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Friday, September 2, 2011

Wahiba Sands trip… not to the high expectations we had set !!

Six of us in two cars set out on the trip to Wahiba sand desert camp and then on to Wadi Bani Khalid at 11.30 am as planned on 31st morning. The beer session dragged on until late night the previous day and the whole day I had a splitting headache and hence I could not enjoy the drive. We traveled toward the meeting point at Badiyah Shell petrol station which is around 206 Kms from Muscat while traveling on the Ibra-Sur highway. Single lane traffic and winding roads meant that we needed to drive pretty conservatively at about 100 Kms/hour max in order to be safe. We reached a Shell Petrol station near Badiyah and were desperately trying to find the office of the Al-Raha Desert camp but then the meeting point was about 20 Kms further up the road and we reached there at 2.30 pm. Al Raha Desert camp’s office within the petrol station complex beside Badiyah Optical and we met the owner Mr.Ali who confirmed our booking and also arranged for two 4x4 vehicles for taking us 20 klicks into the desert to the camp.

We followed the 4x4’s to the edge of the desert where we had to park our saloon cars, had our packed lunch of Poori bhaji’s and hopped on to the 4x4 vehicles with lots of excitement anticipating an incredible drive to the camp…but alas just an ordinary drive on the sands to the camp with hardly any dune bashing. We then thought that the dune bashing would be later in the evening as the drivers sated that they would take us at 5.30 pm in the evening into the desert for sunset view. Reached Al Raha camp which has over 75 rooms and we were fortunate that we could wrangle three rooms with window air conditioners…which can be switched on only at 6 pm when the generator comes on… otherwise the camp has solar power for the lighting. So at 3.15 pm with nothing much to do we broke off for a small nap but then the heat was killing and the fans were of no use and we hardly slept few winks !!! Headache getting worse.

At 4 pm we went to have some coffee and water which was arranged by the camp in the Majlis and we saw a group of tourists climbing a small dune just behind the camp. With more than a hour and half available for the ride into the desert we also decided to go up the dune for some photo shoot. The dune sand was so fine that one of the group member decided to slide down the dune….Sand Butting !!!! Lolz…instead of sand boarding ,a little fun here. At the appointed time we went searching for our vehicles but alas they had already left with other guests in the camp to the dune summit. On enquiry the camp owner stated that all guest would be driven up irrespective of which vehicle they had travelled into the camp and finally we got our vehicles and off they went over couple of smaller dunes and a 45 degree run on a dune and final reached the summit of the dune which should be around 130 meters tall. The time was just about 6 pm and our driver started telling us to hurry back to the vehicle and when we said we would wait for the sunset they just went back to the camp to ferry more guests up…..over 120 guests were ferried by just about 8-10 vehicles (too much crowd due to Eid holidays). Just three of us were able to come back by vehicle down the dune and the vehicle had to travel at about 70 degree slope downwards. Many guests were left on the summit and they had to walk down the dune to the camp………. That’s all of dune bashing we had and we were cursing ourselves of having shelled out RO 60 for two vehicles.. utter waste of money.

Once back to the camp we met the camp attendant and arranged for a bottle of chilled red wine of South African origin since I do not take Whiskey which we had bought over from home…another expensive purchase almost triple the price available at Muscat . We started our drinks early and went into the dining hall at sharp 8 pm.. the time the camp opens up the buffet dinner and finished our dinner early …ok food nothing to rave about and we had a choice of non vegetarian and vegetarian food to choose from…tandoor chicken and mutton, pulao, rice,sambar, bhindi sabji and salads.

Couple of local Omani singers were already performing in the Majlis one with stringed instrument known as Ud  and it looks similar to guitar and singing Arabic songs and the other playing the doumbek (similar to a drum). So we guys spent few minutes at majlis taking few snaps of the singer and ourselves. Then I was so bushed that I called it a day and went to the land of the nods early …just about 9 pm. At about 11.45 pm I suddenly woke up feeling hot and I notices that there is no power…came out of the room and saw that rest of our gang standing outside in darkness..they had been relaxing in Majlis enjoying the holiday atmosphere around a bon fire. On enquiring about the power supply we were informed that the generator has tripped and the power would be available soon…well we did get the power but then the generator kept failing quite often throughout the night ….generator was getting overloaded since all the air conditioners were working (100% occupancy due to holidays). My suggestion to all those people going to Al Raha camp not to travel there during public holidays…too much crowd creates such failures !!!

Somehow forced myself to sleep and next day woke up early and at dot 7 am we were the first guest to hire Quad bikes at RO 5 for half hour each and had real fun of driving these four wheeled bikes in desert sand..this was fun and we thoroughly enjoyed this. Then the breakfast of bread butter jam, macaronis and fruits and after that the check out from camp. By 9 am we settled our bills at the camp and were driven back to the edge of the desert where we had parked our cars…this short trip was the highlight of the trip wherein our drivers took over few dunes at breakneck speed and at last we got the taste of dune bashing…though not enough to get our adrenalins  going up. Finally reached the car and decided to go back to Muscat instead of going to Wadi Bani Khalid as was feeling tired and spent!! An uneventful drive back home and the trip to an end!!