Today, when I look back and think about Socotra, the only word which comes to my mind is surreal. Socotra Island had been indeed surreal and my stay there had been one long road trip. Incidentally, the island has only one road which goes through the length and breadth of the landform and public transportation is a joke there. Hitchhiking is the most common mode of transportation and apart from Hadibo (the capital), hotels/accommodations are not available throughout the island. Camping is the most popular stay option there and and you can also sleep under the stars in canyons, caves and Bedouin homes.
The residents of the islands (apart from the goats) are broadly divided into the coastal fishing folks and the highland Bedouins. The mountain people roam around the vast central highlands, live in stone huts or caves and sustain mostly on their animals, plant products and barter system. They know the misty blue mountains like the back of their hands and trekking the hidden canyons and gorges with them as guides is an unforgettable experience. My own camping expedition at the lost Wadi Dir Hul, Diksam and Moumi Plateaus had been with one Bedouin guide and he had shown me some of the most breathtaking sights I have ever come across in my life. Picture this ; lost canyons with sparkling emerald rivers, date palms, rose red cliffs and strange alien vegetation, all of which have been existing there as long as time and the surrounding mountains had been covered with mushroom shaped dragon blood trees and flowering desert roses. The landscape had gone drier as we had headed south and huge cave faces had pockmarked the stony walls.
Those caves too had been fantastic and I remember us driving straight into one, only to find it housing more cars, humans, goats and complete sets of picnickers. The dry Nojid and Arhar had some very beautiful cave systems and Qalanciya had been the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Surrounded by rocky mountains, which had been coated with sugar white sand dunes, Qalanciya had also been Socotra’s second largest habitat and the snow white stunning beach had been ringed by turquoise water of clearest warm shades. A shallow lagoon had floated on the beach with the rise and fall of the tide and in the evenings, the locals had stomped there for crabs, squids and baby sharks. Now, imagine the play of colours as I describe Qalanciya; chocolate brown stony mountains, snow white sand dunes, sea green lagoon, pristine dazzling beach, open sky and an impossibly blue ocean. The description, though sounding almost paradisaical still falls short in doing justice to Qalanciya and the shifting dunes of Zahak had been equally gorgeous.
The Moumi Plateau, Delisha and Arhar beaches which had been located on the other side of the island had been enchanting too and the central highland had loomed over them like a mighty king. All these places had formed my multi day Socotra itinerary and I had been perhaps the only Indian travel blogger and one of the handful solo woman travelers who have visited the unique place. This fact itself gives a lot of pride and pleasure to me, because despite its beauty Socotra had not been easy. The difficulty of access had seemed like a cake walk in comparison to surviving there and the harsh wind sun swept island had seemed like a venue out of a reality tv show. Because of lack of proper amenities, sleeping in caves, cars, on the beach and in canyons had been a part of my routine and my most luxurious accommodation had been a beach shack at Qalanciya. Food too, had been mostly camping grub and I had relied on the locals’ generosity for better meals. Showers and toilets had often constituted of going to lagoons, rock pools and small rivers and baby wipes had been used as the last resort to stay clean.
By the time, Socotra had been done with me, I had looked like a ragamuffin, smelled and dressed unladylike and a terrible war had kept me marooned at the island until the arrival of the rescue plane. All these had been teamed with a serious bout of malaria and I had come back home skinny, sick, afraid, stunned and with magnificent proud memories of a lifetime. After my return from the war torn Yemen, I had taken a long break to contemplate and evaluate my life and thus 2016 had been all about radical changes. The Socotra experience had been life changing for me and it had taught me to respect normalcy, stability and domesticity. I had ceased to be the fatalist radical nomad that I had once been and perhaps travel is the only thing which can make us appreciate regular as much as the offbeat. Every phase/situation/condition has its time, importance and place in our lives and I would have never been able to see life from a 360 degrees angle without this experience of a lifetime.
Such had been my Socotra Island memories in a nut shell and today if I had to do it all over again, I would jump at the first opportunity. There’s a saying, “Be brave, Take risks, Nothing can substitute the experience” because in the end we only regret chances that we didnt take.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE