Storytime! My Instagram followers begged, so here it is. That time I got lost in a canyon in Oman with no food or water, and… well you’ll find out the rest.
You can watch the video account of the story here:
A “simple” visa run to Oman
It was September 2016. I’d been living in Dubai for about a month when my study abroad friends told me that they had to do a visa run, and they wanted to take advantage of our long weekend because of the Islamic New Year.
We planned to do five days and four nights in Oman traveling between three main cities of Muscat, Nizwa, and Wadi Shab, with excursions amidst our hour-long drives to explore the deserts, canyons, historical sites, and anything else of interest that we came across.
Flash forward to Day 3, where it was turning out to be an… interesting trip.
Our individual personalities begin to shine during times of travel hardship. Specifically involving hotel booking errors, translation difficulties, and schedules being rescheduled. So forth, this is the reality of group trips with people you’ve known one lunar cycle.
The trip had quickly transformed from “having fun” to “we need to survive to get back to Dubai”.
However, our trip was not over, and that day we planned to visit Wadi Shab. “Wadi” is an Arabic word that translates to ‘the valley’, or ‘canyon’—usually with natural springs running throughout.
Arriving at Wadi Shab
It’s 8 a.m., and we park the car. We’d woken up early to make the drive to the Wadi so none of us had eaten.
It was decided that we would go into the canyon for a few hours and leave in time to get lunch somewhere. And because we’d be hiking for a while we decided to leave the water in the car because it’d be heavy. We could always come right back and get it?
We began the day by taking a boat into the canyon, and we notice there are a few locals entering and exiting the canyon so at least we aren’t completely alone.
We look up and suddenly there are huge, stunning, looming white cliffs.
Our plan is to head to this destination in Wadi Shab known as Pool 3. It’s supposed to be beautiful with crystal blue spring pools and a waterfall where a lot of people visit.
I was the most experienced traveler but, as I said, was exhausted from the mash of personalities and was trying to lay low on the trip. However, I could help but ask a few questions
“Hey, guide leader, do you have a map? Or an internet connection?”
“No. But I have a travel blog written in 2013 with instructions on how to get there with a screenshot on my phone, so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing.”
“Ah, right. No worries then.”
We begin our hike. It’s actually a pretty intermediate hike, filled with lots of steep steps and some rock scrambles. After maybe 45 minutes, the path gets thinner and thinner as we go around a cliffside.
Realizing our situation
Subsequently, it’s getting dangerous. There are 12 of us, and we’ve all slowed down to carefully navigate this treacherous path.
We had to walk almost sideways to stay on the path and not fall down the 30ft cliffside. It’s been a while since we last past a tourist or even a hiker, and as it gets closer to noon while it’s only getting hotter and hotter.
Maybe an hour or two of wandering, I had to cut the shit. Like this is not the path, people do not do this.
Of course, the men are like, “I don’t want to turn back we know where we’re going, just trust us it’s like another hour ahead!”
And I’m like… I’m not gonna go three hours into the abyss. I’m done 🙂 I saw a lagoon nearby and decided to sit in it and cool off until I can figure out my next move.
Then we decide we are not gonna wait here, just figured since we’re gonna go back that we would go back down in general and will eventually, reach salvation.
We felt like we were on the brink of death.
Subsequently, we keep going until the rocks split and it’s just open air now instead of a canyon, and it’s a pool. It looks like it kind of sneaks through these rocks and then drops down to a waterfall as we can hear yelling at the bottom of the waterfall!
I think: if we can go through the water, maybe like water slide down the waterfall to where people are at! Easy.
Not so. We’re in maybe knee-high water, and we are going out towards the waterfall when we hear, “Gabby!” and people shouting our names that we looked up and it’s our long-lost friends who we left for dead! They found us.
They’d turned around and came back the same way with us!
We go towards where we hear the voices and we see the waterfall… And it was tall! About 25m of jagged rock to navigate, and then another 25m drop.
An important question comes up: can everybody swim? No. TWO of my friends cannot swim!
And it’s not shallow at the bottom, it must be 12 to 20 feet deep down there. Yeah it’s not, uh-huh, we are really in a situation and there’s no life vest, there’s no lifeguard. I mean we are in the wilderness within Oman and you need to jump off this Bear Grylls style or else you’re gonna die. Here we are.
Reaching the pool
Thank God, a local who is an unofficial guide climbs up the waterfall to help us get down. You can see in this footage where we start to scale down the waterfall.
This is when I just have to pause and think—how did I get here?
I jump off and my friend (who cannot swim) jumps off and I have to dive down as she’s treading water and help pull her to the six-foot area which is maybe 10-15 yards away through this gorgeous passageway. She’s on my back, I’m holding on to the wall shimmying us through this passageway and… we made it!
THIS is the original pool that we should have been at. Moreover, you see other people it’s a walkable depth of water we’re all so happy. Like, wow, we’re not gonna die here!
We eventually walk all the way back to the car. It was around 6 PM.
We had spent a full 12 hours getting lost and trying to escape this canyon.
And that’s the story of how I hiked and almost died in a canyon in Oman.
Do you have any stories of your own? Drop a comment down below.
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