Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

Ops Jalan Sakan (Mission: Travelots) - UAE and Oman, Spring 2009
Part 4

April 4th, 2009. Daytime.


Before heading for Wadi Bani Khalid, we needed to stop by a supermarket to buy supplies. We had planned to barbecue some chicken for our lunch at the wadi, after having a swim. Taufik bought some charcoal and a griller, but could not find any raw chicken. We ended up buying some half cooked barbecue chicken, along with some rice.
Again, the road signages in Oman guided our way to our destination, because most of the roads do not appear in our GPS.




We drove up spectacular mountains and then down again until we reached a small town. At first we were not sure if we were even at the right place, but we just drove on again, past houses and date trees until we reached what looked like a road washed out by a small stream. We followed a local truck to cross the stream for a bit, until he turned around and told us something like "Khamsin" or something and pointed to a gravel road ahead of us. We guessed he meant the wadi is about 50meters ahead of us on the gravel road. We thanked him and drove on, and sure enough at the last turn, we were greeted by two huge green pools of water in the middle of lush date trees. Judging from the white range rovers parked along the road, there were quite a few tourists who were already there ahead of us.
Getting off the car, we were greeted by the croaking of frogs, something that I haven't not heard in a very very long time. I cherished the sound then, oblivious to the premonition.
We unloaded our 'supplies' (food, water, tents, mats, a change of clothes and towels)(oh and cameras) from the car and proceeded to climb the steep path up to the top of the wadi.
Part of the concrete walkway leading up to the wadi was destroyed during the typhoon in 2006, so we had to carefully cross it. The dads took turns to carry over kids, supplies and wives.


The rest of the path is still intact though. Looking forward to swimming in cool waters flowing fresh from the mountains, we lugged our supplies and walked up with some other tourist. Everyone was carrying something, even Izani, who had to carry the aluminum griller (the lightest item). Halfway up, a few boys about 7 or 8 years old asked us in broken english if he and his friends could carry our stuff for us (for a fee). Of course we said yes and lightened the load for some of our smaller children.
Our stuff looked big and heavy for them but when I asked them "Bas?" (Okay?), they said they were okay.
(Omani children not in pictures)



Along the sides of the paths are date plantations that are irrigated by the waters flowing down the wadi. The water is chanelled down narrow canals called 'falaj'. Even though I've seen it many many times (even in Saudi), I am still amazed at how a seemingly barren and dry land could become so fertile with only a litte supply of water. Masya-Allah.

The water flowed in a steady stream along the walkway and at points, it flowed across the walkway and we had to walk through the mini waterfalls. The amount of water we saw was not as much as we expected, but we were encouraged by the stories from travellers before us and the urging of the young porters that the pools at the end of the long walkway is nice.
One of the porters stopped by his house (which nestled in a grove of date palm trees) and emerged with a shopping trolley, which he then used to carry the more bulky and heavier stuff (our juice & water and the mats). He happily pushed the trolley while half-walking, half-running, singing some arabic ditty. Several times along the way the trolley toppled over, which amused me, but agitated Taufik a bit :P



We finally reached the end of the walkway, but saw no pools. Apparently the pools were much further up and you had to balance yourself on the concrete canals to go up. The dads and kids decided to go check out the pool, while Kak Faridah, Izani and I spreaded a mat under a mango tree and had a chat with the porters.

With my limited and broken arabic, I asked them their names, "ma ismuka?".
"Muhammad, Saeed, Ali" (or something) they answered.
Saeed, in particular, was very chatty, and seems to be the leader of the porters, always shouting instructions to the other boys.
"Mafi madrasah?" I asked. (No school?)
"No, school closed" Saeed answered, "raining, teacher say go home".
"Where rain? Mafi rain!" I teased him.
"Madrasah kalam ingleezi?" I asked (School speaks english?)
"La.. arabiya" he said.
"Where learn english?" I asked, getting into my habit of imitating another person's way of speaking.
"here" he said, pointing up and down the walkway, indicating that he learnt english from the tourist whom he carried bags for. I was impressed :)
"masya-Allah!", I gave him a thumbs up sign, "Anta, *points at him and his friends* ukhwat, au sadiq?" (You, brothers or friends?)
And he went into this long explanation how they are friends but Ali's father is his mother's brother and their houses are just next to each other in that grove of date trees.
The boys threw Saeed's sandals up the mango tree to retrieve young mangoes and offered us some, but they looked too green (thus sour) to me. Saeed and Izani also tried to chat and share a sour mango.


