Only road accessible fjord in Oman - Khor an-Najd - Musandam Peninsula
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Oman Trip Journal from March 01 to 17, 2006

Follow this link to return to the Oman Photos Pg. 1 and Oman Photo's Pg. 2.

Country: Oman
Duration: March 01 to 17, 2006
Distance Traveled in the Country:  ~ 3500 km
Memorable Impressions of the Country:  We will forever remember the people of Oman and the variety of landscape it offers.  Without question Oman is a very peaceful country with very friendly and helpful people. Oman has beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, huge empty deserts, and lush green valleys.  Tourism is on the verge of becoming big.  Oman still has an innocence about it that is hard to find in other countries.  It will be interesting to see its development over the next 20 years.  We both can see ourselves returning for another visit.
Gasoline Cost: 0.121 Omani Rial or $0.37CDN/litre for 98 Octane Gasoline
Hotel Cost: Cheapest 12 Omani Rial or $36CDN/night, most expensive 34 Omani Rial $112CDN/night
Food & Drink Cost: Very Cheap. Breakfast or supper for 1 to 2 Omani Rial for a couple.  Water is almost free. Pop is 0.100 Omani Rial or $0.30CDN/can.
Special Thanks to: Joshua (Canada), Dirk (Germany) and Richard (UAE)

March 01, 2006.  We enter the Musandam Peninsula, which is actually part of Oman, and separated from the rest of Oman by the eastern coast of UAE.  The scenery is so very different from UAE.  Tall, pointy, bare, racked mountains follow the coast line.  The road winds its way along the ocean and mountains from the border crossing through to Khasab on brand new pavement.  “Motorcycle Heaven.”  Every few kilometers we pass along a small village.  In Bukha, we ride up a hill to a Fort overlooking the village and ocean.  The contrast between UAE and Oman already apparent.  Less money, but somehow more attractive.  We step back in time, goats are being herded.  Donkeys are free roaming.  The women wear the traditional full dress, with only the eyes showing.  It takes us forever to make it to Khasab, since we stop for pictures all the time.  As the day is getting late we look for a spot to set up the camp.  In our search, we are flagged down by the local young crowd who are excited to see us.  As we stop we are instantly surrounded by 20 teenagers and kids, bombarding us with questions.  Even though it is only Wednesday evening, in the Muslim world it is actually their Friday and the weekend is coming up.  We hang out with them for an hour, us being there is quite an attraction.  The older folk also come out, but view us at distance, whereas the young don't seem shy.  The really young girls are amazed by me and my red hair.  I smile and they smile back.  We decide to set up camp at a remote wadi canyon in a deserted village called Hana.  As the sun sets behind the mountains, we cook our supper.  The wind picks up and howls for a couple hours.  Note to self, not to set up in an unexposed wadi. 

March 02, 2006.  As the sun rises, Mike is climbing up the rocks to take some pictures and I sit in the tent on the laptop updating the journal.  Out of nowhere this old Omani appears.  His face weathered by old age, teeth missing.  He approaches the tent with large eyes and stretches his hand out to touch its material.  We can tell, he hadn't seen a tent made from nylon before, we smile and greet him with “Marhuba” and he smiles back and starts to speak in Arabic.  We are helpless to understand him, but somehow we communicate and as we drive off he excitingly waves goodbye.  Back in Khasab we stop at the fort for pictures and then for gas as we get invited for tea.  We are anxious to make our way to the famous Khor an-Najd on a graded road.  Khor an-Najd  is the only fjord in Oman accessible by road. We head into Wadi Sal al A'la and get lost.  Stopping at a small village, we are instantly surrounded by 20 kids.  Mike commented that it is like the ice cream vehicle arriving in Canada in your neighborhood.  No English here.  We back track and take another road and do finally find a sign Khawr Najd pointing up a mountain.  The graded road, just a single lane wide, zigzags up the mountain side to the top to reward us with the most amazing view of the surrounding Mountains and our first view of the Gulf of Oman (Khor Habalayn).  We had seen a picture on the internet as we did our research for this trip, and now we were actually standing here.  In first gear we take the steep descent into the fjord, switchback after switchback.  At the bottom, half a dozen fishing boats line the shore and we set up camp on the beach.  With only goats for visitors we set out with our snorkel gear to explore the ocean life.

