Last week, I had an amazing three-day adventure in the form of desert crossing in the Wahiba sands (around 250 kms from Muscat). Organised by The Guide Oman, the trip taught me two things – to respect the desert and the vehicle. It also taught me about team spirit, how to keep calm on facing challenges, and of course collaboration.
Day 1: After an early dinner at Bidiya, we headed into the desert for the night camping at Wadi Muree. With deflated tyres, and fighting low visibility, we dove for nearly two-and-half-hours to reach the campsite. For me, it was the first experience of driving in the desert with a convoy of 50-odd vehicles for company. It was fun while zipping around 80-90kms on terrain which was slippery and rough in intervals. Once we reached the campsite, we slipped into our tents and slept under the gaze of stars. Since it was November-end, it was a little cold in the night; nonetheless, we had winter clothing and sleeping bags to keep us warm.
Day 2: After beginning the day with a cup of masala tea and a superb breakfast to top it up, we headed into the desert for some real action. The very inspiring man behind The Guide Oman, Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Zadjali, who was leading the convoy, gave tips to amateurs (as well the experienced drivers) doing the trip on driving on the sand and precautions to be taken. After crossing a few small dunes, we stopped at a point to further deflate the tyres. It was an indication that the upcoming journey will be full of tall and slippery dunes.
Being the first timers, we were told to use the 4H and 4L options judiciously depending on the terrain and dunes. Trust me, I never felt so scared driving till date. Crossing the dunes on an acute angle, sliding on the sand, moving in a path just enough for the 4×4 to cross were just the stuff which made the adrenaline shoot up at some points and at the same time making us scared at equal intervals. We got trapped in the sand quite a few times on the slopes, on the edges etc, but the courteous crew “pulled” us out of trouble every time. Interestingly, they made the drivers to come out of ugly situations on their own by giving instructions rather than stepping into the wheels to put them back on track.
We stopped for lunch at a point where dust storms were rather intense on that day. Along with 5-star lunch, I would have consumed around 50 grams of sand too! Also, while crossing high dunes, you will forget about hunger and thirst. Only thing on your mind is to cross the hurdle and move into the safe zone as soon as possible.
After lunch again we drove further and reached the second day’s campsite at a place called Ramalat Dubdub. That was a full day of action of crossing steep and curvy dunes. Being amateurs, we thought we did a fairly good job of arriving with the convoy on time. The weather was getting colder by evening and we had a hot bowl of soup to chill. A superb dinner followed. With campfire and a movie being played, people relaxed under the stars before hitting the sleeping bags for the night.
Day 3: With an early breakfast, the team was set for bigger adventure (read bigger dunes) on the last day of the trip. People who were tired were given the option of taking a less adventurous route, which the kitchen staff would take. We resisted, and said we would be part of the bigger action. Alas, what followed was something straight out of action movies. Dunes started getting taller and our hearts started beating faster. It was actually like a race between the two.
Twice the crew pulled us out of some real bad situation and twice they drove the vehicle in conditions where we would need 50 retakes. The ultimate challenge was in front of us – to cross a dune that was 100-metre high. Butterflies in our stomach. Can we do it? Well, desert gods listened to our prayers and we crossed the dune in our first attempt while some of the experienced crew members had to do multiple retakes. Some solace for us. Finally, we arrived on the Juweirah Beach road and our desert crossing expedition came to a glorious end. I must confess that this has been the more memorable trip in Oman till date, which I will cherish for years to come.
Salient features of the trip
Food: Superb and 5-star level. From salads to breads to grills, everything is served hot-hot.
Ambience: It is a multi-cultural crowd and we had some 15 nationalities in the trip. Good team spirit.
Takeaways: Sense of achievement, teamwork and test of instincts. Superb execution of the trip by The Guide Oman team who went that extra mile to make the trip memorable.
Freebies: Starlight dinners and oxygen-rich air.
You can reach The Guide Oman on their Facebook page in case you are keen to try out the adventure.