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Pictures of our Socotra Island trip in Yemen (South) - without our vehicle in February 2011
(Part 2: Homhil - Aomak Beach - Wadi Daerhu - Dicksam Plateau)
Yemen car trip (from Oman to Saudi Arabia)  - with our car from May 16th to June 15th, 1996
Following without our vehicle in February 2011:
Part 1: Socotra Island trip in Yemen (East) Hadibo - Dihamri - Arher Beach
Part 3: Socotra Island trip in Yemen (West) Qalansiya - Shouab Beach - Qadama Beach - Momi Plateau - Wadi Ayhaft
Part 4: United Arab Emirates Sharjah - Dubai
Yemen Map
      Middle East Map
latest picture: February 15, 2011
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049  Crossing is difficult on this stony
one line track to Homhil in the Northeast.
It is said to be the steepest drivable
ascent and descent in Socotra
050  Freely roaming donkeys look
curiously when we cross their path
051  A tall frankincense tree (Boswelia
essence) grows in the untouched nature of
“Homhil Nature Reserve” on a plateau. The
resin is obtained with a cut in the bark
Continuation from 3rd day, February 11th, 2011: (back click please  here)
The track is not only very stony and narrow, but also very steep. So steep that I do not dare to ask Ahmed to stop as I usually do when I spot a peculiar plant, a bizarre tree or a strange flower. It is said to be the steepest ascent on Socotra still drivable by car. Crossing is not possible. Therefore, our driver already waits at a wider site when he spots high up a vehicle descending. It is and remains the sole one. More and more we move closer to a region where life has been left to flourish undisturbed. First light beige and golden brown Bottle Trees, also known as Desert Roses, appear. Some are flowering. Their delicate pink blossoms contrast wonderfully to the rather brownish colors of the desert.
052  A majestic, endemic “Dragon Blood
Tree” (Dracena cinnibari) in Homhil. Its
reddish resin is used for medicine
and beauty purposes
053  Nowhere else in the world there
are “Dragon Blood Trees” with their
bolt upright stem and mushroom
shaped hat of spiny leaves
054  Emil is posing for a picture between
gigantic “Dragon Blood Trees”
Then the knobby Frankincense Trees pop up. There are seven species on Socotra. Its resin is obtained by a cut to the bark. The well scented incense is used also to perfume homes and clothing. Frankincense trees grow also near Salalah in Oman, but there they are much smaller.
And then, on the plateau, suddenly we are standing in front of them: The endemic mighty Dragon Blood Trees – whole forests – what a breathtaking sight, putting us nature lover in euphoria. Nowhere else in the world Dragon Blood Trees of this kind, with their bolt upright stem and mushroom shaped crown of spiny leaves, are growing. “How would you call Socotra: Paradise or unique?”, Abdullah has asked us many times. Today, we both agree: Socotra is UNIQUE!
055  Two “Bottle Trees” (Adenium obesium),
also called Desert Roses, rise skywards.
They are plentiful on Socotra …..
056  ….. their delicate pink
blossom is a refreshing dot amidst
the brown desert color …..
057  ….. they are frugal –
they even grow on rocks
The Homhil Camping sits at the edge of a canyon and is looked after by the people of the nearby village. There is a clean washroom with a cold shower. The tent sites are small, plain stone terraces. Today, we are only two parties – besides us a Hungarian with a two months’ visa. His hobby is photography. What a surprise seeing him unrolling a small solar cell for charging batteries. We did not even know that something like that exists.
058  Emil is exploring the
“Homhil Canyon” …..
059  ..... and is especially fascinated
of this Dragon Blood Tree that
grows on the edge of the cliff
060  A well at “Homhil Canyon” formed
different channels in the soft rock
While he takes off after lunch with a guide in search of chamaeleons, we get the permission from our guide to hike through the canyon on our own. Silence and chirping of birds take turns. We discover new flowers, sheltered and half hidden in small stone niches, blossoming cacti, red dragonflies around small ponds and again and again new shapes of the fascinating Bottle and Dragon Blood Trees.
061  A natural pond at “Homhil Canyon”.
Where there is water, there is life, and here
the environment seems still intact …..
062  ..... a red dragon fly is resting
on a blade of grass …..
063  ..... a beetle is feeding on a blossom
The Dragon Blood Tree produces a resin underneath its bark that is knocked off by the locals, collected and sold. It is said to be used for medical as well as cosmetic purposes. Village children are coming running and are very persistent and pushy to convince tourists to buy it, packed in tiny plastic bags.