March 03, 2006.  Leaving this beautiful spot behind, we backtrack over the mountain.  We decide to explore another road which leads toward the Wadi al Bih. We start climbing and continue to climb from see level to 1800m on a graded gravel road hugging the mountain side.  With every switchback we get another great view onto the foothills and wadi below. This is said to be one of the most scenic drives in Oman. The road passes through Sayh Plateau, a large farming area and settlement.  The road actually leads into UAE, but it is not an official border crossing.  We turn around and backtrack to Khasab and have breakfast (keema and paratha) with the locals.  The road from Khasab to Tibat (UAE border crossing) is described in the travel book as a feat of engineering and affords spectacular views of the Strait of Hormuz.  In other words, the engineer must have owned a motorcycle.  The border crossing is speedy as we are familiar with the procedure.  We decide to take the road from Ra's al Khaymah through the Wadi al Bih and Wadi Khabb Shamsi to Daba, located on the east coast.  The road passes through both Omani and UAE checkpoints as it winds it way through the mountains from the west coast to the east coast.  It is approximately 90km of gravel road, which has everything to offer, from loose rock, to steep hills and switch backs. We climb from sea level to 1200m, stop at the top at an old abandoned village.  People still live up in the mountain, their small huts hugging the cliff walls.  In the winter time, the rain fall increases and gives them the opportunity to plant and farm crop.  Our descent to the east coast takes us through Wadi Khabb Shamsi and the roads carves its way through a narrow gorge.  Straight 1000m high walls enclose the road.  At some spots the road is reduce to a mere 4m wide.  We had a full day of riding.  The BMW's performed perfectly, what other bike can take you to places like that, and still have fun on twisty pavement in the same day.  Arriving in Daba, we set up camp on the beach.

March 04, 2006.  As the sun rises over the Gulf of Oman, we take a stroll along the deserted beach, which seemed to stretch along the coast as far as your eye could see. We had called Bernd who lives and works in Al Fujayrah the previous night.  Richard had given us his name, another motorcycle fanatic.  We planned to meet in Al Fujayrah in the morning, but then Bernd was called out to work off-shore.  We said our farewell.  Just before al Fujayrah we come across Al Bidyah Mosque, built of stone and mudbricks and coated in many layers of whitewashed plaster.  The roof consists of four pointed domes and is supported by an internal pillar.  It is unusual for religious architecture in the region.  The construction of the Mosque maybe as early as 1446 AD.  To enter the Mosques we have to remove our shoes and socks, and I have to wear a traditional dress, which was provided. From here we head inland again toward Hatta and our official and final border crossing into Oman.  As we receive our exit stamp for UAE, we are offered tea.  Smilingly we sip the very hot and sweet substance.  In addition we require our carnet to be stamped with an exit stamp. No such luck here.  The border guard refuses.  At the Omani border entry, we didn't even get asked for the carnets.  The Oman Single Entry Tourist Visa was 12 OR (Omani Rial) (approx. $46CDN) for both of us and is good for one (1) month.  We also purchased Omani Liability Insurance for the motorcycle (10 days for 20 RAL or $60CDN), which is required to get your Visas.  The crossing took us approx. 2 hours.  We proceed toward the coast and set up camp just south of Sohar in what seemed to an abandoned soccer field with some free ranging Camels.

