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The Mystery of Snake Canyon

As the sun disappeared over the mountains behind Wadi Bani Awf, the sky glowed

Sunset over Wadi Bani Awf. Our view from the camp site was stunning and caught the light until the very last moment

Was it worth the wait? Hell yes! I'd wanted to go down Snake Canyon since first picking up the guide book over 18 months ago, even before I'd arrived in Oman. Another bonus was that to get there, we needed to go down Wadi Bani Awf once again, somewhere that I will never get bored of. To make the most of the trip, we camped out on the mountain pass between Awf and Wadi Bani Kharous, watching the sunset over a few cold beers!

The next morning we were close enough to Snake Canyon that we could have a lazy morning and pack away at our own pace. Snake Canyon is not one of your usual walks in Oman, but requires a good deal of jumping, swimming and climbing (i.e. canyoning!). Great if there is a good amount of water in the canyon, but not so if there is not enough, or too much. Luckily, the water levels weren't too bad, a little on the low side, but if we had had 2 meters more, there's a couple of places we couldn't have made it through!

There was only one way to cross most pools of water - swim!

There were a few places where a rope would have been handy to lower the first person down into the water to test the depth, but given we didn't have one, we all went first at one point! My turn came in a narrow section of rock that was enclosed each side, giving me half a meter of room and had been carved out by a small waterfall. It was only a drop of 2.5 meters to the water (or a bit more), but when you're hanging of the rock above and realise you can't get back up, there's only one thing to do – let go. I dropped against the back wall, which curved down to the water and plunged chest height into the cool water below. Apart from knocking an elbow as I tried to slow myself, no harm was done, but we still had 5 others to get down the gap!

Two similar passages through Snake Canyon, both had the same outcome of getting wet

Narrow passage to swim to the cavern

About 3/4 of the way down the canyon, the walls close in and the floor drops away down below the waters. It's a pretty lengthy swim through a snaking passage, with no idea how deep the water is, but round another few corners lies the treasure of Snake Canyon. With the water levels as they were, we approached an open cave tunnel with stalactites hanging above, dripping in the passage. The sunlight reflected around the cavern creating amazing lighting effects in the water near the exit. If the water level had been a couple of meters higher, there would have been no way through! This was the reason I'm glad I took a camera in a waterproof holder (although the photos weren't great!).

The Cavern; an open ended cave on the floor of Snake Canyon where the only exit is to swim through

Top, the glow of the fire reached a nearby bush, whilst the fire itself consumed some of the bracken we'd collected on the way (bottom)

It's safe to say that the cavern was definitely the highlight of the canyon, but the whole stretch of it was stunning, with the afternoon sun skipping over the crest of the gorge. After the initial anxiety of jumping into murky waters, wondering what was below and how deep it was, the rest was a hoot! Given the chance to do it again, and the need to have a car at either end of the gorge, I'd jump at it like a shot!

A thistle rested on the side of a rock - no roots, no cracks in the rock - it was just there; surviving!

Standing strong, the LR3 had had some good trips, but tonight it got to rest

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