An epic journey by Brett Beeson
What does 'off the beaten path' mean to you?
From a literal perspective, for me recently this meant flying down to Muscat and renting a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the most powerful 4-wheel drive available. Truthfully, I did receive many reproachful glances from those questioning a woman’s ability to handle such a vehicle. Nonetheless, I set out, steering my course towards Oman’s Interior Region.
Naysayers’ concern aside, I soon discovered that driving a tank was… amazing. There is sheer freedom in being able to set all concerns asides and chase after the sunset. Cruising along to too-loud pop music, I soon left the city behind. On the whim of a moment, I decided to stop by Hoota Cave, located on the outskirts of al Hamra town. Over two million years old, the cave is now over 4.5km long, complete with four lakes. Somehow I forewent the opportunity to swim with the blind fish, but I did pause to admire the stalagmites and stalactites forming a lion, a crone, and a sleeping tiger… for only 10mm of limestone being chiseled every 100 years, nature had surely created a masterpiece.
Visit to the roots of the geo-creations complete, I took up my journey towards the peaks once more. For those of you who have never visited the dramatic al Hajr Mountain Range, I highly recommend the experience. Pure exhilaration hit my veins once I finally hit the winding mountain path leading to the peak of Jabl Shams, pin corner turns followed by steep inclinations. Looking through the windshield, the horizon was eclipsed by robin’s egg blue, clouds dusting the corners, as the Jeep took on the near-impossible hills.
Much as I enjoyed the drive, I was nearly giddy with excitement by the time I finally stopped by the camp, hurriedly receiving instructions to the nearby Balcony Walk. Breaking out my hiking boots for the first time since Kilimanjaro, I raced for the trail, skipping past the scattered mountain homes and blowing past the curious goats until I reached… nothing.
And yet: everything.
The Balcony Walk hugs the rim of Oman’s Grand Canyon, the cliffs of the Sun Mountain tumbling into open space. One wrong step, and the phrase, “you’re a goner,” no longer remains metaphorical. If you’re afraid of heights, not the best decision, but for the rest… it’s home.
I had left the beaten path, and I had found my freedom… a balm only matched by a similar experience the following morning, when my stumbling in the dark led to “The Amphitheatre” just as the sun crested over the rocky peaks. A warm glow suffused the air; the silence echoed.The mountains are my home, my peace.