The Jeep was already packed when the whistle blew at quitting time on Thursday, October 25th. I was off for my first solo trek in the Hajar Mountains, Oman. I crossed the Khatim al Shikla Border Post with relative ease thanks to the new Oman online visa application process. Continuing on, I took advantage of the newly opened Al Batinah Expressway which bypasses the older, slower, coastal road and is Oman’s first 4 lane highway. I exited south onto the 11, passed through Rustaq, joined the 13 and headed east finally turning off onto the Wadi Mistall road. It, too, was newly paved as I had read that, until recently, it was a long drive into the wadi on graded road. It was around 9:00pm when I arrived in the small mountain village of Al Hijar and found a nice, flat, open area to pitch my tent. I ate some dinner and went to sleep.
I awoke early as I was keen to get out onto the trail. My trek would include 18 km over steep and rocky terrain. I would be traveling in a counterclockwise loop made up of 3 of Oman’s official trekking trails on Jebel Akhdar; the W25, W24a, and the W24b, which I intended to complete over the course of 2 days. I drove to Wakan, the next village, at 1500m and parked the Jeep. I set out through the village at 7:00am just as the sun popped over the mountains and was immediately impressed by the well-tended “falaj” or irrigation system. It was green and lush and the water flowed beside the path as I followed the steps and paved walking path out of the village. People travel to Wakan just to see the falaj. Leaving the village behind, I continued upwards slowly as I had 7L of water and my camping gear with me. I began to hear shouting and yelling from somewhere in the wadi. I thought that it was too much excitement for a couple of goat herders, especially so early in the morning. As the voices got louder, my curiosity grew. Finally, it was solved. Five Omani soldiers came running down the trail towards me. After a friendly hello, I learned that there were over 200 hundred of these new recruits out on a training mission. Over the course of the next hour, I shook hands and said hello to just about all of them and tried to use the little Arabic I knew. A lot of them wanted to know where I was from and, more importantly, what the heck I was doing out there on my own.
With the trail to myself once again, there were a couple of exposed spots and some interesting bridges, but nothing too extreme. I reached Wakan Pass at 2300m and took in the views over the wadi. The trail leveled off and I reached the junction of the W25 and W24a. After a good break, I soon reached my intended camping spot at 11:00am, far sooner than I expected. After studying the map for a while and contemplating how I would pass the time, a new challenge was set…the loop would be completed today. Back on foot again, the trail soon dropped sharply down to the village of Hadash at 1500m.
From Hadash, I set out on the 3rd leg, the 4km W24b at around 2:00pm. The trail passed through some interesting purple shale formations. There were then 2 high and steep ridges one after another that delivered the final blow to my energy and water levels. I reached the village of Al Qawrah and followed the path as it wound its way under the fascinating grape vines. I was greeted by a local and he was kind enough to escort me through the winding village back to the road. I was exhausted and maybe he sensed it as he offered to drive me up to my vehicle in Wakan. I thankfully declined as I hadn’t come this far to just hop into the first Hilux that came along. I drudged my way up the remaining 100m of elevation and completed the loop arriving at the Jeep around 4:30pm. Back at my camping spot, I realized why this area was so nice and flat…it was a soccer pitch. The Wadi Mistall Friday afternoon football match was in full swing. I moved off to the corner and set up camp. I thought I’d better take in some of the match before the sun went down and grabbed a seat on the sideline. The kids asked me to join in. I tried to explain that I’d embarrass myself on a good day, let alone with jello-legs. I had an early dinner and hit the sack around 8:00pm under the full moon.
I woke up at 4:00am on Saturday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to break camp. On the road by 5:00, I thought it would be nice to take a “long-cut” off-roading through Wadi Bani Awf. I never pass up a chance to practice my rally racing skills! Once back on the blacktop, it was smooth sailing through Al Hamra, Bahla, Ibri, back into the UAE, and home for lunch in AD. It was a tough trek indeed, but had all the elements that make for a classic romp in the Hajars.