“4WD is a waste of money for ‘adventurous’ people like YOU!”
This might be a fact. But, I will never ever accept that in front of my friends, my family, my husband and whoever wants me to accept it. My heart has always longed for adventure – that is why I write this blog. But maybe, I love my sofa and the air-conditioning a bit more to venture outdoors in the blazing UAE sun. BUT, I have tried many times!
Suggested Starters – Desert Rose by Sting (Click below)
We are Couch Campers. What kind of a breed are these Couch Campers? They are not rare. They are environmentally the most conscious campers as they pose no harm to the environment. They do not litter around in the campsites. They don’t emit any hazardous materials into the atmosphere. They do not scatter the face of Mother Earth with plastic bags or food wrappers or empty Coke cans or cigarette stubs and other excretory disposes. Neither do they disturb the natural habitat of soon-to-be-extinct wild animals or the visible-almost-everywhere animals, with their spoilt, over-adventurous kids screaming around.
These campers do everything that the other campers do. They camp, they trek, they hike – all these and more, but by sitting on their couches! They are moving and talking Encyclopedias and will tell you in detail how to Bungee jump over the Grand Canyon, or how it feels to skydive over Mt. Everest. They know exactly what the temperature is going to be like in each latitude in the South Pole and from where the journey to the South Pole commences. From Punta Arenas, Chile, to be precise, the southernmost city in the world!
We were not born Couch Campers. Long before we had turned into Couch Campers, we had all the noble intentions to become serious Campers. Some of the past experiences hadn’t been all that great, that’s all. Eventually, we became circumstantial Couch Campers!
For example, Wadi-bashing. In the Hatta Pools, in the Hajar Mountains.
We take the Hatta highway, drive through a part of Oman for about 45 minutes and stop at the Friday Market. At the Friday Market, which probably started off as a local street market operating only on Fridays, is now a tourists’ haven for all the 7 days of the week. Here, the shops sell fresh local fruits, pots and exquisitely hand-woven carpets. We stop to shop. Before we even venture into our Wadi Bashing. Shopping should be first in the order of priorities!
An alley carpet, a big carpet and 2 potted plants along with some seasonal mangoes, green coconuts promising us instant rejuvenation, get into the 4WD.
We continue our trip to the Hajar Mountains through the rough roads, passing by small oases (or are they planned plantations of the UAE Government?). The Hajar Mountains emit a different sense of beauty – a barren, rough, stony dryness which can be quite intimidating. We drive along the valleys of the Hajar Mountains. These mountains envelope the eastern parts of the UAE and are considered to be the highest mountain range in the Eastern Arabian Peninsula. Our destination is the Hatta Oasis, driving over the rocky and stony beds of the Wadis.
These wadis are dried up rivers and deep trenches, which get flooded by the sudden rains and flash floods. Once we reach the wadis, the wadi-bashing starts. We are driving over the rocks and the stones of the wadis. I start wondering why we are there in the first case. I am most certain that the the reward for this adventure trip is going to be unbelievably sore bums and an aching body. I feel like my body is trapped in a traction and my arms and my legs are being pulled in 4 different directions!
Who gave this adventure the name – wadi bashing? We didn’t bash the wadis. The wadis bashed us up. If I had the choice, I would have renamed the activity as Body bashing!
My body ached and my brains screamed. I remember even now, that during our school vacations, we used to drive from Kolkata to McCluskieganj, a town which is now in the Jharkhand State in India. McCluskieganj is about 40 miles northwest of Ranchi. There was a stretch of about 1 hour till Kharagpur (yes, of the IIT fame), when the roads were perpetually in tatters and the drive would be pretty much like wadi bashing. If only the local government knew about wadi bashing. They could have easily converted that stretch of road into an adventurous, rough-ride drive and earned thousands of rupees as foreign revenue. Instead, the local road-authorities have been blamed with inefficiency ever since. Absolute injustice!
Anyway, at the end of the torturous drive, a brilliant surprise awaited us – we were greeted by the sudden splash of the cold blue waters of the rock pools hiding in the nooks of the Hajar Mountains. While I was enamored by the rugged Hajar Mountains on all sides, my body-aches got healed by the cool blue waters in the wadis.
It also made me realise how important the wadis might have been in the olden days. Traditionally, these wadis had been a source of water for people living in the rural areas and most oases and villages had sprung up surrounding these wadis. If these rocks could speak, they would probably narrate some brilliant stories about how civilization unfolded amongst the nomads who used to previously dwell in these regions.
It made me feel good. I was dipping in the blue waters of the same wadis. In effect, I was dripping with history!
Well, that was at the end of the drive. But something happened in the middle? Well, before reaching the Hatta pools, as our 4WD drove over the dry wadis with my brains rattling at high speed, something unbelievable happened. I felt that the water level was slowly increasing as we were driving through the rocky beds of the wadis. Suddenly, in a second I saw the water level up to half of my window. Our 4WD was tilted and the water level was rising. I felt like Kate Winslet in Titanic, but this was no movie shooting. This was real. And we were in the midst of a flash flood!
Flash floods are rightly named so – they really do occur in a flash. Dry roads like the above are suddenly immersed in water. Even a minute back I was thinking of the immense movement my senses were going through as we drove over the rocks. And now? We were trapped in water and slowly sinking.
The shrieks of excitement soon turned into SOS shrieks. Can somebody really help us? How? When? And how soon?
It was the 4WD in front of us who probably realised that we were stuck and this was not a stunt that our expert driver was showing off. It took them an hour to even put the towing rope around the submerged wheels of the 4WD that we were sitting in. The challenge lay in actually tying and hooking onto our 4WD when we were three-fourth submerged in water. And a bigger challenge lay in pulling the 4WD out of the water with six people stuck inside.
I closed my eyes. And started to pray. I didn’t consider it cool to be found dead inside a 4WD stranded on dry rocky beds (after the flash flood had gone) of a wadi surrounded by the Hajar Mountains.
Well, God did choose to save us. But after a struggle of perhaps two hours. Blessed was definitely one of the feelings among all the other feelings struggling inside me (for example – hunger, anger, nausea and more…)
The end result? Wadi Bashing was obviously ticked off for good from my Bucket list. And more tick offs were soon to follow…
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS: Please this video to understand what I went through though this is not my personal video. I could only hold myself, certainly not the video camera at the time when we were sinking!