Day 1: From Wadi Danghan to Adho Demalah.
The time we spent in Socotra was far from the ideal holiday scenario – this simply isn’t the destination for those looking for resorts and indulgence. In fact, our experience was fraught with frustrations and unexpected twists.
Within the first ten minutes of our arrival, we witnessed the Arabian Sea’s waves crash against the coast with frightening ferocity. Shortly after, we were rained on, heavily, as we ventured out on our first excursion to a nearby wadi.
We were bound to commence our 4-day hike through the Hagghier Mountains the following day, and we spent that first night at Deleisha, a quaint beachside campsite a little ways from Socotra’s capital, Hadiboh. The wind continued to howl ceaselessly throughout those twilight hours, and Socotra certainly did not feel particularly welcoming at that point.
The weather, however, would turn out be the least of our worries. The sky had cleared beautifully the next morning, and we made our way to a picturesque wadi, the starting point of the hike, to meet our camel and its handler. While sprightly at the start, the camel would eventually ‘break down’ 3 hours into the trek, spooked by a steep segment composed of loose rocks. It laid flat on the ground, refusing to budge any further, and would only spring up again once the load had been hoisted off its back.
We continued to make our way with only our daypacks on our backs – the camel handler assured us that he would soon catch up with a ‘new’ camel. As we climbed higher, forests of Dragon’s Blood trees started to come into view – these wondrous trees, endemic to the island, only start growing at approximately 300 metres above sea-level.
After a total walking time of 6 hours, we arrived at our campsite for the night, a beautiful yet unforgiving spot at the foot of Skand, Socotra’s highest peak. The views were stunning and it looked like a scene that, strangely enough, would not feel out of place in the Scottish highlands.
As the temperatures started to dip and the wind picked up, the fact that the camel and our belongings had not yet arrived became a matter of concern. It was apparent that our guide, Bassam, was not only young but also inexperienced – this was his first time navigating the Hagghier mountains, and he had not dressed appropriately for the sudden changes in temperature nor was he able to make a fire. Thankfully, with some creativity and fuel from the pages of my notebook, we managed to get a little one going just in time.
Night fell and the cold crept up on us. All three of us huddled around the fire and shared our last bottle of water. We remained in the darkness and silence for what felt like the longest time before deciding that the best strategy would be to start making our way back down. Hopefully, we would meet them on the path and find a spot where we could set-up camp for the night.
We had only just started walking towards the trail when we heard calls into the night. A camel, much taller and larger than the last, heaved itself up to the plateau. The camel handler and a second man, whom we would later learn was this particular camel’s owner, soon followed. They had managed the climb barefoot and without any torches. That night, after copious amounts of hot tea and delicious plates of baked beans, we fell into the most restful of sleep in spite of the wind’s continued howls and spates of icy rain.