Dhow Cruise around the Khors

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

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Where I stayed
Manoj & Geetu House

Flag of United Arab Emirates  , Dubayy,
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Had to get up a little early (for this trip anyways) to eat breakfast at 8:00. Breakfast was inside this really cool building across from the hotel. Both the exterior and interior was made completely from stone. The tables at the restaurant were made from old traditional Omani doors with glass over them. The food was OK with eggs and this spicy curry with pita bread. As usual with breakfast bars in Arabia I drank a liter of juice. I just hope the spicy curry mixture does not interfere with my dhow trip today. By 8:30 it was already over 100 degrees. At 9:00 we got on another little bus to take the trip back to the docks of Khasab for our dhow trip. We were joined by an Indian family that had lived in Muscat for 20 years and a huge Omani family with the dad, son, and many women & girls. So about 15 in all. The dhow was plenty big for us to be comfortable on this 7 hour trip around the Musandam Peninsula. Keeping with Omani tradition there were no seats on the boat, just heavy cushions on the sides to sit down and lean upon. The floor of the dhow was covered in traditional rugs. The best part was the huge cover that shaded the boat from the wicked sun. We had 3 crew with us – 2 guides and a driver who chain smoked. All were very nice and helpful. As we left the bay at Khasab, I saw the ferry boat we came in on last night. Also passing in front of us was a small Iranian boat with smuggled goods. Due to the US trade embargo on Iran, they have to smuggle goods into the country. I think both Oman and Iran turn a blind eye to this kind of trade. From here we sailed to the khor. A khor is an Omani version of a Fjord. High mountains plunging into the sea with small fishing villages hanging on what little flat coast there is. On board we had unlimited cold water and cokes of which I drank my fair share. For much of the time I was just memorized by the jagged mountains and how they plunged into the sea. The skinny waterways was like a labyrinth. Every turn of the boat around a point was a brand new place with different mountains in different shapes. We traveled with a few other dhows (I guess for safety reasons). Our first stop was a place called Telegraph Island. It is called this because in the 1860s the British set up a telegraph relay station here. It did not last long (not many ruins left) but the name stuck. According to my guide no one is allowed on as it is an Omani military training ground. All the dhows came close to the coast. Pooja was the first one in the water – and no life jacket at that. She is such a fish. The young Indian girl also went in. She had a life jacket but did not know how to swim so well so Pooja had to help out. The current really took them away from the boat. After 30 min. our boat pulled out and went to the other side of the island (it is only about a few acres big. This time they docked (sort-a) and we all went on the island to walk around. Just a few dead bushes and stone foundations from the old British station. Pooja and I took some cool photos from here with some help from the Indian family. After we got back on board the crew said we would be here for an hour to hang out and relax. So in went Pooja. I decided that I would go myself. One of the crew fixed me a lifejacket pretty tight so I felt safe to go in. I am an OK swimmer but my body likes to sink to the bottom (even in salty water like this). In the water the lifejacket worked every well. So I decided to have the crew throw me down some snorkel gear to see what I could check out (I just went a few months back in the Florida Keys for the first time). After learning how to breathe through a snorkel again, everything was great. I helped the Indian girl a little to check out the fish underneath. There was coral around the island but it was mostly dead. There were some stripped coral fish all over to check out. I did this for about 20 min. before we had to get back in the boat. I just hope we can do this again before the boat goes back to the city. Next was lunch. It included (yes, if you're in Oman) chicken and rice with hummus, a spicy veggie bean curry, and all the water and cokes you can drink. We ate sitting down (again, this is Oman and there are no tables in the traditional ways). Pooja and I ate with the Omani guy and we had some good conversation. He was a hydrologist and studied in England. So his English was not so bad. I did not want to ask any personal questions like who was the wife (or wives) of the group and who were the kids. We just left that to the imagination. During the dhow cruise we ran with some dolphins which was really cool. One group had the mother, daddy, and 1 month old keeping up. Soon we stopped in a quiet bay. So I was geared up to get the gear and go in again around the whole place. This time the crew was busy cleaning up from lunch. I put on another life jacket on my own. I went in first. I put my mask on and then did a little breathing though the snorkel. I had to adjust