I left Qalanciya with a heavy heart. Our destination was the Moumi Plateau. Qalanciya was such a perfect place. We drive towards Hadibo again. Homhil, Di Hamri, Arhar, etc were yet to be explored and I missed out visiting on the spotlessly white Shoab Beach. Accessible only by a short boat ride, Shoab Beach is famous for dazzling white sand, azure blue water, and a ring of cucumber trees which grow along its sea-facing cliffs. Only two or three fishermen live on that beach and a jutting headland makes driving/walking over to it nearly impossible. The water around Shoab is supposedly teeming with marine life and loggerhead turtles and playful dolphins fearlessly come close to the swimmers.
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Heading over to Moumi Plateau
As tempting as it sounds, for a solo traveler, a return boat trip to Shoab cost around 200 USD, and unfortunately, at that time, being the only tourist in Qalanciya, I had no one to share that cost with. Thus I spent my last Qalanciya day with my friends and the evening especially was pretty eventful. By a stroke of good luck, it was Abdullah’s eldest daughter’s engagement ceremony and I was invited over to his house to join the celebrations. I got along very well with Abdullah’s wife and her brood, and the eldest daughter was my favourite. So while not totally unexpected, the invitation was touching and I spent the day with the family, participating in all the auspicious rituals. The hard-working Socotran ladies in the privacy of gender segregation enjoyed henna painting, singing, dancing, and making horrendously lewd jokes, while their men sat in another room smoking, feasting, and discussing Yemen’ political situation and fishing woes. The next day, we left for Moumi Plateau at dawn and it was another peaceful early morning in Socotra.
The dawn drive to Moumi Plateau
In the silvery morning light, a quietly smoking Anwar drove in peace and we picked and dropped his fellow islander en route. Transportation was a major problem in Socotra and the residents had to wait for hours by the highway to travel even to the next village. Hitchhikers dotted the Socotri road, just like it’s other omnipresent sights and we always helped them as long we had space. A grey, cloudy day welcomed me to Hadibo where familiar sights, sounds, and chaos once again choked my senses. A fine rain thankfully smothered the rising dust and the looming Hagghar mountains looked nearly indigo in the blanketing mists. The heavy, rain pregnant clouds bore down on the tiny city and after a quick breakfast, we sped towards Moumi Plateau. I re-experienced the familiar relieving feeling immediately upon leaving Hadibo and the widespread sunshine in the open areas beyond the capital city was a welcome sight. The weather moodiness was another typical Socotra feature and the rugged topography gave rise to the unique constant play of sun and shade. Anwar, who had drooped into a fatigued silence at Hadibo, brightened up once again we discussed our Moumi Plateau plans excitedly. Our initial plan was to visit Moumi Plateau that day, with a possibility of camping there overnight and the next morning drive over to Arhar Beach.
The vast emptiness of Moumi Plateau
Located on the eastern part of Socotra, Moumi Plateau is a vast rocky limestone area with many hill and plains. The entire area is covered with endemic and rare plants and it was a very scantily inhabited region. Only a few ancient shepherd villages pockmarked those open spaces and there were a few incredibly beautiful lagoons. Keriya was one of them. It was a seasonal one and at the time of my visit, because of the dry weather, only a thin stream emerged from between the deep red canyons. The stone villages and date plantations bordered the water body and a deep blue sea dashed in the distance. For such a small island, Socotra was packed with natural attractions and the eastern part was certainly one of its prettiest areas. Di Hamri Protected Marine Area was on the way and we stopped there for some lunch and snorkeling. The marine park teemed with fishes and the coral reefs were unbroken and spectacular. A whole crowded colourful world existed underneath its glassy water and the warm sun made the experience even more pleasurable. I unwillingly left Di Hamri in a rush and the result was drying my wet clothes on me during the rest of the drive. The air became considerably colder as we went up the hills and plains and by the time Moumi Plateau arrived, I had a slight temperature.
The desert rose forest of Moumi Plateau
Moumi Plateau was very pretty and large tracts of flowering bottle trees were the first sight that met my eyes. A sea of pink flowers ran along a small gorge and a green stream gushed past wild date trees. It was vaguely familiar with Wadi Dirhur with the exception of a small multi-tiered waterfall that tumbled into a green rock pool. The Wadi ran deeper into the folds of the canyon and the steep red rocky slopes were covered with profusely flowering trees. Homhil Protected Area was not been too far and the frankincense, myrrh, and dragon blood trees made their presence felt. Known and popular for its rich bio-diverse flora, overnight camping was not allowed in Homhil and my initial plans to camp there were dashed. Homhil was a stunning place with much endemic fauna, insects, and reptiles and it was one of the prettiest places in Socotra.
The realities of remote traveling
Spotting the chameleon (Chamaeleo Monachus), the carnivorous beetles, strange land snails, the bright red freshwater crab (Socotrapotamon socotrensis), etc were on my Homhil list, but my fast-rising feverish feeling made me drop the idea. Soon along with the fever, a raging earache came, I made a very worried Anwar leave Moumi Plateau and rush back to Hadibo for medical attention. By the time we reached the town, it was pouring rain in Hadibo and apart from popping a few Egyptian medicines (with Arabic written instructions on chemicals, date of expiry, etc), prescribed by the local pharmacist, I had no option of any medical help. Anwar bought me a hot plate of food, sat silently as I pushed a few forkfuls in my mouth, handed me the prescribed pills, and tucked me safely at Socotra Taj Hotel. He left for the night soon, with a promise to check up on me at the earliest and I stayed awake throughout the rainy Socotra night in pain. Nothing feels worse than falling sick in a foreign country and in spite of being a paradise island, Socotra was the last place I would have ever liked to get ill.
Follow the rest of the Yemen series here
- YEMEN CRISIS AND MEMORIES OF OLD SANAA
- MEMORIES OF SOCOTRA
- HOW I ENDED UP ON THE SOCOTRA ISLAND
- HADIBO AND URBANIZATION OF SOCOTRA
- THE MOUNTAIN BEDOUINS OF SOCOTRA
- LOSING TIME IN WADI DIRHUR
- CAVE ESCAPADE IN SOCOTRA
- THE SHIFTING SAND DUNES OF ZAHAK
- GETTING BURIED IN SAND IN OMAK
- DRIVING FROM QADAMA TO QALANCIYA
- THE AMBER HUNTER OF DETWA LAGOON
- LIVING A BIT OF LOCAL LIFE IN QALANCIYA
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE