With midsummer truly and undeniably here, it was time for the Abu Dhabi Alpine Club’s annual defy-the-heat trip to Hatta Pools.

This originated three years ago, born of an inherently contrarian response to being told it’s impossible to do anything outside at this time of year.

We first did the gorge at Hatta Pools in 2009, when it was 50degC/122degF outside, then again in 2010 (only 45 degrees) and again last year, when it was not-even-trying 40deg.

This year Thomas suggested expanding the theme to the entire weekend, with the wild wadi on the Friday and the Wild Wadi © (complete with capitalisation and symbols) water park the day after.

First, though, we left Abu Dhabi at dawn and drove to the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai to group a UAE trekkers group who meet there every Friday at 8am to do laps of the Ski Dubai before it opens, all part of a training regime for their trip to Kilimanjaro in a month’s time.

This was unexpectedly enjoyable, not least for the experience of tasting crisp cold air in the lungs again. Everyone else was rugged up for the real mountains but because it’s indoors, I went out just in a pair of shorts and a thermal top.


Then we drove to Hatta Pools, just across the border into Oman. As we drove across the Madam Plain, the thermometer in the car was showing 48degC/118degF.

But after waiting until 4pm in the aircon of the Hatta Fort Hotel, the temperature when we finally reached the wadi was OK. Although Cindy was wondering where the water was.

But she found it soon enough.

The upper wadi is just a lot of fun without anything serious in it, comprised of a series of pools with remarkably clean water.

Once the wadi deepened a little, it didn’t see much sun so the water temperature was perfect.

Finally we hit the big pool.

We met a couple of Bahrainis who’d clambered down the sheer wadi walls, jumped from about 3m up onto the gravel (in bare feet) and then paddled this palm trunk down to their friends at the other end of the pool.

A downside of Hatta Pools is the heroic quantities of rubbish left here.

The swim was about 150m, although we had to make sure we weren’t in the path of dive-bombing swimmers, who were a mix of Bahrainis, Baluchis and Pakistanis.

From the main pool, we headed across the flat wadi bed to where the gorge reconfigures itself. Just to Blair’s right, the gorge is maybe 5m deep.

There was a quick clamber down, at which point you had the options of downclimbing to the left or…

…jumping into this pool.

The first time I did this trip, it was a voyage of discovery because we hadn’t been here before so we put a rope down and eased our way into this pool, which turned out to be waist deep.

This time we jumped from here. Thanks to a flood that dramatically changed the lower gorge a few years ago, the water is now at least 2m deep.

It was an atmospheric spot.

Blair decided to wash her hair…

…for which there was an audience!

Then we swam on though the gorge.

It quickly changed from swimming to wading and then to walking.

Then it narrowed up again.

Considering it was heat wave plus outside, in here it was on the verge of being chilly.

Thoby found an inventive way to get to the penultiate pool, which is inside a cave.

But we were also able to stand.

An ancient rockfall had presented a problem when I was here five weeks ago but Cindy said there was a secret passageway at water level through the rocks.

And she was right, although it was verging on caving.

Thanks to the local habit of throwing their rubbish into the pools, the water was on the manky side of good.

Cindy and her secret route.

Then there was one final swim through a cave.

This was a photo taken at the same place three years earlier, before a big flood scoured out the gravel and turned a walk into a swim.

Light at the end of the tunnel, after which we emerged from the gorge, which broadened out into just another dry wadi bed.

A short walk back to the car and then we drove back to Dubai.

Part two of the wild wadis weekend involved visiting the (TM) and (c) version of Wild Wadi, a water park in the middle of Dubai and in the shadow of the Burj al Arab.

This was neither wild nor a wadi but was fun nonetheless. The idea is you sit in these inflatable tubes…

…then water jets blast you upwards, at which point it becomes a normal water slide.

We did all the rides, including this one. I have no idea what this says but I automatically wanted to go on this one! No photos from the ride, though — I was hanging on for grim death!

More water. This was a typical summer’s day — about 43degC/110degF in the middle of the day — so we had to keep jumping back in the water.

It turns out Hatta Pools isn’t the only place with rubbish…

We even ran into some other Abu Dhabi Alpine Club members.

An aside: One of my photographic obsessions in the emirates is capturing the burqa-bikini interface. Wild Wadi was perfect.

This is Dubai in a nutshell. Want to wear a burqa? No problem. Want to wear a bikini? No problem either. And what happens if one sits next to the other? No problem. Next time you hear about the intolerant Arab world, remember this pic.

There were all the usual water park features.

My favourite was ability to stand under this waterfall feature.

It reminded me of hiking in Fiordland…
Then it was back to the Dhabs, having hiked on snow and having visited a wild wadi and Wild Wadi (TM) (c)
< Jebel Qihwi, summit to sea

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