During our February half term break, Mike and I decided to go camping in Oman. We didn’t know too much about the country, only that whilst the rest of Austria was under and blanket of snow and ice, Oman would be at a temperature that we enjoyed! I planned us a great itinerary that, on paper, could have possibly looked a bit intimidating as it was pretty fully with lots going on. But luckily, it worked fine and we didn’t even get lost once.
We only had a week so we got stuck in straight away to our trip. Our first day was spent having a long morning nap (we flew overnight from Vienna so were shattered) and then off to visit the Opera House in Muscat and go for a nice stroll along the beach. We also picked our our beast of a car with a tent on the roof. We had previously travelled this way around Zambia a couple of years ago, so felt comfortable with the setting up of the tent. Plus, at 5 months pregnant, it was Mike’s job to be doing that!
We spent the next 5 nights driving around the most beautiful and diverse country-side I think I’ve ever seen. Everyday, Mike and I were exclaiming how incredible the scenery was and how we couldn’t even compare it to other places that we had visited. We have this thing whereby we sometimes will turn up to a new place and say to one another ‘Oooh this place reminds me of The Great Wall of China/the Salt Flats in Bolivia/that volcano in Ethiopia’ and then realise what utter prats we sound like. As such, we call them ‘TS (Travel Snob) moments’. Either way, we hardly had any of them!
Within the first 2 hours of driving, we came across a beautiful beach that was pretty deserted and thought it would be a great place for our first night of camping. We pulled off road and began to drive across the mud/sand. Until the speed started to decrease and we got slower and slower and deeper and deeper until we came to a grounding halt… We’d managed to get completely and utterly stuck in the mud, tyres spinning and everything. It was awful! Luckily, another car was driving past and we managed to flag it down. An Omani tour guide and some tourists were inside and got out to see if they could help. We were then told the tide was coming in and we would have to do something quick. The Omani guide got in to our vehicle and tried to maneuver our 4x4 out but, alas, nothing worked. At this point, I was literally having kittens and freaking out, whilst at the same time, filming it and taking photos as I hoped that in a few hours we would be sitting at a campfire laughing about it! The friendly Omani decided it would be best to drive to the nearest town and get some rope and pull us out that way. Whilst he was gone, some German tourists drove past and pulled over to laugh and point at the ridiculous English tourists see if they could also help. Mike and 3 of the guys began to push the vehicle from the front, but again, nothing could get us out. Luckily, with time definitely not on our side, the Omani came back with the rope and one of the other tourists (not us- that would be too practical) knew how to tie one of those awesome knots that you learn in Scouts. We were eventually able to be pulled out of the mud but the other 4x4! What a palava! And, I was right; we were sat just a couple of hours later with a campfire in front of us laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation!
Thank goodness that was the only major problem on the trip. We heard some strange noises coming from the car for the next couple of days whilst driving, but we think it was just a vast amount of mud flying off in all directions! We stayed at completely different locations over the week, all of which were completely deserted and we had only the goats for company. We loved this and our days were spent driving to a new location and stopping on the way to see a fort or a cave for a couple of hours, before arriving in an isolated place. Mike would set up the tent and hunt for firewood (eat your heart out, Levison Wood), and I would set the chairs up and prepare dinner. We’d then read our books, take photos, explore our location, have dinner and watch the stars for a bit before retiring to the tent.
Our last camping destination was at the bottom of Snake Gorge Canyon and that was an interesting journey to say the least. We were driving through the mountains of Jebel Shams and arrived at Al Hammra where we drove higher and higher up in to the clouds. We then left the road (and some worried looking tourists who definitely didn’t follow us and at the time, we weren’t quite sure why…) and began the 65km descent down in to Snake Gorge Canyon. It was crazy. I’ve driven on some pretty rough terrain before but wouldn’t call myself an ‘experienced off-road driver’ by any means. To input a little TS moment, this was worse than the Death Road experience in La Paz, Bolivia. We were averaging probably at about 5km an hour at the beginning and edging our way on slippery sand dirt tracks with a sheer drop one side of us (too close to look as well), and a humongous mountain to the other side of us that was looking rather precarious with many boulders and rocks balanced on edges. The corners were horrific and we weaved down painfully slowly hoping that I wasn’t about to kill us both and our unborn child. We passed very few vehicles (shocking) but the ones we did pass were all male and Omani tour guides. We should have probably realised at that point that we had possibly been a bit presumptuous in taking this road. However, it was far too late to turn back; there was no room to turn around anyway, and the views were absolutely incredible. Mike took hundreds of photos whilst I clung on the the steering wheel for dear life and whimpered for most of it. It took us 2 and half hours to eventually get to the bottom and by that point, my shoulders had crept up to my ears and needed a good massage to get them back down!
On our last day, we visited the most beautiful Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Muscat but stupidly didn’t wear quite the right clothes. We knew we would have to cover up, but my long skirt had a side slit up to my knee and I didn’t bring a scarf to cover my hair. Mike had also worn shorts, so we had to borrow some respectful clothes to wear around the site. The photos say it all really...
We spent our last night at the Grand Hyatt, which was my belated birthday present from Mike. We rocked up at the flashy Vegas-style hotel looking completely out of place; covered in mud and unwashed. We’ve never looked forward to a proper bed more! Check out the itinerary for this trip if you’re interested; I really can’t recommend this gorgeous country more.