Friday, April 6: This morning my friend Mario and I meet early at Birkat al Mouz to explore Wadi Muaydin. We drive in my car about 5km where we take a left on a dirt road. This turn off is about 1km before the police checkpoint leading up to Jebel Akhdar. We’ve both heard about this dramatic wadi, which is supposedly the start for a steep 6-hour hike up to the top of the plateau of Jebel Akhdar. We don’t intend to hike for 6 hours as, for one, it’s too darn hot, and two, we don’t have a car to take us back down to the bottom of the wadi once we reach the top.
This morning it is pretty overcast, very unusual in a country that rarely has a cloud in the sky. I wonder if it might rain and then we might have to cancel our excursion. I’ve been warned by Omanis never to go into a wadi if there is a chance of rain, especially the narrow wadis where flash floods may occur. The guidebooks for Oman reiterate the Omani warnings. Mario and I confer when we meet and we decide the clouds don’t look thick or rain-like so we will venture forward.
Mario is the perfect friend to hike with. We both enjoy taking photographs and we’re in no rush to cover a certain amount of ground. So we can companionably meander along, snapping photos to our hearts’ content, and just take it easy and soak up the scenery. I’ve been hiking with plenty of people in my life who want to rush along and get to a certain destination as quickly as possible, but I love just taking my time and enjoying all the small but awesome pleasures that nature has to offer.
We drive through the 5km long rocky road until we reach what looks like the end of the line. Here we park our car. As we walk along the rock-strewn wadi, we encounter almost immediately a number of moss-covered pools. As we approach the pools, we see frogs jumping off the chartreuse colored carpets into the water in quick succession. They are so whimsical and darling! We are both trying to capture the little frogs on our cameras and we spend quite a long time in this spot chasing the little amphibians.
Mario is excited to see bushes of pink oleander abloom everywhere. He says his mother’s favorite flower was oleander and she had it all over her garden in El Salvador, where he is from. He keeps saying he can’t stop thinking of his mother with all this oleander everywhere. Later I read in my Gardening in Oman and the UAE book that oleander is often seen growing wild in wadis. Apparently it thrives in full sun and is highly drought and salt tolerant. It must be such if it lives in Oman where there is rarely any water and temperatures reach such extremes. As beautiful and aromatic as it is, the book warns that “all parts of this plant are highly poisonous. Don’t even use as firewood as the smoke can be irritating. Wash your hands after handling.”
Besides the oleander everywhere in this wadi, we also see the ever-present Giant Milkweed, native to the region and often considered a weed. It’s a vigorous bush and occasionally grows into a tree. As a matter of fact, I have a fairly robust Milkweed tree next to my kitchen window where birds love to congregate and serenade me on mornings. Its grey-green leaves have a furry feel and the flowers are purple and white. It’s apparently the favorite food for the Plain Tiger butterfly and black bees often come for the nectar. I see both on my tree at home.
And of course the date palms are in full force, as they always are in Oman’s wadis. We see rock walls forming terraces along one side of the wadi; farming was done here in a bygone day but any remnants of date palms here are dead or gone.
As we continue on, we come across an area fluttering with butterflies, little waterfalls and turquoise pools teeming with tadpoles and even larger fish, huge white boulders tossed around on the floor of the wadi. We see gargantuan square-shaped rocks and one area of pools where bright red dragonflies alight on the rocks around us.
It’s quite lovely, all in all. We walk into the wadi for about two hours, then we seem to come to a dead-end. The path must continue on, but we don’t plan to go further anyway, so we turn around and head back to the car, walking along an ancient dry falaj and then moving to a modern-day falaj flowing with water.
Back at the car, Mario tells me he thinks he will make some of his famous seafood biriyani for lunch, topped off with some wine. My plan is to go home and read a book that Sandy lent me to read during the time she’s here visiting: Odyssey with the Goddess: A Spiritual Quest in Crete. I’m anxious to finish reading this book because she wants it back by the time she leaves here a week from today. It’s one of the books I’m reading to get in the mindset for my trip to Greece this summer. Suddenly Mario says, “I would invite you to eat lunch with me, but you’d have to be really patient. Because I have to go to Lulu to get the ingredients and make another stop at Muscat Pharmacy.” I am pleased he invited me, but I am covered in grit and sweat and dust from our walk, so I say I’d love to come. I could go home and shower while he’s at Lulu. It works out perfectly, so we plan to meet at Lulu after we both do our stuff.
At Mario’s flat, he and I work together to prepare the feast. I volunteer for the job of chopping vegetables: onion, tomato, green beans, green peppers, fresh cilantro and garlic. We put on the food to cook and enjoy a glass of wine. We linger through the long afternoon over our delicious lunch, sharing things about our families and our experiences. It’s lovely to have such a fun and fascinating friend with whom I have a great rapport and share so much in common. It’s a lovely afternoon. I’m really happy to find someone like Mario to count among my good friends….