain harder to traverse. A decent pair of walking shoes that offers great grip, should, however, resolve the issue. Not just that, the ascent is steep, so the steps that you take, are wider – tiring you too soon. The edgy start can be discomfiting, but it’s only about 30 minutes of that trouble. After this, the hike is fairly smooth.
Unlike most trails, where it’s usually advisable to have a guide along, this one can be covered on your own. But it is important to keep an eye for markers (three stripes of yellow/white/red) that have been painted on stones at regular intervals. Chances of being lost are next to nil, (if you follow in the direction of these landmarks).
As I went deeper into the mountains, a friend of ours suggested that “we wait a moment, and just look back”. The gigantic monument of the incense burner, which stands atop a hill at the park, and has been part of Muttrah’s landscape for eons, appears as a white speck against the dominating backdrop of the Arabian Sea. We ascended upwards and it receded further away from our eye, looking tinier than it actually is. If you walk further ahead, you fear that it could almost disappear. This view is captivating.
Once you reach the highest point, you get a spectacular view of the Muttrah corniche. A small fort on a hilly outcrop, the souk and anchored yachts, can be seen in the distance. After this point, the descent begins. One needs to be careful when heading down because there are a lot of loose rocks that keep pelting down. While on slopes, it is easier to sit down to help yourself to walk down. From here, a narrow stretch sandwiched between the mountains – that almost appears to be a dried up canyon – takes you towards the end point. We couldn’t overlook the irony of how the trail ended at an old Muslim graveyard.
“So we are at the end of where all of life ends,” an amused co-trekker mentioned, while navigating tomb stones at the graveyard.
By then it was 11 am. And though the water and energy drinks had kept us from dehydration, we were famished and hungry. “All men must die, but first we will eat,” somebody else added (The Game of Thrones pun intended, for all good reasons).
From start to finish, our journey in pictures: