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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Road Trip: It's Getting 'Hatta' Here

It's getting hot here. Not in the way where you're psyched to be hanging out with your friends at outdoor cafes in little tank tops and drinking rose wine full of carefree thoughts and wispy feelings. No. It's not like that at all.

It's more like a worry, the heat. I'm trying to figure out how to get around it... how I'm going to walk to the supermarket without keeling over dead, or spontaneously combusting. It's not like I didn't know this would come. It's just that I have never actually 'felt' 111 degrees in the shade. Now I have, and it's only getting hotter. And for a gal who always loved summer, gets into a funk when it ends and has been known to curse all other seasons, all I can say is - be careful what you wish for...

So, in advance of the heat, John and I set out to the Hatta Pools in Dubai/Oman with a group called the Sandpit Hash House Harriers (best described as a 'social' running club). It was their last overnight excursion for the season and seems to be a much looked forward to annual event. We were in.

The drive from Abu Dhabi -- taking the scenic route -- was just about three hours. The drive included crossing the border into Oman in Al Ain, driving along the stunning Al Hajar mountain range.

The road to Hatta. Glad it's paved!
Instead of camping like we did when we helped celebrate the Al Ain's 30th year of hashing antics in the desert, we took up residence at the Hatta Fort Hotel, a darling spot with the 'throwback' feel of a family resort in the Poconos that has been transplanted to the Middle East. There was a fish pond. Bungalow rooms. Continental cuisine (onion soup, prawn cocktail and flambes made tableside). Two swimming pools. Welcome glasses of orange juice. And just about the nicest staff ever.

But the hotel wasn't why we were there. We were there for the wadis... the dried river beds and carved out rocks with water still running through them to explore. We met up with about about 15 other hashers and set off, caravan-style through the town of Hatta then pulled off to the pools... then we parked, got our act together and floated down the first of two wadis...

We lined up along a rock-carved slide and each took turns plunging in, wearing our shorts, t-shirts and footwear. From there we kind of swam along until it got shallow, walked a bit and then plunged in again.

[Okay, okay... here's the thing. The guidebooks and stuff warn Westerners about bringing valuables to the pools. We read that cars get broken into, passports and wallets stolen, etc. Also, since I was going to be wading or swimming in the wadi, I couldn't bring my camera. Therefore, if you want a good sense of the Hatta experience, please refer to this uber-cool video below...FAST FORWARD to 1:45 for wadi wading.]

After the first wadi, we had a bit of a regroup and then proceeded to the second section. It was here that I decided not to continue on. Apparently there was a rather large narrow jump to maneuver, and quite frankly, like the guidebooks said, the water was, sadly, polluted with empty water bottles, orange rinds and food wrappers. All I could think was how sad that such a beautiful spot could become so... trashed. It's like another 70s throwback, how folks handle their litter here.

After the pool adventure, it was back to the hotel and a bit of a hanging out for the evening.

Then the next day, John and I took another road excursion... hoping to make our way up to Fujairah. Armed with our cell phones and map, we hit the road and followed the PAVED parts until they turned into UNPAVED parts.

Of course, this left me nervous. There were lots of rocks so I was worried about changing flat tires in the 115 degree heat. And even though there were homes here and there, I don't know, it kind of made me nervous in the same way that driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the U.S. might feel... like something could go terribly wrong.

Luckily for us, the only danger we encountered were these 'free range' camels...

And goats...

But here was the road... [It's times like this that I thank god my mother isn't on the Interwebz!]

Deliverance, Middle Eastern-style.

When we finally made it back to civilization, we headed to Al Hayl Castle just outside of Fujairah. 

There, we were met by a 'guide,' who, to be honest, seemed to be making things up as he went along. "This place, for people shower... shampoo, razor, conditioner." Hmmmm... 

Still, the place, which we still can't determine whether its 300 years old (according to the guide) or built in 1930 (according to a brochure that was given to us as a memento by our guide), was pretty cool. 

The fort at Al Hayl Castle

John taps his fingers, he doesn't suffer poor tour guide information gladly...

Our guide explains his wealth of useful information, 'The big man uses the big door, the children, the little door...' Really, we didn't have that much of a problem with this, except for the pretty aggressive shakedown for a larger tip than we had given after the tour...

Anyhoo, back on the road, we hit up downtown Fujairah... which looked like what downtown Abu Dhabi might have looked like twenty years ago...

Downtown Fujairah
A drive along the coast of the Indian Ocean (the waves were rough because of a tropical storm that had been heading to the area)....
Indian Ocean, Fujairah's Corniche

Then back to the hotel and poolside in the late afternoon.

Hatta Fort Hotel...
Where you can hang at the pools, play mini golf, hike the on-site mountain top,
check out the koi pond and peacocks... or do nothing at all. 

Our bungalow.
It was a lovely weekend and one of the things we've been told is that it's important to get out of town every few weeks. Not only because there is so much to see, but because a little decompression from Abu Dhabi 'city/work life' can be a very good thing.

The town of Hatta.
 Til next time!

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