Great days out in the outdoors mean taking your time and dealing with mishaps, as Shaquel al Balushi finds out at Wadi Qurai.
As many of you will know, we Omanis are very eco-centric: we love to keep our surroundings as natural as possible. As a matter of fact, we take immense pride in telling the world all about it while showcasing the many highlights scattered across our country.
And one such area (among the many thousands) is Wadi Qurai. My first (and last) visit here was in 2015, when I was left astounded by the sheer beauty of the surroundings, and the falaj system that dissected the far ends of the wadi. So, I knew it was time to re-visit this area one more time, and before the rains fell.
Sadly, however, I was riding solo on my journey this week, as Imran and my other friends were incredibly busy. But, that wasn’t going to stop me. So I packed up my camera gear, the usual supplies of food and water, and headed out for the long drive that lay ahead. My starting time was at 5am – before the crack of dawn – and before the rush-hour traffic kicked in.
This is the best time to drive as you get to enjoy the sunrise, as well as the empty roads. It really is a feeling unlike any other.
My drive towards Wadi Qurai was a long one – measuring in at almost 120km – from my home. But armed with a playlist of my favourite music, I was on my way.
The wadi can be found close to Nizwa, and there’s a sign board that points towards the village that leads to it. Luckily, I was also able to drive towards the far corner of the village and approach the wadi from there with my trusty Jeep.
However, do bear in mind that all wadis are challenging. And Wadi Qurai is among the hardest of them all to explore. The terrain is incredibly rocky, and sometimes you’re forced to walk on the falaj – the walls of which can rise by a few metres – if you’re looking to scour some of the remote areas of the wadi.
But if you’re a bit of an adventurer, then this could be the perfect spot for you, especially if you’re a fitness freak. The beautiful rock formations make way for some extreme stamina-testing, and the uneven falaj walls mean some quite intense climbing exercises.
However, the terrain was quite challenging for me because I was carrying around quite a lot of gear (three cameras, lenses and a heavy tripod). As I moved forward, I also felt very uneasy, as my mind was giving off negative vibes – screaming at me to not continue on the path.
But I ignored them all and went on. But what a mistake that turned out to be.
Just a few metres ahead, I encountered my first calamity: a herd of menacing goats, who were staring me down. They had to be the most hostile goats I’ve ever come across in my life. To avoid getting rammed, I had to move aside onto a slab of rock.
I also took that as an opportunity to click some photographs of them. But upon doing so, they all stopped and started glaring at me – like I had done something impolite.
This set off alarm bells in my head. I quickly grabbed my gear, and headed in the opposite direction. This also meant that I had to climb farther up the falaj.
Upon doing this, however, you will be treated to some truly marvellous sights. From up here, you can catch a glimpse of the entire wadi. It was striking, and a very serene place to be.
Do note that when you’re here, you also won’t get any range on your smartphone. So, you’re completely secluded from everything. It’s only you and your surroundings. The only sound you’ll hear is of the winds shaking the leaves and branches on the trees, and the pleasant sound of water running through the falaj.
It has to be seen to be believed; it really is that wonderful.
By now, I was running on fumes. The climb had drained all my stamina. So I decided to turn and head back to my Jeep, which was waiting for me by the village.
And call it bad luck: my left foot slipped and I fell off the falaj wall. During my mishap, I also managed to knock my face on my tripod. It was a bad fall, but thankfully, I wasn’t too hurt.
I quickly packed up my gear, and continued my way down at a slow but safe pace.
It was only upon reaching my car, when I realised how dangerous things could have been had I actually slipped off one of the steeper falaj walls. And that, coupled with the fact that my smartphone was completely disconnected from the outside world meant that I would have had to rely on myself to get out of trouble.
Because of that incident, I urge everyone to always travel with company (family or friends). Also, try to carry a satellite phone, as you never know when disaster might strike.
As they say: it is better to be prepared and safe than to be sorry.
Also don’t forget: the rainy season is fast approaching, and things will only get more risky. So, I would suggest you put off any plans to visit secluded wadis and aflaj until May – when the skies will be clearer and the waters safer.
From Muscat, take Route 15 to Nizwa and remain on this road for 76km before exiting to the right. The journey should take a little over one hour.
N23˚09’ 52”; E57˚ 51’ 14”