Thursday, June 7: With temperatures ranging these days from 42-46 degrees Celsius (107-115 Fahrenheit), I have decided that there are only a few activities that are even remotely appealing. For the months of June and July, I will limit myself to the following activities:
1. Explore wadis where I don’t have to hike too far to find a swimming hole.
2. Visit hotel swimming pools where I can pay a fee to use the facilities for the day.
3. Do indoor activities such as eating in restaurants, visiting museums or art galleries, watching movies at the cinema, or wandering around the shopping malls trying not to spend money. (There really just isn’t that much to do in Muscat!)
4. Go out on boats where I will be offered a chance to swim.
5. Hang out at the Oman Dive Center beach, where I can read and lounge under an umbrella, swim and then shower after.
6. Go for short drives (don’t want my tires to melt or burst because of the hot road surfaces!)
7. Stay at home in my air-conditioned flat and read/sleep/watch movies/cook healthy meals.
Sound fun? Oh yes!
On this fine Thursday, with my short list of possible activities in hand, a couple of friends, Kathy and Tom, and I take a trip to Wadi Damm, which is supposed to have a gorgeous swimming hole. I’ve been enticed for some time by this picture from Oman Off-Road, but though I’d been to Wadi Damm before, I had never found this elusive paradise.
Today we are determined to find this pool, so following the directions and description in Oman Off-Road, we forge ahead: “Follow the water from the springs back down the wadi until it reaches a broad carpet of mosses and grasses above an aquamarine pool. You may drop down to this little slice of heaven on either side of the moss and maidenhair curtain, which contains a waterfall all across its length.”
Tom, Kathy and I get an early start and drive 1 1/2 hours, arriving at the wadi around 10:00. We have been told we must hike up a ledge on the right overlooking the wadi in order to bypass certain points where the wadi seems to be impassable. It’s quite a challenge to find any kind of path on the right side, but by clambering over rocks and up and down the sides of the wadi, which are quite steep in places, we slowly make our way into the far reaches of the wadi. Below, I can see that we are passing the spot where I came to a dead-end before and despite the frustration of not being able to find a clear path, we continue to gingerly make our way.
At one point we find a shady spot under a ledge and have some snacks and drinks. It is now quite hot and I’m getting irritable. Where is this elusive swimming hole? As we continue on, Tom sees it down below. He looks at it and says, “There is your photo-shopped swimming hole.” Here’s what it looks like from above.
We wander all around the spot, trying to figure out a way to get down to it. We think we might be able to follow the book’s advice and slide down the waterfall to the pool, but the pools look very small and shallow and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way back out. Ultimately, after taking this long and arduous hike, we decide to backtrack to a bigger and deeper pool we passed earlier. Along the way, we pass some small but not terribly shallow pools, one of which we slide into. We float for a bit, enjoying the refreshing reprieve from the heat. Kathy is afraid to get in because she’s concerned about leeches, following our encounter with a leech in Wadi Muaydin.
Finally, we decide to walk back toward where we parked, as Kathy had seen an inviting pool close to the recharge dam. Again, we have to clamber up and over rocks and gravel up the side of the wadi. Finally, we make our way down to a lovely little pool with a warm waterfall, probably heated by the hot rocks it flows over, and we slip and slide our way over a moss-covered table of rock into the refreshing water. We meet an Omani guy swimming in the pool, and his uncle and uncle’s friend watching from above.
Here we swim for over an hour. It’s a wonderful treat.
After swimming and enjoying our temporary escape from the heat, we walk the short and level path back toward the recharge dam and then along the falaj to the car, where we fish ice drinks out of the cooler and drive back home in Tom’s air-conditioned Kia to our air-conditioned flats.