Jacket Bag? Check. Two strollers? Check. Water Bottles?
Do we really need to carry WATER BOTTLES? We can buy them!
Why? We don’t need to carry them BACK! And why do we need to BUY them? We have lots of water at home! OK. Check!
Wait! Food…the FOOD BAG! Do we have that? YES!
Ok. All set? Let’s GO!
And that’s how the lovely trip to Wahiba Sands began…on a not-so-auspicious and tempest-in-a-teacup kind of atmosphere.
But once the usual scramble and bagging the window seat(there are only 2 at the back!) ended, we settled down to enjoy the next 3 days with nature and bliss and not necessarily together.( 😉 )
There was a fifth member in our little group, our aunt- Pinky!
LOL she doesn’t look anything like a “pinky” but it was her childhood nickname and it stuck!
Anyway, we trundled off into the late morning sun in our car. We whizzed through Muscat whilst mom and dad enthusiastically pointed out its various delights and important(yawn!) buildings. Esh was wrapped in clicking away spectacular and (LOL) tiny pictures of the moving scenery from the car with the new and borrowed DSLR. In her words, “It turns the ordinary to extraordinary!” and so it did, turning craggy mountains and neem trees into high resolution craggy mountains and neem trees! Did I mention goats?
A few half-hours into the journey, I started to get a little carsick like I usually do but it could have been aggravated by Mom’s inability to yell at the permissible decibel range. I gave up after my not-so-subtle hints to mom to reduce her amplitude had been blatantly ignored and plugged in my ipod earphones in a huff, increasing the volume till Taylor Swift just about managed to drown mom’s soliloquy on the mountains and beaches and everything else under the sun.
How time flies when one is not bombarded by loud noises (from the front) and is under the sweet influence of music. It flies very fast indeed! In no time at all we were at the pick-up point on the edge of Wahiba Sands.
Our Omani guide was quite a character! A multilinguist , “super” driver, sound-effects artiste and marketing expert all in one package…modesty excluded.
We crammed into his land rover and with a brief and wholly unsympathetic warning about hanging on to our seats shot across the slippery sands. Going straight up on a monstrous sand dune and inching BACKWARDS, being nearly thrown out of our seats while our driver dutifully provided the required exclamations at the right time was a dreadful amount of FUN!
The view from the rover (when we stopped for a few seconds before the next death-defying jump) was breathtaking. It looked like a scene from the Arabian Nights.
Gorgeous red and golden sand dunes towering over the desert…it felt as if we had stepped into Aladdin’s territory!
Our little huts were equipped with all the basic necessities.
After a short siesta, we rode up to the top of the golden-est dune that you ever saw!
Our driver dropped us off, bade us goodbye and plummeted down the steep slope into the desert.
We were freeee to gallop across the golden sands and explore the vast desert to our heart’s content. Esh and I immediately walked, waded and whisked across the soft sands and climbed the slippery dunes with great difficulty . The slippery sand was terribly deceiving. It looked beautifully smooth and enchantingly golden and tempted us to climb it but the second we put our foot in, it sank.
So, Esh and I huffed and puffed our way over dunes till the top where we would sigh with pleasure.
Esh enjoyed herself thoroughly making sand angels and sand waterfalls and rivulets. It was one big adventure with me expounding the dangers lurking in the desert sands. Thoughts of Black Mambas, Adders, Vipers and Rattlesnakes rolled around in my head as I imagined all these horrors emerging from the sand or the cool green bushes. Esh waved them away as if they were mere bagatelles intent on walking the edge of a tall dune but no one could say that I hadn’t tried my best to scare her!
As the sun dipped over the dunes, the sky metamorphosed into a rainbow of soft, radiant colors.
One by one, a slideshow of blues, yellows, oranges, purples, reds and pinks changed delicately across the sky. The sun glowed an incandescent yellow and slowly softened into a rosy ball whilst the sand turned into shades of burnished copper and gold. We breathed a delighted sigh as it finally disappeared behind the dunes. The sky shimmered with stars as we carefully loped down the dunes and stood at our room’s doorway breathing in the crisp, cold air. It was a trek to remember, for sure. The unbelievable beauty of the sunset and the surreal landscape was a picture we would carry for a long time.
After a dreamless night, we woke up early the in the morning and walked around the camp. The air was misted by dew and sand. We couldn’t see three feet in front of us! Esh took lots of pictures of dewy trees and sweaty carousel horses!
The dunes looked like vague shadows skulking around the desert or what we could see of the desert!
Next up, DUNE BUGGIES!!
Esh and I revved up the mini-quads like pros and roared across the sands! It was a fantastic experience.
The wind in my hair, the desert zipping by and two unexpected visitors- Camels!
It ended all too soon and it seemed like no time at all that we found ourselves bidding au revoir to Wahiba Sands.
But wait, there was more to come!
Our next destination was the Turtle Beach. We’d come here three times and each time, the experience turned out to be entirely different.
This time, dad had booked a miracle-tent worthy of the Weasly’s tent in Harry Potter! It had everything including an attached bathroom, beds, TV and a magnificent view of the sea.
