svetlana baghawan maverickbirdMy 1st night of sleeping in the open in Socotra had been most rejuvenating. Morning sun on my face had woken me up and I had found my bleating companion for the night missing. Anwar instead had stared down at me impatiently and we had left Wadi Dirhur after a quick breakfast. Our next stop of Dogub cave had been a couple of hours away and Anwar had wanted to leave before the day became too hot. Thus we had left the gorgeous canyon of desert roses and missing friends and I had kept looking back hoping that like all pets,  he would follow me. The goat concerned however had not been found and with arrival of new tourists into the wadi, I had hoped for him to escape the butcher’s knife.

Diksam had started at the mouth of the canyon and huge patches of blood dragon trees had left scattered shadows. This time however we had not stopped for them and I had nearly sprained my neck, trying to get my last few glimpses of the iconic creations of nature. I had not been sure if I would ever return to Socotra again and had wanted to savour those magical, blessed travel moments as much as possible. Anwar, however either jaded by their sight or immune to my feelings had sped right on and soon Diksam National Park too had melted away in the distance. Dogub cave had been located in the southern part of the island and though not as spectacular as Hoq, I had been guaranteed of its uniqueness. Socotra island had been dotted with many such caves and the bigger ones had provided astonishing archaeological finds upon exploration. From telltale remnants of pre historic humans to ancient sailors’ scribbles, Socotra caves had been important throughout human history.

Dogub cave had been located in the Nogid part of the island and it had been dry, red and inhospitable. Nogid had recently received an asphalt road and Socotra’s only highway had connected it with the rest of the island. Huge rocky hills had bordered the arid plains of Nogid and a beautiful blue ocean had hugged it’s other end. Sugar white sand dunes lie scattered along the coastline and the rest of the area has sparse vegetation of dry, leafless, scrubby bushes. Camels had roamed Nogid plains and only a few human settlements had dared to brave the harsh weather conditions of the region. The drive from Diksam to Nogid had been spectacular and just when I had thought that Socotra could not get any wilder, a whole new shocking vista had opened up in front of my eyes. Nogid had consisted of only 2 colours, red and yellow and from my altitude, I had been able to see the end of the island. The harsh aridity of the region had been difficult to bear and a few dry river beds had snaked through the area like desiccated veins.

Nogid had been Anwar’s favourite place in Socotra and I had suspected that to be the reason behind his rush. A little smile had flitted on his serious, taciturn face as he had cranked up Bollywood numbers on his car music system and had happily whistled along with them. The collection of Bollywood songs had been his only request from me and I had cringed in embarrassment as the saucy song called “Baby Doll” had blasted through that Socotran day. The landscape towards Nogid had been rough and lava sheet like grey rocky slopes had held swollen trunks of desert rose trees. They had grown in neat rows as if in a plantation and a few small caves had held actual homes. Small pieces of cloth strung at the mouth of the caves had served as curtains and behind their privacy, standalone families with their entire herd of animals had lived.

The road had been pretty high and as we had neared the end of the central highlands, a steep drop had suggested another canyon. This one, too had a lost valley embedded in it’s heart, but without any water running through it, the dusty depths had been devoid of any human life. The most beautiful part of Nogid had been it’s stunning rock formations and Dogub Cave had been a yawning hole in one of them. The access to the cave had been fairly easy and I had been most pleasantly surprised by Dogub’s size. Picturesquely twisted stalagmites had guarded the mouth of the cave and the sweeping interior had been large enough to hold at least 20 cars. Several small chambers had bifurcated inside the cave and dripping thin streams had created small natural wells of fresh water. The world’s fastest disappearing liquid, is a precious commodity in Socotra and Dogub’s treasure trove attracted many herders, animals and birds.

A severe bat stench had pervaded the interior of the cave and I had shared my mattress and lunch with more inquisitive goats, a stray lone herding dog and a bunch of curious villagers. They had pestered Anwar with way too many questions till he had played the hideous list of Bollywood songs on the car system and I had thankfully drifted off to sleep soon. The loud rumbling of the Indian Ocean had woken me up and I had found the blue strip very tempting. As much as I had liked Dogub, the bat stench along with some suspicious “turdy” looking things in it’s background had appalled me a lot and I had looked forward to the sugary white coastline. Thus we had left Dogub and it’s residents amidst much Bollywood inspired “dancing” merriment and I had secretly wondered if I had spoiled Anwar with my gift. It had been 5 in the evening, by the time we had arrived at Zahak and the sun had been still very harsh. Zahak had been famous for beautiful snowy sand dunes and they had shifted in position and size with Socotra’s temperamental winds. Although I had done sandboarding and dune bashing in the past, never before had I slid down white grainy slopes on my bum, and with soft sunset colours, it had been a most enjoyable experience.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

Diksam Plateau

Diksam Plateau

Fantastic trees

Fantastic trees

Human settlements

Human settlements

And Beduoin colours

And Bedouin colours

Had been all

Had been all

Left behind

Left behind

As we had headed

As we had headed

Nogid and it's harshness

Nogid and it’s harshness

It had been

It had been

Struggle against elements

Struggle against elements

Personified and

Personified and

Had consisted of

Had consisted of

Of only 2 colours

Of only 2 colours

It was the land of camels

It was the land of camels

Caves

Caves

Minimal traffic and

Minimal traffic and

With friends

With friends

Although overwhelmed

Although overwhelmed

I had left it quickly

I had left it quickly

And rushed towards

And rushed towards

Some sand

Some sand

And sea

And sea