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Flooded Wadis

The ominous and gathering clouds erupted last night in violent storm. We stood on the roof before the rains watching the sky flash with purple lightning. Soon the storms were upon us with torrential rain and extremely strong winds. Rain blew through gaps in the seals of our windows and flooded the kitchen floor. Mike's bed was sopping wet from the badly covered hole in the wall which will eventually house an air conditioner. Our front yard flooded and we wondered what the wadis looked like.

This morning we were supposed to have a new school group arriving at 10:30 for their program. It was evident by 8am that the area around the plantation was too flooded to do anything but trekking and all the tents, cots and the majlis (covered seating area) were soaked. The school group postponed to the third week in March. Which left us with an unexpected day to enjoy.

Paul, Devan and Ram came by to share the news from Wadi Hilti, the wadi just behind our house. The dam was full and the area uphill from it was now a lake. It was possible for vehicles with 4WD and lift kits to drive around the dam and around the edge of the new lake to the old road, but the road was completely washed away just past the boulder field which makes access to our reliable climbing crag impossible.

There was no way we could do any of our programs. We decided to have fun with this new and rare opportunity- paddle the rare and transient Wadi Hilti lake!! They left and we had some breakfast.

Then Ram and Devan called to tell us we needed to come see what was happening at the dam. We got there just as they were pushing off in kayaks. Micah made a valiant effort at chasing them to hop aboard.
Micah's valiant effort-


We enviously watched them paddle around a bit and decided to go get more boats. Micah and Mike left with the truck to get more boats while Will and I stayed behind. I'm sure glad we did. Ram and Devan paddled back to us and invited us aboard their single sit on top kayaks. I sat behind Ram in the storage area at the stern and Will joined Devan. Both our kayaks sat ridiculously low in the water. Devan and Will's was so low that I couldn't help but laugh every time they paddled past. To make paddling easier, we split the paddles in two so each person in each boat could row. This made the whole endeavor even more ridiculous and amusing.
Will and Devan sharing a solo boat-


Ram and I sharing a solo boat-



We took turns taking photos of each other. Once when I counted down 3-2-1 to take a photo of Devan and Will, Devan flipped their boat over. They then attempted to paddle it back upside down, which of course, didn't work at all and they flipped again within seconds. We paddled around goofing off for a while until the others arrived with more boats.


We finally had enough boats and paddles for everyone and all were eager for more exploring. The wadi lake was very deep in most places, the length of a paddle plus the length of Devan's arm which I guess is maybe 10 feet or so. We found this awesome overhanging rock that a few of the boys decided to jump off.
the group paddling away to do more exploring-

checking the depth of the landing area-

to jump or not to jump?

jump.

The Tahoe was full of laughter all the way home. Tonight we plan to have a barbeque and plan for some rock climbing tomorrow.

sport climbing!

Today we went sport climbing. We were supposed to go on this epic trek to this remote village way up in the Musandam but the sea was too rough. We would have taken a speed boat to a cove then hiked to the village.
The clouds have been building over several days. The skies get darker and denser each day. This morning, Mike remarked that it looked like Mordor over the mountain. Now, it is even darker and angrier looking. The forecast calls for thunderstorms and torrential rain on Tuesday. The wadis will probably flood.
Today, we headed to Wadi Hilti (15 min from our house) to go climbing. We parked the Tahoes on high ground in case it started raining. Flash floods here are epic. We might get stranded for a while but at least we wouldn't drown and the Tahoes would survive. It didn't rain, and hopefully won't until Tuesday.

Those of you who know a little about climbing will notice that most of the photos are of us are on top rope. Leading frequently on these couple of routes isn't a great idea. The bolts are really old and weird. Usually one person leads up the really easy side and then sets up the top rope at the anchors at the top and everyone top ropes. This is really necessary on these bolts. We hope that before too long we'll be able to re-bolt it in order for more people to lead. The problem with top roping allows the climber to rely some on the rope, the rope takes a little bit of his or her weight away as the slack is taken in and the rope becomes taught. It also allows the climber to take a full complete rest during the climb with the support of the rope, something you can't do on lead. When you lead climb, there is no aid at all from the rope, it only provides protection to keep you from dying if you fall.
Me sitting on a boulder watching-

Jesi climbing-

me climbing the hard stuff. didn't make it to the top, maybe next time...

