Six am on Monday morning saw the expedition commence, with the backdrop of a gorgeous sunrise and from the exact spot on the Indian Ocean where Wilfred Thesiger started his explorations across the great sands.
The early start was intended to beat the traffic heading towards the mountains and indeed all seemed to be running smoothly. Adrian, Ghafan and Saeed sat content on their camels, singing Arabic songs as they marched through town. Spectators were plenty, as were beeping cars.
After crossing the open plains and with our final sight of civilisation (for them at least) now a distant memory, they entered Wadi Garziz. Only at this point, the camels got restless, turning left, turning right and eventually turning around all together, bucking and jumping away from the mountains. Adrian was swiftly thrown off his camel and the others ran off with Ghafan and Saeed holding on with all their might. I, along with our expedition TV crew, Alexis and Tim, were documenting the scene unfolding with expedition leader, Adrian, on the ground and the others off at high speed. We ran down to where Adrian lay motionless and he soon regained consciousness. His Omani dagger (knife) lay alongside him as did a small pool of blood. Damn. What the hell now? Despite a number of first aid training courses, I’m certainly not medically trained. Alexis and I proceeded to do a quick body check and all seemed fine, other than a huge gash in the back of Adrian’s head. There was little blood but a fairly serious 5cm-deep cut. We washed it out with some disinfectant and discussed what next … stitches for sure and hospital the best option but how would this effect his self-supported expedition? I guess that wasn’t the immediate priority.
We had no idea where Ghafan and Saeed were, somewhere in the faraway distant and whilst Adrian seemed a little dazed, he was ok. An Omani film crew helped us to find the nearest hospital and thirteen stitches later, along with a CT scan, he was back into planning mode, eager to get back on route soonest. Little did we know that both Ghafan and Saeed had since come of their camels as well, Ghafan resulting with a serious head injury and Saeed with a rough fall. Saeed held on for about five kilometers before he finally got his camel under control. Ghafan was brought to the same Sultan Qaboos hospital completely confused over who was who and what had happened, resulting in a brief stint standing on top of his hospital bed in A&E, swearing at the hospital staff.
What next I thought? Only 10am and an adrenaline-filled, or should I say, flying start to the expedition!
The team at the hospital did an excellent job with Adrian nicely bandaged up and Ghafan, feeling good and back on firm ground. Both I imagine had pounding headaches. We returned to the same hotel we had left just a few hours earlier to rest and reconsider the plan.
Camels? If so, which? Omani support? Eid celebration? And Jins, the spirit of the wadi? Restart in the morning? So many questions to which there were no simple answers.
Tuesday came and went. Today it is Wednesday. We continue to bivy at the Hamdan Plaza hotel and if the challenges are not now behind us as we’re now heading into a tropical cyclone which makes the journey into the mountains a hideous task. Wadis fill up with water rapidly, navigation becomes a nightmare and the risks of hypothermia become very real. As a result, starting over has been delayed to Thursday at best.
I had a conversation with Alexis about all that has happened. He’s shot expeditions throughout the world and they all start with a delay, be it logistical, down to bad weather or in this case, both. It’s frustrating for all involved; everybody is packed and eager to go. Too much hanging around has a downward effect on moral so whilst we did tuck into an unexpected luxury dinner of tenderloin and wine at the Hilton’s steak house, I know where we all really want to be. I know without question that I want to be out in the bush shooting this amazing gig.