Waking to our first proper views of the Wahiba Sands we found ourselves surrounded by a classic deep red desert landscape. Spotless golden dunes rose in the most graceful arcs above valleys dotted with grasses. The sand was silky soft under foot but as we passed through mid-morning and the cool of the dawn was burned away by an increasingly hot sun, it was soon impossible to walk barefoot without feeling as if the skin was being burned from your soles.
The plan was to walk from north to south across the 180km long Wahiba, tracing a route along the spine of one of the huge kilometer wide dunes that run the length of the desert. Just as on the glacier in Iceland, we packed our camp into plastic sledges (albeit slightly smaller than their polar cousins) and set off in single file each pulling our own sledge from a harness around our waist.
Our travelling style was very similar to that used in the Arctic. The person leading would navigate and set the pace, checking on the team behind them using a series of hand-signals. But there was much that we soon discovered had to be very different. We quickly established a routine of short, frequent breaks to take on water (unlike in Iceland when breaks only occurred once every hour or more) and although it was as important to be as fully covered from the sun as it was to be covered from the cold, each of the team was soon adapting their own head gear and clothing.
It was a steep learning curve for European and Arabic team members alike. The heat was a new enemy for us all and we ended the day deciding that between midday and 3pm, the sun was too hot to walk under - we decided we would adopt the Bedouin practice of starting early, seeking shade in the middle of the day and then continue until dark.