a few times to get everything right. However, after a few stokes, my lifejacket did not feel so comfortable. It was very loose so I became a little concerned. Right at this time I had a dolphin right in front of me. Kind of startled me at first. I turned around to tell everyone on the boat and discovered, to my surprise, that it was very far away. I really only took a few strokes. But the current was very strong and had taken me away. So now I have a loose jacket (and I like to sink in water) in one hand and my snorkel in the other (did not want to lose it as it was not mine) and was trying to swim at the same time with waves crashing into me. Every wave was a mouthful of salt water. So I flipped on my back and tried to use my legs. This did not work as I was now further from the boat. I heard Pooja ask if I needed any help. I just kept the legs moving. But no progress. So now I tucked the snorkel inside the lose life vest. So now I’m swimming with one arm. After a few min. I felt comfortable letting go of the life vest and trying both arms while on my back. This worked a little better however I could never get my direction right as the current would drag me here and there. Finally the boat guy swam out to me. Actually this really ticked me off as I knew I could get back without any help. So I gave him my snorkel that I did not want to lose (and was holding me up), turned around to my front and did a regular swim all the way back to the boat right into the current. It was tiring but I made it. Time for some H2O and Cokes. From here we took a relaxing cruise out of the Khor to a beach. It looked like some mining site with piles of sand everywhere and a huge metal dock that seemed out of place. 3/4ths of the beach was taken by cormorant birds. There was a small patch for the 15 of us on the boat. As usual, Pooja went out first and swam far out, then spread out and floated for a long time. As she was doing that I was practicing my first floats ever. The salt content was high enough here that I did some kind of floating for the first time ever. I was so excited. But with no life vest I did not venture out too far. We did this for about an hour before the crew whistled us back in. I hope I’m not too burnt from this day. From the dock Khasab was only about 15 min away so our awesome Dhow trip was over. Pooja and I were very tired from all the swimming and sun. All of us got back into the van and we were off through the town to our hotel. Now in America and in most of the world, we would have packed out bags in the morning and had them ready to go. But in Oman it is a little more relaxed. We went back up to our room and chilled until Hilal found us a ride back to Dubai tonight. We rested for about an hour until he called. He found a friend of a friend to take us through the UAE border to the town of Ras al Khamin. This would be about a one and a half hour trip. We would then have to find a ride from this town to Dubai. About 30 min. alter our ride arrived in a car. With my two bags and Pooja’s one we filled up the trunk and had to use one passenger seat. Our driver worked in the Omani air force. Very important military instillations here as Iran was just over the Strait of Hormuz from the Musandam. The 1 hour drive from Khasab to the UAE border is one of the best in the world. The road is a feat of engineering as it hugs the Khors plunging strait into the sea. Sometime the mountain was blasted to make road. To add to this splendor the sun was setting into the Strait of Hormuz with all kinds of boats in the area. The road was twisting all over the place and going up and down like a wicked roller coaster. At the UAE border Pooja and I had to get out to have our passports looked over. After 10 min. they stamped them and we were on our way. The good part about the UAE is there is no charge to come in as a tourist. There was a big difference as we crossed into the UAE. For the hour drive to Ras al Khamain it was all developed with a ton of car businesses, mammoth oil platforms, skyscraper tall cement factories, etc. Our driver took us to the taxi stand where he helped us find someone that would be willing to drive the one hour to Dubai. The taxis here are metered so no ripping off of tourist. I sat for the hour (it was now dark) and watched the meter edge farther up to over 100 DHRs. Now even though we told the driver to go to Mirdiff City Center mall so many times he ended up driving us to Deira City Center which is on the opposite side of the airport. So this caused the meter to go up some more. UGH!!!! So with my GPS I had to show the taxi driver how to get there. At the mall we had to wait for Manoj who was on his way to Deira before our phone ran out. Luckily we borrowed the drivers phone and let Manoj know we were back at Mirdiff. On top of all that, the driver did not have change for me. So he had to stop several taxies to get the change. Finally, we were in Manoj’s car for the 5 min trip to the house. It was nice to be back to their house. The major reason is the regular toilets. That is the one thing I could never get use too in Oman. We ate a nice Indian meal and I went to bed right away.

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