Leaving the desert dunes of Wahiba Sands behind, we head north from the main Ibra-Sur road towards the mountains. The change in landscape is drastic: from orange, soft-looking sand dunes, we drive into grey, rugged, rocky mountains. Driving over a mountain pass, we come to a valley where strips of green give away the presence of water. Indeed, after the barren mountains we have just crossed, we drive through several small villages, until we reach the very last one: Miqil. We leave our 4WD behind, walk up a falaj through which water runs down for irrigation, with date palms on both sides of the valley, and reach a large pool. People swim here, some dive from narrow iron bridges linking one side of the pool with the other, or an islet in the middle of the pool with a viewpoint with small shelter.
We leave the big pool behind, as we find it too crowded, and walk up the wadi to discover more. There are several smaller, natural pools; blue-green water surrounded by almost white rocks, which have been sculpted to soft contours by century upon century of passing water. A little higher up, we see cascades and tiny waterfalls squeezing themselves through openings between rocks. The beauty of the wadi cannot hide the fact that there is an overflow of waste: plastic bottles, tins, empty cigarette packs - such a pity. At several points, we have to wade through shallow water, running over crystal clear water. Sometimes, the high walls of the canyon offer shade, there is a breeze, and even though it is mid-summer, the temperature is definitely bearable.
The entrance to Moqal cave is low, and some of us squeeze ourselves through the opening. While there is some daylight in the cave, I have to switch on the torch of my phone, and expect to reach the end of the cave soon. To my surprise, after I stand up in a chamber where small bats fly, I see that I can continue. I have to walk really low, through more chambers, until I hear the unmistakeable sound of running water. Even though I cannot see it, an underground river must be running right next to me, and it must be quite a big one. One of the feeders of the wadi, for sure. Since the cave seems to be turning slightly left, I expect to reach an exit here, but it does not happen, so I return, sweaty and well. We walk down the wadi, drop our bags under one of the trees, and have a great time swimming through the rock formations, jumping off the boulders, playing in the water, or just enjoying the sunshine. Whenever we stand still, small fish are eating away at our feet. It is utterly relaxing to be here, and we have to tear ourselves away after a couple of hours because we have to head back to Muscat.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Wadi Bani Khalid (Oman). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Wadi Bani Khalid.
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