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The White Wadi

Not so enticing white calcite pools at the start of Wadi al Abyan

It was the first time back to the Rustaq Loop since I had circumvented it back in August, shortly after I arrived in Oman. I quickly remembered the boredom of Route 13, taking you from the coastline at Barka all the way through to Rustaq town. As far as you can see to the west is scrubland, with patches of buildings every so often, and to the east is the outline of the Hajar mountains. Thankfully, the journey was only to As Sibaykha, the village at the wide valley flats leading to Wadi al Abyad (Arabic for The White Wadi).

...a bit more enticing; blue pools filled with small fish

The drive past As Sibaykha is flat, a couple of hundred meters wide, and is large pebbles and stones that a 2WD car would quickly get buried in. It reminds you that you're on the bed of a wadi and during rain, you better make it to higher ground. Strewn across the flood plain were leaves from date palms, tree branches and the odd flip-flop (as you'd expect!). Makes quite a bit of fun for taking the car across though – if you don't spot a depression in the track or a branch until the last minute, you WILL be going over it. The pebbles were so loose that I took it relatively slowly until reaching the pools.

Dusted with calcite

The wadi is known for having white pools of water, like having icing sugar sprinkled across the floor of the pool. They're formed from the calcite deposits in the surrounding limestone trickling down into the pools and finally settling on the floor of the pools. If you can manage getting your eyes down close to the pools (I'm young enough to do that sort of thing without putting my back out!), you can see little fish in the pools, also covered in the calcite! The fish are quite nifty jumpers too; as they see you, the fish dart to the edge of the pool and jump across into a neighbouring pool, or stream, to escape their impending doom.

A awesome picnic spot, with a dip afterwards? I say!

There is only so far that the car will go before having to strap on your backpack and walk down the wadi. From this point, it's possible to walk through the wadi all the way to Al Abyad, the village at the south end of the wadi. I didn't feel that inspired today, so I just took a walk to the deep blue pools before the wadi starts to twist-and-turn around the surrounding rock spurs. All the small pools were really amazing, with rich red colours around the edges and enticing warm waters running through.

Just before I turned round to come back, there was a short snake (about 1m long) bathing on a warm rock and overlooking the stream in the midday heat. I took some really good close up photos, but later realised my camera settings were still attuned to taking photos of the thunderstorm a few days back! So all those photos came out black! Lesson learnt; always reset the camera before heading out. Next time.

I couldn't resist a quick dip in the pools before heading out again, and with no one about, it was bliss to kick back in such warm waters for 10min, soaking up some sun. It didn't cross my mind that there might be more snakes around here! I'm still alive though, and the only things that bit me, we're the little fish in the pools nibbling at my whole body. It was soon time to head back though, and with no sign of storm clouds or rain, there was no chance of the car having been washed away – so I took my time walking out of the wadi.

The drive across the bed of Wadi al Abyan


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