Staying Alive in Wadi Shab, Oman, Part 2 (or, "We Will All Live Through This, Except the Kids")

A Euro family was coming down the trail as we pushed up the trail. "It's too dangerous for kids up there," the dad said, eyeing our little brood and jerking his thumb over his shoulder. The mom nodded, frowning disapprovingly at two-year-old Tess in the baby backpack. "You won't make it with that backpack," she stated.

I was confused. Our friends from Dubai had taken their two little kids up to the top of the trail the year before, and they didn't die. I told Overly Protective Euro Family as much. "Well," said Overly Protective Euro Dad, "our guide said it's too dangerous." I looked at the pudgy Omani guide, sweating in the midday heat, and deduced that Overweight Omani Guide just didn't want to walk to the top of the trail today.

Taking their lives into their hands. Because if they fall, they will get all wet.
Shannon took Overly Protective Euro Family seriously. "It sounds dangerous. I'm not taking the kids up that trail," she hissed in the tone of voice she uses when she's not going to budge unless I temporarily agree to her position AND let her monologue about arcane health and fitness data for twenty minutes AND remind her of the health and fitness benefits the children would accrue by hiking further uphill AND acknowledge and apologize for all my mistakes of the past week AND randomly compliment the meal she prepared yesterday evening AND punch myself in the face. Then, after that, I can usually get my way.

So we stopped for a time, and the kids swam in a large, crystalline swimming hole, and a little crab scampered over Shannon's foot and she did a funny dance, and then I suggested that I go scout ahead on the trail and report back in an objective fashion how scary the trail actually was. Shannon wasn't fully onboard until I punched myself in the face, then she smiled and said, "I like when you do that. Okay, let's sew up your lip and then you go scout the trail for us."

It turned out that Overweight Omani Guy really was just lazy, and Overly Protective Euro Family really were just hapless patsies, because the trail wasn't that bad, apart from a few places where the edge of the trail dropped away into sheer thirty foot drops ending in certain death for unsuspecting, trusting children. I returned and told Shannon, no problem, easy peezy, we will all live through this except the kids.

Unable to remember the several thousand previous times I had mischaracterized or outright lied about how dangerous a thing is, Shannon agreed to trust me and pack things up and continue up the trail. After successfully negotiating the treacherous trail (which wasn't treacherous at all -- I am merely taking literary license to make myself sound like less of a soft-in-the-middle, middle-aged father of four whose only opportunity for adventure is walking up a dirt trail in triple-digit heat and more like a rock-solid, intrepid explorer who takes his life into his hands several times a day for the sake of discovery and reaching the outer limits of the human spirit), we scrambled over large boulders for a time until we reached the end of the hiking trail.

From there, the only way forward is to swim. So we put Tess in her floaty life jacket, and we all waded into the water that filled the narrow wadi between the steep rock walls on either side. Ten minutes later, we'd reached the crown jewel of Wadi Shab, a cave accessible only by swimming through a tight passageway that leaves only enough room for the swimmer's head. It's hard to describe, so, here -- check out someone else's video with super cheesy background music. A video is worth like 12,000 words. All the kids except Tess made it into the cave and received a huge boost to their self-esteem for having done something so awesome. Also, they avoided getting grounded, because I told them whoever doesn't make it into the cave will get grounded for three months, and will be referred to as "Captain Worthless" until they turn sixteen or buy me an ice cream cone, whichever comes first. So that maybe motivated them. Tess was exempt because she gives me wet toddler kisses, which are more valuable than the island of Manhattan.

Afterwards we were super tired, so we laid out in the sun and ate stale cookies next to these two French girls we had followed up the trail. They were stretched out in their bathing suits, reading cheap romance novels. And I thought, these chicks came a long ways to sunbathe and read bad literature. So I named them Weird French Girls Who Traveled Thousands of Miles to Oman and Drove Several Hours Into the Desert and Then Hiked Several Miles Up a Canyon in Order to Sun Tan Which Can in Fact be Done in France. We didn't talk to them because language barrier. And we didn't offer them cookies because our family motto is "Leavitts Don't Share."