Friday, 24 July 2015

I traveled again, must be time for a Blogg post......

A gratuitous photo of one of my favourite Omani birds, the Indian Roller - VERY colourful - No? 

An Omani Patriarch
I just had a look at my blog and noticed that the last post was in early February, just after we came back from Paris and Brussels. Well I have just traveled again, so it must be time for another post. Hmmm so what's been happening?

In May we had a visit from our friends Maia and Stanford. While they were visiting we went up Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain, which I have posted about before. On Jebel Akhdar we went to the old abandoned village. While we were there I ran into three male generations of an Omani family. After exchanging greetings and taking photos of the young lads, who insisted on photos, the patriarch came up to me and insisted that I take his picture so that people could see what a real Omani looked like. So here he is a man who is proud of his heritage, nation and family:

The family inspecting Daylesford
Still inspecting Daylesford
Work is busy as we have just implemented. This meant that from January on I was effectively working 7 day weeks, with the occasional day off. Sigh, but then that's why I am here. In the end I could only get two weeks leave to return to Australia. This meant that I flew in on a Saturday, went straight to Canberra (home), where I spent six days, before we drove down to Ballarat and Daylesford (Mum and Dad) for two days, before hitting the road for Brisbane (the boys) and three and a half days. In all Katrina and I drove close to 2,500 km in a 5 day period. Katrina had it better than me as she went to Aus 4 weeks before I did and returned one week after.
Bush insects caught in the late afternoon sun

Mother and Child

It was good to catch up with people, particularly family and some unexpected people we hadn't seen since long before we left Australia for Oman. So all in all my two weeks away was a lot of fun, just wish there had been time to relax at some point. And in the whole two weeks I got to do one touristy thing, which was to visit Qld Zoo (No Not Bindiland!) with Katrina the boys and Georgie. I can highly recommend Qld Zoo, it may be small but the animal collection is interesting and the animals all seem so relaxed. Many of the native animals have relative freedom and the non-natives are in reasonable sized enclosures. The zoo itself is set in bushland immediately behind the Big Pineapple - which we somehow managed to successfully avoid.
Random Kangaroo

Anyway I returned to Oman for the last week of Ramadan, which translated into a 4 day week, because of the beginning of the Eid celebrations. The next week was even shorter at two days, because of Eid and Oman's Renaissance Day. Renaissance Day marks the anniversary of Sultan Qaboos coming to the throne of Oman. He replaced his father in an English backed, almost bloodless coup. His ascension to the throne sparked a modernization drive that took the country from a village based, agricultural country where donkey and camel were the only means of transport, to a modern developing/developed country. Quite the transition and the reason that Sultan Qaboos is revered across the country.

A mother and her sons
Well as Katrina returned mid-Eid we stayed at home in Muscat for the two days before I returned to work. Then yesterday morning (23 July - Renaissance Day) we looked at each other and said "well, will we go somewhere today?" to which of course the answer was "Why not"

I consulted friend Google and discovered that all on its lonesome was a fly speck on the map of Oman called Tool. Definitely within striking distance, Hmm I thought, intrigued by the name, can we find Tool and after finding Tool could we make our way through the Hajar mountains to the coast and back to Muscat? Only one way to find out..... By about 0830 we'd put some supplies in the Land Rover and hit the road.

After stopping at the mandatory petrol station in Bidbid we hit the road, heading inland behind the Hajar Mountains, in a Southerly direction. The built in GPS was not much use, as the map disc is from 2007, which in Omani road building terms is an eternity. Much of our trip was down Route 23 and we had to make our turn off onto route 25 - which according to the Land Rover does not exist! Yep too true once we turned off 23 we were on our own, except for the map that had pre-loaded in my phone.
Ripening dates
Throughout the day there was a lot of "which way do we go here?" followed by "I can't tell, the phone doesn't give me enough detail" then a decision and a couple of hundred metres later "Nope we went the wrong way" And this was before we'd even left the blacktop!

And leave the blacktop we did. As we were travelling solo there was no need to mind what anybody else wanted, so as opportunity presented we turned off onto secondary roads and wadi's. This made for a rather relaxed day at the wheel, but also a lot of extra distance offroad. So we stopped at various lookouts, ruins and the like. Sadly we never did find a swimming hole that wasn't already swarming with people.

Random ruins near Smut
We went where fancy took us, which meant that when we saw a sign for a Nature Park and a village called Smut - well we just had to go. And having gone, moved on.  Nothing to see, but we couldn't bypass an opportunity to visit Smut.

Eventually - probably almost two hours longer than planned we found Tool. It seems like a reasonable settlement, which is in the process of being completely bypassed by a dual lane road, running a long way into the Hajar mountains.

So having tooled around Tool we set off for the coast, by following the wadi on through. Every now and then we ran across roadworks - presumably that road bypassing Tool will go a long way into the Hajar mountains, possible even to the coast. As for memorable sights, well there was a bridge crossing the wadi, almost fully completed, mind you each end of the bridge was build right up to the rocky mountainside of the wadi. Yep if you could get onto the bridge, you could do endless circuits of the bridge, but that was all the road you would have to play on.

Watchtower near Tool
Eventually the wadi trail took us away and up into the Hajar mountains. Funnily enough along a road we had used to cross the Hajar mountains before. If you've seen the videos posted here ( ) then you've seen this road, which comes out at a place called Qalhat. This time around the road was much rougher, the last few months have not been kind to it, and in places it has deteriorated to what we Australians would call bulldust (loose dust with a consistency of talcum powder). In other patches rain has washed what little soil there is away exposing the underlying rocks. For quite a bit of the drive I had the suspension set to the highest ride height, something I hadn't had to do the previous time through. Anyway late in the afternoon we braved the switchback down into Qalhat.

Because of all the extra, mostly offroad, distance covered the car was very happy to receive the jerry can of fuel brought along for just such an occasion. Without that can we would have had to drive away from Muscat to the nearest petrol station.

So here we are, back safe in Oman.


Because they have the best mustaches!

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