March 05, 2006.  The Omani coast is greener and lush with Palm Trees.  Originally we had planned to cross inland from the coast to Ibri though the mountains at Sohar on hwy 08, but somehow missed the turn-off.  Another opportunity shown on the map was further down the coast at al Khaburah.  We realized quickly that signage is poor for secondary roads (not existing). Hwy 09 indicated on our maps and shown as paved, was to lead us to Ibri.  Even though we only have the general world map as a base on our GPS' it did indicate a line through the mountain.  We are in good spirits as we proceed on our journey and just after Al Ghizayn the road detours due to road construction.  We soon realize that they are working on a road and that the current trail is through the wadi.  There are water crossings after water crossings.  The trail is getting very rocky and loose and I (Ruby) crash going through a water crossing.  It took us half and hour to get the bike out.  At one of the many road forks we took a wrong turn.  And we were single tracking through hell.  Loose sand, large rocks and water crossings, 5km took us 2 hours.  From the GPS we knew we were way off track.  Out of nowhere, a pick-up truck appears and the Omani speaks broken English and we communicate by sign language.  We had taken a wrong turn, the road we were on lead to another village 80km away.  It was mid afternoon, the thermostat on the bike read +40 Deg Celsius.  We hadn't had breakfast yet.  Under a shaded tree we empty our boots of the water we had collected through the countless water crossings, got the power bars out (just for emergencies like these) and sipped water from our Camelbak bags.  Luckily we always carry 3 litres of water on the bike, but it was going fast.  At the pace we were going, we figured that we might have to set up camp in the mountains. Again I can't say enough about how much the BMW off road course in Germany has paid off.  My goal was to just keep the bike up right.  I can still hear Albert, our instructor, yelling at me “stand up on the pegs”.  Just a year ago I would have never made it through here.  Yes, I was frustrated and at times I did ask myself why I was doing this.  Then Mike pulled up beside me and asked how I am doing and I would swear unlady like and he would smile and say it is all part of the Adventure.  Adventure is why I was here.  The Omani in the white pick-up truck leads us back to the fork in the road were we had taken a wrong turn.  The road got better and better as we got closer to Ibri and the last 30km or so are paved.  Taking this road has given me new respect for the BMW and its endurance.  The road was amazing we saw old remains of watch towers and ruins of old forts from a time long ago.  These are the days I will always remember.  It took us 6 hours to do 100kms.  In Ibri we decide to push on to Nizwa and after no shower for 5 days we decide to pamper ourselves with a stay at a hotel.  To have secure parking we stayed at the Falaj Daris Hotel for 29.50 OR/night, not cheap, but we justified it that we had not paid for accommodations for the last 10 days.  In the shower the water turned into a brown slurry as it took all the dust, dirt and sweat from our bodies.  A comfy bed for the night.

March 06, 2006.  The day was dedicated to sightseeing.  Three (3) impressive Forts were located within a 50km radius of Nizwa.  We started out with the one of the oldest and most famous forts in Omani, the Nizwa Fort, located in City Centre and surrounded by the souq.  The Nizwa Fort consists of a large circular tower.  The First 14m in height are filled with dirt and the staircase leading to the top has several wooden doors, each followed by a trap door leading to a very dark hole.  The fort has been restored to its original state.  From the top of the tower there is a good view of the city and the adjacent mosque.  Entry was 500 baisa per person or $1.50.  From Nizwa we rode 40kms to the nearby town of Bahla.  The Bahla Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and currently under restoration.  Access to the Fort is not possible.  It was renovated thrice in 830AD, 1624 AD and 1868 AD.  We walked the circumference of the Fort and some of the old stone and mud brick walls encircling the town, which are still visible.    The architecture is unique as the Fort is triangular in shape with seven-mile long walls.  Our final stop for the day was the Fort Jabrin, built in the 17th Century and is said to be unlike any other Fort in Oman, both in size and magnificence.  It is rectangular in size with three floors and 55 rooms.  Imam Bil'arab's tomb is till within the fort. We did spend a good two (2) hours walking up and down countless steps.  Most ceilings are made out of wood and have wood carvings complete with beautiful hand paintings.  We were free to roam around and explore doors and holes which let to secret rooms. The day turned out to be perfect.  No rest for the wicked.  Late at night we went to the Nizwa Internet Café and updated the website.

