Steep mountains, abundant castles and unrivaled hospitality

587 km and altitude gain of 1907m (7,503 km and altitude gain of 47,110 m in total)
587 km and altitude gain of 1907m (7,503 km and altitude gain of 47,110 m in total)
xx km and xx meters altitude gain (xx km and altitude gain of xx m in total)
102 km and 421 meters altitude gain (7,605 km and altitude gain of 47,531 m in total)

19 January – 13 February, 2016 – We left Nizwa in the late morning and shortly afterwards we also left the highway to cycle through small villages and old abandoned villages. Every Omani gets a plot of land in the village they grew up and they usually rather build a new house than keep an old one. A very unfortunate development we noticed everywhere, people don’t really appreciate the old if it comes to objects. It’s the contrary if it comes to people. Grown and married children continue living with their parents and most houses are full of life with several generations living under one roof. The younger ones take care of the elderly, grandparents take care of their grandchildren and everybody seems to be happy this way. Parents are well respected and always have the last word. We once got invited by an Omani to his old house and he mentioned that he had built a new one but cannot live in it, because his father doesn’t want to move.

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Old and new
Old and new
A fertile oasis
A fertile oasis
From dawn till dusk
From dawn till dusk
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A peaceful camp spot…
and some very welcome visitors eating our food scraps
…and some very welcome visitors eating our food scraps

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Our next longer stop was Al Hamra, a town consisting of many different villages. On day one we walked through a seven kilometer long wadi on an ever winding road with spectacular canyon views to a lonely village consisting of a few houses. The next day we cycled up to Jabal Shams, the highest road in Oman at around 2,000m with a dramatic vista of a 1,000-meter-deep canyon called the Grand Canyon. From there we could see the tiny houses of the village we walked to the day before. It took us six hours for an amazing and mind-blowing 40km-cycle up the stunning mountains and even without luggage we had to walk our bikes several times. Oman has unbelievably steep roads.

A beautiful walk through a wadi: 

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Cycling up the highest road in Oman: 
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Friendly Omanis helping us out with water on these steep slopes

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With our host in Al Hamra
With our host in Al Hamra

After a day’s rest we continued our journey along the mountain range, enjoyed Omani and Western hospitality through Warm Showers (an organization of people offering a place to sleep, to shower and often as well to eat for free), visited beautiful forts and castles along the way and two Unecso World heritage sites. The latter were tombs from about 2000 years ago, where one would assume that there are signs, entrance fees or at least a few explanatory signs. The first sight was already difficult to find as there were no sign posts at all. Once we had found it, we could just climb up the hill and look at the beehive tombs. The second site was even more difficult to find, we only noticed it because of a tiny brown sign stating that this was an archaeological site. Very bizarre!

Bahla
Bahla

At the Bahla fort – a Unesco World Heritage site: 

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With our Warm Showers host in Bahla where we stayed several days
With our Warm Showers host in Bahla with whom we stayed several days
Sightseeing around Bahla
Sightseeing around Bahla
Bahia at sunset
Bahla at sunset
The new computer shop of our host
The new computer shop of our host

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The shared kitchen at our host's house - we had a room at his old house where his staff lives
The shared kitchen at our host’s house – we had a room at his old house where his staff lives
Enjoying a cuppa in the sun
Enjoying a cuppa in the sun

More sightseeing in and around Bahla:

These guys look friendlier than they were - they started throwing stones at us when Johan took their picture
These guys look friendlier than they were – they started throwing stones at us when Johan took their picture

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Jabreen castle – another World Heritage Site:

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On the way to Al Ayn and Bat to see the beehive tombs:

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In the end we did not choose this road as we were afraid it was too remote and too difficult to cycle – instead we returned.
Lunch break
Lunch break at a mosque

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Two nice Belgian cyclists we met several times on the road
Two nice Belgian cyclists we met several times on the road

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The beehive tombs - more than 2000 years old!
The beehive tombs – more than 2000 years old!

