Day 1: Acclimation

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

I came to Socotra not only to explore the wonders of nature, to be immersed in the most alien-looking, most isolated place left on earth, but to also find myself amidst this strange land. I could have chosen a different remote corner of the world that is more politically stable, more amicable to Americans, and generally less hostile (or so it is perceived). In some ways I'm here because of exactly these reasons. I wanted to believe that everyone who share this little magnificent dot called earth are inherently good despite any differences we may have. I wanted to test the boundaries of my own prejudices as shaped by my current society. 

We met our guide Samed and his crew Khalid and Abdulazis. Only Samed spoke English. The rest spoke Arabic and Socotri. Men on this island wear sarongs and regular shirts. The ladies wear all black top to bottom as you expect. Only men are out and about during the day. Two SUVs picked us up. We checked in to a rather dinky looking hotel, then went for a drive. It was only much later that I was able to put into perspective how fancy the dinky hotel and the airport were when most of the building structures on this island are either torn down very badly or never finished. Hadibo,  at first glance, looks tiny, very dirty, and war torn.

The rest of the island is occupied by one single paved road. A bunch of settlements scatter along it. Not really villages, but more like land grabs in the form of empty walled plots filled with goats. The ocean takes your breath away. (That's saying a lot -- I'm from Thailand. I've seen a few gorgeous beaches.) The Haghier mountains remind me a bit of a mix of Rio's jagged tips, Oahu's deep rising structure against ocean back drop, and Yosemite's wildly varied red rock desert-like plants, rocks, and dirt. Each element by itself is familiar yet the combo makes it quite other worldly. The colors of everything here is permanently set to vivid.

We stopped at a beach side lunch spot. Ate some local fish mandi. Walked around. Went to the first famous sand dune.
There are a couple of these on the island. Every monsoon season the wind picks up sand from the mountain, swirled it in a major way depending of wind direction and mountain shape, then deposit it to form a single giant dune. I can't imagine how strong it must be to make something this grand every year.

Soq - the original capital of Socotra. It's the "soc" (or more accurately soque) in the island's name. This little town used to be the hub where frankencense and spices are traded. Now you see a lot of little kids and little goats running around what looks to be stomps of destroyed old buildings that was once important. Samed repeated quite often how international bodies (the French, so and so organization, so and so conservation, etc) would come start revitalization effort here and then abandon before finishing. The word town is a bit of a stretch, IMO. This is more like a string of garbage pile and houses strung together. The kids were delightful tho.

Today was low impact. We got to meet everyone on the trip. Exchanged some get-to-know-you conversations. At first glance everyone seem quite the seasoned travelers. I suppose this kind of trip doesn't naturally attract newbies. I like that already. I'm rooming with Jo from London throughout the trip. Tonight we'll settle down at the one (of 4) hotel in Hadibo. I think tomorrow early am we will head into the mountains. Yay.