I know for a fact that the pictures that accompany my trip to Wadi Bani Awf will barely do the wadi even 1 per cent of the justice it deserves, so I’m going to have to rely on my words as well.
Travelling there before sunrise on a Thursday morning, my breath was well and truly taken away – and for me, that’s a pretty big deal. I’m speaking as someone who has lived their entire life in Oman and has spent a measureable proportion of time either hiking or simply appreciating the various mountains that make up the rugged terrain of my home country.
I left Amerat at around 4.30am and drove the short distance to pick up a friend of mine, who is also an outdoor enthusiast. We made the 120km journey in good time and entered the wadi from Route 13, between Al Awabi and Rustaq.
As the road carved its winding route through the huge mountains that rose to either side, I craned my neck to take it all in and suddenly felt very small. The landscape was instantly recognisable as Oman, jagged peaks punctuating the horizon as dawn became day, and yet it was at the same time so different to what you usually see. The geological make up of the area fascinated me, with the intense layering of the mountains unlike any I have ever seen. It would’ve been interesting to talk to a geologist, who could explain the history of the area to me, but as it was I simply stared in open-mouthed wonder, snapping the occasional image as I went.
The road we were travelling on looked more heavy duty than normal, as if it was built to withstand the punishment of nature when the rains fall. We spotted a designated parking area and decided to park and explore the wadi further on foot.
Although the road had been dry, we spotted a few small individual pools of water in the wadi itself, which hinted at the possibility of rain a few days earlier. The pools were relatively shallow and sporadically placed, although my friend told me that the wadi runs for kilometres, so this could well change the further along you travel.
We saw very few signs of civilisation throughout the wadi, with intermittent clusters of green palm trees a much more common sight than houses and people, giving the place a very natural and quiet atmosphere.
Of course, as a very mountainous wadi, the opportunities for trekking are vast and there are spots for intrepid explorers to set up camp for overnight trips. For me, however, just driving through and taking in the awe of my surroundings was enough.
I spent a few hours attempting to capture the beauty and depth of the wadi before having a late breakfast and heading back to reality for an afternoon shoot in the capital. I can say with confidence that this was one of the best mountain trips I have taken in my life and it really was a shame I had to leave.
I implore everyone to visit Wadi Bani Awf at least once. Gather together your friends, relatives and loved ones and just go for a drive.
If you can bear the early start, head out before dawn and watch the sun rise; I can assure you that it is something you won’t regret.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Muscat, take the expressway and exit left onto Route 13 when you reach the end. Pass through Al Awabi and Wadi Bani Awf will be signposted before you reach Rustaq. The phone signal is poor once you enter the wadi, so make sure you tell people where you are going in case of emergency.
GPS location of entrance to Wadi Bani Awf:
N23° 20’ 30.844 E57° 29’ 34.954