Eight a.m. and I’m ready to glamp. There’s just about enough room for us four Baggotts to squeeze in the Honda MRV amongst all our overnight luggage (if you consider the size of an MRV, that constitutes a hell of a lot of baggage).
Off we go again (as we did a few weeks ago when we stayed at Le Meridien Al Aqah) heading towards the Hajar mountains. But this time we take a far more scenic route. Rather turning onto the E88 off the Dubai Bypass towards Fujairah, we (in a convoy of three) continue along the E611 towards Ras al Khaimah and take the E911.
It’s seems only a matter of minutes before we’re in the desert, where the dunes hug the road and the sand is a deep romantic orange. This sea of rolling sculpted waves stretches as far as the eye can see and, of course, camel spotting is obligatory....
But then the sand disappears and the Stone (the Arabic translation of Hajar) Mountains begin. This road has literally been blasted through what is part of the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula.
They’re craggy, grey and very imposing. You can see where waterfalls have smoothed strips of the rock face and at the base wadis intertwine – it would be fabulous to see these wadis full of water.
Eventually we meet the E88 at the massive cement works and head towards Dibba and to the Omani border crossing. A very cursory glance at our passports by the customs officer and we pass into Oman. The Adventure Centre is ten minutes from here on the beach, opposite the Golden Tulip (or as we call it The Golden Turnip) hotel.
Whitebait is lain out to dry on the beach and a, not over-powering, waft of fish fills the air – this is sardine season.
We wander into the massive enclosed courtyard of the house. A long table surrounded comfortably by at least 20 chairs takes pride of place in the centre; in the far corner under the shade of a palm tree is a fresh water swimming pool; opposite is a tented majlis complete with Arabic cushions (which stays pleasantly cooler) and, to the kids’ delight, to the left of the house is what is officially called a barasti hut – like a tree house made out of Palm Fronds on stilts.
Inside the stone house are beds enough for 14 (mainly bunk beds) and a separate room with a double bed in it. No need for that bag I packed full of pillows and sheets - all the bedding is fresh and clean. What’s more the place is air-conditioned! Plus, there’s a proper – if somewhat pokey, kitchen with a massive fridge freezer in it. Now this is starting to look embarrassing – I had told people that I was glamour camping. This is glamping for wimps.
OK, the true test is in the bathrooms. Surely the loo would be behind a bush, or in an eastern-style hole in the ground at best? No, proper western toilets in a tiled bathroom with hot showers! OK, it’s not luxurious, but this isn’t even vaguely like camping.
We spend the next few hours enjoying the pool, the mountain and sea views and lounging around on the sofas – the courtyard is like a massive al fresco lounge. Paul, the owner of the house and founder of Absolute Adventure pops in to see us having just completed a new mountain trek that he hopes to offer his customers.
Paul moved to this region some 30 years ago, and his love for the great outdoors brought him to the natural playground of Dibba , where he set up Absolute. He’s also the founder of the charitable organisation called Gulf for Good which runs expeditions for charities in the region.
The adventures on offer span kayaking and trekking to mountain biking and rock climbing. Joining Paul is a brilliant way to explore and he’s a font of all knowledge about the history and culture of the area. This weekend I’d come to catch up with friends and suss the place out, but come October or November (when it’s decidedly cooler) I will be back to tackle canyoning in Wadi Wurrayah.
This four-hour trip starts at the UAE’s only perennial waterfall. The trek leads you through the wadi, passing loads of rock formations and pools en route. It’s about AED300 per person. Incidentally, the season draws to a close in three weeks time and starts again in September.
At four o’clock we head down to the harbour, just a two minute drive away from the house. The fishermen are trawling in their catch and the quay has become the local fish counter. The harbour is bustling with men - not a woman in sight apart from a few visitors like us. Neatly laid out on dirty plastic sheeting on the ground is king fish, snapper, squid, sardines, hammour and enormous sharks – flies swarming around their bloody mouths.
We take pot luck and buy two fat fish (I’m not good at estimating the weight so take a look at the photos) for a trifling AED120 (yes, being so close to the border, they accept dirhams). For AED30 extra we follow our salesman to large room where he guts and fillets our fish - just look at the kids' faces?!
With the sun setting we, like many of the locals, have a wander on the beach - although many are driving like complete nutters skidding on the sand. Close to the water's edge we stumble across a sting ray. It looks so untouched that we wonder if it's still alive. What a find.
Back home we throw the fish on the barbie, build a fire, crack open the beers and roast marshmallows. The temperature is perfect - although we are all wearing long sleeves and trousers to stave off the moisses. The night sky is full of stars and of course, through our slightly drunken eyes, the odd UFO. Should probably end there.
About this blog...
I set up this blog to reveal what real life is like here in the UAE - the good and the bad. I'll chat about what I've been up to, Dubai news and developments, my thoughts about expat life here (and in general) and reports about my holidays and adventures in the region (travel is my bag after all).