Dubai

Feeling pretty brave, we took the bright yellow Tahoe into Dubai on Monday. The traffic in Dubai is insane, and the drivers are even more nuts. We headed to the area of Dubai called Deira, which is the older part of town where all the souqs (stores) are. We spent tons of time in the spice souq buying frankincense, vanilla, saffron pistachios, saffron and cardamom. We had street food and found an awesome shop selling traditional clothes and shoes from India.
Mike and Micah tried on the traditional Arab men's dress and I put on an abaya and a sheila. Then Jesi and I had way too much fun trying on handmade leather shoes from India. I tried on a pretty crazy pair, and bought a different, equally interesting pair.
The boys in their regalia-

The three of us-

check these shoes out-

The shoes I actually bought are a little less ridiculous. The ones above have the pointy, upturned elf-like tip. The ones I have are pretty pointy, but they don't have the elf look going. They're handmade out of leather in India. The weird thing is that they make both shoes exactly the same, there isn't a left or right, so they're pretty odd feeling until they're really broken in. I plan to get them nice and damp the first time I wear them to speed up the process.

After spending way too much time trying on fun clothes, we headed to a sheesha shop. In the states, the pipe is called hookah and the tobacco itself is sheesha. Here, you just say sheesha pipe instead of hookah. Mike bought a small sheesha pipe and several flavors of sheesha. Micah and Jesi bought a really big cool hookah and a couple of flavors. There was a great view of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, from the sheesha shop.

When we got home, they were eager to try out their new toys. They got both sheesha pipes going as well as some Omani frankincense. Omani frankincense is the highest quality and also the most expensive. It typically costs around a dirham per gram.

Our "pool"

On Sunday, we didn't have a car, and the weather was blazingly hot. Sitting around the house bored, we found a new way to cool of.
fire pit + orange tarp + hose = pool
well, sort of. a very small one. We had fun nonetheless.


Damian's Boulders

On Saturday, the day after our Smuggler's Bay Trek, we headed to the boulder field up the wadi from us armed with our new shoes and crash pads. It was unbelievably hot and we had to have the car back in a couple hours so we only got on a few problems. I found a problem that suits my climbing style well and we snapped a few cool photos.



Smuggler's Bay

On the 19th, we were invited to join the Smuggler's Bay trek. We start walking from the beachfront property toward the mountains. The trek is really challenging. To get to smuggler's bay, you hike up and then back down several mountains which are incredibly steep and covered in sharp scree (loose rock). One of the descents is so steep you feel like you're rock climbing. When you get to the top of the first mountain there is a beautiful view of the Daba port and the ocean.


Once you get to the top of that, you follow the back side of that mountain, which runs into another mountain, and then there is this really steep ascent. I was definitely the slowest hiker. Devan (our guide) does this trek several times a week and smoked all of us up the mountain. When you get to the top of that mountain, you can see smuggler's bay in the distance. There are clothes and empty bottles and all sorts of other things scattered around the entire way. When you round one corner, you can see across this very narrow and steep valley/crevasse to the actual trail the smuggler's use. We don't take this path because it isn't as direct and because we're more likely to see Iranians along the way.

Then there is a heinous descent- I got attacked by a couple of rocks. Eventually you end up in the bay. Its a huge relief to reach the sand.


The water here is slightly warmer than the other beaches, incredibly calm and clear. I brought my snorkel mask and did a little underwater investigating and saw a few fish and lots of coral and trash.


