Part 1) Let’s hike to the waterfall!
The clouds were already forming above us as we were starting our hike into Wadi Hawer. We saw this as a good sign because these clouds protected us from the strong scorching August sun in Oman. Our dear Omani friend Hassan checked the weather forecast beforehand and it said it would be sunny with some clouds here and there. We had no warning at that time that we were walking into a fast forming storm.
There are two routes you can walk in Wadi Hawer. Hassan decided to take the dry route, climbing and hiking on rocks and stones to avoid the water and Paula and I chose the route through the beautiful green waters. Hassan took our backpacks and went ahead.
Our pace was slow because we just wanted to enjoy each step of the way. The water was perfect, soft as silk and refreshing from the 30+ degrees around us. We greeted the many tiny fish and felt joy in being in such a natural place, letting in the relaxation for our mind, body and soul. I feel these waters are healing because they are so pure, so clean, so remote and so beautiful. There are no sounds of cars, of people of anything else other than the natural sounds of this hidden beauty. We were completely alone in this Wadi, what felt like a blessing now but later on would become scary.
Part 2) The weather drastically changed at the waterfall
My sister and I reached the beautiful waterfall after 45 minutes and we were swimming in the pool above it. Meanwhile waiting for Hassan to reach it aswell. We observed how the weather was rapidly changing. From a gentle breeze into a tough wind. Storm was in the air.
I felt concerned because many Omani’s told me: “If there is rain and you are in a wadi, get out because it is dangerous. The water can start to flow all the way up from a mountain and create a strong current that drags everything down with enormous power.”
Finally we saw Hassan high up on the rocks, he also reached the waterfall. We waved and he yelled: “Elly! If the rain starts to fall, we need to return!”. Paula and I looked at each other and said: ‘Let’s go back now’. We were quite far inside the wadi and it would take us 1,5 km to reach our car. Then the rain started to fall. The storm officially started.
Part 3) A moment of panic and listening to my fear
We climbed out of the water unto a gigantic rock and made our way up to Hassan. Hassan greeted us and said we needed to continue on the dry route, climbing on rocks and stones because with rain, the water was unpredictable.
We were standing on a big rock, 4 meters from the ground and we needed to climb unto another big rock. In between was a gap of 50 cm that also reached 4 meters down. If you would not take a good enough step there was a risk of falling down. This was our first climbing challenge and by now the wind was blowing even stronger, moving our bodies on the rocks.
We moved slowly and Paula decided to go first. My fear of heights started to come up. I felt my water shoes were slippery and the hard wind didn’t help. The rain was now pouring and the longer I waited on this rock for my turn, the more fearful I became because my mind was playing risk-management on me, envisioning dangerous scenario’s and I felt I was not going to make this step.
I decided to listen to my fear because it sometimes it is there to help you and guide you away from danger.
“Guys! I am going down! I am not doing this!” and I quickly made my way down to the water and found a different way up.
Hassan was worried because he could no longer see me. I felt confident in every step and greeted Paula and Hassan at the top. I made the right decision and decreased my risk of falling.
Part 4) Finding shelter from the hard rain while being stuck
Hassan said: “We have two options now. Either we stay in this dry place, take shelter and wait for the rain to stop because in Oman the rain is local and doesn’t last long or we continue to get out of this wadi”. We decided as a team we would continue.
Untill we reached another climbing challenge: this time we needed to climb 3 meters down a rock unto another rock. There were two iron rods, drilled into the rock, functioning as steps, to make it somewhat easier. I decided to go first. I layed down on my belly and with my foot I tried to reach the first iron rod while Hassan was strongly holding my arm.
Again the strong wind came up and I was looking for balance, the rain was also pouring into my face and my water shoes were incredibly slippery on this step. We were struggling to do a challenging step under these weather circumstances.
Paula said: “We shouldn’t do this. We shouldn’t do this”. I got back on my belly and we had to wait. We had to wait for our fear to become less. We had to wait for the weather to soften. We had to wait for the right moment to do this climbing challenge.
The temperature dropped. I was in shorts and in a bikini top and I was starting to feel cold. Paula said: “Lean against the mountain Elly, the rock is still warm from the sun.” and so I did. The mountain felt like a mother with a warm blanket, saying to me: I will warm you and give you my shelter. I closed my eyes for a moment and became aware of my breath. We sat for 20 minutes against the rock while adrenaline rushed through our bodies. Everyone was in their own mind, thinking something, we didn’t share our worries, we remained silent but were hopeful for the way.
Part 5) Sending out an emergency message
Luckily Hassan took his waterproof Iphone along and still had signal even though we were in a mountainous area. He texted his friend Tariq saying: “We are stuck in Wadi Hawir in a storm, if you will not hear from me in these coming two hours, do what you have to do”. This little message brought relief. At least someone knew about our situation. No one close knew that we were there. The only people we could rely on to make it out safe, were ourselves. We needed to trust and rely on ourselves.
Part 6) Overcoming fear again by changing my mindset
In my heart I felt we should continue. My heart was saying to me: get up and continue.
I looked down unto the iron rods and said to myself: I can do this. I can do this. I can do this! When I made up my mind that I could do it, the fear went away and determination and peace took place. I was determined I would successfully and safely make my way down.
The rain and wind became softer for a little while, we took this window of opportunity to try again. Hassan went first, I followed and then Paula made it safely down. What a relief! We said cheerfully in one voice: “Team work makes the dream work!” and high-fived to stay in positive spirits.
