On Thursday, September 7th, I set out on a UAE Trekker weekend right after work. The drive to Oman was a bit more interesting than usual. Our convoy encountered a massive thunderstorm and the typically dry wadis were flooding across the road in some places. Nothing the Jeep couldn’t handle of course! We arrived at Al Hoota Rest House at 2000m around 9:00pm and had a quick bite before the restaurant closed.
After a 6:30am breakfast, we drove back down the Haat Road to Al Hoota Village. In the daylight, you can get a better appreciation for this winding mountain road. The village is located just above the entrance to Oman’s longest cave at 5 km in length. I’d been to the touristic cave exit and did the 500m walk through that side back in June. This side would be quite a bit different. We met Zaid and Mohamed, our local guides from Canyon Adventures, at 7:00am and they gave us a safety and itinerary briefing. The 5 of us plus our 2 guides walked down into the canyon and did our first repel down a steep section. We entered the cave around 8:30am and had to repel down another section. Once we were all down, we could see that the previous day’s rain storm had run down the wadi and into the cave. There were some real muddy spots. We continued into the cave and one of our group members was feeling a little overwhelmed so he turned back with Zaid. That left 4 of us and Mohamed to press on. Mohamed pointed out all of the neat features that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and we found a few bats as well. The caving was more technical than I expected and we had to crawl through the last bit to get to our final chamber filled with amazing stalactites. This would be our furthest point, where continuing on involves swimming, but we were still 800m into the cave. We turned around and reached the second repelling section around 11:00am. We had to climb up a caving ladder to get back out and this was the most difficult element of the morning. Out of the cave and back on surface at noon, just as we’d planned. It’s important to be out before any storm clouds have the chance to gain any momentum. The climb up the first repelling section was tricky, but didn’t require any ladders.
That leaves around 3.7 km of cave uncharted by yours truly and I guess thru-treks can be arranged…any takers?
We said goodbye to our guides and to the couple from Muscat as they would not be staying the second night. Heading back up the mountain, the thermometer dropped from 38°C to 27°C. The mountain air was so much cooler! We had a hearty lunch and a little shut-eye in the afternoon while a thunderstorm passed through. Good thing we got out of the cave on time! We had a little walk around the resort that evening and watched the sun go down. The chef had plenty of dinner for us that night before we sat out around the campfire. I told the ghost story of Petermännchen from Schwerin Palace.
Another 6:30am breakfast topped up our tanks before we set out on the W10h, one of Oman’s official trekking trails. Most of these routes are ancient donkey trails that were used to get from village to village. The hike follows a spectacular ridgeline between Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar with the villages of Balad Sayt and Haat down below. The 3 of us set out at 7:30am and made it to the 3 way junction of the W8 and W9 by 9:30am. We had a little break in the shade before heading back. We got back to the cars at 11:00am making the 7 km roundtrip in 3.5 h. We got showered up and had some lunch with the friendly hotelier before starting our drive back to AD. It was my first time “trek leading” on my own, but it was a small and awesome group that made for another successful UAE Trekker weekend.