The cool summer temperatures at the top of the green mountain keep calling me back; after enduring 45-50C in Al Ain for the last couple of months it is a very pleasant feeling to walk in the sunshine in temps of 28-32C!
I led a group consisting mainly of Oasis Offroad colleagues plus a couple of friends and made camp near my usual spot. Last year the final 200 metres of access track were in poor condition which made access tricky, so we had a huge area all to ourselves, but this year the road was improved so we had to share it with a few other groups – but it is vast and there was plenty of room for all.
We arrived around 7pm Thursday evening, set up our tents, lit a campfire, then sat back and watched as Comet Swift Tuttle chucked some space rocks at us – aka the Perseid meteor shower. We saw quite a few – and one or two were large enough to leave a trail in the sky for a second or two.
We enjoyed a lazy start to Friday, with temps under 25C at 10am there was no need to leave at an ungodly hour – so we took our time over breakfast before heading down the hill to the main settlements on the mountain. Fruit sellers lined the road, baskets of their wares at their feet and weighing scales near at hand, but we decided to wait until we were heading back to the UAE.
We visited Al Ain village and had a good old traipse, following a falaj system as it wended its way around the many small fields of rose bushes and walnuts. There is a central walkway through some of the village houses; built many years ago this affords some shelter in the winter and acts as natural a/c in the warm summer months.
Our next port of call was the village of Saiq, home to a massive fruit plantation, the trees offering some shade as we explored. It is possible to walk through the farms then take a different path at the top which leads to a high road returning to the village, which offers great views over Saiq.
After a morning’s worth of walking we had lunch at the Sahab Hotel, Jebel Akhdar which has the best views of the fruit terraces. Lunch was good, not too expensive, and it was fine to dine outside, albeit under shade.
In the afternoon our group split into two; one group went rock crawling round the “scenic park” and I took mine to explore some of the local villages.
We finished up at the Alila Hotel which is stunning; you are so far off the beaten track here the last thing you would expect is a stunning five star hotel. After our coffee and cake it was time to turn our backs on luxury and return to our campsite. On arrival at our base we initially thought the firewood fairies had been, however it transpired that our rock crawlers had scavenged the area and brought back heaps – the resultant campfire was very impressive and it did a fine job of keeping us warm (no need for thick jackets on night two). We were joined by some Muscat based friends and a great evening with lots of stories and humour ensued.
Our wonderful cool weekend was almost over, but first we “had” to visit to a tiny village at the bottom of a real mountain road.
The whole trip was very much a team effort: I had the easy bit – the organisation. I say easy, it was just a matter of digging out last year’s track, assembling some people and going. One of our team “babysat” me as we inched down the aforementioned steep mountain road and also proved himself to be very competent at origami and folding up toilet tents! Another swapped their gps with me since mine was not charging and also took captain morgan as a passenger; we exploited the culinary talents of two young South African lads, who cooked all our food on their mega-bbq; someone else took the lead on the mountain road; and last but not least, one of our team was a native arabic speaker and was able to talk to the locals in each village as well as helping us buy our fruit at a reasonable price!
Who wants to join me for my 2016 summer trip?
Further info – Fruits of Jebel Akhdar
Previous trips up Jebel Akhdar
Where we was – see roads highlighted in yellow below