Thursday, January 12: After leaving the Oman Dive Center, we head down the coast highway with the goal of reaching Wadi Tiwi well before nightfall.
Because of our leisurely lunch, we arrive in Wadi Tiwi much later than we hoped, and we begin the drive up the winding and hilly road through the plantations and deep into the wadi. This is my third time in this wadi. The first time, during the Eid, I couldn’t get past the stream at the bottom of the wadi because of the huge traffic jams. The second time, I took Guido up and we parked at the top, only to head back down to squeeze in time for Wadi Shab.
This time, we park at the top and we ask some locals about the wadi. They point down a path. We begin our hike into groves of tropical trees and plants, and we come across an Omani boy in a brown dishdasha who introduces himself as Ahmed. Ahmed tells us all about the trees in his village; he points out banana trees, date palms, mango trees, papaya trees. He tells us he climbs up into the trees to pick the fruit, which won’t be harvested until March or April.
My boys are thrilled as they are vegetarians, and I might say even aspiring fruitarians. Adam says his goal in life is to live literally from meal to meal. He doesn’t want to work; he wants to live each minute just figuring out where his next meal will come from. He adores this life that Ahmed has, the simple life, one where you climb a tree to eat your meal. Alex, my older son, also says he aspires to this. I can picture the life they say they want, them living in a village such as this, running around in bare feet, climbing trees like monkeys and living off of bananas. I wonder what would possess a person to live like this purely by choice. I personally would be bored to death.
As their mother, I am worried about these thoughts of theirs. Maybe they can do this, but this is not my wish for them. As a mother, I want my children to be educated, and to have good, happy and comfortable lives. I want them to be successful. I want them to have families and children. I also want them to be self-sufficient, so that they are not living off their father, or me, for much longer. Some of their ideas, I admit, are disturbing to me. But also, I admire them for having minds of their own, for forging their own paths. It’s a dilemma.
Anyway, they love this village, and they ask Ahmed all kinds of questions about his life here. In his daily life, Ahmed climbs the trees to harvest the fruits. But it is obvious he also goes to school and is educated, as his English, though simple, is quite good. He asks the boys about American culture. He loves football (what we Americans call soccer) and he loves basketball, especially the Miami Heat. He loves American movies and rock music such as Linkin Park and Metallica.
This kind Omani boy leads us to the bottom of the wadi and we walk around admiring the pools of green water. We walk along the falaj overlooking the plantation. Some older men are washing in an area near one of the pools. Later we climb back up the steep path to the top, walk back along the falaj, and at that point, Adam and Alex climb about halfway up the date palms. Another boy from the village pops in, says hello and introduces himself as Malik. He says he’s Ahmed’s cousin. He disappears as quickly as he came. Ahmed removes his dishdasha and climbs the date palm in his bare feet, all the way to the top.
The boys don’t want to leave this place, but it is starting to get dark and we have to drive down the steep and winding narrow road. They love this place and they love Ahmed’s life. They yearn for the simple life. But I wonder really, as they have been brought up in an upper middle class home with everything they could ever want, if they could really be happy with such a simple existence. I guess that remains to be seen.
Our plan is to find a campsite and set up our tent. We think we will find one near Wadi Tiwi, but the beaches are all gravel or round pebbles. Adam insists that it would take him 5 minutes to clear an 8×8 foot area of all the rocks ~ with his hands!! I bet him that he couldn’t do such a thing but he never makes an attempt to prove me wrong. We head down the coast toward Sur and look for a sandy accessible beach to set up camp. By now it is dark and we can’t even see the beach, much less whether it’s a good campsite. We drive to a restaurant in Sur where we eat rice and vegetables and fruit drinks and then we begin our search again. We come up empty every time.
Finally, Adam has a plan. He says we should all close our eyes and put up a finger for our preference. One finger is go back to Wadi Tiwi and set up camp on the rocks. Two fingers show a preference to stay at the Sur Beach Hotel, which we are right next to at this moment. Three fingers signal a desire to continue searching for a good campsite. We all close our eyes and Adam counts to three. When we open our eyes, I have put up 2 fingers and Alex has put up 1. Adam, the die-hard nature buff, the one who wants to live in the wild every day of his life, has surprisingly put up 2 fingers: The Sur Beach Hotel. We all crack up laughing. Neither Alex nor I can believe Adam has opted for the hotel!
We immediately drive next door to the Sur Beach Hotel, where we check in for 45 rials. Alex gets a mattress on the floor. The room is quite small. We open the window to catch the breeze off the Sea of Oman, and though there is a screen door, we are eaten by mosquitoes all night. I wonder if we would have been better off camping!