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With our wonderful Warm Showers host Catherine in Ibri
With our wonderful Warm Showers host Catherine in Ibri
When we left Ibri we met the guy with the glasses in his fancy sports car who desperately wanted to invite us to demonstrate Omani hospitality - we spent a nice hour with his and a big part of his very big family
When we left Ibri we met the guy with the glasses on the right in his fancy sports car who desperately wanted to invite us to demonstrate Omani hospitality – we spent a nice hour with him and part of his very big family

Having visited many historical sites and having enjoyed the luxury of staying at houses it was time for us to cross the mountain range back to Sohar at the coast, go camping again and make use of the many free wilderness campsites along the way. In Sohar we finally met Salim again, who invited us to a delicious fish meal at the fish market. This time we had to say our final goodbyes to another great Omani we had met on the road.

Sultan Quaboos, the well respected head of Oman
Sultan Quaboos, the well-respected head of Oman
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‘Wadi Al Arshi’ – interesting naming, especially if you are German-speaking

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Back at the park in Sohar again
Back at the park in Sohar again
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Can’t get any better….

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Now we wanted to visit Musandam at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, a remote and rugged part of Oman separated from the rest of the country by the UAE. Cycling there was impossible for us as we couldn’t leave Oman and re-enter the same day on one visa as immigration laws require a gap of at least 30 days in between. For us the only way to get there was to take the bi-weekly ferry to Khasab. While looking for the cheapest ferry option we noticed, that there were Omani Warm Shower hosts close to the harbor about 60km north of Sohar. Happily we cycled along the coast, stopped at a gift shop to buy some chocolate for our soon-to-be-hosts and were welcomed by Khalid, shown into our room, got a delicious lunch served before we were left alone to be able to rest. Hospitality at its best! Khalid, his friends and family spoilt us the coming days and we started to feel heavily embarrassed for all their goodness and generosity. We went sightseeing in the area, each day accompanied by some other friends of the family, they paid for our ferry tickets even though we tried everything to pay ourselves, and to our biggest embarrassment we noticed that they had even paid for first class tickets. And as if that wasn’t enough after a full board accommodation and other treats we got more presents the evening before our departure: Johan a T-shirt and a scarf and I an Omani dress (which I left behind for practical reasons).

Leaving Sohar
Leaving Sohar

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With our Warm Showers hosts in Shinaz: 

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With Omar

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Khalid’s friends, Hashim and Ibrahim
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My new outfit I decided to leave behind even though all Omanis thought it to be so beautiful on me 🙂
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Khalid and Ibrahim
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Ibrahim (on the right) and his nephew cycled with us to the ferry. When I told him that he was wearing a nice shirt he immediately took it off to give it to Johan – there was no way we could refuse this gift!

After a 4-hour ferry journey we disembarked in Khasab and pitched our tent at the huge beach just outside of town where we spent a full week. We made friends with another German couple ‘residing’ there as well in their camper van. We discovered the area by bike and by boat, watched dolphins during our little cruise around the peninsula and saw a stingray swimming along the full length of our beach. Every evening at around 5pm between 20 and 50 small speed boats left the harbor – Iranian smugglers who had to leave Oman before  nightfall. During the day we could see small trucks with all kinds of goods arriving at the harbor and we knew they were destined for Iran. Furthermore we collected shells, enjoyed the sea, built a fence around our home, got annoyed with people being noisy in the middle of the night, got even more annoyed with people throwing garbage carelessly on the beach, smiled at the thousands of cruise tourists arriving almost every other day with their huge cruise boats and just enjoyed our last days in beautiful Oman.

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First class to Khasab
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Our home for a week

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Dolphin watching cruise
Dolphin watching cruise

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Last coffee with our new German friends Andrea und Lutz and another German who had just passed by
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Our fenced area – one day a few Omanis stopped next to our fence, talked with Johan and – when entering ‘our’ area, they were taking off their shoes. Hilarious!
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Bad hair day! But what can you expect after days without a shower 😉
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On our way to a beautiful viewpoint
Arrived and worth all the sweating up the once more very steep road
Arrived and worth all the sweating up the once more very steep road
Well deserved lunch break
Well deserved lunch break
One late afternoon a group of motor club sportscars showed up to have a fun afternoon in Oman
One late afternoon a group of people from a UAE motor club showed up in their sports cars to have a fun afternoon in Oman

 

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