UAE, Adventure, Days, Holidays, Camps

Guest Post by Petra Sheppard of The Huffington Post

AQABA-LIMA TREK AND JEBEL QIHWI CLIMB

As a Travel Writer you tend naturally to be rather cynical, often expecting to be underwhelmed.  I normally fully expect to complete what is billed as full day trek by lunchtime.   I've been to places that are supposedly remote to encounter a sea of Gore-Tex and gridlocked paths of fellow trekkers and don't get me on the pink tissue paper trails in parts of The Himalayas, toilet paper festooning the paths marking the passage of previous walkers.  It was with this frame of mind that I approached trekking The Aqaba-Lima Trek and Jebel Qhiwi Climb booked through Absolute Adventure.  I am happy to say, I couldn't have been more mistaken, they were two of the most interesting, challenging and altogether more different treks I've ever done and included one very big surprise ! 

 For The Aqaba-Lima trek, we were a party of five, my brother a "grand fromage" in Dubai and sister in law and two of their friends joining another group of Dubai professionals.  There were 10 of us in total, a nice number, including the extremely knowledgeable and personable Paul Oliver, Absolute Adventure’s founder and CEO and Dan one of his young and charming guides.    We were mostly all over 50 but with 50 being the new 30, our advancing years wasn't going to stop us enjoying the experience, we were all intrepid and adventurous and up for an "Absolute Adventure".

The day starts leisurely enough with a boat ride along the coast to a small fishing harbour where the fun really starts.   Paul describes this part of the trek as the "mushkila" in arabic meaning "the problem" but it's a fun problem as you inch your way around a headland on the tiniest of paths, grabbing rocks and hoping not to fall.  Then it's a steep climb to the abandoned town of Aqaba. As you sit and admire the views, Paul regales you with stories of the area, pointing out a mosque, graveyard and fort.  I never thought what essentially is a bunch of old stones could be quite so interesting and even if history is not your thing, then the views out to sea really are fabulous and all the time it's just out little group and the odd banana skin eating goat to keep up company.   As picnic spots go, the top of the peninsula looking out over the date palms, the mountains, the sea and the town of Lima is hard to beat.  The picnic provided by Absolute Adventure also got the big thumbs up.

Apart from one of our group finding mysteriously a sharp knife in her bladder (not some kind of euphemism but in her water container) and another dropping her mobile phone into the sea, (the water in this part of the Musandam Peninsula is so gin clear that there was no difficulty in spotting it and jumping in to retrieve it) the day was altogether uneventful.     The weather glorious, the trekking just enough to be challenging but not too exhausting, the views spectacular and the date farm in Lima offering some welcome shade and  a refreshing swim in the fresh water pool.  However, the boat ride home and particularly my decision for a last swim added a whole other dimension to the day and a rather big one at that.   We'd hoped to explore a cave but the tide was too high to allow our boat to enter, so I decided to swim inside instead, the others happy to remain on board and enjoy the last of the evening sunshine.    Now when you're alone in the water, the last word you want to hear shouted from your family and new friends on board the boat is the word "shark".  That's what I heard, that's what my brain heard but what in fact they were shouting was "whale shark".    Still no-one has swam back to a boat and clambered on board  quite as quickly, just in time to see said whale shark swimming majestically by.  For those not in the know, a whale shark is the largest fish in the sea reaching lengths of 40 feet, not something to be sniffed at or for that matter that you’d  want to be swimming with.

The Jebel Qihwi Climb was an altogether difference experience and one that I can highly recommend you combine with The Aqaba-Lima trek, using the latter as a warm up.    The Jebel Qihwi climb is a straight forward climb but what a climb.   Jebel Qihwi, rising 1792 metres above sea level is one the highest points in the Musandam Peninsula.  The terrain and the views reminded me a lot of recent climbs that I have done in the Andes in South America but again without the hordes of people.  There's something really special knowing it's just you on the mountain, this time guided by the kind and encouraging Michael and Toby.  The full day trek is billed as challenging but it's not a race to the top, the pace is steady allowing you plenty of opportunities to take photographs and quench your thirst.  One of our fellow trekkers had some kind of gizmo on his phone (if I wasn't such a luddite, I would know what it was) but even I was impressed by the stats it gave - we'd covered 12.40 km, a total ascent of 1076 m, descent of 996 m and a max elevation of 1791 m just proving the accuracy (well 1 metre out) of the information provided on the Absolute Adventure website..  The tag line “serious adventure .... serious fun” is also spot on, even if swimming with a whale shark is probably a little bit too much adventure, google it and you’ll get my drift, pun intended.

PETRA SHEPHERD

20.3.16