It’s a waterpark unlike any other spread across an area of almost a mile. The entrance to it is made up of huge boulders and challenging rocks and its pools are hidden between walls of mountains on both sides.
Those who’ve seen the place like to refer to it as the ‘non-touristy side of Wadi Bani Khalid’. It’s a destination not suitable for everyone since in order to unravel its secrets, one needs to be fit as a fiddle capable of conquering a Spartan race. For it is a combination of trekking, wall climbing, swimming and most of the time slipping and falling that would allow you to get from one part to the next.
It’s the kind of adventure one cannot truly prepare for. The two to three-hour trek would allow you to see a quaint village where young boys run free towards rivers they’ve grown familiar of, traditional paddies filled with wheat and some fruit crops, algae-dominated waterfalls falling towards emerald pools, tricky terrains and serpentine and maze-like pathways with some stones razor sharp that pose a certain kind of risk especially to those who don’t pay attention.
It’s a destination that requires vigilance and familiarity and it’s definitely a destination where you need a guide and a companion to help you get out of sticky situations.
It’s not a place for a novice but it is a place that any adventurer at heart will definitely say worthy of his time and effort.
The other side of Wadi Bani Khalid
The invitation came Tuesday. On the other end of the chat line was Ahmed al Jaabri, Omani travel and photography enthusiast who was one of the founders of Outdoor Adventure Camp, a group comprised of travelphiles and outdoor adventure lovers. The only requirement as I observed is that you must share the same interest to go the distance in the name of exploration of local sites.
He has been to Wadi Hawir multiple times along with several of the other members.
“You would love it there,” he said. “You’d see several waterfalls and will definitely enjoy the view as we make our way deeper into the wadi,” he added.
If you haven’t heard of Wadi Hawir yet, it’s possible that the reason for that is because it’s a shared secret amongst extreme adventurers. The challenges posed by the area is not for the faint of heart and the mental and physical requirements are high which is why a lot of people hasn’t been there.
On Friday morning, on board a four-wheel drive, which is a requirement since you’d be passing through tough terrains, traversing Muscat Expressway heading to the direction of the more popular Wadi Bani Khalid, I’ve come to meet a few members of the team. The group is comprised of people coming from different backgrounds including a few expats working for different sectors in Oman.
Peter Varenkamp, a teacher by profession, was new to the group just like me. And he was just as eager to see what the fuzz is all about.
“We have to make changes to the plan this week for you guys. We’d like you to see why Wadi Hawir is a great location to explore,” Ahmed said.
The trip was planned as a day tour. There were, in total, nine people joining the trip — four from the car where we are at, and five on the other. It was a boisterous group where conversations flow from topic to topic with no dull moments in between. The level of familiarity is extreme and the trust is unbreakable. Even Peter himself proved to be an entertaining conversationalist with topics ranging from extreme adventures to politics and the humdrum of daily life.
It’s easy to miss the turn towards Wadi Hawir. Instead of heading to the direction of the popular Wadi Bani Khalid in Al Sharqiyah Governorate, you would have to take its opposite which leads you, if you are not familiar with the place, to a tiny road that would take you to a quaint but picturesque village nestled amidst a lush date plantation.
From the main road going to the foot of the village, it almost takes about 20 minutes passing through vibrantly green mountain slopes which are peppered with date palms and other trees.
“From here, we would have to begin our trek,” the team leaders announced when we reached the foot of the village.
We were told to pack light with the bags used needed to be waterproofed.
“We are swimming to get from one point to the next,” they’ve forewarned.
By around 9:30 am, we were headed towards our first challenging hill.
Where big boys go to unwind
The first waterfall came into our sight around 30 minutes after when we started trekking. A boy who lives in the area was sitting at the edge of the cliff looking at the spectacle of water below him.
It was hard to tell that there was a hidden waterfall in the area as the rocks were dominating the scene and the wall of mountains on both sides were stealing the show. But it was there — all of its about 15 feet tall splendour.
“Are you jumping?” I overheard someone saying. And before I can even get ready for it, Ahmed was already floating in the air waiting for the embrace of the cool water below.
And then another one followed after him.
Cliff diving isn’t a new thing for me. I’ve done it before.
“You only need to have courage for the first few seconds. The rest will take care of itself,” Ahmed said.
“All you have to do is leap. Simple.” They said.
But I won’t be forced. I was too cautious so I just watched them plunge till the water took over them. And it was all kinds of fun no doubt and I can fully understand why they call it a unique natural water park.
Although we headed early to Wadi Hawir, somebody has already been there earlier than we did. And a few others were following the trails we left behind. Most of the groups going there were all men, the challenge of the area may be too taxing for some women.
We pass by the second waterfall hidden inside a cavern formed under a pile of giant rocks. In the face of a splashing, shaded waterfall, even big boys become young kids.
On the final stretch of the trek, came the most challenging part. The water was deep, cold and tyrannized by underwater plants. No one knows exactly how deep the pool was but it was a good 300-metres swim to get to the other side.
It was a challenge we were willing to face and we jumped into the water finding solace in the fact that whatever was out there, was going to be worth it. The water plants were barbarous, making the swim even harder with all our clothes on and shoes pulling us down. But everyone arrived safely to the other end.
What greeted us was a natural slide about 8 feet tall carved on the side of the cliff, its surface smoothened. With constant flow of water, it offers a different kind of rush. Below it was another pool about 10-feet long.
After almost 3-hours of trekking, we stayed at that part of Wadi Hawir for almost an hour. While the rest of the team explore the area and others get crazy on the slide, more groups were coming in joining in on the revelry.
On that Friday afternoon, Wadi Hawir was receiving an interesting number of traffic, some coming from as far as Dubai. Although it was a very hard area to reach, they didn’t seem to mind the challenges that greet them on the way.
As we trekked back to where the cars were parked, we passed once more through the sleepy village juxtaposed against a golden brown mountain looking even more idyllic with the setting sun. In my head, that peaceful place will not stay as that for long.
With Wadi Hawir offering a great deal of adventure, it won’t take long before it will get a rude awakening and it will kick the traffic in the area to a higher gear. The traffic can be positive or negative depending on who looks at it but I just hope that whoever has the gall to venture in the area would stop vandalising it by writing their names on stones. ‘Leave nothing but footprints’ is a motto all outdoor enthusiasts adhere to. The place is fine as it is, it doesn’t need anyone’s signature to make it even more appealing.