Bless the long weekend given on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) birthday in the UAE. Like all good times it didn’t last long enough, but I have managed to catch up on loads of sleep and sort of touched up on my sense of adventure.
By Wednesday I had no plans made for the weekend, which sounded a bit wrong, so I emailed Absolute Adventures to find out what their plans were. They wrote back informing me that I can join a Smugglers Bay trek on Friday. I told my husband about it and he was as intrigued, so he took me shopping for trekking shoes. Much excited by the prospect of the plan he didn’t bother asking what kind of a trek this was, nor how fit do we need to be for it. Neither did the question occur to me, something we both regretted 10 minutes after the trek started.
We left Dubai at 6:00AM on Friday and headed towards Oman. We crossed the Omani boarder two hours later and exited at Dibba Al Bay’aa. The part of the Fujeirah that shares borders with the Governate of Musandam. We reached the adventure center around 8:15AM. The team welcomed us, registered us and handed over our hydration kits and packed lunches. We were then good to embark into the unknown, quite literally!
The start of the trail looked like a sweet climb up a relatively high beach side rocky hill, but I couldn’t help wonder which part of the brochure did I miss reading. I wasn’t expecting so much climbing to be involved yet the route was only getting higher and much more challenging. My husband and I huffed and puffed fairly loudly shortly after. Our young, strong and really fit guide decided we needed a break, during which he suggested that we might want to seriously consider turning back, as the bit we’ve walked so far was hardly warm up by his professional trekker standards.
It turns out this trek is level 4, the second last hardest level in the program. It actually requires a bit high level of fitness to complete, beginners are not advised to take it. For a long 5 seconds I glared at our guide with empty eyes. I looked down at the center’s building and was tempted to take the offer. Then I looked up at the near end of the hill where a mountain goat ran up in high energy and obvious enthusiasm before it disappeared behind it. You won’t be having all the fun alone today Missy; I am coming right after ya, I thought to myself. I will at least try, I said to the guide.
We gather a sufficient amount of courage and resumed the climb in less than steady steps. Just behind the first bend, we came by a couple of people resting in the shade. The woman dressed casually in jeans and slippers, and the man didn’t carry any gear like my husband did. Well, at least someone is less prepared than us, I thought. We nodded in greetings. “Good luck” said the man to us.
As we further made our way, we continued to see ragged clothes and other items dumped by other hikers I guessed. “Iranians” our guide commented. “Those two were probably late to join the group”, he added.
We found the rest of the group later, they waited on top of the opposite hill for their friends to follow. This was the point where I started putting two and two together, and it suddenly hit me. That’s where this route gets it’s name from. I know, it takes me a moment to figure such things out sometimes. This part was definitely not mentioned in the brochure though.
When we arrived at the top the guide announced that we have now covered half the route. The only thing that kept me from screaming out loud was the stunning view of the bay that we were looking at.
The way down to the beach was very steep and often felt dangerous, but we managed to make it in one piece. We had about 45 minutes to spend at the beach as we please. As much as I wanted to jump into the cool water, I preferred not to take my shoes off. At that point there was no guarantee I would be able to put them back on as I knew my feet would be terribly swelled. We had our lunch and enjoyed the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings before we headed back.
We took a different route on the return. Nope, it wasn’t getting any easier. The guide told us stories about people who were not fortunate enough to survive this route and were found days after their remains had disintegrated or were eaten by wild animals. One man he said is believed has been bitten by a poisonous snake and couldn’t make it down alive. Others have lost their way and didn’t have enough water to survive.
And how do we know that? We were literally looking at some of these people’s skeletons and bones scattered across the way…
The fact that I watched the movie 127 Hours last week didn’t aid my emotional status at that particular moment.
I asked him if the government has taken any measures to stop the illegal immigrants from entering the country this way. “No. especially after few boarder policemen lost their lives patrolling the mountains” , he added.
This guy was very very funny!
This was the beginning of the end of the trekking season in the UAE, which runs from October to April. During these months the cool weather allows a pleasant hangout in the outdoors such as this activity, but as it approaches the end it gets warmer and harder to put up with the heat. We made few stops to rest as we retracted. We took refuge under the shade of the trees to avoid the burning sun that was now in the middle of the sky. We watched the mountain goats jump across the unstable rocks playfully and steadily. To them it was a second nature, to me those goats were the sole source of inspiration that kept me going.
Noticing my fascination with them, which I have verbalized quite often, the guide said “They spend the whole day roaming the mountain, then they return to the village right on time for feeding”. That’s exactly what I am going to do, I murmured.
At 2:30PM we arrived back at the adventure center. I had stopped feeling the big toe in both my feet by then. Despite the exhaustion, I was so glad I followed and didn’t quit at the very beginning. That’s what you need sometimes when you’re facing a challenge that seems to be much greater than yourself, some form of inspiration or another.
You can always say that you have failed and learnt later, or not, as long as you have tried.