March 07, 2006.  We left the comfy hotel in Nizwa and backtracked to Ibri, about 150km, as we realized that we had missed a World Heritage Site. On our way we stopped at an ancient city in ruins called Al Sulayf.  We walked through the old gatehouse and explored the remains of the abandoned town.  It gave us an inside of how the old structures were build out of mud.  Deterioration through rain is occurring fast and saddens us.  In a few years their will be not much left of this great history. After a good hour of wandering around fallen walls and buildings, we proceed to Bat.  The area around Bat has been named a World Heritage Site to protect the 4000 to 5000 year old beehive tombs built on the hill tops.  As we are riding along in the desert looking for a good picture, we came across three German Archeologists from Weimer (Germany).  We are invited into their research site.  It was excellent timing.  They have exposed the base of one of these tombs and are now reconstructing it using the original stones.  The Archeologists have come to this area since the late 70's.  The tomb they are currently working on is over 4000 years old.  Some of these tombs have remains of one (1) only and others of 20 to 300 people.  It is said that these tombs were constructed during the copper trade, due to the copper artifacts that are found in the tombs. It had been a worthwhile trip to return to this spot.  We now return to Bahla, approx. 8kms past Bahla is the turn-off to Jebal Shams (Mountain to the Sun).  It is Oman's tallest mountain at 3009m.  The road to Jebal Shams is 49kms from the main highway turn-off.  New pavement winds its way up the mountain.  The last approx. 11kms are gravel and at spots very steep.  A trip to Oman is not complete unless one visits Jebal Shams.  The view from the top is breathtaking.  The travel books call it the grand canyon of Oman.  It remained us of Copper Canyon in Mexico.  We rode the motorcycle right to the edge to the 1000m vertical drop-off into the gorge below.   No railing for protection.  The sun is starting to set and we set up camp at the Jebal Shams Hotel & Travel Centre.  To give us protection from the wind we chose to set the tent inside one of the straw huts (5 Rial per night or  $15CDN). Accommodations are not cheap in Oman.  But gasoline and food/drinks are a quarter of what we pay in Canada. 

March 08, 2006.  We explore some more of the amazing views of Jebal Shams and then decide to descent back into Bahla.  From Bahla, we head through Nizwa toward Muscat.  Approx. 60kms before Muscat we detour into Fanja and explore the remains of the old town.  Again most of the buildings have been abandoned, and are falling to pieces due to the environment.  It surprised us to see new houses sandwiched between the ruins of the old.  Some ruins still have occupants.  Discretely we walk along the ancient village streets and I turn to Mike and say in awe “I feel we are in National Geographic”.  It is hard to take pictures of the local people.  We always ask first, but are often turned down.  Women in their colorful dresses carrying pots and pans on their head or bundles of wood on their back are images forever imprinted in our memory.  Back on the main highway to Muscat we turn along the coast to Burka and then inland to Nakhl.  We set up camp in the Wadi at the edge of town and out of nowhere this local Omani appears and offers us food.  We are still trying to get used to the positive attention we are getting.  There hasn't been one rest stop without a crowd of people approaching us.

March 09, 2006. The sun rises and heats up the inside of the tent, signaling us that it is time to make a move.  The previous night we checked out the hot springs of Nakhl.  Originally we were playing with the idea of stopping in for a clean up, but the temperature already indicated +34 Deg Celsius.  It seemed to be the start of our hottest day so far.  Instead we headed for the Nakhl Fort.  It was built upon a 200m high rock mountain in 1649AD.  As every Fort in Oman entry is only 500 Baisa or $1.50CDN.  The parking lot is deserted and other than a couple of tourists, mostly German, we have the place to ourselves.  Oman is an up and coming country in tourism.  We are at the start of this era and see the potential.  From Nakhl we head north along the edge of the Jabal Akdar mountain range to Ar Rustaq.  Ar Rustaq, formerly the capital of Oman, is the home of one of the oldest forts in the country and is said to be built four centuries prior to the dawn of Islam in Oman.  It seemed to have just been opened to the public and had not been restored to the state of the other ones.  The Rustaq Fort still had a feel of discovery and exploration to it, with secret passages and dungeon prison cells.  From here it was back to the coast and to the capital of Oman, Muscat.  We decide to stay at the Naseem Hotel in the historical port area of Muscat called Mutrah.  The Hotel is situated only a couple of hundred meters from the famous Mutrah Corniche souq and directly facing the Mutrah Fort and Dhow Harbour. (Cost was 15 Rial).  Our room located on the 4th floor was overlooking all the action.  As we unpack the bikes we are approached by Rowshan, who is with the local Oman Tribune newspaper. He sets up an interview with his Chief Reporter, Hubert Vaz, in the evening, to do an article on us traveling through the Middle East.  First we hit the much needed shower and then head off to explore the surrounding area.  A stroll along the Dhow Harbour leads us directly to the Mutrah souq, which retains the chaotic interest of a traditional Arab market.  Mike loves to bargain and we ended up buying me some Ray Ban Sunglasses ($6CDN), Silver Earrings ($6CDN) and a Hejab (Headscarf) ($9CDN).  Mike in turn purchased a complete traditional Omani dress from the handmade futa and mashadda (head cloth) to the dishdasha (one piece man dress) all for only $30CDN.  Now he could pass as one of them.