We had lunch at the beach before heading home. We returned on a different path. Imagine a stream filled with large boulders, running down the seam between two mountains, now take away the water. That was our path back. Lots of scrambling and big steps and balancing. We saw first hand the dangers of smuggling...

Then there was one last big mountain to summit before the descent back home. Will snapped a photo of me getting to the top.

We were all sore and tired by the time we got home, and went out for a well deserved plate of biriyani.

Our first school group and a trek through a wadi

Over the past 5 days we had our first two school groups. The first group was 6th and 7th graders, the second 9th through 10th graders. They stayed at our new plantation site, which we are now calling the "adventure center" we've added a free standing, portable climbing tower, which we have also been enjoying. Over the 5 days, we all taught different classes; team building games, camping skills + leave no trace, mountain biking + climbing, and trekking. This week, I taught team-building games at the beach. We walk 30 minutes from the center to the beach where I lead the games and then let the kids go swimming. I've been putting sunscreen on religiously and haven't been burned, although I do have the "raccoon eyes" from my sunglasses. I had lots of fun with most of the groups doing the initiatives, took underwater photos of the kids, and collected lots of seashells. The weather this week has been really interesting. Its really hot during the day, I'm guessing around 95 degrees F, and very cold at night, probably in the low 50s. When I stay at the adventure center in a tent, I sleep under an open sleeping bag stacked on top of a very thick blanket. For hanging around at night, I had to borrow a knock off Mountain Hardwear fleece from the gear closet at Paul's house. When he goes to Nepal he can get lots of cheap knockoff gear that he uses as back ups for guides and customers. I know you're probably thinking its just me, but I'm not the only one! you should see the locals. They're wearing even more than me!

Next week we'll have another group and I'll be either mountain biking or trekking. W e have several days off before our next group arrives which we plan to fill with plenty of adventure. There is a great place to go deep water soloing up the coast which we plan to check out with kayaks this weekend. Our new coworker Mike will be here tomorrow. We're also contemplating a trip to Dubai to check out all the traditional souks.

The day before our first group arrived, I got to go on a wadi trek with the Absolute Adventure guys and a large group of customers. The wadi was really amazing and dramatic. Wadis are dried up river beds that sometimes experience flash floods during the "rainy season." The rainy season isn't really that rainy, as it only rains an average of 7 days a year! To get into the wadi, we had to scramble down an incredibly steep 40 foot slope. I was even a little nervous! I bet the customers were pretty scared. The area of the wadi where we began our trek was extremely wide and steep, and slowly as we progressed the wadi became narrower and narrower. Eventually we would have to walk along narrow ledges, climb up through water falls and scramble over boulders to get through. At one point, there is a decent amount of water in the bottom its so narrow the only way through is to swim. It's only about 40 meters and really chilly! There was also a small cave with bats in it. I had a great time and was pretty exhausted at the end of it. I befriended the family that rode in the Taho I drove to get there, and the mom offered to take a few photos of me :)
the beginning




swimming


the bat cave

The past few days

We had a pretty late night Wednesday night. We spent all of Wednesday working on lesson plans until it was time to go to the “gear shop.” Ram drove us to Ras al-Khaimah (in the UAE on the Western coast) to the gear shop. The “gear shop” was really bunches of boxes stacked to the ceiling in a wealthy couple’s large house. We were there to pick up a large order of gear for our camp. Of course, this was a great excuse to have a look around ourselves. We just started exploring and digging through boxes. Paddling gear in one room, climbing in another, packs in another. It was like Christmas walking around opening boxes to find out what goodies were in them. Jesi bought an outfit and Micah and I bought climbing shoes. I was told I wouldn’t need them so I didn’t bring mine from home. As it turns out, there is TONS of climbing, and I desperately need shoes. I bought a pair of Red Chilis that are pretty sweet. They fit much better than my shoes at home. Hopefully there will be some action shots of them soon.


