Oman - Week 6
The weekend I had been looking forward to for weeks finally came: Our desert excursion
We left on a bus Friday morning to head to a desert camp. On the way we stopped at Jabreen, an old Omani fort that we turned into our playground . Alysha and I climbed all over, which was probably frowned upon (I tend to love engaging in frowned-upon behavior). There were secret rooms, tunnels, and towers that were begging to be explored. The only thing that could have made this better is hide-and-go-seek tag.
Imagine for one second how thrilling it would be to run down ancient halls and up winding stairwells in a fury to claim the best spots.
Ahhh. If I ever find myself in possession of a castle, this will be its purpose.
After eating at a restaurant that may have served THE best vanilla ice cream I've ever had, we arrived at the camp: A bunch of little huts nestled together with a charming outdoor lounge. It was exactly the sort of thing you would imagine. We lounged in the lounge, went dune bashing, and watched the giant sun descend from the Mount Everest of sand dunes. I don't think I have ever seen a sun so big and brilliant.
The rest of the night was spent playing cards, moongazing (we tried to stargaze but the moon was so bright that we just ended up looking at the moon), and dune boarding. It was lovely.
The 5 of us girls all slept outside by laying our mattresses together on top of a metal frame, which was supposed to protect us from the occasional scorpion swarm crawling through our beds.
I was so excited about sleeping outside underneath the stars and even made fun of the guys for being lame and sleeping indoors, but nature decided to play a little joke on me.
After rolling down the dunes several times, I decided taking a shower was a must.
Did I have a towel?
I did not think this through, because I went to bed with soaking wet hair, in the desert, where the winds become a tornado at night and basically at any time in general. And I was sleeping on the end of our cuddle pile.
So, I ended up attempting to sleep the entire night with my whole body covered under the blankets, shivering, and trying to stay as close to Catelin as possible. Was suffocation a concern at this point? Not really. Did I sleep? I have no idea. But now I can laugh and remember my one freezing night in the desert.
After most likely not sleeping, we "woke up" at 5:30 to catch the sunrise from the dunes. I was so close to backing out just because I was frozen and could barely get myself to leave the already-frozen bed.
We continued to shiver as we struggled through the sand like turtles walking through peanut butter, but it was so so worth it.
The 5 of us huddled in the early morning quiet and waited for the colors to rise, read about when Jesus was in the desert, and raced cheerios down the dune (mine won, btw).
Our last brief moments at the camp were spent dune boarding. I would consider myself a pro, since I went down the dune a total of maybe 3 times. The boys found an old broken snowboard that worked well enough to slowly glide down the hill. The only down side of dune boarding is that there are no ski lifts here in the barren desert. You have to climb up the dune every time.
As I said earlier, this dune was basically the Everest of sand dunes, so I went by the one-and-done philosophy: I took 10 years to crawl/die up the hill, I would board all the way down, and then I would climb up halfway (or actually 1/3) and then ride down again.
It was a pretty good system.
This is the opposite of how I looked while climbing up.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the souk/fort in Nizwa and exploring a mountain village.
Boy oh boy was that exciting.
We had an hour and a half to explore the mountain village area, so Catelin, Jill, and I set off on a path, having no idea where we were going. When Jill realized we were going down the mountain and would eventually have to come back up, she turned around (let's just say mountains aren't really Jill's thing).
Meanwhile, Catelin and I continued on, with the thrilling possibility of getting lost going through our minds (hint, hint).
Actually, it was more than that. I literally said, "I hope we get lost". And Catelin said, "That would be awesome."
So we made it down all these random stairs to the wadi between the mountains and had a blast climbing over all of the giant boulders. I think we were on another planet.
We came to a point where there were about 45 minutes till we needed to be back, so we thought we should turn around, just to be safe (fyi this was a very good decision).
Our logic was that since we came down fine at a random spot, we could just climb back up at any point and also be fine. We started our ascent by using the terraces as steps. Well, this method only took us so far until we got stuck. After a few unsuccessful tries, we finally found a route that took us up to the "top".
We were so excited that we took this celebratory photo in honor of our success (Ha.Ha.Ha). Then we realized that we actually still had a ways to go, and time was a tickin'. We abandoned the main trail because it looked like it would have taken us around to the opposite side of the mountain, and thought, "well, we should just keep climbing up".
After climbing up for a while, we approached the ruins of some old towers and huge boulders and realized that there was no way around this (at least not a way that would get us back to the group any time soon). Once again, we had to find a new route. Just when we started to climb back down the mountain, we came across an old man and a young boy. I tried asking for directions in both English and Arabic, but they did not understand and the man just kept grunting and pointing with his walking stick. Catelin and I followed, hoping that they didn't lead us even further in the wrong direction.
The man and the boy ended up leading us to a path around the towers that we completely missed, and lo and behold, we found Jill! We all started laughing at each other and the fact that this elderly gentleman just reunited 3 lost girls.
Jill's story was that she had tried to turn around, but when she came across a local's farm with a bunch of animals she took a different route to avoid them and ended up on the mountain by herself (she was highly concerned about not getting attacked by a peacock, so logically, one goes up the mountain as a response).
Catelin and I were so excited that we were not the only ones lost. The old man directed the three of us to the path that continued downwards, which is where we came across another local.
I was able to talk to this man in English and Arabic (kindof), so that was nice. He directed us down another path, which lead us to the bottom! Many "alhamd lillah's" were said at this moment (praise be to God in Arabic). We were back in the village and found our bus right on time, arriving in fits of laughter and excitement as we were presented with the most glorious miniature tubs of strawberry ice cream.
What were we so worried about in the first place? 45 minutes of being lost isn't really a big deal. Honestly, I think I just couldn't bear it if our basically-mountain-goats guys had to come looking for us. Talk about dodging an embarrassing moment.
Possible lessons learned?
1. Be careful what you wish for (aka to get lost)
2. Keep track of time
3. If you know you're directionally challenged, KNOW YOU'RE DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED
4. Maybe plan on getting lost when you have all day to find yourselves again
The whole bus ride home, Catelin and I kept looking at each other and laughing. The slight panic of being lost was over, and all that remained was the thrill and hilarity of the situation. If you've never just gone out into the wilderness of some strange place and gotten lost, I highly recommend it.
Also, the sun was doing amazing things like this.
God is good.