Shaquel al Balushi finds it’s a case of the more, the merrier when visiting one of Oman’s most spectacular locations.
Going places and exploring new territories can be fun when you’re travelling with a trusted friend. And as you all would know, my best friend Imran has been my trusted companion on most of my journeys in search of new destinations. This week, however, things were a tad different.
And no! It wasn’t just us this time. Instead, we were travelling with 10 other people. And little did I know that it would end up being 10 times more fun than usual. But I’m jumping the gun here. Let me start with how we drew up the plans in the first place.
As always, the plans were for Imran and me to head someplace out of the city. But, a day before our journey, Bader al Ghailani, the head nurse at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, who also happens to be one of my close friends, called me up to say that he had six colleagues visiting from the United States, and that they wanted to explore Oman.
So I quickly switched plans and summoned four other friends of mine – Imran, Bader, DJ and Ahmed – better known as the “Second Cup Crew”, and decided to head to Oman’s jewel – Wadi Bani Khalid – with our guests .
I couldn’t think of any place better than Wadi Bani Khalid, due to the beautiful wadi and desert that stretches across the picturesque location. If I were to show someone Oman in a day, I would simply take them there.
In any case, we started very early, and headed to the location. It lies close to Bidbid, and in all, it took us more than three-and-a-half hours to haul ourselves there.
But as soon as we reached the wadi, it became obvious that we were in the midst of some real adventurers – and things soon started to become competitive (in a friendly way). The stunning cliff walls of the wadi soon became launch pads for diving. The girls first started jumping from the middle but soon proceeded all the way to the top once they got accustomed to the jump. I believe that some of the cliffs can be anywhere between 10 and 20 metres in height.
We five men could only look at them in awe and clap. They were very active and adventurous. We, however, were indolent or maybe just a tad too comfortable (since this is our home turf).
Needless to say: we boys couldn’t even jump from the middle. So, round one: women – 1, men – 0.
Following that, we went for a swim in the wadi, and headed deep into the far corners of the wadi for some exploring. It was a lot of exertion on the body but all of the girls were certified in rescue services, and therefore, we knew we were in safe hands. But, I could see that the girls were thoroughly enjoying the swim – the waters of Wadi Bani Khalid are known to possess some of the clearest waters in Oman. Next, we all started to hike up the gorgeous brown mountains. I asked everyone to be extra careful as the rocks were very slippery but ironically, it was only me who was slipping and falling down. By the end of the hike, I had a few too many bruises to take home.
But in my eyes, each and every one of those bruises was worth it, as I thoroughly enjoyed my hike up the mountains. It’s one of those places that you just cannot get used to – even if you have been there thousands of times.
However, as luck would have it, something worse lay in store for me. I had lost my phone somewhere in our previous camp site. I didn’t pay much heed to it, though, as I simply took it as an opportunity to stay disconnected from everyone in the city. As a matter of fact, Imran was worried about my phone, more than I was. But I’m a believer in the saying, “Everything happens for a reason”, and thereby did not let the incident worry me too much.
Our destination for the night was the desert that lays towards the far end of Wadi Bani Khalid. It’s quite a serene location to camp, and the temperatures are quite low there – making way for some really cool evenings. It took us an hour-and-a-half of driving to reach the location but we immediately huddled around a fire, and started sharing stories.
Imran and Bader, however, knew my aversion towards ghosts and spirits, and took that as an opportunity to scare the living lights out of me. I managed to switch the topic, however, and by the end, we were all having a nice time.
I even made my special “Omani tacos” – which is essentially cheese and Oman chips, laid between two slices of bread. I started making a few for myself, but soon, everyone wanted one. I also prepared everyone tea to help them stay warm in the cold night.
One thing about Wadi Bani Khalid is that you will always find a perfect spot for camping. But I’m different. I enjoy sleeping in my Jeep for some odd reason. I feel that it is better than my tent.
So I spent the night in my car on a comfortable bed. This, coupled with the cold winds blowing outside, really helped me catch up on some recent long, sleepless nights of mine.
We were all up by the crack of dawn, though, as we had to drop the girls back to Sultan Qaboos University by evening. So we immediately headed for some dune bashing before finally calling off our memorable camping trip. We all had fun, and the most important thing was that everyone had smiles on their faces, which is sort of a Wadi Bani Khalid trademark.
From Muscat, take Route 15 and take the turning for Route 23 after Bidbid. Stay on Route 23 until you pass through Bidiyah. Take a left turn after the Oriental Nights Rest House and follow the signs to Wadi Bani Khalid.