Boys Weekend – Jebel Akhdar | Oman | Hiking, Camping and Swimming

As happens a lot in Dubai, those guys that are married and with families, become WANKER’s for a month or two. Wife Away No Kids Eating Rubbish – Lenny’s beautiful wife Morwenna and baby boy Theo (my godson) are back in the UK for the summer which means that Lenny is indeed a WANKER and as such wants to make the most of the ‘reduced’ responsibility in his life for the time the family is away.

And so a weekend was planned. Actually planned is not true. A date was agreed and about an hour after we’d agreed to meet on Thursday to leave, Matt and I turned up at the outlet mall and transferred everything into the Xterra and then we were on our way.

It was 8.5 hours door to door to our camping spot at Qiyoot, this did involve a lot of messing around trying to get groceries and the most elusive resource in Oman – Ice. We exited the UAE through Al Ain which meant paying 35aed to get out, an then another 50 aed to get into Oman! Also make sure you have a credit card as this is the only way to pay the entry fee. As i mentioned we’d been looking for ice since entering Oman but no-one had any it seemed. We did wonder if ‘ice’ in Arabic is some sort of offensive word!
We eventually found a cold store and Lenny went in, asked, but they said no. The cold store was next to a restaurant and as it was quite late we went for dinner – Shwarmas and hummus for dinner in town before heading up to ‘home’ very tasty and very garlicky. We asked them if they had ice, they didn’t but he popped next door and got us two bags from the store that had denied Lenny!

After dinner we set about finding our camp site, which meant an ascent to 1900m on what can best be described as a track of sorts! Lenny was driving and whilst we already knew that the suspension in the back of the Xterra wasn’t the best, this really did compound it. So much so, that we all started to look forward to getting back to a tarmac road at some point the following day. We eventually got to our destination and set about finding a flat spot to camp on, we eventually set up camp in the dark on what turned out to be the only flat spot of land there was. It was where the earth movers had reversed to get out of a tight spot and made a perfect camp site! We deliberated over setting up a fire (for about 5 seconds) but once the chairs were set up and the ice cold bevvies were open, there was no need for a fire. The temperature was perfect and the light from the moon was enough to see the cup holder! It wasn’t long before the long trip and the early start the next day sent us to our respective homes for the night.

As always when you are camping, once the sun is up, you are up – down at sea level it’s because of the heat, up here it’s because of the light – but again an awesome temperature and great to wake up to; sun rise picture ops, fresh air and a full day of adventure ahead. I whipped up a breakfast of eggs, coffee was made by Lenny, who this morning decided not to put in half a kilo of coffee per cup, we packed up camp and made our way to the beginning of the ‘short’ hike we would do whilst we were up here. We kitted up and started up fro the old village of Qi’yut, taking enough water and energy food to get us to the peak we could see. We started climbing and found the going quite hard. We reached our first false peak and a whole new route opened up for us.  So again, whilst we were there we decided to head on up a bit further. At 2330m we reached our summit and although a little cloudy, the views were impressive to say the least. On the way up it had been hard, but considering it was July in the Middle East, a balmy 35 degrees with a breeze every now and then was unbelievable. Coming back down proved a little harder and I now sport a black toenail courtesy of my Salomon walking shoes. Will be taking  Spenco 2nd Skin Squares, 200 Gel Squares next time I head out for sure.

We got back to car a few hours later and starting heading back down the mountain (once again longing for a smooth tarmac road) when the tyre pressure warning light came on. Pulled over and opened the door and could hear the air gushing out of one of the tyres. A minute later and it was totally flat! All adds to the adventure we said!

‘Where’s the jack Lenny?’ ‘Oh, I think it’s in the boot under everything we just packed in’.

Ok, so everything out the boot to get jack out. Once that was all spread over the road and around the car, no jack.

‘Oh yeh, I think it’s under the back seats’. Good one Lenny – WANKER. 20 minutes later and a team effort; tyre was off, changed and car re-packed and we were bouncing down the mountain.

