My time in Dubai is quickly running out; of my 11 week stay I only have 4 weekends left, so I made a list of all of the activities i wanted to accomplish, ranging from camping in the desert to eating Yemeni food. I also began scheduling tentatively when these were to be accomplished. Although horse racing was fun, the real meat of the weekend was a day trip to hike in Hatta then Dr. Mustafa was going to take us to a Cultural heritage center on Saturday.
I had never been in Hatta, but Stan and I had driven past to get our visas renewed and I knew that it was a small town and that there were some very nice looking mountains south of town. Armed with this information I began researching how to get there and was thrilled to find a bus that leaves every hour with the bonus of a 45 minute time between departures on Saturday, it also cost only 7 dhm (less than $2) each way. Upon consulting with the group I only managed to convince Nina to join. Undeterred, I wrote down some notes on the bus station locale scheduled a taxi at 5:20 am and memorized the picture of hatta on google maps before going to bed on Thursday night. Waking up at 4:30 was exciting and I was very efficient at getting ready except for breakfast which consisted of a mix of peanut butter, uncooked oatmeal, nutella, sesame seeds and cornflakes. Our taxi came on time and consequently brought us to the wrong bus station, the employees of that station were very helpful and quickly directed us where to go, which was what I wrote down in the first place. Even with the assistance of the bus station it took another two taxi drivers to get to the correct bus station. I had to pay in American dollars at this point because we had run out of small denominations of dirhams. Taxi adventure aside we were still chipper and the bus ride only amplified this. The bus was the nicest coach bus i had ever seen. It was a Volvo bus with cushy pleather seats with plenty of room it also had a sink and flat screen TVs showing the drivers view. The driver stopped the bus at sunrise and told us to photograph the sun coming up! I think it must have been for any Muslims to take care of their morning prayer, but none of the other three people on the bus came outside. Further down the road we had to cross in and out of Oman to reach Hatta. The Omani boarder guard boarded the bus looked at my passport glanced at Nina who was sleeping while sprawled out in the row behind me and asked if we were together. When i said yes he handed me my passport back and left without bothering to check Nina’s. The UAE border guard was just as lax with his viewing of my passport, but did look at Nina’s. Hatta is about ten minutes further down the road after the boarder, and we arrived at around 8 am.
The Hatta bus station is on the outskirts of Hatta and i don’t think we ever did see the actual town. When we got off the bus we just walked down the road toward the biggest mountains passing a few restaurants repair shops and clothing stores a mosque and countless small farmyards. We had probably walked a mile when it became obvious we were walking out of town and the road began gradually sloping up and weaving to the contours of a mountain. This then opened up around a bend to a large dam with no water on our side further investigation that involved a staircase that stopped just short of heaven we found a reservoir. The area was very
Dam at Hatta
clean compared to the other dam we had visited and the road continued across the damn to the spillway where there was benches and a place to look out over the water. No swimming signs dotted the area, but there was only one person in sight, a cleaner sitting on one of the benches. We asked him about hiking, because we were worried people weren’t allowed past the dam. The man responded with no problem in an Indian accent that was so thick i worried it was just the only phrase he knew. Regardless we took it as it was, hopped the rail and landed on another staircase next to a no hunting waterfowl sign. This was enough to ease my trespassing concern and we walked down to the waters edge. The morning was warm and calm and there was a surprising amount of waterfowl for the desert, there were some kind of small black birds swimming along with a large crane hunting along the water’s edge. The crane was strategically located on an island in the middle of the reservoir, but still found it necessary to put the full distance of the reservoir between it and us, and majestically flew off to the opposing shoreline. We continued around the lake until it intersected a steep ridge, we could have bouldered the rest of the way around the lake, but we chose instead to climb the ridge, on the other side it was a straight drop into the reservoir below. I could see fish silhouetted against the bright green water that stretched out before me, this hidden part about doubling the size of the reservoir. Upon looking around i saw the Wadi bend off to the left and to my left there was a conveniently located pass that led to a plain above the wadi. We hiked through it and dropped right down above the Wadi onto a plane that looked like something from the lord of the rings. All of the rock that was facing the sun was Martian red, while the rock that saw shade was deep grey and most of the rock was cracking apparently from the summer sun. We began trekking along the Wadi and immediately stumbled across a small lizard, who scampered under a rock. The ensuing chase was probably not unlike a scene from Jurassic park from the lizards perspective, but ended with the tired reptile being pulled out from under Nina’s shoe. He then sat motionless in the palm of my hand for about 2 minutes before diving off and hiding under a
The Lizard I found!
