Exactly 20 years ago, my friends and I were at Qurum Beach on a Thursday, which was the first day of the weekend back then. We decided we’d had enough of saltwater and were in need of fresh water for a change.
While most people may have settled for one of the wadis close to the capital, myself and two of my friends – the Three Amigos as we’re known – had grand ambitions and a love of discovering new places, which took us way up north to a lesser explored part of Wadi Hatta, just before the Oman-UAE border. We spent half the day here, splashing around and jumping into the huge pools before having some lunch and driving back home to Amerat.
Last week – on a Thursday again, as fate would have it – one of my Amigos, along with a newer recruit, began to reminisce about “the good old days” and decided to head back to see what, if anything, had changed. It was a very personal journey for me, like a trip down memory lane.
We set off in the very early hours of Friday morning and at a little under 300km, the journey should have taken around three hours or so. There was absolutely no traffic on the roads at that time, but it still took us closer to four hours to reach our destination, as we were taking it very easy, laughing and joking along the way and stopped once so that my friend could perform his morning prayers.
I was hoping to get some great pictures of the sun coming up as we drove, but unfortunately it was cloudy and a light fog lay on the ground, obscuring the sun.
Our destination can be found around 30 seconds from the Al Wajaja Border Post, driving in the direction of the UAE, at which point we took a dirt track on the left and entered the wilderness. We followed the path for a while, but eventually parked to walk the rest of the way when the terrain became too challenging for our saloon car.
The clouds and fog had both burned away by the time we arrived, but the atmosphere was still quiet and eerie, despite the fact the main road was very close by. The only signs of life we saw were the birds that wheeled overhead and the fish that darted round in the collected pockets of water. I tried to snap them both, but they moved too fast.
The difference between 1995 and 2015 was quite staggering. The sandy-coloured peaks of the surrounding hills and mountains remained, but the water was all but gone, it seemed. We trekked the area in search of the deep pools that we had been able to dive into all those years ago, but often just found dry and cracked mud in its place.
Eventually we found a trickle and were able to follow it downstream as it grew larger, eventually opening out into a small waterfall and a pool large enough to swim in. The same friend who recommended the place when we were kids wasted no time in taking a dip as he strove to relive his past.
One good thing that remains is the greenery. Trees and shrubbery abound and offer shade for those who go to relax there. From the look of things, this part of Wadi Hatta has become a lot more popular with visitors and in all honesty, it was sad to see. I don’t mind people enjoying the area – that’s the whole idea of exploring Oman’s great outdoors – but they should respect the environment and take their rubbish with them when they leave.
It was a little disappointing to see bottles and other trash carelessly strewn about, but we still managed to have just about as much fun as we did the first time around, as we remembered and retold the stories from our glory days.
It’s a good place for walking trips and the vast expanse of land makes it a good playground to test your 4×4 if you have one.
Once we’d had our fun, we decided that it would be a shame not to visit Dubai, given that fact that we were so close. The plan was to do some shopping, but in our soaking wet clothes we weren’t a fit sight for civilised society and ended up going for lunch at a mall just across the border before turning our car around and making the long, long trip back towards Muscat.
From Muscat, take Route 1 north, passing through the Shinas Gateway. Take a left at the Al Aqar roundabout and join Route 5. This road takes you all the way to the dirt track, which can be found on the left about 30 seconds after passing through the Al Wajaja Border Post.
GPS location of the dirt track: N24° 47’ 23.991” E56° 14’ 38.013”