Taufik came back and reported that he saw pools, but the water was kinda stagnant and to his alarm, he also saw leeches! Erks...
So he decided to camp at one of the spots we passed by on the way up.
Hearing this, Saeed exclaimed "Lahaulawalla!!" (err I dont know how to translate this, but it's usually used to express frustration or tired of something), which made me laugh :D mainly because it was also my sentiment.

So we all walked back down the walkway, searching for the perfect spot to pitch our tent. We found the perfect spot, but it was a bit away from the walkway and had to then search for a safe way for us to bring the kids and our stuff to the perfect spot.
The porters helped us carry our stuff to the picnic spot. For their trouble and patience, we gave them each some juice and water and a bag of marshmallows, on top of the OR1 that Taufik paid them.
They sat on the bank of the walkway, drinking juice and munching on marshmallows while watching us pitch our tent, start a fire for barbecue and our kids going for a splash.



Our kids didn't spend too much time swimming, mainly because even though the sun was shining bright, the water flowing down the wadi was really really cold! They were also getting hungry and thirsty. Furthermore, the kids that were snorkelling saw many many frogs. And not just frogs, frogs spawning! With trails of eggs behind them.
Eyew.
It's a good thing we bought half-cooked chicken, because it didnt take that long before we could have lunch of rice and barbecue chicken, which tasted so yummy after such a long walk and wait.
We had promised to meet up with the driver who was going to bring us into the Wahiba Sands at 2pm, so as soon as everyone had finished their lunch, we packed up and carried all our stuff and trash down the walkway back to our cars.



Even though Wadi Bani Khalid was slightly dissapointing because there was not as much water as we imagined there would be, the interaction with the local boys and the adventurous experience was still enjoyable to me, and I am sure both of our families will remember this picnic spot for a long time.

Next: Spending a night in the desert!

9 comments:

  1. interesting journey.. macam best jer kan.. bila plak agaknya den meraso nak poi sano.. hahaha

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  2. ilham is nearly your height. :D

    awww it is such a shame that there is not much water. the pool on thehigher places memang abundant of water. thank god we didn't see any leeches nor frogs. and i like to assume the one we went tak ada. ignorant is bliss. :P

    anyway
    la hawla means there is no other might
    quwata - power
    illa billah - except with Allah

    the whole invocation would be there is no other might and power except with Allah

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  3. sounds interesting.. looks great!
    never knew that ada air kat desert macam tu.. *blushing*
    tapi bila elisa kata ada frogs and the tadpoles tu.. yucckkyy... menggeli gelemankan lah pulak..
    overall, nice view and an interesting place to be visited..
    one day... bila la tu.. hmmmm..

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  4. azwar,
    Malaysians boleh dapat visa upon entry kat sana, so bila2 pun boleh pegi.. kena kumpul duit aje ;)

    Lollies,
    I think it's the season lah.. You went in December kan? Coz when Zamin went last December, there was so much water (it looked like a river!) and we didnt hear him complain about frogs and leaches pun.

    Neeza,
    People say that the wadis have more water during the rainy/winter seasons, which is October - February. I think we really hit the jackpot with the frogs coz it was spring time, and spring is the season for llurvvve... ha ha ha
    So if you want to go, dont go in spring ;)
    My friends who went in december said there was a lot of water, and it wasnt so cold either.

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  5. errr... dengan batu-batu tu, caner baring-baring dalam khemah, ek???

    also, weewee and uk-uk kat situ gak batu-batu ke, dalam sungai ke...

    *sorry kita tak kaki camping...maluuuu*

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  6. Alin,

    Khemah tu untuk tukar baju dan to sit in out of the sun, not to sleep in. But yeah, it was a bit rocky. There was a huge rock under our mat. Izani used it as a stool.

    We didnt sleep here lah.. just had a picnic lunch aje.. I think we spent not more than 2 hours here.
    Before that, we came from the hotel (so dah settle everything), and after that drove straight to a petrol station for a toilet break before driving into the desert.
    So, no 'business' done in the wadi *grin*.

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  7. i think i've said that in lollies' before but i'm going to say it again. i've always thought the wadi that we learnt in secondary school geography were little pools of water with date trees around it. definitely not big enough to make you feel tired walking around it ehehehe.

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  8. mosh,
    Kitorang pun imagine macam tu, but actually, because Oman is so mountainous, most rivers flow down macam waterfall.
    Banyak sangat sign for wadis in Oman, too bad we didnt have the time (and my friend didnt have the vehicle) to explore them all.

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