Standing with a huge rock towering over us and with no way to go but onwards was the point when we all questioned whether it had been such a good idea after all.
We had decided to take on the mighty boulders of Wadi Tiwi and although we had no idea what lay ahead for us, it proved to be one of the best – and hardest – destinations that I’ve done.
It was a challenge and a crazy day of non-stop laughing and extreme physical exertion.
Funnily enough, it had all started so sedately that Friday morning when four of my “crew” (my long-time buddies) and I decided to go for a drive. We headed off in convoy; me in my “Warrior” (my loyal dent-covered Toyota Camry that travels everywhere with me) and others in a Jeep Wrangler.
We decided on Wadi Tiwi, a popular visitor spot famed for its spectacular beauty of emerald-green pools and thick plantations, and only around 160km from Muscat, about a 90-minute drive.
You don’t need a 4×4 to reach the main part of the wadi, which is on a narrow paved lane. On the way, you’ll pass verdant farms and a lot of greenery, contrasting nicely with the more barren landscape to come.
We arrived to find families enjoying picnics on the edge of the shallow water. Our gang kicked back and chilled, taking selfies and enjoying friendly, easy-going banter.
It would have stayed like that, a relaxed day, until someone suggested we go for a trek. I’d heard tales about the size of the rocks in Wadi Tiwi, but was not prepared for the mammoth boulders that we encountered. I’m not sure that my photos can do justice to the sheer scale of these monsters that had toppled from the cliffs above.
The challenge was on. We decided that we were going to climb these fallen pieces of Oman’s geological history and set off on a quest that, in hindsight, verged on madness.
One of the guys was only wearing ordinary flip-flops and shorts. The rest of us were more sensibly attired in trainers and another had proper water-resistant wadi sandals.
On top of that, my cousin, Adil, is scared of heights.
So, on the surface, we might have seemed a little ill-prepared to say the least. However, we’re all experienced adventurers and familiar with the landscape, having all grown up in Oman.
Even with our knowledge, however, it was tough going. Some of the inclines were so steep, leaving us scrambling on our hands and knees over rocks or squeezing between claustrophobic narrow gaps.
Our appointed watchman, Hazum, the one we called “Head Man”, would climb above to guide us through the best route, communicating through shouts and hand signals.
My cousin, who works as airline cabin crew, has travelled to so many places that we call him “The Tourist” yet he’s never been able to conquer his fear of heights. I tried to persuade him to stand on the edge of a long flat piece of cliff sticking out over a drop, but he refused and would only pose for a photograph sitting down, giving his customary thumbs up gesture (below).
Our watchman had no qualms whatsoever and one of my favourite shots of the day was of him perched on the ledge looking so calm and at one with the surroundings.
We had planned to trek the whole length of the wadi, but we barely managed a kilometre, if that. Five hours of clambering over rocks left us feeling exhausted but exhilarated.
On the way back, as the sun began to set, I managed to capture a stunning image of the water moving in one of the pools, slipping and sliding over rocks like a piece of silk. There’s an ethereal quality to the image that I love.
Arriving back at the main area, we were tired, cold and hungry. Seeing our state, a Bengali family called us over and gave us a plate of barbecued meat they’d just made, a gesture of real kindness.
Wadi Tiwi is a great location for just about anyone, whether you want a family day out, picnic by a pool, camping, swimming or hardcore trekking like us.
We left home at 9am that morning and returned back at 11.30pm, weary and weather-beaten, physically and mentally wrung out, but filled with a sense of achievement and a bagful of memories that money just can’t buy.
From Muscat, take Route 17 until you pass Wadi Shab. Take the turn-off for Tiwi a few kilometres further on, driving back on yourself along the coast and through the village until you see the overpass. The path into Wadi Tiwi starts under this bridge.
GPS location of Wadi Tiwi: N22º 47’ 34.577” E59º 13’ 49.694”