Mr Outdoor Adventure Matt ‘Hunter’ Wilson has been asking me for quite a while now to join him on a hike. He is frequently out and about in various parts of the UAE and I have to say that some of his photos from the peaks of various mountains, otherwise unexplored are beautiful. I have always known that the feeling of accomplishment must be awesome and the pictures serve as wonderful reminders of that experience. With no other plans last weekend and some time on my hands to think hard about some decisions that need to be made, I figured that some outdoor exercise out in the Wadi’s of the UAE with some beautiful backdrops would be a good thing. So finally I agreed to go, as did 8 other people. Our start point at Jebel Hatta was about an hour and a half away so we had an early start, to ensure that we would make it back before the sun went down.
It was a beautiful morning in Dubai as we set off, the sun was out as we headed down the Hatta road and after turning off the main road to avoid the checkpoints (not everyone had brought passports) we carried on in the direction of the mountains and not too long after turning off the main road, the single road we were on ended. 4 wheel drive engaged we drove into the Wadi bed. We drove as far as we could and parked the three cars up at the side of the Wadi. We kitted up, filled up Camelbaks, took a group picture and started walking.
Matt is renowned for saying that the hike is easy and then when you turn up, it turns out that easy for him, is not easy for anyone else. My sister hasn’t been on another hike with Matt in over 2 years for this reason specifically and within about 10 minutes we were at our first little bit of climbing!! I didn’t know what to expect from one of Matt’s hikes, but my understanding of hiking was walking for hours on end and then turning round and coming back again! Luckily, that isn’t Matt’s idea and it was good fun scrambling up the rocks and helping everyone else navigate the Wadi bed at various points.
Matt was true to his word in that this wasn’t a steep hike at all and would be manageable by beginners, the Wadi naturally slopes but it wasn’t the slope you had to worry about, it was walking on loose ground and boulders all the time, tripping was quite a hazard. All good for you though as all your stabiliser muscles are constantly firing to keep you upright. The weather stayed nice and warm for us right through the middle of the day, so as well as experiencing the scenery I also caught some rays as well. In fact, a slight burn on the shoulders where I am thinking the backpack must have rubbed the sun cream off.
The plan was to hike for about 6 hours total that day, 3 hours out and 3 hours back to make sure we were all back down again before it started getting dark. We had all sorts of walking speeds between the group and we realised that we wouldn’t get as far up the Wadi as we had hoped before we would have to turn round. So we stopped for lunch on some rocks that offered some great views up the Wadi and a comfortable place to stop for a rest.
The sun was shining, it was peaceful and beautiful. As with most trips we go on whether hiking, camping or diving, we stop at a petrol station on Emirates road to pick up supplies. So most of us had a station sandwich for lunch. Lucetta and Nick however had decided that Subway sandwiches were the way to go. By the time we stopped for lunch, both of their sandwiches had a closer resemblance to soup than sandwich!
We started back down the Wadi after lunch and headed back to the pool for a dip, however, on arriving back there, only Matt Lenny and Nick were mad enough to get in! And all three will testify to how cold it was, as they all became ladies for a while!! Refreshed, from the break and those 3 from their dip we carried on. Matt was quite conscious now of the time and that we would have to pick up the pace a little to make sure that we got down in good time. So Ciaran, Laura, Nick and myself did just that and Matt and Lenny who are seasoned hikers helped the rest of the group keep good time. It’s funny when you go back the same way you came up but can’t recognise anything! I know that you spend most of the time looking down to make sure of where you are putting your feet, but there were a number of points where I was thinking that somehow we had managed to take a wrong turn!!
When we were about an hour and a half out, we thought we had heard thunder! Out there the weather can change very quickly, but we dismissed the sound as a distant aeroplane. However, it wasn’t long until we realised that after a number of hours of sun we were going to get wet. We kept walking and sure enough, we rounded a corner and could see the clouds coming in. At first it looked just like fog, but then you could feel the air temperature drop and round another corner and we knew we were going to get wet, the thick grey cloud came in, huge water droplets fell and most concerning was the cool wind that had picked up. In the Wadi bed you are totally exposed in terms of flat open space and the wind coupled with the rain was quite cold. Along with that, the amount of sand in the air also increased, affecting your eyes and also meant you were eating a lot of it too! What we were more concerned with though, was the wind whipping rocks off the top of the Wadi sides, more than once we heard the fall of rocks so we stayed as much as possible in the middle of the Wadi.
We kept walking and even though it was a relatively easy hike, I could feel the onset of cramp in my left calf and was concentrating on not being the one that fell over in agony on the ‘easy hike’. On the way up the Wadi, it felt like we had been walking for 5 mins before we had to scramble, but after dropping down that scramble it seemed a lot longer until the cars came into view on the way back. This might have had something to do with the sudden change in weather I guess. As it happened, we all made it back to the car, a little wetter than we had started and definitely tired legs, but as the first one I have done, it was a great way to spend a Friday. In Dubai, it’s so easy to get into the habit of the Friday brunch, which tends to involve eating and drinking as much as you can and then going on to drink some more and then go home and recover all day Saturday. After this hike, I definitely subscribe to Mr Outdoors’ approach to getting outside whilst we can before the temperature goes up to 45 degrees and we HAVE to go inside. Thanks Mr Wilson and look forward to the next one.