19th November 2014
Katherine Webb has just travelled with Wild Frontiers on our Oman Desert Adventure group tour.
"That’s the most undignified thing I’ve ever done", said Chuck, our lone American, in the hushed tones of the slightly horrified. I reassured him that it was only undignified if somebody saw you do it… Other reactions ranged from a tactful silence to it being ‘quite liberating’, but I’m sure all would agree that digging your own toilet in the sand is a unique experience – as unique as the profound silence in the desert when the wind drops; the endless skies, filled with stars at night; listening to Omani folk tales around the campfire; the alien beauty of the dunes and the thrill of ‘bashing’ them at speed in a 4x4.
Some of the group admitted almost not booking the trip because five consecutive nights of wild camping sounded too much like hard (and potentially smelly) work, but for me it was one of the main draws of the itinerary. Wild camping nights on other trips had always been highlights – away from human habitation, from the noise and gaze of other people, I really feel that I’ve escaped from it all. And these were some of the most stunning campsites I could ever have imagined – deserted beaches, sweeping dunes, the glories of sunrises and sunsets I probably wouldn’t remember to watch or be awake for in a hotel.
Perhaps we ponged a bit by the end – but we all did so it didn’t matter. Perhaps every last thing we owned, from knickers to nostrils, was crusted with sand after digging one of the cars out of a dune in a high wind on the way to the first camp. But it was worth it. I’ll never forget it, and once the embarrassment of walking away towards a convenient dune carrying a shovel while your fellow travellers sing "we know what you’re doing" behind you has passed, it really is plain sailing.