Travel Through Oman on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Oman on a Harley (30/11/99 - 10/12/99)
Distance 2810 km (165700 km to 168510 km)

This is part of the Sixth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  United Arab Emirates
 

30/11/99 No customs leaving UAE to have the carnet signed out and five minutes to enter Oman. Again no need for a carnet and when asked about insurance we showed the carnet document with the back page having Oman written and the guard was satisfied. Took the road to Sohar, Al-Khabura and across the mountains again on a dirt road weaving up and down steep hills and along wadi creek beds to Ibri. This road reaches some isolated settlements where the women are wearing face masks similar to southern Iran and hide in the shadows, turning away as we approached on the motorcycle. Small date palm oases carved out of barren mountains. Free camped just out of Ibri. Our preferred method, as with tonight, is to find a small settlement, usually a couple of rural buildings occupied by one or two large families, and ask if we can camp near by, 500 meters away so there is no concern with either groups women folk. We are usually invited for coffee/tea and on this occasion dates, oranges and chapati. We feel it polite to accept although it is rather awkward with Kay as women are not usually accepted to drink or eat with the men. We then thanked them and feel comfortable camping for the night. If there are no settlements we try to find a very secluded spot at dusk well off the road but are not as settled.

1/12/99 Ibri to Muscat past forts at Jabrin and Nizwa. The major attractions of Oman are the the desert forts, built about 300 years ago now in varying stages of reconstruction.Checking the map, the correct dirt road? Jabrin, fully restored with memorabilia of the time. We met Ed, our host in Muscat, road captain for the local Muscat Harley Owners Group and were escorted to our private accommodation, followed by a couple of beers at the local Rugby Club. A concession is made here to ex-pats (Christians) regarding alcohol, they can get a liquor license allowing them to purchase alcohol for home consumption. There are about four clubs, some restaurants and the larger hotels selling alcohol. Muslims/locals are not supposed to be drinking alcohol.

2/12/99 Ed had arranged our visas for Oman and with his contacts and assistance we were able to plot a possible route through Yemen that the H-D may be capable of. It appears Oman had donated a 160 km section of black top road to Yemen which was now nearing completion. This totally new road, not on our map, links the inland border crossing with the coast leaving only 500 km of graded dirt to be negotiated, a much preferredDesert fort option to shipping the motorcycle. A visit to the H-D dealer and a guided tour by ED of Muscat's highlights, including the third best hotel in the world, the purpose built for the GCC meetings, Al-Bustan Palace hotel, with its enormous atrium lobby.

3/12/99 A 350 km loop west through Al Hazm and Rustaq where we visited their restored forts complete with spring water flowing through at ground level and onto A'Thowarah for lunch at the hot springs where, being Friday, the locals, women fully dressed including head scarf could lie in the warm waters. At 166,000 km the motorcycle needs more day to day maintenance. We replaced a washer on the speedometer driver, again a new top box catch (requiring one of these each trip), rejetted the carburettor (48 mm idle jet, larger for the poorer fuel we expect in Africa) and made the mixture leaner. The theory, the larger idle jet will make the motorcycle run richer, thus cooler at low speeds but the leaner mixture overall will help with fuel consumption at higher speeds.

  4/12/99 Fitted theDate palms in a desert oasis modified bash plate in preparation for extended dirt km's and repaired the wiring to the horn, vibration having bent the wires enough times to break the copper strands. A visit to the Muscat souk and over tea a lengthy discussion with an Omani gentleman. All over the Arab and non western world we are approached by people with a distorted view of the west. A view based on local media, government or religion. While we are not travelling to change the world it would be ideal if honest information could be delivered to everyone (the west included) to let them form their own opinions rather than feeding out opinions. The day was topped off by a lovely dinner at the local mexican restaurant with Ed and Anne, and over a few margaritas (probably our last alcohol till after Ramadan) we pondered our trip through Yemen and the coincidences that had brought us to one of the few people in Oman who could get information on both the roads and travelling in Yemen.

5/12/99 Ed and Anne rode us out of Muscat to Qurayat on the coast saying goodbyeOur hosts and friends in Oman before we headed down the 110 km of piste road to Sur. Hugging the coast most of the way past small fishing villages, sandy beaches and low cliffs with a backdrop of mountains, through deep steep sided wadi's where infrequent heavy storms carried the mountain run off to the coast. Camped rough on the stony desert just out of Sur.

6/12/99 Sur, south heading for Salala, 750 km, almost all black top, except for a 15 km detour short cut across a wadi where the locals use its underground water to grow meagre crops and dates. Already the change from Arabic featured people to more African, individuals of both and a mix of both. Leaving the desert mountains for the desert plains, the vegetation becoming more sparse and camels and goats no longer to be seen along the roadside. Camped again roadside and watched the bright orange sunset through the desert dust, getting squashed as it was swallowed up by the earth.

7/12/99 WatchedDirt road follows the coastline a less impressive sunrise before the 400 km trip to Salala. About 60 km out the desert plateau stopped abruptly and undulating mountains covered in grass and grazing cattle rolled towards the ocean. After a month of barren land this abrupt change a surprise. This is about the only corner of Arabia to catch the Indian summer monsoon from June to September leaving it cool and green while the rest of Arabia is in the midst of summer and above 50 degrees.

8/12/99 We are still unable to update the web site. An ex-pat offering the use of his computer for emails and a new coffee shop, The Coffee Grind in Haffa House will have internet in three days. A quiet day wandering the streets of this almost Indian/Pakistan city where everyone has plenty of time to sit the gutters and steps. Like most of the Middle East everything closes from 1-4/5 pm for a siesta and the busiest time is in the late evenings.

9/12/99 Ramadan, that whole month where Muslims fast during daylight hours, no food,Riding out of a rough free camp water or cigarette smoke may pass their lips, started today. Many countries turn the day upside down having breakfast at sunset and dinner just before the morning call to prayer at sunrise. Work is restricted to five or six hours a day in the morning and everyone sleeps in the afternoons. For travellers it means there are no restaurants or coffee shops open in daylight, and the already short opening hours for government run museums, banks and offices are shortened. Different countries and indeed different regions in countries vary in their strict adherence to these rules. Some places still have restaurants operating behind curtains, out of sight out of mind, but generally during the next month we will not be able to eat or drink in public in daylight having to sneak off to our hotel or have a drink out of sight to avoid offending someone. Found a hairline crack in a previously welded pannier support and hurriedly managed to have it rewelded prior to the weekend, business close at 1 pm. The previous weld having been done on the first visit to Iran had lasted almost 100,000 km. We rode out of town to the Camels getting a free feed of garbage western fishing villages and beaches past a few remaining frankincense trees and up the amazingly engineered road into the coastal mountains before returning to Salala.

10/12/99 Oman, the cleanest country of the Arab world, no plastic bag trees or bushes. All along the desert roads an army of litter collectors sweeps clean all rubbish. Left Salala at 6.30 am for Thumrait and travelling at 60-90 km/hr followed the 200 km of formed and graded dirt through Mudayy and Qafaa to Al Mazyunah on the Yemeni border. Ten minutes through the newly modernized Oman border and 30 minutes to enter Yemen (no money or carnet needed). The posts, 12 km apart and the Yemen immigration operating from an army base about 500 meters off the road.
 

Move with us to Yemen
 

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