What are you up to this weekend? I will be crossing a desert.
Since arriving in Oman I’ve been a little transfixed by the idea of desert travel. It’s not something with which I have any experience but it’s easily romanticised: a rolling sea of deep orange dunes beneath a brilliant blue sky and luminous sun silhouetting a caravan of plodding camels on the horizon.
With a bit of practice and the right kit (e.g. camels), it’s quite possible to cross huge swathes of desert, travelling for several weeks or months at a time. I don’t have that much time on my hands, however, nor easy access to camels. But I do have a long weekend coming up and I’m pretty sure I can fit enough water in my rucksack to keep me alive for three days.
The plan is simple: Myself, Laura and our friend John drive as close as we can to the western edge of the dunes and park our car. We load up our rucksacks with 10 litres or so of water and enough food for 2 or 3 days then walk east until the dunes stop. We’ll then make a bee line up to the road and hitch back to our car. We’ve picked this weekend in part because it’s a full moon which means it will be easier to walk late in the evening and early in the morning when it’s cooler.
The Wahiba Sands (also called the Sharqiya Sands) is a small but prototypical desert – about 100 miles long and 50 miles wide and filled almost entirely with row after row of sand dunes. It’s only a couple of hours drive from Muscat, where I live at the moment, and is well used by tourists and Bedouin alike.
There’s nothing exploratory about walking across the Wahiba. Jeeps drive around it all the time, people live there and there’s a holiday camp in the middle of it. But it’s still a desert. It’s still hot and sandy. It still has camels wandering through it. Our mobile phones won’t work in the middle of it and I hope we’ll go for long periods without seeing people. It will still provide a challenge for us and be an entirely new experience.
Roll on the weekend.
Roll on the desert.