Part 7) A new danger: dealing with lightning and thunder
Finally. The difficult climbing challenges were over and the way became easier. We took quick steps out of the wadi and started to relax. We started to shout and scream- to take the stress away. AAAAAAA sounded through the Wadi Hawir! and then I started to hear lightning and thunder. Oh no. Oh no. I wanted to count the amount of time between the lightning and the thunder to figure out the distance and there was not even a second between them.
We were walking in a very open space upon the rocks with lightning and thunder right above our heads. I felt uncomfortable, thinking of Dannion Brinkley, the man that got struck by lightning, survived and told the world about his near-death experience. I did not want to experience the same! I felt the fear rising again. I started to pray. “God, please, make us invisible for the lightning, place a protection over us and make us reach the car safely! I want to live! I choose life”. I was sitting down to the ground and said this prayer within myself. My sister said: ‘Elly, we cannot stop and shelter now, we need to keep on going, just surrender to the weather conditions.’ In complete surrender we walked under these dangerous weather circumstances.
Part 8) Reaching safety in the village of Bidea
We had to take a different way to our car to avoid possible electrocution through the water and take away the risk of being hit by lightning in being in an open space. We made our way through farmland with palm trees towering above us. Even though we were still outside, I felt we were safe. I could relax now.. even though fear was still pumping through my system.
I was soothing myself by saying: “Elly, just breathe, relax, you are not in a dangerous situation anymore… just breathe. Calm down. Stay with me in the moment. Stay here.” We made our way out of the muddy and slippery farmland and reached the center of the small mountain village called Bidea. There were rivers of light brown water streaming down the village rapidly. Several village people were walking outside, as soon as they saw us, they approached.
Part 9) Welcome in your home, this is your home now!
There were several men that approached Hassan and us, greeting us aswell, but talking mostly to Hassan. I couldn’t understand Arabic but I understood later that they were warning him to repark his car because the rising water could possibly take it along. Hassan went down and another young man, by the name of Moath, said we should follow him and guided us up to his house. He said: ‘Welcome, please be welcome’ and we were guided into their guest reception room. This room looked like a palace room. It was about 60 m2, covered in light colored carpets and all across the room were couches, touching the walls. It looked like a royal entry hall. Paula and I were soaked and dripping water.. and felt bad for standing on their dry carpet but it didn’t matter to them. Our comfort was more important. Their sister brought us dry clothes and towels and directed us towards the bathroom.
Part 10) Unbelievable kindness from the al Rashdi family
As soon as we were dry and changed, they came with a tray of water. ‘This is water from a spring nearby, we don’t use the water the government provides for us, we have our natural spring’. It was amazing to hear this. The water was so soft, refreshing and it was the best water I had ever tasted in my life. It was as if I was drinking pure health. Hassan also arrived, changed into dry clothing and we all sat down in their royal reception room. We introduced ourselves, exchanged names, learned about the family of nine brothers and two sisters. They were living here for generations, at least 400 years. A young boy, called Hood, spoke with us a lot because his English was incredible. “How come you know English so well?” I asked. He answered: “I learned it in private school.”Then a tray with fresh fruit: oranges, apples and watermelon, dates, cookies and Arabic coffee arrived. What a riches. The family said: “You are home now, this is your home, please enjoy and relax.” My sister and I both were hungry from our adventure and everything tasted extra good.We talked about leaving because our plan was to go and see the turtles at Ras al Had but that was impossible. The wadi blocked our way out with the car. The family said with a big smile: “There is no solution, you will spend the night here!”
Part 11) Exchanging poetry and laughing as one at dinner
Through conversations we came to the topic of poetry and soon enough I was sharing my desert poetry and received Arabic poetry in exchange. The young boy Hood was our translator but the smiles, the nodds, the excitement was not in need of any translation. I couldn’t believe that this was all happening. We were greeted with so much kindness- hospitality from the heart that it felt like a dream. Omani people are helpful, kind and heart-warming. The feeling of danger of the adventure seemed so far away. And then brother Moath arrived with dinner: homemade Omani food with spices! It was delicious. We all shared laughs at the dinner table and then were given a private bedroom to finally sleep and process this unexpected day. I thanked the universe for their guidance, for leading us to these people and felt a living gratitude as I fell into a deep sleep.
Part 12) Waking up in Bidea and hiking to the natural spring
I woke up and still couldn’t believe that this all happened. It wasn’t a dream. We made friends, we conquered some fears and above all: we were safe and sound. We slept well and now it was time for breakfast. As the first meal of their day they have dates with tahini sauce, this is a cultural thing. They taught us that Prophet MOhammed said we needed to eat 1,3,5 or 7 dates as the first thing in the morning to keep our health. The number of dates didn’t matter as long as the number was uneven. We had the honor to sit with their mother and eat dates, drink coffee or karak tea together.
After our dates we hiked to the natural spring source that was about 1 km further. Brother Mohammed lead the way. We filled our bottles with the most healthy water. Fresh from the source. We talked along the way- connecting and learning about this village life. And also stopped for a short swim because the August tempratures are very hot in Oman.
If you need a guide in Wadi Hawir (and I suggest you do if it’s your first time) you can book a trip with one of the family members of the hospitable al Rashdi family: check the instagram of @oman.wadi and the name of the brother is Bahaa.
Thank you for traveling with us and whatever you do: don’t go exploring a wadi during a storm! 😄
Goodbye guys, thank you for reading about our crazy adventure!
**** update September 2022****
Our story made it to the Oman Observer newspaper 💥 you can read it by clicking on the link below or on enlarging the pictures. A big thank you to Liju Cherian and enjoy reading the article!