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Exploring the Wadi in the Pick-up

Yesterday Eddie, Ania and I decided to paddle to Smuggler's Bay, a rather large secluded beach about 3 miles up the coast from our house. It typically only takes a little over an hour to get there even in the short sit on top kayaks we have. Unfortunately the sea had other plans for us. It took forever just to paddle to the point (a rocky bit of land we use as a reference point) because the sea was pretty big and the swell unorganized. Before the point, the swell was maybe 2 to 3 feet, but grew to 3 to 4 feet once we reached the point. We would have had an easier time had we had rolling swell, but each wave was covered in its own chop and the kayaks couldn't smoothly float over the swell but were banged around in different directions each time.
Typically, the winds and wave heights grow higher here in the afternoon. Ania fell off a boulder problem a month or two ago in India and injured one of her ribs, which started to ache as we paddled. We decided it would take another 30 to 45 minutes to reach Smuggler's Bay, and then we would have to immediately return knowing that we had rougher seas and a longer paddle to get back. Eddie would probably have to tow Ania back because of her rib. We decided the trip wasn't worth the risk or misery and turned around at the point. Swimming and body surfing on the beach in front of Paul's was much more fun than struggling back from Smuggler's bay.

Then we swapped the van out for the pick-up and headed into the wadi to check out one of the newer climbing spots we take clients and try to get all the way up the wadi before dark. The new climbing spot is pretty cool, a smooth vertical climb up a dry waterfall (it isn't dry when it rains!) and a complete arch to the left. I'll post photos of it next time I go there. We drove most of the way up the wadi, through this really narrow solid rock section that was just amazing. At one point, the rock is just barely wide enough for a truck to get through. It's just solid rock that you can feel and see how the water has sculpted the rock in that tiny passage. The rock is smooth and round. I'm sure it pounds and crashes through there. It's hard to imagine what it looks like full of water, how the rocks and boulders and crevasses shape the rapids.

All of us want to find a safe, dry ledge up high in the wadi to sit out a proper rain storm and watch the chaos unfold below us. We got to a split in the road, by a fenced in mosque and realized we would have to turn around soon to make it out by dark. We decided to drive another three minutes on one of the roads, and had to choose which one. Ania said the one to the left looked new, curvy, steep and more interesting so we took that one. I was glad to have the pick-up with off road tires and 4 wheel drive because I needed it to get up that hill. At one point the road took a hard left and looked pretty washed out and loose on the left hand side, not wanting to dig the left side into a little ravine, we got out and walked to the top of the hill. We were greatly rewarded when we got up there. Almost magically, there were large villages on the tops of the hills, which had surprisingly large flat areas. You would never guess that the tops of the mountains in the wadi were so flat and that so many people lived up there. There are little clues as you drive through the wadi, even in the narrowest, steepest sections there are big white water tanks that maybe hold two hundred gallons or so. The Omani army drops them off with helicopters and trucks so that the villages have clean drinking water. As you drive through the wadi, you wonder where the village is and how on earth they get to the water. I drove up out of the rocky narrow wadi, up this crazy steep, hairpin washed out dirt road, to find a large village atop a flat mountain.
We needed to head back as the sun was starting to go down, and Eddie wanted to drive, so Ania and I jumped into the truck bed to get a better view of the wadi. Going down that crazy steep hill we sat with our feet against the front of the bed to keep ourselves from sliding downward.

At one point Eddie sped up to get up a hill, Ania and I were deep in conversation and not paying attention, rolled backwards and watched out feet go skyward simultaneously. We were sure Eddie did this on purpose and thought he must be having a good laugh. Turns out it was purely accidental and he missed the whole ordeal much to his regret.

Traditinal Rowing in Kalba

A couple of weeks ago, we headed to Kalba, UAE to do some traditional rowing in the mangroves. The whole gang showed up, pretty much the entire company except a couple of people. I chose a seat behind Mike, next to Ania around the middle of the boat.

Our Emirati rowing instructor was a national champion. At first he counted, setting a pace for us and then once we settled in started singing traditional songs in Arabic. He even taught us a short chorus to chime in with when he could hear it coming around again in the song. I mentioned to Mike and Ania that I felt a lot like Sparticus, which started a round of "I am Sparticus" "No! I am Sparticus!" much to my amusement.

