Around the world by bike
(223km - 11days)
11 February - Al Ain, UAE – Sobar, Oman - 110 km
Some days I just can’t get going. This day was one of those days. I woke up late, packed my few belongings and had a cup of coffee, and it was after 10h00 before I actually got on the road. The Omani border crossing was only about 10 km away and an easy ride through the town.
Once on the Omani side I stopped at the ATM and then at McDonald’s for a quick breakfast. I also picked up a new sim card so it was after 12h00 before I left the town. I headed into Oman and over the Hajar Mountains in the direction of Muscat. Once out of the town there was nothing along the road, just the desert and a few camels. The Omani side of the border was another 50 km away!! After getting my entry stamp, I decided to push on a bit as it was already late and I have hardly done any mileage at all. I filled up with water and headed for the hills. I headed straight into the wind but somehow it did not bother me, I just put my head down and continued on. Sunset was around 6h30 and it soon became dark. Fortunately, the entire road was fitted with streetlights; how cool is that!
I pushed on a bit too far, as I soon found myself on the outskirts of Sohar. I did not expect the city to be quite that big. It was a bit chaotic as the traffic was heavy - it was dark and there were plenty of roadworks and detours, I had to get off the road in a hurry. I asked a taxi driver about a room in the area and he pointed me to a nameless hotel which suited me just fine. Once in the room, I cooked up some pasta. Now, I must add that I am the worst cook ever and that the pasta was awful!! I should have settled for a shawarma instead.
12 February - Sobar – The Millennium Resort - 113 km
It was a long day on the road as I pushed on to meet Lois at the very upmarket Millennium Hotel and Resort for a drink. With a cold beer in mind, I grinded into the wind until I finally reached the resort shortly after 6h00. Lois was already there and to my delight I found that she had organized us a room for the night. Oh man, it’s good to have friends. We chatted over a drink and later had a bit to eat and chatted some more. We had years of catching up to do, eventually we retreated to our luxury room with a wonderful view of the Gulf.
We slept late and then had a huge breakfast while overlooking the Gulf. It was midday before we eventually started going and Lois convinced me that it was a dead boring ride into the city. We loaded the bicycle into her car and set off on a sightseeing trip back to Muscat. Our first stop was at Al Sawadi, a beautiful beach were locals were taking boats to the nearby island for a picnic. Then we took a slow drive to Barka where we were hoping to see the famous “bull-butting”. Unfortunately, it was only going to be much later so we just had lunch at a local joint for next to nothing, and then headed to Seeb where Lois lives.
14 - 20 February - Muscat and surrounds
There was no rest for the wicked as Lois hauled me out of bed and announced that we were going for a drive up the mountain. It was a spectacular drive with hazy views far in the distance, and I was very happy that I was in a car and not on my bicycle. We stopped at an old abandoned village where well-preserved mud brick houses still clung desperately to the mountainside. It was a long and steep walk down to the village and a hot and sweaty one back.
Afterwards, we stopped at a very fancy hotel for well-deserved refreshments and a nibble. The hotel had spectacular views of the mountains and small villages far below. One could just about make out the tiny, but luminous green terraces they used for farming.
Then it was all the way down the steep mountain road to Nizwa, with its very impressive fort and fascinating Souq. The Souq was large and sold everything, from vegetables to livestock and just about anything in-between….. From beautiful pottery products to antique-looking jewellery, and even guns.
The days came and went and we ate and we ate. Via Lois I met the most wonderful and interesting people. Instead of cycling I took the Big Bus city tour. It was money well spent as it was a hop-on-hop-off bus and I got to see all the interesting sights in a matter of a day. In the process, I met another cyclist cycling around Oman, mainly to follow the Oman cycle tour which was on in the city.
Soon, the 19th arrived and Lois took the day off and we packed the car and headed south along the coast. Our first stop was at the Bimmah Sinkhole, called Hawiyat Najm (The Falling Star). Legend has it that a meteor fell there, resulting in the crater. The experts, however, have a less romantic story; claiming that the crater was formed by natural causes of dissolving limestone.
After that, we stopped in Sur with its famous dhow building yard. It is an old traditional one where no one refers to a sketch or blueprint to build a dhow. In this modern age of technology, the dhows are still made by hand and it looked a slow and labour-intensive process.
Then it was off to the turtle reserve at Ras al-Jinz where we spent the night in a hotel. The hotel was conveniently located and just a short walk to watching the famous turtles breeding on the beach. I don’t quite know what I had expected, but I did not expect to see these giant, pre-historic looking turtles come out of the water, and proceeded to dig a meter deep hole with their short fins. Then, very slowly, they placed themselves over the hole and laid about 100 perfectly round golf ball-sized eggs. Once done, she meticulously closed up the hole and that was still not the end of her duties for the night. She then proceeded in digging a fake hole next to the real one to mislead any predators. Once that was all done she dragged her weary body back to the ocean. Poor thing!
The following morning at 5h00, we headed back to the beach to see if there were more turtles to be seen. We only saw one heading back to the water after her duties on the beach, but we did see babies coming out of the sand after hatching and scurrying down to the water’s edge. I found the whole process fascinating. What a fantastic experience it was!
After breakfast, Lois and I headed inland, stopping at a wadi high up in the mountains for lunch. Then it was off to our desert camp and what a wonderful place it was: A rustic, reeded camp in the desert, surrounded by the most magnificent dunes. Awesome!!!
21 February - Muscat
Too soon, it all came to an end and we had to head back to Muscat. I packed my belongings and we headed to the airport so I could catch a flight to my next destination, but not before I had a camel-meat burger.
There is no way of thanking Lois enough for all she did for me. I had a most wonderful time and saw more than I would ever have seen on my own. Not only that, she also paid for everything. I will forever be indebted to her.