Eric and Ann Clarke
The day had started well with our usual walk along the beach. Hotel Al Sawadi lies on the Indian Ocean coastal plain just North of Muscat, and is well situated to give access to many drivable wadis.
We had seen the weather forecast for storms inland, but had not given it a thought and set off in glorious sunshine. Driving our trusted Jeep, nicknamed the brick because of its lack of aerodynamic shape, we were soon at the wadi Al Abyad entrance, which was wide and had little water in it, the surface was pebbly with the occasional larger rock so we made careful, but slow progress.
Last year we helped rescue an Arab (Omanian) family which had grounded their 4X4 in a soft area. They insisted we share their BBQ lunch, which gave us a unique simpatico insight in to the Arab family life. (Another story!)
Planning to explore the wadi further, we stopped for lunch, set out the chairs and tucked into our tomatoes cheese and olives, finishing of with local dates that had become an essential part of our diet.
After pleasant walk, we noticed storm cloud gathering over the mountains and having been warned of flash floods we headed back down the wadi and rounding a bend we were horrified to see a muddy wall of water rushing towards us. With panic setting in I just headed for a shelf of higher ground at the side of the wadi, which we reached in time. We considered our options of being trapped there for a couple of days, while the waters went down, or trying to find another way out.
There is no mobile coverage in the mountains, so no calling for help, no AA nothing! We had sleeping bags, food, water and plenty of petrol.
Opting to give it a try, and taking in the nearest terrain we followed a rough goat track. With tyres fighting for grip we headed out of the wadi up an almost impossibly steep slope. The rain was now torrential, but using our compass we headed across mountains and followed smaller wadis that were also rapidly filling up. After an hour of nearly impossible driving conditions, we finally turned on to an asphalt road. We were very relieved, and muttered thanks to God, (or Allah) but our troubles were far from over!
The rain was cascading down the mountains, in many places large water falls had formed and the dry wadi beds had become swollen angry rivers, some more than 500 meters wide. Following the road we joined a queue of stranded cars that couldn’t move, as the way forward was already under deep water.
As a large high 4X4 we were waved on and into the flood, that for the first part was drivable, but we noticed a group of 4×4’s that were on a piece of high ground, roughly half way across, with the drivers waving frantically to us to head to safety on their very small island.
With water rising round us we witnessed first an ambulance and a bus being towed out of the wadi by a large JCB as they had been washed off the road and down the wadi. Drivers took their turn at being rescued, out of their stranded cars climbing out of door windows and into the bucket of the JCB, all very exciting stuff.
Our island was rapidly getting smaller and as we didn’t fancy climbing into the muddy bucket of a JCB, we decided to risk it through the last section of deep water.
That’s where it could have gone very wrong, but as described previously and with luck we did make it. As we were the first ones through, the greetings with rousing cheers and the international thumbs up sign from a large group of wet Arabs (Omanian), was most unexpected.
We could have been a long lost family members returning after many years, but that is how they are in Oman the most welcoming and hospitable people we have ever met.
They looked very bedraggled in their long very wet Dishdash’s, but the smiles and shouts of welcome, with Allah be praised will always be remembered.
Postscript- We returned safely to the Hotel and the following day we retraced our steps, and were amazed that nearly all the water had gone.
We still couldn’t drive up the Wadi Al Abyad as the water was too deep and the rocks too big even for the Jeep.
Ann and I both consider our day out as one of the most exciting adrenalin pumping days of our recent years and goes to prove that at any age there could be adventure out there waiting for you!
Eric and Ann Clarke
The photos are to give you an idea of what wadis are like.