If you like to camp, then this particular experience will be something new for you. Do I like to camp? That's another question, if you call camping in dormitory rooms 'camping'. I've never been on a camping trip, and have always wanted to experience what others experience when they decidedly state "We like camping better."
Yesterday (October 26,2012), a batch of six families decided to go on a desert camping trip. We had never been there, and this place had come highly recommended. With bookings in place we awaited the arrival of our bus: the one that had to drive us there. As all adventures begin, there had to be starting hiccups. The bus never turned up as planned and we ultimately resorted to using four four-wheel-drives that belonged to the members of our group. And thus our journey began, from Muscat to the Desert Palm Camp, (Sama al Wasil Tourism Village), Sharquiya Sands, Oman. It took us approximately three hours to reach our destination, after having made a few minor stops on the way.
Those who venture out into the desert should be aware that no ordinary vehicle will suffice. Even basic criteria such as a four-wheel-drive does not complete the requirement. The vehicle should have a minimum 2.4 engine power. (Information courtesy Dr. Sharat Vijayan). Be sure to have a guide direct your route so that you do not get lost in the desert. We had to drive out of the main, neighboring town for about 20 minutes into the desert; a distance of 12 km out of town. If you think you have a good sense of direction, think again.
There is no phone signal, range or coverage in this area either, so be prepared to be isolated from the rest of the world. And most important of all, carry a lot of water with you. There is a stubborn dryness in the air that can tend to dehydrate you, even if the temperatures are sane.
When we arrived, we were given a Bedouin welcome. The main village circle tent served as a point of welcome, where light refreshments and Arabic tea was laid out for us.
The first course of action on arriving there was to have a shared meal. Lunch (that was earlier prepared by four of our six families), was an appetizing mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian, multi-Indian cuisine. Great work, ladies. The food was incredibly tasty.
It was a good thing they decided to cook food and carry it on the trip as yesterday was a public holiday (Id) and many hotels were closed on account of this. We might not have been able to buy food on the way should we have wanted to stop for a lunch break. Fortunately the kids were very accommodating and waited until we reached the campsite. Of course, there was a little junk food passed around in the cars, so the pangs of hunger were temporarily under control.
Some time after lunch we decided to check out the neighboring terrain. The most obvious was to 'climb' the nearest sand dune and watch the sunset. Now beware... the mild slopes can be deceiving. The moment you take a step up those dunes, be prepared to 'sink' into the loose sand. If rock climbing is a challenge, so is climbing desert sand dunes. While it is irrelevant to know if I made it to the top, know that I made an honest effort to climb up.
Sunset was a little after 5:30 in the evening. While there was still daylight, we set upon our next task: Dune Bashing. Our tour guide drove us in a heavy vehicle (don't ask me what it is called), and we hit the dunes, driving over sandy terrain, over slopes, around curves and we literally traveled a very hilly, sandy roller-coaster.No, we didn't have seat belts on. And yes, it was FUN. Totally.
As you can see in these images, we have a couple (Dr. Poornima and Dr. Rajeev) enjoying the moment after having had their round of dune bashing. The image is taken atop our destination point from where we could see the camp way below. We ultimately slid down the slope to return back to our camp.
Read parts two and three of this amazing desert camp adventure.
Image Credits: Amanda Dcosta and Gerald Dcosta
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