rock. I decided i had traumatized that lizard enough for one day and we continued hiking. We managed to get down into the Wadi and walk along the stream bed following the larger looking branches all the way up. The branch we ended up following narrowed quickly near a rather tall mountain, disappointed in the Wadi we decided to climb the mountain. The mountain was steep and
rugged like most of the mountains in the UAE, but apart from a eroded gully their wasn’t much of a way to get to the top. The gully didn’t do much better, a short way up we started to come across small vertical walls culminating in a fifteen foot face that required some reasonably intense bouldering. After this it turned into loose stone and became slippery and difficult to climb for the next forty feet. The summit however reviled a nice place to eat a snack on the other side. We sat down, ate some gorp and rehydrated. I took some time to gage where we were and what
Great place for Lunch
the best rout to take was. I quickly determined that the wadi went on for miles if we would have followed another branch. I noted where the other branch was and began the descent. The way back down was harder than the ascent and i recall the bouldering part as particularly difficult. This was magnified by the fact that while i was hanging on to a vertical face with one foot on a rock face the other reaching out in front of me my only sturdy handhold failed on me, luckily it held on long enough for me to randomly grapple for a new hold with surprising success. I then made my way off of the cliff face and gave Nina a spot while the adrenaline faded away. She made it down without a hitch. At the base of the mountain we headed back to intersect the longer wadi branch, which was just over a ridge from where we were. We found it easily and set our new target on a large mountain that seemed to be the end of the wadi. Along the way we saw many more lizards, some bright blue and very fast, and another that was the same species as the lizard i caught. This guy was sunning himself on a rock and wasn’t phased by Nina and i taking pictures. We also found a small green patch in a random tributary with a date palm and assorted other plants. Pressing on the Wadi took a sharp left at the base of the mountain we had put our sights on and began to narrow. We continued to follow the wadi expecting an end, it forked with one fork ending in a pile of rocks while the other narrowed into a crevasse with sculpted sides then terminated with a few large boulders blocking the way. I climbed the boulders, which required more skill than the earlier mountain and surfaced at the bottom of another large wadi. I advised Nina to take the other fork because it looked easier. We laughed once we were both over the rocks, because we had expected an end when actually the walls of this wadi were much higher than the first one. We climbed out at our first chance and surveyed the scene. We had made it halfway around the mountain and were standing on a plane with some bedowin ruins and a small ridge parallel to the wadi. The wadi cut left again at the
base of some more high mountains. The wadi also got deeper with the walls reaching 50 feet high and all made of mud and river stone. Feeling tired, and content with the length of our hike we paused at the top of a very small ridge to take in the view, and then headed back. Back at the bottom of the wadi i spotted the largest lizard i had ever seen sprinting away from us. It was grey and must have been 2 feet long. I followed, but lost it under some large boulders. The rest of the return journey was uneventful, we were tired from all the hiking and walking on the river stones. Due to our detour up the mountain the return journey was much shorter, this had me second guessing myself when the scenery no longer looked familiar. My fears were confirmed when we rounded a bend to a rock quarry. As i sat and pondered where i went wrong Nina climbed around and found the lake right there. We then climbed out of the wadi and found the pass where we had originally traveled. We climbed through and found many families walking around the reservoir and enjoying the view. We didn’t want to disturb their day out so we continued walking out to the bus station. As we made our way down the road we noticed the sky darkening quickly to the west, this made us think about how bad it would have been to be stuck in the wadi when it floods. As the storm approached however it became apparent that it was a sandstorm not a thunderstorm and the villagers were preparing appropriately. We were walking by the Hatta heritage center when the storm hit, and it immediately blew down a sign with a picture of the sheikh. Four guys then tried to flip the sign over, being that we were just across the street i ran over and helped. The local guys were thankful for my assistance, but spoke very little English. We continued walking and were picked up by a random local man who insisted that we get out of the storm, i felt bad about getting his late model land cruiser with a leather interior dirty but he had it all wrapped in plastic. He preceded our conversation in the car with “My English is not very good.” in almost perfect English, I just assumed he was being bashful, in retrospect he probably didn’t understand much of what i said. He inquired on how we liked Hatta and how different it was from Dubai and dropped us off at the bus stop. He left only after we insisted that we were perfectly alright and that we were sure a bus was coming. Right after we had settled down to wait he pulled up again to make sure we were alright, we assured him and thanked him again (this time i was sure to pull out ‘afewan’ [thank you in Arabic]) and he went on his way. The sandstorm subsided pretty quickly and actually did contain a few drops of rain. This was a godsend because we were outside while waiting for the bus which took about 45 minutes to depart most of which was spent trying to wash the bus after it had obviously gone through the storm.
The bus ride back wasn’t nearly as luxurious as the way there, it was on a normal city bus and there were a lot more people. The bus started off empty, and Nina and i sprawled out in our own rows, but it became apparent that that wasn’t going to work, so i moved to the back of the bus next to her. When we reached the Oman border the bus was rather full and there were people in the seats around us. The Omani border guard walked through and checked everyone’s passport, as usual barely even opening ours. He began walking off the bus, then paused came back to us and started yelling at the two guys in front of us. He then made them move to the front of the bus. I imagine this was because Nina is a woman, and Oman is more conservative but it was very surprising to everyone on the bus. As we drove off everyone shot us intimidated looks as i looked bewildered, I felt like the guy who kicked Rosa Parks off the bus (assuming he felt bad about it). The UAE border was also entertaining, somewhere in Oman we had picked up a man, when the border guard found him he started yelling in Arabic and dragged him away, as he came back on the bus to finish IDing he appeared to be making sarcastic comments under his breath. Once again bewildered i wondered aloud what he had done and a man in front of me informed me that he had no ID. The rest of the bus ride was uneventful and long, upon returning to Etisalat Academy (my dorms) we went to the cafeteria ate then passed out exhausted from the day.