Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Georgia: When we awoke, we concluded that the logical way to proceed would be to retrace our footsteps from the night before – in other words to head back towards Yemen in search of the mystical and undoubtedly less-sketchy beach where we were meant to have camped. The drive that unfolded before us was breathtaking, and we followed the coastal road up through the mountains – but still along the beach – for nearly 50 miles, enjoying the views of random surprise lagoons and absurd rock formations, until we decided we ought to head back to Salalah and prepare for Camping Day Two so as to avoid the getting-to-the-campsite-when-it-is-already-dark mistake of Camping Day One.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m pretty sure the exact logic here was “we will win Snap Chat if we can take a photo at the Yemen border.” Also pretty sure there was a conversation about whether or not we could convince someone at the border to give us a passport stamp without a visa/actually driving into Yemen. Again, points to us for making the call to turn around. Also, pretty sure that we drove less than 20 miles… it just seemed longer b/c of the windy roads. Slow going. So mom, if you are reading this, you can stop panicking… we stayed sufficiently far away from the Yemen border.
Georgia: Just after we turned round, heading back east along the Almost Yemen Road, a vast, smelly and fast-moving caravanserai of – I’m gonna say 500, and that’s actually NOT an exaggeration – camels temporarily blockaded us. They just kept coming and coming, so naturally we took videos, selfies, snapchats, and I even managed to get a nothing-but-camels panoramic on my iPhone. Satisfied with our exploits (and all that before noon!), Ashley of Arabia and I head back to Salalah. We forwent the ice cubes this time (but elected once again to stop for ice cream bars) and began an equally breathtaking journey along the Dhofari coastline to the northeast. We stopped about every five minutes to take pictures (frequently selfies) as it seemed that every turn provided one of the most picturesque views either of us had ever seen (unreal…UNREAL! Was exclaimed regularly), and we had an extended romance with a bunch of beach camels with whom we tried to take photographs.
Ashley: Screw the Yemen border sign. Beach camel selfie wins Snap Chat.
Georgia: Finally, we arrived in the town of Shuwamiyyah, and a friendly truck driver offered to show us the gravel service road (which we had already missed) that led down into the local wadi. And what a wadi it was. We proceeded about 15km deep into the epic canyon, dodging dithering camels and taking photos while driving. The huge canyon was almost completely deserted (save the abundant camel populace); and right as we were parking our car in a cosy, gravelly enclave for the night, one of our back wheels got hopelessly lodged in sand (as promised, the Wadi Shuwamiyyah Incident of 2014). There was no one within 15km of us, sunset was in 20 minutes, and we were very, very stuck. Remarkably, Ashley and I didn’t panic at all. In retrospect, our high level of composure was pretty weird.
Ashley: Say it with me… like a boss.
But really, we did stay pretty calm, cool and collected. Georgia sacrificed her perfect nails and I got down in my red silk pants in order to dig out the tires. When that wasn’t sufficient, we let some air out of the tires. And then even used a sand filled sack to give the tires some purchase. We got lucky and a passing truck provided some much appreciated assistance getting us unstuck. And honestly, had we not gotten stuck, our wadi adventure would have felt much less authentic.
Georgia: To be clear, we did not “get lucky” with the passing truck. Ok maybe it was like 40% luck that a truck passed at the exact moment of our desperation. And admittedly it was THE ONLY VEHICLE to pass (before or after) throughout the whole night. However, we only hailed down this vehicle of our deliverance because, while Ashley was putting on her sneakers and preparing for the 15km jog towards Help, I spotted the oncoming car despite the distance and the fading light, and heroically kicked off my platform leather sandals (#desertchic, #sorrynotsorry) and sprinted barefoot into the middle of the road, where I waved frantically and performed the international “Stuck in A Wadi” dance, with which I’m sure at least Nicholas is familiar. (Alhamdulilleh no video footage of this survives).
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Georgia: We woke up in our wadi covered in dew, and climbing one of the walls of the canyon to get a good view of the sunrise. After a breakfast so simple I don’t remember what it was, we began the stunning drive back to Salalah, where we returned our camping gear to Arabian Sea Villas, availed ourselves of the establishment’s weak (but real!) Wi-Fi, and left to get one last ice cream and drop our car at the airport. Three hours later we found ourselves in a cab traversing (see what I did there) the urban jungle of Dubai, racing towards our dubiously located hotel in order to fight over the first shower, cringe at the thought of makeup, dab on lipstick anyway and head to our glamorous final(ish) dinner in the famous Burj Al-Arab (where I had never been either!)’s “Al Mahara Restaurant,” a luxurious seafood venue with a huge aquarium in the middle. (Livin’ the dream! Wait…eat fish while the fish watch?! So evil!) I had an amazingly colorful/delectable salad with porcini mushrooms, a fish called “turbot” wrapped in “vine leaves” (unclear) and something very fancy sounding for dessert that was basically just chocolate cake. Ashley had a lot of shellfish, notably a half dozen raw oysters (bold choice, no?). We also tried some obscure(?) Austrian white wine that was accurately described to us as “peppery.” Weird. Satiated and chilly (because apparently Dubai is cold now?) we headed back to our hotel and fell asleep.
Ashley: I’d just like to pause for a moment to describe the state of dress/undress in which Georgia and I arrived at the Salalah airport. We were going on 36 hours without a shower, we were sunburned [hey now, I was not sunburnt!], and we were both re-wearing clothes seen earlier in the trip. Our hair was in such a state that Georgia chose the stylish (????) option of wearing a turban all the way from rental car to Dubai hotel. It was not our most glamorous moment [#desertchic don’t question it].
The other awesome aspect of departing Salalah was finding the airport. Lacking a GPS/functional 3G/a well-marked map, we resorted to a visual inspection to locate the airport. Props to Georgia for both a) spotting the control tower and b) putting up with Ashley’s increasing bossiness/anxiousness as we got increasingly lost.