OFF-ROAD 4WD TOURING DOWN IN THE GORGE OF WADI BANI AWF, IN OMAN
I read about one of Oman’s quaint villages, Bilad Sayt, as “tranquil, with an antique old world appeal and its patchwork of terrace farming and traditional houses laid out against the rocky slopes”.
But when we get to the top of a hill looking down on this ‘promised land’, we ask the driver to take us home. Strange?
No! Pam, Ken and I feel that can take-in no more after the exhilarating experience of the past three hours driving off-road in a 4WD through Wadi Bani Awf, (and earlier visiting the Friday cattle market in the Nizwa souk).
Before the tortuous descent, Karim stops the 4WD vehicle at a vantage point, 2,020 metres above sea level to point out the large mountainous area of Wadi Bani Awf in the Hajr Mountains that we are to traverse down to Bilad Sayt today. It is apparently one of the best off-road driving experiences in the world. (The unfamiliar ‘Wadi Bani Awf’ translates into ‘a gorge (wadi) in which the Bani Auf families live in scattered mountain villages.)
In other words, we are driving into a massive gorge.
Crawling, in low gear, winding down into the valley over narrow graded roads rutted and eroded in places by yesterday’s rain, holding on for grim death at times, I find my palms sweating. It doesn’t get more rugged than this, for eighty-five kilometres. The views are so spectacular, I soon relax knowing that excitement, not fear, is the cause of my clammy palms.
As we get towards the bottom of the valley, plantations of date palms appear like green oases in the rocky landscape. We sit on rocks near in the shade of palms to enjoy our picnic. Baby goats stand bleating on the rocky slopes while one nanny goat ‘noses’ up to Ken, (who’s engrossed in his sandwich and not noticing), itching for a bite. Before leaving, we find the goat in the garbage bin happily chewing the paper seemingly satisfied with just the smell of the sandwich.
Ravines, canyons and gorges of sedimentary rock formed by clashing of plates and pushing up in weird formations from the earth millions of years ago, invite avid trekkers to explore. I’d have been up for dragging out the walking poles for a short trek through the little Snake Canyon, but it’s getting late. That’ll have to wait till a next time.
Exhilarated, exhausted, we head back to Muscat.
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