In Ras al-Khaimah we stopped at this pretty impressive mall for fast food. Pretty much everyone in the mall was a local. I had fun people watching. The lines were long and slow, so we all just stuck to something easy- McDonalds and Hardees. During the long drive back, we learned that the caterer’s were preparing food to be sampled at the camp. We were already late when they called, and still an hour away.

At camp, there was an impressive spread of food with dishes influenced by culinary traditions from around the world. The new traditional seating area was complete and welcoming. One of the other attendees took some awesome photos, which I hope to get my hands on soon. Unfortunately we couldn’t relax because we still needed to head to the internet cafĂ©. I think the night ended somewhere around 1am last night.

Thursday morning we woke up without electricity and Ram had the car. We really needed to work on programming (with computers) and we needed to send emails, but could do neither of those things. So in an attempt to save the day, we walked to the plantation to do some risk assessment and planning. While we were there, we hiked up one of the small hills nearby. There are half-fallen stacked stone structures everywhere here. You can hardly walk anywhere without stumbling into one. There were at least six or seven on that single hill alone. The top of the hill provided views of the ocean, our plantation, and the resort to one direction, the mountains and our neighborhood to the other. In those little buildings, there are pottery shards everywhere. Someone spread a selection of them on a flat rock for others to see and admire.

Jesi and Micah at the top


The mountains to the West


Jesi and Micah looking out over the Gulf


Really awesome pottery shards


A partially standing stacked stone hut


Looking out over the Gulf. Our plantation is in the foreground and the Golden Tulip Resort is the other large object in the distance by the water.


Now, Friday, I am sitting in the local internet cafe in Dibba (the one in UAE) after stuffing my face with amazing Lebanese food. Saffron rice and lamb, with an optional tomato-y sauce and dhal. It was so good I wish I took a photo of it. The girl who works at the internet cafe is blasting Enrique Iglesia. We are listening to "Bailamos". Its a bit odd listening to Latino music in the Middle East.

Photo problem remedy

a temporary remedy to my photo problem: changing layouts! This will be my new layout until I get back to the states (with better internet service) and can alter the photos to fit my old layout. Enjoy!

PHOTOS

***Every single photo you see on this blog that were taken in Oman were wrongly cropped by blogspot. I can't figure out how to remedy this problem. Please check back in a few days and review the photos to see the actual picture. They look horrible the way they are right now. If you are friend with me on facebook, you can see the photos in their original condition.***

Work and Play

We spent most of Monday the 8th writing lesson plans for the program. We finally understand how our employment works. David Jenns has lots of experience in the education sector and has worked with the Abu Dhabi government on developing education. He understands the value of experiential educational programs. Paul owns and runs Absolute Adventure, a small adventure tourism company based in Dibba, Oman. Their website is www.adventure.ae. They have pretty amazing experiences to offer, but they mainly work with small groups of adults and aren’t equipped to deal with large numbers of kids. David and Paul are working together to form Absolute Adventure Education, for which we now work. Paul and his Absolute Adventure guides have figured out what activities are available in the area, have developed established routes for trips, and have developed a healthy relationship with the locals. The bright yellow 4x4s and trucks we all drive are well recognized. Neither he nor his guides are trained outdoor educators. David’s job was to find and develop a location to host large school groups, as well as a staff trained to work with them. When we arrived, the site (which we call the plantation) was not finished. It should be finished in the next day or so. David had given the schools a rough outline of a schedule and activities but no actual program had been developed. For the past few days, Jesi, Will, Micah and I have been writing programs, lesson plans, and a risk management plan. On the 9th, David drove to Dibba from Dubai to talk to us about our work. We headed to the plantation to check out the progress. The site is actually a date plantation. The plantation is an experiential education center in the winter and a date plantation during the summer. The kids and adults will be staying in large traditional style tents surrounding a large common area and fire pit. In the shade of the date trees (which look a lot like palm trees) there is a covered area with traditional carpets and seating, an outdoor buffet for meals (it even has a sink, storage and cooking areas!) and lots of benches for participants. The bath-house is much nicer than the one we had at Sea Base.