We rowed in relative unison into the mangroves and then back. The pace was pretty blistering and we took no breaks but we had a great time and it was a great workout. I had pretty massive blisters on my hands from it. The pattern of the friction in my palm is different from kayaking, so my calluses from paddling did me no good in rowing.

New places to explore

A few days ago, Eddie and Ania arrived. They flew in from India, where they had gone exploring. Before their India trip they worked in China for China Climb, an outdoor education program there. They are great additions to the house and program and I know we’ll have lots of fun together. Today, we took them into the wadi we frequent to show them our established climbing routes and the boulder field named Damian's Boulders. We parked the truck at the base of Damian’s boulders and hopped from boulder to boulder. It was really fun seeing Eddie and Ania’s faces as they saw all the boulders for the first time. Weeks could be spent climbing in that boulder field. They are exited about being here and all the fun things we’ll be doing. Then Micah took us to a different wadi on the other side of the dam, which has a really huge solid wall with lots of climbing potential. Micah, Mike and Jesi found it a month or two ago. It has the potential for multi-pitch routes and a boulder field at its base. It hasn't been developed yet so we hope to begin the process. We parked at the base of a smaller mountain and hiked to the top of it, where there is an abandoned village at the top and a great view of the big multi-pitch wall. Eddie has a really nice digital SLR camera and took loads of great photos. We climbed into the little houses and admired the construction of them. There are loads of pottery shards everywhere all over the ground by the village. Once you get a hang of spotting them, you can hardly take a step without spotting a piece. We found a pile of large shards with patterns painted and carved into them and managed to find matching pieces. There are hundreds of little stone buildings in the mountains and dozens of caves we are eager to explore.

Ania and I in the boulder field.

Showing them one of our climbing spots in Wadi Hilti.

The big wall we hope to develop

A stone hut and the big wall

Checking out the abandoned huts

A grave, with the head and foot marked

Inside another hut with Ania

Ania found a person sized dip in a boulder and we proceeded to fit ourselves into it.

Eddie doesn't fit!

Eddie and Ania, peering out from a hut

Three of us in a hut

What's so interesting down there in the dirt?

We're piecing together pottery shards!

And last but not least, a tree goat!

One exciting morning, sea kayaking and a water spout

On my second day here, Micah and I took the older kids from Uptown School sea kayaking. The forecast called for light wind in the morning, getting stronger in the afternoon, with possible storms. The sky was a pretty gray and we could see bands of dark clouds.
The wind was constant but not hard, maybe around 10-13 knots, and the sea was rolling swell around 2-3 feet. The wind was headed toward the shore, made it safe enough to take the kids out. We did decide it wasn’t wise to paddle all the way to our normal destinations, so instead we picked two stopping points within sight of the Golden Tulip resort and our starting point. After a Kayaking 101 on dry land, we hit the water.
Micah and I teaching on the beach.

The kids did well launching into crashing surf and paddling over the swell. The sea grew higher the further we paddled. Eventually we were among rolling swells between 3 and 4 feet. The kids were having fun and didn’t seem scared at all. When we reached the second stopping point, the swell became more vertical and choppy; making staying upright more challenging so we decided to turn around and head back. After turning around, a couple of boats flipped. The swimmers stayed calm and listened well to directions during the rescue, making it back into their boats in a minute or two. Everyone surfed the waves back onto the beach where we decided to go for a swim.

A narrow band of dark clouds was about to pass over us when we noticed a small tendril of cloud reaching downward about a mile off shore. We watched it grow longer and saw swirling spray of salt water it was pulling upward.

First, it moved parallel to shore but then turned, looking like it might head toward us.

If the spout came ashore, there was a nearby cement building we could seek shelter in. It turned again and headed to the far end of the beach. It transformed from waterspout to tornado as it came ashore. There was a family on that part of the beach, and they stood right there and watched it came ashore, no further from it than a few dozen feet. Did they not know what it was? Did they not think it was dangerous? I don’t know a way to tell how strong a tornado is from looking at it, and I’ve never been in one. I would have been scared being as close as they were. It squeezed between the bases of two mountains before retreating back into the band of clouds.