March 10, 2006.  All repacked we explored the coast line along Muscat, leading us to the Oman Dive Center, situated at the south end of town in a beautiful cove.  Back into Muscat we arrived at the Grand Mosque in Muscat, just before noon, and witnessed the Friday noon service. From Muscat it was south to Quarayat.  We set up our tent at the edge of the village Daghmar.  The local kids spent most of the evening with us, fixated on us setting up our tent and making supper.  We exchanged names in Arabic and as we left the next morning, the kids waved us good-bye and calling “We love you Ruby & Mike”.

March 11, 2006.  The paved road ends after Daghmar and turns into a very rough gravel road.  Just 6km past Dibab is the Bimmah Sinkhole.  Since we were the only people there, we parked the bikes beside the sinkhole and climbed into the 20m by 40m limestone hole.  Equipped with our snorkel gear we explored the blue-green water and found some live corals.  After a couple of swims and breakfast at the edge of the pool, we continued along the coast line to Tiwi beach (also called the white beach).  The beaches were deserted and we set up our tent on our own sandy bay between two cliffs.  It was a relaxing time.  Swimming, relaxing by the water and being burnt by the sun was our afternoon activity.  As the tide returned we hiked along the cliffs and found some blowholes.  From our tent we watched the sunset and the sunrise in the morning.

March 12, 2006.  Our goal for the day was to hike up the Wadi Shab.  It is said to be one of the most gorgeous destinations in Oman.  Finding it seemed more difficult then we anticipated, due to construction and us misreading a sign.  After riding in circles for a while we come upon the town of Shab (means ‘ravine between cliffs'), a small village clinging on the cliff.  The road in and out of it is cemented due to its steepness.  Construction is in process for a new overpass in the parking lot of Wadi Shab.  We park the motorcycles and change into hiking gear.  The walk takes us into a narrow and deep gorge alongside terraced plantations, aquamarine pools and waterfalls.  We definitely got our exercise us we scrambled over boulders and balanced along the edge of cliffs.  Some areas we had to wade up to our knees through the water.  The total hike took us about 4 hours of a steady pace, loving every minute of it and being rewarded with amazing scenery.  After the hike we continue along the coastal road through Tiwi on a washboard gravel road to Sur.  In Qalhat, we stop to take in the picturesque Tomb of Bibi Miriam, a water cistern and remnants of the old city wall.  Qalhat, was built around 2nd century AD, one of the oldest towns in Oman. In need of a well deserved shower, we stay at the Sur Plaza Hotel (34 Omani Rial or $112CDN/night), since every other place showed no vacancy.  At 8pm we rode to Ras Al-Jinz, the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula and an internationally important turtle nesting site for the endangered green turtle.  The 65km road to Ras Al-Jinz was paved in the last 6 month and therefore we took an exception to our rule of not riding at night.  Of course we had a run in with a camel on the deserted road.  The Ras Al-Jinz beach is under government protection.  The cost to enter the area is 1 Omani Rial per person and include a warden escort to the beach at 9:30pm.   Over 20,000 females return annually to the beach where they hatched in order to lay eggs.  We were in the off season, but it was still amazing as we watched two (2) huge turtles trying to lay their eggs in large sand wholes that they dig.  Since the turtles are easily disturbed, we were not allowed the use of a flash with the camera and in consequence the pictures didn't turn out well.  We watched under full moon as the turtles returned to sea.  This was an experience of a lifetime.  We returned to the hotel by midnight.

