Earth Day at Aqabat Talhat, Oman, April 22, 2011

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Each Earth Day my colleagues in education and I around the world mark the event through some gesture of appreciation toward the planet.  For the last two Earth Days I’ve participated in globally webcast round-the-clock events going for 24 hours as Earth Day hits each time zone around the world. These events are organized informally through a wiki, and in these two years I have brought students where I was working at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi in touch with other student participants in the event, and left artifacts marking the occasion online as follows:

Earth Day 2009

Earth Day 2010

On the occasion of

Earth Day 2010, I again made students at the

Petroleum Institute a part of the world-wide Earthcast 24 hour webcastathon conducted each year

by http://earthbridges.net. Numerous URLs

were generated in conjunction with this event:

Video streaming by Ustream

Earth Day 2011 was not so easy to set up as an earthcast this year. April 22 fell on a Friday so there were no Earth Day celebrations at the PI. Furthermore, this Friday happened to be the Good Friday before Easter Sunday so many schools that would have normally participated in the event around the world were not in session. Consequently, a Voice Thread was set up to accompany the webcast:

http://voicethread.com/share/1954278/

Voicethread22apr2011

However, since Friday is the normal weekend in the UAE, my friends and I in our running group the Wasps Hash House Harriers were free for the weekend, so we decided to do a good deed on Earth Day, in a spot with the beautiful view shown in the picture at the top of this posting. My friends are pictured here:

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This spot is called Aqabat Talhat and for centuries it was an important pass connecting the Batinah coast in Oman with the 2200 meter high Saiq plateau in the scenic mountains of Oman.

When I first arrived in Oman the Saiq plateau was inaccessible by car unless one was able to secure a pass from the ministry of interior to be allowed past the military checkpoint on the only dirt track leading up the mountain from Birkat Al Mooz, and that pass was never granted to tourists. The reason this stricture was in place was that Saiq had been involved in an insurrection against the then-Sultan of Oman, Taimur.  The British SAS had hiked up the mountain and helped quell the rebellion, and when I arrived almost 30 years later, the only way up there was to follow in their footsteps.  As my friends and I found out, it was ok to BE on the mountain, the only thing forbidden was to be in a car at the checkpoint going up. Consequently in the years 1985-1995 I made many hikes up from various places around the mountain that you could drive to over rough tracks in order to hike the rest of the way up to the Saiq plateau and explore the area on treks lasting days at a time. 

One of the best of those walks was the one up from Hijar at 900 meters in Wadi Bani Khurous up to Aqabat Talhat at 2200, which on April 22, 2011, I’m fortunate to be pointing out here:

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I’m especially fortunate because I didn’t have to walk up.  At about the time Bobbi and I left Oman in 1995, the Saiq plateau was starting to undergo long-overdue development, with the result that there is now a system of tarmac roads there, and free passage past the military checkpost, which still exists, but only to ensure that visitors have 4×4 vehicles, due to the need to gear down on some stretches of the steep road.

The last time I came here with my family last January, we hiked in from the small town of Rus at the end of the tarmac road from Saiq and sheltered for the freezing cold night in the stone structure constructed long ago from rocks found in the area, which still stands sturdy to welcome those who at one time could reach it only after an arduous trek up the mountain from Hijar. On this visit we found that previous visitors had come in a large group (possibly military on exercises) and left their trash lying around, mostly empty blue metal cans of Pocari Sweat and discarded Tanoof water bottles.

On that visit I resolved to return to this once pristine spot with plastic bags and haul out the mess. I proposed to my running group that they join me and in the end we had eight of us with the time, energy and inclination to commit to hiking in for a clean-up.

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What we actually did was to build a fire there and dispose of the plastic into the clear blue air.  I realize that might have created a perterbation in the ozone but at least it got the stuff off the land.  We gathered the cans and crushed them and put them into the garbage bags we’d brought, and hiked them out again. 

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We had planned this as a day trip, and without packs full of food and warm clothing and extra water we were able to move fast.  I had told our group to prepare for a 3 hour trek each way, anticipating that there might be children with us.  In the end, there were only the fit and sturdy. Traveling light we were able to get in and out in half that time.  It’s a great short walk.  There are places you can go from Aqabat Talhat if you want to extend your visit.  But on this trip we just hiked to the pass with the panoramic view and left it much more pleasant for the next set of visitors.

It’s hard to imagine what was in the minds of those who had left all that garbage around on their visit, but at least the blight they had left for others was removed in our gesture for Earth Day 2011.

These pictures were all taken by my son, Dusty Stevens

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About Vance Stevens

http://vancestevens.com/papers http://adVancEducation.blogspot.com
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