I am back in Hadibo and my body has given up. I had never thought that I will look forward to the littered town as much as I did and it sure is the biggest town in Socotra. Roughing it out for more than 6 nights in Socotra has taken it’s toll and I feel battered. Hadibo is undergoing a massive construction boom, very odd since the island is an Unesco World Heritage Site. It is set to welcome tourism in a big way and the island will never be the same again. I am perhaps the last lot of tourists who are blessed to see its unspoiled way of life and beauty and on my next visit, this Socotra will have ceased to exist. It will be perhaps another Zanzibar; touristy, raped with all it’s innocence lost, another paradise sacrificed to tourism. Socotran children will no longer run around with cans or wheels stuck on rods and people will cease to acknowledge each other. The rat race will kill the warm, generous hospitality and time will gallop here. The only road will branch out and the island (one of the world’s most isolated places) will be lost forever. That is change and it is inevitable.
News channels are showing political problems in Yemen mainland and it is strange to see Socotra silently rejoice as Sanaa bleeds. But once again the underdog has won and the Arab Yemeni mainlanders have lost out in the cultural divided tug of war. The proud country is at mercy of the hodgepodge resident islanders to bail them out with it’s unique eco tourism and it is the only place where the violence of the mainland has not reached. The mainlanders will no longer be able to sidestep Socotris with the so called step motherly treatment and this table turning is intriguing to watch.
I visited Wadi Moumi recently and it’s beauty has taken me by surprise. Light has washed over the island in veils and the mountains had reminded me of the moors like Horton Plains of Sri Lanka. These mountains occupy the center of the island and the magnitude of their empty space is humbling. Date palm orchards lie in neat gardens around stony river beds which perhaps gush with water during the rain and I love the old stone house villages. Wadi Moumi with it’s waterfall, bottle tree forests and date palms has been beautiful, but the crystal clear water has shown massive traces of lime green algae.
Blood red crabs hid under rounded pink pebbles and there has been litter everywhere. Garbage has started killing the island and the lack of empathy among the islanders is most mind boggling. The coastal road ran along Delisha towards Di Hamri Protected Area before bending onward to Arhar Beach and the stretch towards Moumi is breathtaking. Keriya Lagoon is still protected and flamingos and herons had waded over it’s clear blue green water. Moumi has been ablaze with pink bottle tree flowers and goats were having a merry time chomping them off the short fat branches.
I am watching the blue strip of ocean from my balcony as the late noon sun makes Hadibo blaze golden. It’s 2015 and still now the capital city roads are unpaved, houses are constructed of rocks, people live in caves and urban lagoons are bordered with palms, canoes and flamingos. Mountains tower fantastically beyond the little town and paradise is the word which comes to my mind. I understand T’s obsession with the island now. Strange, brooding T; whose eyes speak volumes and who lives inside his head. I have never been more happier to meet a man as much happiness meeting T has given me. He has restored my faith in men. Always happy to see me, he comes bounding whenever I am been visible, yet has never crossed the border of familiarity. Last evening had been nice.
We had listened to music under the new moon as my fever had subsided and though we had never said a word, it was just so comfortable to be around another similar thinking human. He gave me space, guarded his space and it took him some courage to ask for my contact details. It has been strange but very comforting to not get jumped upon for being a solo woman traveler and having a man around who maintains respectful space is liberating. Meeting the other stuck expats at Hadibo has been pretty pleasant too and thank god for the Yemeni, to invite us over to his house for dinner. We once again got blessed by the warm Arab hospitality and it has distracted our minds from the gruesome ISIS beheading video.
We shared the Yemeni family’s food with them and they have thoughtfully kept my glass of tea and shorba (soup) replenished all the time. It has been a mini global summit and we have exchanged travel stories from home and around the earth as our hearts have craved for our soil. The Socotri host shared stories of Kani tribals of Kerala, India and suddenly the reason behind the party is evident. He is a traveler, who is dying to share his achievements with people who understands him and who can appreciate his experiences better than our motley group of travelers.
The ex Sultan’s African Socotran camel driver was also invited and he told us tales of a world which now exist only in museums. The dinner had been fun and as our lives have suddenly come to a stand still in Socotra, the world outside our paradise continue to burn.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE.