We usually spend two weekends a year in the Lake District back home in the UK, and is a place that we’ll miss for a while yet. Thankfully, Oman has a pretty good answer to the Lakes – the Western Hajar mountains, and is a place that I’ve been eager to explore since arriving. So with the official hiking route maps in our pockets, stacks of water in the car, and plenty of energy snacks, we set out for a long weekend trekking uphill and down dale, covering four of the twelve mapped trekking routes across these mountains.
We stayed at the Al Hoota Rest House for the first couple of nights, which looks over the valley onto the village of Balad Sayt, at an altitude 1000m under our feet! Impressive until we realised that that was where our walk was starting from the following morning! Not only was it a long way down, but we were trekking back up to the hotel again! I’m sure we’ve done walks like this in the Lake District, but never starting at a temperature near to 35 degrees. The Al Hoota Rest House was a pleasant stay, the villa type accommodation had nice sun rooms attached, cosy rooms and the evening meal felt like each portion could feed two people! The main meal on the first night was a random assortment of curried vegetables, rice, battered fish fillets, chips and breads… not your average Omani meal! So to put it easily, the food was “functional”, and certainly needed after a long days walk.
We started on day one by driving from the hotel down the dusty, steep track into Wadi Bani Awf. Not the scariest drive of all time, but steep enough to keep your concentration focused; constantly! At 10km to Balad Sayt, it still took us pretty much bang on an hour to get down and park up for the day. I realised that we were driving that again later to come back and pick the car up!
We tied together two of the walks today, W8 and W10h, which took us from Balad Sayt up the northern face of the Western Hajar to Sharaf al Alamayn. The two walks totalled a modest 8.5km and climbed 1,150m. The walking routes are really well marked, with distinctive yellow, white and red flags along the routes. Granted, up the side of a mountain, you can see the old donkey routes that never really changed much. In that respect, the routes were easy to follow even without the markers.
The slog up the first few hundred meters in altitude was quite hot, making it tough. After we’d climbed the first 200m, you could already feel the drop in temperature and our spirits lightened a bit too! The dried fruit snacks added a well needed boost of sugar each time we stopped in the shade. After the climb up the northern flank (W8), the walk across the cliff edge (W10h) was a stroll in comparison! The only gruelling part was the final walk along the tarmac at the end of the route back to the hotel. We slept well that night!