064  This plant endemic to Socotra
(Kalanchoe farinacea) belongs to the
succulents and looks particularly attractive
between the stones, growing up to 12in [30cm]
In the dry, stony ground of the “Homhil Canyon” delicate flowers are blooming
When we happily return from our trip, the Hungarian tourist is not yet back, the campsite caretaker is just on the brink to return to his village for the night and our two companions are chewing Khat (Qat), the national drug, as they do it every afternoon. Although it’s said that Khat only stimulates, we find that the two are looking at us somehow glass-eyed and lost in reverie. At 5pm the sun already sets behind the distant mountain range and the silhouettes of the majestic Dragon Blood Trees look beautiful in the evening glow. It is getting fresh, there is no electricity. Therefore at 8pm we lay already in our little tent.
067  A stunning frankincense tree (Boswelia
essence) in Homhil. There are seven species
on Socotra. The well scented incense is
also used to perfume homes and clothing
068  In the “Homhil Nature Reserve”,
also Euphorbia (Euphorbia arbuscula) grow
069  Liliana is standing in front of
a bottle tree respectively desert rose
4th Day: February 12th, 2011:
Everything is dripping from the enormous humidity when we get up at sunrise. Already at 6.30am the campsite caretaker returns from his village with fresh, still warm pita (flat bread). Time for breakfast! Right afterwards, we set off to Hadibo. We need an “administrative day” to settle a few things in connection with the ongoing shipment of our car from the Philippines to Sri Lanka, but also to charge the computer, cellular and camera batteries. Since our arrival, our two cameras are running at full speed. Alone during the first two days we shot 600 pictures! Once more we lodge at the Taj Socotra Hotel – this time in a quieter room – and spend the day with writing emails, screening pictures and do some laundry.
070  A forest of Dragon Blood Trees is
shining in the evening light in Homhil.
These unique trees have been left to
flourish undisturbed in Socotra
071  Sunset in Homhil .....
072  The silhouette of a native Dragon
Blood Tree, Socotra’s landmark,
in the setting sun in Homhil
5th Day: February 13th, 2011:
Our friendly lunchroom opens already at 5am – ideal for us early birds. Our guide agreed that we can take breakfast alone at this time. That suits us, having so the opportunity to stroll through the city without “supervision”. Already at 6am we are on our way. Like always, goats, chicken and the omnipresent vultures scavenge in the plentiful garbage. From the narrow alleys deeply covered-up women appear. Most are on their way to the souk. Its display is plentiful: Goat meat – the fresh supply is bleating aside – then vegetable, fruits, dates, nuts, spices, household items, textiles, car accessories – just everything needed in daily life respectively what Westerners are searching in the supermarket.
073  It belongs to the endangered
species: A Cucumber Tree in Homhill
(Dendrosicyos socotranum)
074  One of the unusual bottle
tree. It can accumulate big
quantities of water in its “belly“
075  Small Dragon Blood Tree
What we like most, however, are all these small exotic shops where available items are nicely pictured on the outer walls or inner doors. It is very useful as not everybody is able to read; thus pictures help. Often all we want is to take a photo of one of them, when an angry voice of a man or even a boy is hearable: “No, no”!, just because from somewhere – not yet visible for us – a woman comes along. On Socotra it is strictly forbidden to take pictures of women, even girls. To our opinion there is a real paranoia about it.
076  The landscape in Homhil is covered
distinctly with the Dragon Blood Trees
077  The rising sun catches the Dragon
Blood Tree Forest at “Homhil“
078  “Our“ LandCruiser starts the
descent from Homhil down to the valley
At 8am we are back at the hotel and at 8.20am our dusty LandCruiser drives up. Our discovery tour continues: Firstly again towards the East and next to Aomak, to the sand dunes along the South coast. We are crossing the mountains. Now and then we pass a picturesque oasis with flat houses built from natural stones; and again and again blooming Desert Rose Trees on the mountain slopes are catching our eyes. Later the track follows and crosses a river bed with some deep water pools.
