Finally, as they came across rescue personnel after spending a night on a rock at the Snake Gorge in Wadi Bani Auf, one of them said it was as if 'we were born again'.
Narrating the 18-hour ordeal, James Pugh, a Dubai-based UK national who was one of the 11 from various countries in the group, said, “It was a fine day on Friday when we set out to the Snake Gorge at around 2pm. But just after 40 minutes, it began to rain and that was the beginning of the ordeal. We could not go back as the wadi water had began to flow and that was when we found a small rock on which we gathered.”
Pugh, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the rock was too small and that soon forced them to shift to a bigger one nearby – a daunting task. “Getting there was a bigger challenge as it was on a higher side but we made it after quite a struggle. But that was the right decision because if we had not moved to that rock, I wonder where we would be now.”
By then, it was around 5.30pm and the rain had stopped. “As the water kept rising, we just sat there and waited. The only thing we could do was comfort each other, talk to each other, give courage to each other. It soon became dark and we had to face the cold weather, too, as our clothes were wet. We didn't really have anything extra to wear since we had expected to be back after a few hours.”
That night, Pugh said, was the longest ever for most of them. “We had one torch which we shared among ourselves to check the water levels. But luckily, the water didn't reach where we were. However, in the morning at around 5am, it began to rain again and we were so worried. Luckily, it was just for half an hour and the sun started to rise.”
At 6am, the group decided to try to walk back through the overflowing wadi after they noticed that the water levels were not so high. “We began trekking back but it was difficult in that terrain, with the cave-like rock. Also, the water flow had pressure and that made it difficult too. But in the end we made it though. After two hours, we reached the mouth of the canyon where we found ROP personnel and citizens waiting for us and we felt like we were born again.”
An official from Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA) said they had a hunch that people could have been trapped in the area but had no way of knowing their location due to poor visibility. “All 11 tourists were found to be in good health but one of their vehicles was washed away,” the official said.
Even though the Royal Oman Police and PACDA frequently try to prevent such tragedies by sending out weather warnings, Pugh said the lesson they learned was that one should always be prepared for any challenge on such trips. “Even though people may think the weather is okay, I would advise them to take all necessary things because you never know what may happen.”