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Hiking in the Sea of Sand Dunes

November 10, 2021
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So, you are here reading another fellow traveler’s story! I love doing that too. Oh yes, it inspires me too… but, hey, wait a minute…

Someone once said these words to me from my favorite Rumi, "Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth." So, are you ready to unfold yours? Here's a story of one of my recent experiences to help your butterflies keep you on your toes!

I love hiking, especially in remote places. Places close to nature. I love hiking because it allows me to visit those remote corners which are otherwise difficult to reach. As my interest in hiking grew, I started experimenting with different things – long-distance hikes, all night hikes on full-moon nights, hikes in extreme weather conditions to push my limits and test my endurance.

I also started hiking in different types of terrains, like, hikes over a frozen river, hikes through moraine fields, over glaciers, through vast snowfields, through dense forests with a lot of active wildlife around, at high altitude cold deserts and hiking through mudflats during low tides. Whoa!

Excited? Me too!

When plans were finalized for my travel to UAE, my never-ending quest for exploring the world made me contemplate the possibility of going for hikes in the 'Sea of Sand Dunes' and getting the feel of a real rugged desert wilderness.

I started exploring if somebody is organizing such hikes or outdoor adventure activities in the areas of no footfall. Unfortunately, I could not find anything. As I kept digging more and more, I could discover exciting places but minimal information about how to reach and what to do & almost nobody offering such offbeat experiences. Luckily, on this trip, I ended up meeting my friend Bhavin after several years. We both share the same passion for outdoor adventure, and suddenly a plan started to shape up. We began exploring places where we could potentially go hiking in the Sand Dunes. And one place really excited us – Fossil Rocks of Maleha or Mleiha.

We started reading more about Maleha and learned that the widespread archaeological evidence unearthed in this area dates back to the Paleolithic period, some 130,000 years ago. Wow… isn't it!!

And we instantly knew this was the experience we couldn't afford to miss. It was almost 11 pm when we finalized the place & our plan for the hike the following day. We knew we needed to start early to avoid extreme heat in the latter part of the day. We carried more than enough water for the two of us. Bhavin got up early morning, around 4 am, to pack some tea and sandwiches for the hike. We planned to start our hike before sunrise, and we knew it would be freezing until the sun was above the horizon. We were carrying our best hiking shoes with the apt gears, suiting the weather conditions.

As expected, hiking in the sand dunes takes lots and lots of energy. Every time you take a step forward, you keep sliding backwards in the sandy slopes of the dunes. Also, your legs get stuck deep in the loose sand. And this process makes it difficult moving forward. Going through several ups and downs and crossing contours of several sand dunes, we reached the base of Fossil Rocks early morning. Sitting there, simply looking at a mesmerizing sunrise while sipping tea with my good old friend, was one of the best feelings ever. The cool desert breeze was very soothing after the hike for almost an hour. The early morning sight of endless sand dunes left us in total amazement.

Early morning in the fossil rocks, we saw a few jackals equally amazed as we were. Several cave-like patterns and hideouts in those fossil rocks seemed like serving as a shelter for these jackals and a few other species residing in this area. I guess for them, seeing humans so early in that remote corner of the desert was a surprise of a sort. We were probably uninvited guests at their homes. We also saw several camels in the desert far away from us. Although we did not see any humans around them, not sure if they were wild or some domesticated herd from nearby villages.

Interestingly, we also came across some footprint markings during our hike in the sand dunes, which we initially could not figure out of whom. Later, we saw a few reptiles walking swiftly on the same and leaving behind those footprints. I tried to go a bit closer to one of them to take a picture, and suddenly it dived in the sand and disappeared – just like that!!

It was a completely different world out here and yet living in such harmony. Post our tea break, we started hiking up the fossil rock. Now that sun was above the horizon; we could feel the heat. Just a few minutes in the sunny morning, and the pleasant weather became scorching and unbearable. We hiked for another hour to reach a vantage point from which we could see the 'Sea of Sand Dunes' up to the horizon.

We sat there for some time, absorbing the beauty of nature and that unbelievable sight our eyes witnessed at that moment. For that brief period, I even forgot how hot and unbearable it was getting. I was indeed lost in that rugged wilderness of Maleha Desert… I became that wilderness – unmoving, calm, vast and yet so peaceful. It was a Zen moment for me!

After some time, we decide to start our return journey. It had become even more challenging to walk in the sand dunes in the morning heat – now, even the sand was getting hot. There was not a single tree or some other object for resting in the shade for a few moments in the entire wilderness. By now, the water in our bottles was hotter than the tea we had had at sunrise. Without taking any break anywhere on the route, we reached our car back around 10:00 am. We needed a good break of another 30 mins in the shadow of a small tree to cool off and get going again.

They say that every landscape has its own story - A story waiting to unfold. And now, we were headed back with a lifetime of memorable stories from the "Sea of Sand Dunes" at the Maleha Desert.

I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to explore several places and experience so many things in this lifetime.

The list of places to visit, however, is endless!!

Author
Prashant Gawai