079  An endemic Socotra sparrow
(Passer insularis) is chirping on a tree branch
080  A Desert Rose (Bottle Tree)
is in full bloom
081  An eye-catching flower
(Jatropha unicostata)
The moment we reach the South coast, an intensive desert feeling takes over. An endless band of white sand dunes with roaming camels stretch out in front of us. Our camping at Aomak lies at the fine sandy beach near the turquoise sea – a very lovely spot. After lunch – the already traditional rice with potatoe sauce – we visit the nearby Dogub Cave. Stalagmites and stalactites picturesquely frame the entrance. We like it.
082  From Deleisha in the North to
Mahferhin in the South the track
meanders initially through a barren
mountain scenery .....
083  ….. we drive past a
picturesque village …..
084  ..... where women
hang-up their washing
In the meantime more groups arrived at the camping: A young couple from Italy, three Chinese, a tour group from Austria and Klaus, a German working with archeology. He is our neighbor. His tent is separated by a thatched wall from ours. We are already asleep when we are awakened by a loud chatter coming from there. Emil checks. Guides and drivers are sitting together having a good time. How can Klaus bear that noise? Soon we realize that he already moved out to the dunes with his sleeping bag. Emil put his foot down and after that it finally gets quiet.
085  Later the track follows a river in a
canyon, which is crossed several times
086  The first camel – actually
a dromedary – appears
087  A leafless knobby
tree in the dry desert scenery
We no longer understand the world anymore: Our crew (stimulated by Khat) knows from the very beginning how sensitive we are about noise in the night. And they choose exactly the site directly beside us for their discussion that was getting the longer the noisier. Something is wrong, Emil comments: To get a good night’s sleep, the paying visitor – and it’s not so little money – has to escape to the dunes while the locals make themselves comfortable on the mattresses and cushions. Emil has a serious conversation about it with Abdullah, our guide. With it, we already plant our first cactus in our relationship – but not the last one!
088  In the South, white
sand dunes appear …..
089  ….. goats gather under
the only tree for shade …..
090  ..... a camel (dromedary)
is roaming around
6th Day: February 14th, 2011:
There is no sign of another “early bird” when shortly after 6am the sun rises from the sea and its rays catch the white dunes. “Look there!”, Emil calls excitedly. A mother camel and its cub appear in front of a dune and both walk unhurriedly along the sea shore, right towards the ball of the rising sun. My heart skips a beat as it always does at those precious moments. For both of us it is hard to comprehend how everybody else is still lying in bed, missing such a unique experience!
091  Camp behind the sand dunes
in Aomak at the South coast
092  The sun is setting behind the
palm trees at the Aomak Camp
093  A young dromedary and its
mother are walking towards the
rising sun at the Aomak Camp
Later, we chat with the Austrians who are sitting at a table and having breakfast (no, we are not jealous of the table and the chairs!). They booked with Dieterle Tours in Germany; their guide speaks German well. It is from him that we get to know that the panoramic view from the antenna on the Momi plateau is beautiful, but the track was rough. As we reached on the 3rd day – coming from Homhil – the Momi road junction and Emil wanted to branch off there, Abdullah didn’t want to cooperate – the region wouldn’t offer a lot anyway. This leads to another discussion with our guide. Only when Emil threatens to cancel the remaining tour, he is willing to make good for it. He also apologizes for last night. Let’s forget about it! With a handshake we make peace again.
094  Loneliness as far as we can see:
The turquoise lagoon and the white
sand dunes near Aomak
095  The white ribbon of the sea
sand dunes between the red
desert and the blue ocean
096  Entrance of the Dogub
cave near Aomak
It is hazy, when mid-morning we drive on the only sealed South-North-connection through barren land to the Dicksam Plateau where the biggest forest of the Dragon Blood Trees stands. Again we discover beautiful examples and, to make the site even more special, the sun is just peaking through the clouds – simply wonderful.
097  View through the entrance of the
Dogub cave over the desert and the ocean
098  Water drops have formed
wonderful Stalactites
099  Stalagmites and stalactites are framing
picturesquely the entrance of the cave
Just beside, the Shebahon point offers a spectacular view over the cliffy Daerhu-Canyon. We cannot take in the scenery quietly though. Immediately children from the nearby village come running and want to sell with an extreme persistence resin of the Dragon Blood Trees. A girl with felty hair and a snotty nose is following Emil on the heels.
