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After a frantic night in Dubai packing all our gear, for a week +, into two 4x4's we set off to the beautiful country of Oman. It's an extraordinary thing but as soon as you cross the border the scenery changes completely, the houses change (the Omanis generally build their houses in enclosed compounds) and the whole "feel" is completely different - added to which the Omanis are quite possibly the friendliest people in the world (not saying that the Emirate's aren't (!)) but the Omanis are just delightful and incredibly helpful.
On our first day we drove up to Jebel Shams - the self-styled Grand Canyon of the Middle East and highest mountain in Oman:
We camped near the edge of the crater (although not too close!):
As ever in these kind of places, people appeared to we were able to buy wood for a bonfire (we were about 2,000m up so it was chilly!):
The next day we descended right down to the coast and crossed over to the island of Masirah - famous for its turtle laying beaches. We had to reverse onto the ferry, which was fun (I was driving and all the men were looking on critically - I'm glad to say I did it perfectly!):
We arrived in the dark (which is never to be recommended) so camped "blind" and in the morning found that we were here:
I love the way that Mel's bright orange sun shade marks the spot! Around the corner was a perfect little bay with, to our great joy, turtle tracks on the sand - at least one mother had come and laid her eggs that night:
Did you know that, for every 1,000 turtle eggs laid, only 1 hatchling will survive. Many don't even make it to the water - picked off by crabs and birds.
It was so hot we strung up a tarpaulin between the cars:
As well as turtles there were also camels on Masirah:
and after a couple of relaxing (but hot) nights we moved back to the mainland. Back on the ferry a kindly dhow passed close by for photographers (!):
and, back on the mainland, we headed across another bleak desert (The Wahiba Sands) - I love the warning signs for Sand Dunes - just in case you hadn't noticed:
and (no signs) but extraordinary Bedouin villages (complete with satellite dishes!):
That night we treated ourselves to a hotel on the turtle beach (showers - yay!) but, obviously, we couldn't take any photos of the turtle laying her eggs.
Next day we headed up the famous Wadi Shab:
which was incredibly beautiful but there's swimming involved if you want to get to the very top so we'd left our camera behind. Fortunately our friends' son had brought his waterproof one! At the very top of the Wadi you can swim through a tiny opening into the top pool fed by a waterfall. Depending on the height of the water depends on whether you have to swim underwater or not. Fortunately, a kindly Frenchman told me that I could sneak through without having to go right under so off I went - here I am coming through the other side - still not quite sure where I'm going!:
You can see the tiny gap that I'd just come through! On the way out, the sunlight turned the water the most incredibly iridescent blue.
That night we camped on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean:
and planned to spend half the day there - but, once the sun was up so were the flies so we had to beat a hasty retreat (although not before we'd had a morning dip in the warm sea). From there we headed seriously off road:
Here we are the top of a monumental series of switchbacks - that beach by my right elbow is where we spent the night. For those of you who are interested, my pink top if a Rip curl SPF50 top. I have recently been treated for a number of minor skin cancers so was taking no risks - the top worked - I can thoroughly recommend them:
At the top of the massive climb we then traversed the plateau:
Even here there are people - who, presumably, traverse that road on a regular basis. This is the village school:
and this is what children still do when they don't have phones, ipads and televisions to entertain them - they build miniature mud houses:
The plan had been to traverse the wadi at the top and then go back down the next road along. However, when we got to the wadi we discovered that it was only traversible if "you don't mind getting your car bashed a bit"!!!:
Yeah - that's the "road". As ours was a hire car and Sev and Mel's was their own, neither of us was in the mood for "getting our cars bashed a bit" so, sadly, we turned round and went down the way we'd come up:
... and headed for Muscat via Bibi Miriam's Tomb (which was closed for renovation but we walked up and photographed it and no-one seemed to mind):
and the extraordinary Bimmah sink hole (which the children swam in):
And so to Muscat - a delightful city, with a fantastic souk (yes, we went shopping!) and the Sultan had kindly left his yacht in the harbour for us to see:
The Corniche was beautiful:
as were the forts:
and the Sultan's Palace:
We were sad to leave Oman - a beautiful country with everything from glorious mountains to turtle beaches, endless deserts, extraordinary wadis and lovely, friendly people. We plan to go back!
Tom is now finishing his gap year in Jordan, Guy is back at Uni and we ..... well, we're back at work!!!