March 13, 2006.  It was the start to a long trip south to Salalah.  From Sur we followed the edge of the Wahiba Sands and its copper-coloured sand dunes.  By chance we cross path with Richard, Chijang and Richard's Mom from Dubai, going toward Sur.  We recognize each as we pass and stop to chat.  It was nice to see a familiar face and to share some of the experience we have had.  Back on the road, we zig-zagged our way from Ibra to the town of Adam and the main highway to Salalah.  The cross wind was unbelievable and sand was blowing across the road, making it impossible to see sometimes. From Nizwa to Salalah it is 1000km of desert and straight road.  As we join the highway at Adam the sign indicates 780km to Salalah.  We stopped for gas regularly to ensure sufficient supply. At one of the stops we had to wait 45minutes for the electricity to return before we could use the pump.  Mike made good use of this time and help a local Omani Family repair their car.  As the sun set we rolled into Al Hayma and instead of setting up the tent in the howling wind, we defaulted in a Motel room for 15 Omani Rial. 

March 14, 2006.  We are on the road again early, to get a head start on the scorching heat during mid-day.  The previous day we hit 42 Deg Celsius and the wind feels like a blow dryer set on hot.  The first hour was a pleasant temperature, with 500km to go.  The road was unbelievably straight the landscape barren.  No trees, no hills, no people, nothing at all.  We would ride for half an hour without seeing another car or person.  The only thing I could compare this experience to was as if you are riding on the moon.  Actually we did see the occasional camel lost out there in “no man's land”.  We skirted the empty quarter desert for 100 of kms.  Approximately 50km outside of Salalah we stop at another World Heritage Site for the famous Frankincense Trail.  Salalah was a bit of a disappointment, but then we are here in the off-season or non-monsoon season.  During the khareef or rainy season the mountain range and area around Salalah turn green and waterfalls emerge everywhere.  For us Salalah is our final stop in Oman as we prepare to enter Yemen.  The Salalah Tourist Hotel is only 12 Omani Rial including breakfast.  We decide to stay for three (3) nights to explore surrounding historical sites and mountain range as well as restock on food and bike maintenance.

March 15, 2006.  From Salalah we skirt the coast line to Taqah.  Just 5km past Taqah we visit Khor Rouri, a World Heritage Site.  The significance of this site is that 2000 years ago Khor Rouri was the trading post of the frankincense route and as such one of the most important ports on earth.  The Omani government has made some major process in restoring this site.  Just last year the ruins where “off limits” for the public.  We paid 2 Omani Rials to enter and it was an amazing experience to see the inscriptions of old writing exposed on the walls and to imagine a time long gone.  From the top of the ruins is an excellent view of the bay.  From Khor Rouri we head east to the village of Mirbat.  Empty beaches stretch along the coast line.  Feeling adventurous, we detour into the mountain range and find Bedouin nomad people living high up in the remote areas.  We will remember this day for the 100's of Camels we saw, grazing the plains with cows and donkeys.

March 16, 2006.  Our last day in Oman.  We decide to head west along the coast line to Mughsail and beyond.  Mughsail does lay on a spectacular bay with a 1 mile of white sand beach ending at the start of large cliffs and mountains.  In Mughsail we visit the blowholes and are not disappointed as the ocean forces its way through tiny holes and shoots high into the sky.  We continue onwards on the Sarfait Road toward the Yemeni border. It is the most amazing and impressive road in Oman.  Paved and zigzagging from sea level to an elevation of 1000m summit and Military Checkpoint.  Here we turn around and enjoy the ride back on a perfectly engineered road and through a rugged mountain range and beautiful beaches.  A perfect day to say goodbye to a great country “Oman”.

 

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