100  On the Dicksam Plateau, we
are standing once more in front of
an endemic Dragen Blood Tree forest
101  ….. these old trees are looking
simply beautiful from every angle
102  From the Shebahon viewpoint
at Dicksam Plateau the view over
the Daerhu canyon is stunning
Up to now, every day had a wonderful natural experience on stock. Also today is no difference. On a rocky track we move down into the deep canyon with its palm trees, its natural rock pools and the flowering desert roses that cling to the steep rock walls. Under a shady tree down in the wadi, our crew is preparing our lunch: Rice with a potato and pie sauce, what else!
103  A rocky, meandering track
leads from the Dicksam Plateau
down to the deep Daerhu canyon …..
104  ….. on the other side of
the canyon, a track leads
further across the mountains
105  ..... Emil is exploring the
surroundings in the
canyon of Wadi Daerhu
Early afternoon, the other tour groups leave and we are sitting alone on the white boulders surrounding the natural green shimmering pool. We wash the dust from our bodies, swim and enjoy the stillness of this unique spot until it is time to return to the plateau. Camping is not allowed in the canyon.
106  A glimpse to the canyon’s
riverbed through cliffy rocks …..
107  ..... and to the crystal clear
pond inviting for a swim
108  The small natural ponds, lined
with palms, teem with small fishes
On the plateau, lying at an altitude of 2’300ft., we meet Klaus again. Together we camp at the edge of the canyon. After dark, we sit on the mat under a canopy of brilliant stars, drink hot and sweet tea and sample a piece of the tough goat that Klaus bought on the way and was prepared by his crew. We talk about Yemen and Ethiopia, where Klaus is working on archaeological sites, until the cold gets to our bones and we crawl into our tent.
109  The river deep down in the canyon
meanders between the high cliffs
110  Flowering bottle trees
cling to the dry canyon walls
111  A shining dot between grey stones:
The star shaped “Caralluma socotrana”, is
a carrion flower growing only in Socotra
– here on the Dicksam Plateau
7th Day: February 15th, 2011:
The night was cold and humid. It is 55F when the sun rises over the canyon. There is bad news: Our guide Abdullah had to return head over heals to Hadibo due to family problems. This tells us the guide of Klaus who speaks English. Our driver Ahmed talks only Arabic. They have decided that we follow Klaus’ car without an own guide to Qalansyia, our next destination in the Northwest.
The sun sets on the Dicksam Plateau. Here at 2’300ft. altitude we spend the night in the tent at the Daerhu canyon edge
Somehow we are a bit skeptical about the whole thing and insist to return first for two hours to Hadibo to access the internet before continuing towards the West. As the saying goes: “You won’t get far by lying!” Who is just stepping out of the Taj Socotra Hotel when I am about to enter to use the bathroom?: Our guide Abdullah with a new tour group (his family problems from the night before!!). His shock to see me is clearly written on his face. Myself, I am not really surprised because this was our guess anyway. Nevertheless: We don’t like the lie and even less the way our tour operator Meetaq was trying to save a guide!
115  Our crew is drinking tea on
the Dicksam Plateau: Right
guide Abdullah, left driver Ahmed
116  The little hamlet catches the first rays
of the rising sun at Dicksam Plateau, where
the track to the Wadi Daerhu forks off
117  Village children visit us at
our bush camp at Dicksam Plateau
„I am so sorry!“ are then the first words of Meetaq, who immediately is informed and shows up personally at the office of Felix Airways, where we are allowed to use the Wifi (Internet). He introduces us to a new guide who soon turns out to be of little use except for translating. No problem! This does not prevent us to continue enjoying to explore the nature wonders of Socotra. Lunch is served once more at the Soq Camping, where there are even vegetables in the standard menu. This is however the only attractive thing in the otherwise unattractive place.
118  Socotra starlings make a
short break on a branch
at the Dicksam Plateau
119  View over the impressive
canyon at Dicksam Plateau
120  A lonely Dragon Blood
Tree stands majestically on a
rock in the Daerhu canyon wall
For the continuation of the 7th day, February 15th, 2011, in Qalansiya - please click   here
More websites from Yemen, where we visited in February 2011 the Island of Socotra: (without our vehicle)
  • Yemen car trip (from Oman to Saudi Arabia)  - with our car from May 16th to June 15th, 1996
  • Part 1: Socotra Island trip in Yemen (East) Hadibo - Dihamri - Arher Beach
  • Part 3: Socotra Island trip in Yemen (West) Qalansiya - Shouab Beach - Qadama Beach - Momi Plateau - Wadi Ayhaft
  • Part 4: United Arab Emirates Sharjah - Dubai