From beach to mountains to the sandy desert

Trip Start Jun 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Camping in Wahiba Sands

Flag of Oman  ,
Monday, June 28, 2010

    I tried to wake up to see the sunrise but at 5:45 I was too late – it came up here at 5:25. I sat on the beach and did some typing until 6:00 and went back to bed. The bed was so comfortable (like a pillow) that I had trouble getting up. On top of that I packed very slow. Hilal wanted to leave early but it was not to be. After we packed we went for some breakfast of cereal, pita bread and cream cheese, and a small plain omelet. 
    I did the driving at first. We went south down the coast for 90 km to the beach town of Al Ashkharah. On the way we had to take a few detours as the wadis had washed out a few roads. It was a two lane road so we went through many small towns and they all had some major speed bumps. At Al Ashkharah we drove on the beach for a little relaxation at a concrete pavilion next to the crashing waves. One of the only few things I do not like about Oman is the amount of trash that is just thrown anywhere. There are too few trash cans around could be part of the problem. So at this pavilion there was a ton of trash and flies (as people just threw food on the ground). Solve this problem and Oman will be even better. As relaxed for about an hour and I got in a little bit of typing. 
    From here we drove northwest back into the interior of Oman through some desert. Hilal and I got out of the car to take some close-up pics of some camels on the way to the next town of Jaalan Banu Bu Ali which had a cool looking domed mosque. Then to the twin city of Jaalan Bani Bu Hasan which had the best fort so far in Oman. 
    The GPS did not have this fort marked so we had to follow the signs (sometimes they are not too good) but after many turns we found it. The walls were very long and in one corner of the fort was another smaller fort with tons of rooms and hallways and towers and lookouts. There were interesting ladders to get to the top of the towers that had sticks of wood coming out of the plaster. Pooja, of course, crawled to the top to get a look. In my mind I'm wondering what would go on if I took a group of 7th graders here to the fort – it would be crazy!!! As of now, every fort we visit we have been the only ones at the time. Now summer is pretty hot in Oman so it is not the tourist season. 
    From the fort our next stop would be Wadi Bani Khalid which was only 30 min. away. In town, Hilal found a restaurant that cooked home-style Omani food. We got it to go and ate at a little rest stop between the main road and the entrance to the Wadi. Instead of tables, most Omanis eat on the ground. Now it is not on the dirt. They roll out a plastic/straw mat. The food is set in the middle and the people eat around it, family style. And usually with no utensils. Now Pooja eats with her hands about half the time so this is no problem for her. However, being the American I am, the only food we eat with our hands are burgers, fries, and wings. Our lunch was fish and chicken with rice. And it was not sticky rice. Pooja had a few good laughs at me trying to eat this way. But I don’t think I did so bad. After lunch, we cleaned up and Hilal had his prayer. 
    I drove most of the way up to the wadi as it was a twisty road but paved. Our first stop was an irrigated oasis area for tourist. However, we saw women in the pool so Pooja did not want to go, but Hilal was saying go on as it is a tourist area. So big fight on whether to go or not. After 10 min. we just drove on without seeing it. Too bad, it looked pretty cool – but the cultural sensitivity thing won out. 
    So we went on to the pools of Wadi Bani Khalid. The pictures in the guide book made it look like a nice park – but the recent storms had unleashed a flood in the area and destroyed half the tourist areas. So now it is a big construction zone. We just drove as far as we could and then walked the rest of the way around the creeks. The natural swimming area was a little bigger than an Olympic sized pool but much deeper – no kiddy areas. Since I sink to the bottom in pools this was not the place for me. So we hiked up the canyon for 20 min. until we found some smaller pools. We all got in the water and played around for about an hour. The pools here were surrounded by rock walls over 500 feet up, with huge boulders all round the pools. Hilal crawled up one of the water falls to go to another pool. For me, I was a big wuss – as I could not stand up on the small rocks with my bare feet (tender all as get out). Also, my feet would sink in the sandy rocky mix and make me lose my balance. Hilal had a big laugh over this as his feet are tough like leather. The water was nice and cool (not too cold) and it was neat to hear only water rushing through this area (no other people, no city noise or anything else). However, the sun was about to set and we needed to get to our final destination for the night – the Wahiba Sands. 
    We walked back to the car for 25 min. which dried us off pretty good. We found a food stand and got some Dews and a tea for Pooja. By the time we drove out of the wadi it was dark. The road to the Sands was only 15 more km. Hilal tried to make some arrangements for us to stay in the middle of the desert but no one was answering as it was past 7:30. Instead of trying to find a place to stay in the city, Hilal drove us right through the sands. Yes, on went the 4x4 and we were in the middle of the desert with sand dunes on all sides in complete darkness. We were trying to find some tourist camps to stay in. The sands are a crazy place to drive, and at night also. It was pretty cool only seeing sand 15 feet in front of you. T
    he first camp we reached was closed. So we continued to the sign that said 1000 Arabian Nights Camp. We drove up this huge dune and took more twists and turns going this way and that or wherever the sands took the car. For a few min. Pooja and I thought we saw light but it turned out to be the rising moon!!!! We turned around after the 20th sign that said "1000 Arabian Nights Camp this way." I think some Bedouins were playing a joke on us to see how far these visitors would go in the sands. We were expecting a sign that said “Welcome to Saudi Arabia” at any moment. Back on the main road (if you want to call it that) we saw a truck in the distance. Hilal got out and talked to the man in the small Toyota truck with his entire family in it. He said that we were close to the camp before turning around. So back in for more crazy desert driving in the middle of the night. And again, we passed what seemed like a million of these signs to the camp – but none of them said how far. We just kept going and going. Finally we saw some buildings – this must be it!!! But there were no lights. So we stopped the car and walked around the place. Then we saw a person with a small flashlight come toward us. It was the caretaker for the place. He said no guests were here tonight so he shut down the place. He took us to a Bedouin tent for the night. But there was no electricity and he wanted around $150 for the night. Say what?!?!?! Even Hilal did not want to spend that much. 
    So we decided to drive another km more and breakout the tent. What a perfect night to do it. Nice soft sand under a full moon. This has to be one of my life’s top 10 experiences. The only thing breaking the silence was this huge herd of goats. At first the wind was blowing a little so it was tough putting up the tent. This was the first time we put up this Coleman tent but it was very much like the one we have at home. After the tent came the airbed for Pooja and I and a traditional Omani mat for Hilal. Now usually I cannot sleep on the ground but I bet I could tonight – but the airbed was still better. Hilal made a campfire and we could not go to sleep as we just wanted to soak in the moment of this place. As the hours went and the moon rose in the sky it became brighter and brighter illuminating the perfect contours of the sand. Finally, I knew I had to get to sleep as we would have to rise with the sun and move out as the heat in the desert would come quick.

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