Relishing the rare opportunity to actually be in the driving seat of a 4×4, I excitedly entered Wadi Qalhat, swapping the smooth blacktop road for an altogether rockier ground.
I had barely driven five metres when an ominous clunk was heard above the sound of the powerful engine of my friend’s Jeep Wrangler. I stopped immediately, conscious of the fact this was not my car, to assess the situation.
My worst fears were confirmed when closer inspection revealed us to be marooned atop a large boulder. I just didn’t see it coming.
I had wanted to get to the wadi early, in the hope of capturing some more of the fantastic blue skies I have been able to get over recent weeks, but the flip side of this was that there weren’t many people around and so we settled in for a long wait.
My friend had recently picked up a second-hand Wrangler and wanted to test it on rocky terrain, but it seemed that my first attempt had been jinxed in some way.
Luckily, two old men passed by after a while. We waved to them and I think they could sense that we were in a bit of a fix and instantly swung their car around. They were both 50-plus, complete with white beards, and set about righting my wrong.
The rock beneath the car was large, but our mysterious benefactors didn’t allow us to touch anything. They jacked up the vehicle, dug a little with bare hands and then between the pair of them, shifted the rock out from under the car. Of course my friend and I were incredibly grateful, but I’ve never felt so inadequate; these two resourceful old Omanis completely shamed us!
Once freed, we were able to explore the wadi as we had intended and bounced over the bumpy terrain for half an hour, before the rocks became too tough to negotiate. Having learned my lesson, we parked up and continued our journey on foot.
Pools of water have collected along the way and would make for great barbecue spots for lunch or a place to cool off when the trekking gets a bit too much.
I loved the evidence of the passage of time; visible in the way the wadi has carved out hollows in some of the rocks over thousands of years. Tall rock faces were reflected perfectly in the water; a sight that wasn’t entirely done justice in the pictures; you have to see it in person.
The deeper into the wadi we ventured, we started to see more and more signs of life, including flowers and plant life. One particular flower that caught my eye was a tiny purple one that looked beautifully symmetrical.
Symmetry was also the focus of my favourite image of the day. Parking the Jeep, the foreground and the vehicle were completely in shadow, while the mountain above was drenched in sunlight, with a little strip of blue sky peeking out above.
The route down to Sur is a gold mine of wadis and beaches and there is so much to explore beyond old favourites like Wadi Shab and the Bimmah sinkhole.
As for me, I’ll certainly be making the trip south to explore once more, except next time maybe I’ll stay behind the camera as opposed to the steering wheel.
Wadi Qalhat is easily visible on the way to Sur. Take Route 17 from Muscat all the way past Wadi Shab. There will be a sign for Qalhat Heritage Village, with the beach on one side and the wadi on the other, carving an obvious path between the mountains.
GPS Location of Wadi Qalhat: N22º 41’ 39.938” E59º 22’ 5.624”