After a short nap and a quick trip to Ras al Hadd town, we went down to dinner. It was sigh…delicious! Though the rocket leaves still give me nightmares.
After dinner, we crowded into the waiting hall for the turtle-watching expedition.
A group of 15 headed by a guide walked across the beach to the nesting grounds.
On our way, I suddenly spotted something small and black wriggling in the sand. I grabbed dad’s arm and yelped “Turtle!” He didn’t believe me but the guide swiftly came around and picked up the tiny wriggler and lo and behold! It was a lost turtlekin! He took it along with him to plop it into the sea. There was a happy glow in me as we made a cheerful start to the expedition.
It was a lovely, cold night with a star-studded sky and a milky moon silvering the mountains and the sands. We stopped before a large hole where a large, green turtle lay, patiently shoveling mounds of sand from its nest.
We watched it in fascinated silence as our guide explained about turtles in his funny, accented English as the waves lapped the shore and glowed an eerie green from the phosphorescent plankton.
Note: I realize that the above was a pretty long sentence. So, I’ll break it up for you!
We watched the turtle. The guide explained turtle trivia. He had a quirky accent which made us laugh. The sea glowed green. Why? Because of all the phosphorescent plankton, of course!
The guide scooped up a little seawater to show us the glowing plankton and we oohed and ahed over it.
There was one little lady who reminded me of a PG Wodehouse character, Miss Madeline Bassett who frequently asserts that stars are god’s daisy chains or some other sentimental nonsense and she(lady on the beach) kept giving small yelps of “Oh! I’ve got stars in my hands!” and it made me chuckle!
We watched another turtle crawl back and launch itself into the sea and a couple of stray turtlettes and turtlekins trundle back hilariously on their spindly flippers into the water.
There are 5 turtle species- Loggerhead, Green, Hawk-nosed, Olive Ridley and Saddleback.
Oman has all five!
Do you know that turtles weigh from 90 to 300 kilograms? They also live up to a 80 years minimum!
Turtles are classified into turtlettes or turtlekins based on the temperature of the sand. Hot sands-turtlettes and cool sands- turtlekins!
Out of a hundred eggs, only 2 or 3 manage to survive foxes, seagulls, crabs and big turtles to hatch and make it to the sea.
And that is all from The Turtle Times.
4:30 am saw 4 sleepy Indians and a couple of others back at the beach for the sunrise. To our surprise, there was a turtle just on its way back to the sea. We waved a bon voyage to it and waited on the dark beach for the sun to rise.
Bit by bit, the twinkling stars faded and a light pink flooded the sky. It slowly leached into yellow and blue turning the dark blue sea into a shimmering beauty. Gorgeous cliffs and artistically-inclined rocks magnificently arranged along the beach proved to be willing and beautiful subjects to the DSLR under dad’s hands.
The lovely morning glow yawned across the entire beach as we walked back to the tent. The sun suddenly rose up, a brilliant orange, over the sea!
A wonderful warmth filled the breakfast lounge as we ate our way through yummy pancakes and honey, fruits and oatmeal.
After that nourishing meal, we packed up and walked out to the sun-lit patio for the last time, absorbing the sea and the mountains, remembering the turtles and the stars, capturing it all in our cameras and our hearts.
Our last but one stop was Wadi Shab. We took a boat to the other side of the wadi where a little, grey donkey greeted us!
Towering canyons of golden rock loomed over enchanting green pools of water brimming with tiny fishes. Mom took plenty of pictures!
We walked and walked till we reached a small cliff and thought that we’d reached the end when a group of trekkers climbed over it and walked on! So, all of us cautiously climbed and plodded on.
The view below changed from dull brown to beautiful white and a stunning blue-green lake that was so crystal clear that we could see the bottom!
Esh and I found the expedition incredibly exciting as we chose the hardest rocks and highest ledges to climb. Esh named it The Wadi of Adventure after the Enid Blyton series.
We walked along a “Falaj “( a canal) to climb over the steeper bits and jumped across streams and walked under mini-waterfalls! And all this in a desert too!
It was 2 hours later that we realized that Wadi Shab was never going to end and decided to head back. Going back was much easier and we were back in 45 minutes! The memory of the glorious green water still lingers…
The last stop was a quick look at the Sinkhole. A large limestone cavern with a sun-roof and a natural swimming pool! The water made glittering patterns on the walls. That’s all I remember!
Oh! And the exhausting climb from the sinkhole back to dry land is very discouraging. The things we do for visitors…climbing up after Wadi Shab was tortuous. No wonder Esh and Mom prudently decided to watch from above!
We quickly started back to Muscat and whizzed through desert scenery and the blue Arabian Sea encountering placid Jamals(camels in Arabic) and goats!
Back home after 3 days! Three long and exciting days with every day completely unique and bringing something totally unexpected. Who would have thought that we would see THREE turtles in the turtle off-season? Or that we’d wake up in time for the sunrise? Live in a marvelous tent? Stopped by the police?( haha!) That Wadi Shab would reveal muscles that we never knew existed? And most importantly, have a glorious, fantastic holiday with a long-lost aunt? (<3)
Beauty, Mystery, Sun, Sea, Sands and Turtles. There. That’s our trip!
*Esh is my little sister!