Offroad Trip in the Mountains and Wadi of Fujairah
I love extremes. Last weekend we stayed in a 5 star luxury hotel where the hotel slippers and chocolates were waiting for us next to our king size bed before we went to sleep, the next weekend we spent the night inside a tent in a wadi (Arabic word for river valley).
“If we need to wait for the men to take any action, nothing will happen, so let us fix it Cynt”, were the words of my friend. Together with the book “Advanced Off-Road Adventure Routes for the UAE and Oman” by Mike Nott on our lap, we decided to take Route 11 – Hot Rock. We got really enthusiastic after reading the following quote in the book: “The wadi route is technically demanding and you are likely to give your car a couple of bumps and scratches, or worse if you’re careless”.
And so we went with nine cars and 17 people towards the east coast of the UAE for a two-day camping trip through the wadi and mountains. No mobile coverage, no asphalt roads and no sanitary facilities — back to basics. It didn’t take long before the first car experienced difficulty the way up. Deep holes, gravel and massive boulders were lying in our way. To get more grip underneath the cars, we needed to lift boulders in 40 degrees Celsius. Actually, lifting boulders turned out to be our exercise for the next coming days. We felt like the Flintstones.
At some point when we were standing in a train of cars waiting for each other, I heard the noise of a chainsaw. I got out of the car, took a turn and there I saw one of my friends pulling branches from a tree in order for us to continue our journey “branchless”. I never expected we would need a chainsaw, it appeared that we even needed it twice. Further ahead we encountered a big bush/small tree which was sitting there in the middle of the road. There was no way of bypassing it and we couldn’t have pulled that one out with our hands for sure.
The route demanded utmost concentration. Little steep slopes and descends where at some point the wheels of the cars came loose from the ground. No better way of testing one’s driving skills. Since I love driving and adventure (my driving instructor once called me Michael Schumacher), I wanted to try if I would be able to manoeuvre the car through this rough bumpy terrain. Small detail: it’s the company car of my partner, so I couldn’t do a lot of freestyling. Every person who is in a relationship, knows what’s coming, tumult in the car:
“Cynt, keep your steering wheel straight!”
“I am keeping it straight!”
“No, you are not keeping your steering wheel straight!
“Yes I am!” [sigh].
“Keep right! Keep right!”
“That’s what I am doing!”
“No, you are not”
“Keep your foot on the brake!”
“What do you think I’m doing?!”
After some time when my partner figured out that the bumper was still on the car and that I really could drive over these massive boulders, it became quiet in the car (despite the techno music) and we continued to drive further in peace.
When the trip almost ended and we all thought we made it without flat tires and too many scratches on the cars, a group member yelled through the walkie talkie: “my break hoses broke down!” This happened right before the car had to descend a steep hill (a lifted pick up with a lot of fancy stuff on it in different colours). Some cars were already at the bottom of the hill and we were still standing on top with three cars left. Everybody was afraid that the lifted pick up would move up the cars downstairs. The leader of the group yelled through the walkie talkie: “will the kitty-van please continue driving”. It took a while before we got this message and then we all bursted into laughter. It was with regards to the car where two women were sitting in and was parked underneath the steep hill. After the “kitty-van” drove on, the lifted pick up could descend. Luckily in first gear, you are able to get far enough, even without the brakes!
– From Dubai take the 611 towards Sharjah, then take the E88 towards Al Dhaid and Masafi. At the end of the E88 there is a roundabout (you face the mountains), go left and head towards Dibba Al Fujairah. You will drive along a scenic coastline towards Dadna. Just before Dadna you will see a petrol station on your left hand side (last possibility to fill up gas) and the entrance to the trip is on your right hand side right after the petrol station. You will drive through a small village first before entering the mountain area.
– Check out the weather forecasts. When driving this route, you’ll be driving through wadis. Although wadis are in a dry stage at most parts of the year, during sudden rain showers the wadi gets filled up with water pretty quickly. This can happen quite unexpectedly and in a fast pace and the danger of drowning is just around the corner. Never go into the wadi when you see dark clouds or expect rain.
– Always drive in a group.
– Make sure you drive a 4×4 and have AT tyres.
– You can choose to deflate your tires. We chose not to do this and it didn’t affect the driving negatively. None of us experienced a flat tyre.
– You may need the following tools: jack, shovel, saw, working/garden gloves and compressor.
– Make sure every car contains a walkie talkie. It’s essential that while driving that you maintain contact with the other drivers (in case someone gets stuck, foresees problems or wants to give any driving tips). You won’t be having any signal with your mobile in the mountains and walkie talkies work much faster.
– Make sure the front, middle and last car contain experienced drivers so they can guide the group and can keep an eye on everybody.
– It is strongly advised that on the tricky parts a couple of people get out of the car and walk ahead to explore the road, provide guidance to the driver and lift boulders in order to have the cars pass on more easily;
– On the route is a campsite mentioned. In case you reach the campsite early in the afternoon,
you can continue driving to the next waiting area, which is a wadi. It is a very nice camping spot for a big crowd. Since you will be camping in between rock faces, you will have a longer shade in the morning. Please note: this spot is only safe when it’s dry weather and there is no chance of any rain!
– Please bring a thick carpet to put underneath your tent. Since you will be setting up your tent partly on stones, it won’t be the most comfortable night when your air mattress deflates.
Words + Photos By: Cynthia Briesen