In an emotional tribute, Shaquel al Balushi retraces the journey he made in the wake of Cyclone Gonu in 2007, making the long walk from Wadi Adai to Amerat
Visiting Wadi Mayh last week inspired me. Seeing the destruction wrought by cyclone Gonu reminded me of my personal experience of the storm and I decided to retrace my own journey from the summer of 2007.
I was in Al Khuwair when the rains hit and ended up getting cut off from my family when the roads were closed; but luckily I was able to stay over with a friend for a few days.
I didn’t take the whole thing too seriously to begin with, I was actually happy that it was finally raining. However, when the roads reopened three or four days after the storm hit, I got my first glimpse of the devastation. Later I leared that winds in Muscat reached up to 62mph and 50 people lost their lives to Gonu throughout the country.
I parked my car in Wadi Adai, an area just southwest of Ruwi, and joined hundreds of others to make the long walk to Amerat, my home and my family.
Back then the trail was filled with people coming and going, we were like a huge crowd of refugees, with people carrying all their possessions after everything else had been washed away by the estimated 95 million cubic metres of floodwater that hit the area.
A new road and bridge have now been built, but back then the road used to run along the base of the valley with the mountains on either side.
The distance from Wadi Adai to Amerat is only 12km, so roughly a 10-minute drive, but walking with suitcases and bags it was taking people upwards of three hours, all under the blistering summer sun. It was probably the toughest hike I have ever done.
This time around I parked my car at the Amerat end and trekked roughly half of the way to Wadi Adai. During my visit last week I spotted some signs of the old road, but largely it was destroyed and just as with Wadi Mayh, chunks of shattered concrete can be seen littering the area.
Today, the area remains beautiful, but a different kind of life grows there now; the landscape is largely sparse and barren, but for a few patches of greenery that grow here and there. It is clearly still a place that people visit, as I spotted signs of campfires and barbecues on my way.
Having said this, I would recommend visiting during the day as when I returned in the evening to try and capture the stars and the deep navy sky, I found that an unsettling feeling had descended on the land and I didn’t stay long.
During the day however, there is a pleasant breeze that blows down between the mountains and small herds of goats roam freely.
When I finally reached home that summer’s day in 2007, my family were safe but Amerat was like a ghost town, we had no water and no electricity, everywhere was dark.
This experience changed me and I think it changed my whole generation. We were definitely not prepared for catastrophes like this, but I think that many lessons have now been learned.
Whereas before I used to think my grandma was nagging when she said that water was precious and not to be wasted, after having lived without it during those few days, I know that she spoke the truth. Gonu made me appreciate that.
How to get there:
From Muscat, take road 17 past Wadi Adai, towards Amerat. Take the first exit at the first roundabout you come to and make a U-turn onto the service road. Follow the service road in the direction you’ve just come from. There will be a dirt track on the right hand side.
GPS location of the dirt track: N23˚ 32’ 17” E58˚ 30’ 46”