Photos by Abhilash Pillai
As the water boils inside the kettle sitting on a small but consistent flame, Hamdoon moved towards his tiny setup to add a spoonful of coffee into the boiling water. Although everyone was seated far from each other, the others enjoying the beauty of the waterfall nearby, the smell of freshly boiled coffee started to float through the air.
The beautiful waterfall where we decided to stop signalled the end of our Wadi Manjal trek. The area we picked was surrounded by mountains on three sides, the waterfall a beautiful addition to the view and the wadi where the water is collected, a welcome respite as its cool water was ideal for a dip.
When Hamdoon called that the Omani-style coffee was ready, the trekkers formed a circle around the kettle. It didn’t escape us that it has been badly deformed and from the wear and tear, it was easy to tell that it has seen better days and with its owner, has gone through many adventures. If only kettles could talk.
When everyone got their tiny cups, we all sat in silence listening to the collective symphony of nature and it was only broken when Hamdoon decided to share the story behind his treasured kettle.
I met Hamdoon a few years back fascinated by the places he has been both in and out of Oman. He has visited nearly all corners of Oman and beyond Oman, he hitchhiked and cycled through places like Zanzibar, Morocco and Qatar and usually visited places on a tight budget.
Because of the nature of his travel where he has no luxury of bringing a lot of things, the kettle is one of the items dear to him that has survived his many trips and had become a consistent companion.
Hamdoon shared that the kettle has been soaked with the waters from the Alps and it was with him when he climbed the top of the Toubkal mountain peak in southwestern Morocco. It has survived the countless journeys he made at the Via Ferrata in the Grand Canyon of Oman. It has experienced the beauty of the tropical Islands of Zanzibar.
His misshapen kettle, therefore, has become a conversation starter and as he told us the many different places he has been, it encouraged the rest of us to share our adventures and misadventures. Some spoke about the kite surfing experiences in Oman, some showed interest to attend the Umq Bir the longest and toughest wadi in Oman, and few wanted to know more details about the Via Ferrata options.
Hamdoon mentioned “he met plenty of adventure enthusiasts from all over the world while he cycled around Oman”, sometimes he has extended his support and provided them with inputs to help and complete their adventure.”
At the same time, he added, “it’s not easy to hitchhike and his experience in different countries taught him how to handle some challenging situations”. Knowing the challenges that hitchhikers face, Hamdoon always extends his best support to the adventurers seeking input or help.”
One of the trekkers with us, Elise who came from France shared that she never had any difficulty exploring different places in Oman, even the most remote places of the interiors. Although she admits to the language barrier, she said that with patience and the innate nature of the Omanis to help, she usually manages to do what she’s meant to do.
For Polish friends Elise and Barbara, Oman was a beautiful place to explore that bring out their inner adventurers.
We took some time to share a few more stories. As there was little coffee left, Hamdoon encouraged some to finish the remaining drops.
We all took a dip in the main pool, which was in emerald colour and crystal clear. Hiking back was relatively easier as we all know the route. While I have ventured all throughout Oman, it was my first time visiting Wadi Mangal. Most of the path was scrambling between the boulders and climbing mountains with a maximum elevation of 50/60 metres. The path to the main pool is hidden between the mountains and before reaching the main pool, there are a few smaller pools scattered all over.
The hiking trail starts from the village, following the Falaj system you can get to the main trail. This trail is not marked but initially one needs to follow the Falaj and then mostly walk straight, which will lead you to the last, and main pool. At some point in the mountain, you will find fossil marks everywhere and there will be small caves along the way too.
On the way back we did enjoy the trek more as we were busy sharing our experiences. The trek is considered as easy to moderate and ideally took us 3 hours to complete both ways. This definitely excludes the coffee time with the team but if there is one thing I learned, the unplanned stops like coffee time, usually open a new door for meaningful interaction.