Enjoying an irresistible sunset is the perfect time to pitch camp after hooking up with some old friends at Wadi Rusayl, says Alvin Thomas.
What goes up must come down, right? The words of the 17th- century English physicist Isaac Newton may have passed into folklore, but make as much sense as they ever did, especially when heading off into the mountains.
My mate Fawas is back in town from his studies in India. Back in the day – our schooldays to be precise – Fawas and I used to explore Muscat. Therefore, it was only fitting to hook up and swap our teenage-fuelled urban exploits for a more adult-like excursion into the wild.
Joining us for our adventure is Jijin and our friend Siam. We quickly decide upon Wadi Rusayl as it is one location we haven’t visited for quite a while.
The wadi is only about 20 minutes’ drive away from the urban sprawl.
Of course, even then, heading to a wadi in the month of May is laughable since we’ve not had heavy rains in the capital for more than two months now.
But our aim is not the wadi but the fort that sits atop one of the peaks. And that is also one of the first sights we see upon reaching our location.
My first thought is to park our trusty offroad-ready Toyota Fortuner near one of the local convenience stores and hike up. But the 40-degree-Celsius heat is too much for us to take so we end up driving as close to the fort as we can.
Even then, we are left with a daunting task: the incline is quite steep, and Jijin backs out, reassuring us that he will be the first to respond in the case of an emergency. We call him a chicken and carry on.
Hiking up is not a difficult task at all: we simply use our hands to navigate through to find the stable rocks to forge our path ahead. Siam guides us through, and is the first to arrive at the top.
I, on the other hand find myself struggling to get traction and slip a couple of times, thanks to the burden of the camera gear.
Built with sand and rocks, it is a notable Omani fort. Sadly, it is in a sorrowful state; its condition is due to the elements over many years: there are numerous cracks and breaks in the walls, and the whole structure has collapsed at one end. This is a shame considering its noble history. The fort was once used as a watchtower to ward off enemies and to provide ground forces with adequate time to prepare for an attack.
But it is a perfect location for us (well, at least the three of us) to stand and look around at the beautiful wadi. You really can see the whole of Wadi Rusayl as well as a part of Wadi Al Khoud from up here.
The view is simply staggering, and the coupling winds make way for a very serene and soothing break from the hike. We also click a few photos before we head back down.
Meanwhile, Jijin manages to pull off a stunning shot of the sunset.
By now, we’re done relaxing in the fort and decide to head back down, which brings me back to the earlier statement of “what goes up must come down”. Siam hops (literally) downwards to the bottom of the hill like a gazelle while Fawas and I find it hard-going.
The loose rocks make it taxing for me as I have to take care of the expensive camera equipment. We try every possible route for the next 10 minutes or so before finally deciding that there is no point staying on top and that we have to risk a few bumps and scrapes to make it back to base.
Fawas and I then proceed through one safer route, and slowly slide down. Call it a team effort, but both of us make it down.
But we are not yet calling it a day, and continue down to the base of the wadi for some more exploring. The setting sun casts an exquisite light on some resplendent scenery, and the commanding mountain range makes for an imperious but entrancing background.
The wadi is full of spots that are filled with fresh, flowing water, and many are irresistible to swimmers who are happy to camp here and dive in. I’m particularly interested in marine life, and try to get up close and personal with the small “wadi fishes”.
Sadly, even with a 1/1000 shutter speed, they are just too quick.
We then proceed to one of the grassy areas of the wadi, and pitch camp there.
And as the clock strikes 6pm, we settle down around the car to catch a glimpse of the sun setting behind the mountains. This is probably what “picture-perfect” means. Suddenly, I feel 14 again.
Take the exit from Al Mawaleh roundabout that leads you towards Sultan Qaboos University. Proceed onwards for 15km and you will reach the university roundabout. From there, take the exit towards the Muscat Expressway. Once you are at the exit, you will find a training ground used by the ROP. You will soon reach a village. Towards the end of the village you will find the entrance to the wadi.