Next Stop – Wadi Tanuf

The Oman Off Road Explorer book was our guide along with a couple other hiking maps and we decided that Tanuf would be a good place to have a look at. Being at a lower altitude and summer it was a bit hot, but a cool place to have a look, especially in the winter when it’s cooler. There is the old deteriorating village to walk around and explore. Lots of great picture opportunities. The underground Falaj system is pretty amazing, the water is also nice and cool, which was refreshing in the midday heat.  After exploring for a while we effectively went round the back of the ruins and found the wadi with all the youngsters from the village, in it. At 40+ degrees and after the hike, it took 2 seconds to park the car and join them all. As it was in the Wadi a wind tunnel effect was created which made for fun and games in the water – you could literally splash and the wind would whip it straight into Matt’s face! It felt like pins against the skin! The kids were climbing up the vertical face of the Wadi wall and onto the Falaj at the top before jumping off. Quite amazing to watch. What was even more impressive, was as they scooped the water out of the Falaj and into the air, the wind would catch it and take it up over the top of the Wadi in a spectacular show, especially with the sunlight refracting off the droplets.  Watching the guys jumping from some crazy heights was highly entertaining but the cool water disguised just how hot it was outside and I think sitting in the water for a while was the tipping point of exposure to the sun of my balding dome. after the hike as well, as I came back with a slightly tanned head to say the least.

After cooling off in the Wadi, all were hungry. We were trying to be considerate as we knew that Ramadan had been called in Dubai, we drove further into the Wadi and saw families with picnics eating and drinking openly. A friendly Omani informed us that Ramadan wasn’t to be called until tomorrow in Oman, so Koka noodles it was for lunch, in the shade of the Wadi walls. Our trip then saw us come into Nizwa, where we encountered the giant LuLu hypermarket – ideal as we were sure they would have some ice to top up the cool box. In the end they did, but again, not like they had it in bags in a freezer. Ice really is a rare commodity in Oman apparently. What we also found was a coffee shop!! Nothing like a freshly brewed coffee. For a coffee snob like me, two cups of instant coffee last night and this morning just wasn’t cutting it!

Fueled and iced up, we set off for our ‘home’ for the evening. We weren’t sure exactly where, but it was going to be up on the Sayq plateau somewhere. To get there you have to go through a checkpoint. Make sure you have your driving licence and a 4×4 otherwise you won’t be let through. It’s 4WD’s only past this check point. I’m not entire sure why, because the road, apart from being an amazing engineering feat, is perfectly laid, albeit winding, tarmac, from the checkpoint, all the way to the furthest point in Ar Ruus. We noticed that we seemed to be the only car going up, whilst a few were coming down. The road is like an elongated version of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, but with a number of escape lanes for those who melt their brakes on the way down – (oh yes, that’s why you need a 4×4, so you can hit low ratio, engine brake and save your brake pads from incinerating themselves) We drove all the wayy to Ar Ruus to have a look at this village at the end of the road effectively. It’s a picturesque village with 10 families and 100 people living there. It’s a very friendly place with amazing views, we got there just as the sun was disappearing and it wasn’t long until we had a crowd of the local men and boys welcoming us to the village.  The new Jebel Akhdar hotel going up on the cliff top just up the road from the village and the newly constructed Majlis and mosque are very beautiful in Ar Ruus. As it was getting dark again, time to find a home for the night.

We had spotted a potential area a while back on the road, so set off in search of it again. It was a bit further back than we had thought, but we found it. It is obviously a popular place for camping in the winter months, as unfortunately there was loads of rubbish around the place. Some of it was near to the huge bins provided, some of it was in GCC fashion hanging from trees or just left in a pile wherever they had been sitting! So sad and a lot of education needs to happen to get people to realise that there isn’t always someone to clean up after you!! We set up camp quickly and then started about the task of finding wood for a fire. We were surrounded by trees, but it was lucky that we had picked up some scrap wood at the side of the road on the way up the mountain. There was literally nothing around and in the light of day you could see where parts of the existing trees had been sawn off to make fire wood.  At this time of year though it was just us and a number of Donkeys. One in particular hung around and was rewarded when Lenny decimated some of our burgers. Some exceptionally dry cake also made his day! Camp fire roaring, bellies full and some ice cold liquid refreshment and a great end to a brilliant day in the Sultanate!

Up early to a breakfast of champions beefburgers and cheesy beans! Just what you want with three above average sized blokes in a confined space for 5 hours or so 🙂  Packed up camp, said bye to Doris the donkey, Lenny named her after a night spent together, he thought I was asleep, but I heard the noises! Poor Doris.

We effectively set off to head home, but wanted to stop off at Misfat Al A’briyeen on the way back as it looked like it was worth some investigation, so we hit the road to Misfat al Abriyyin – a beautiful levelled village at 950 metres. We walked it for a while the maze like paths and following the falaj network too, but coming down a thousand metres meant temperatures had gone up quite significantly. We did explore a little and discovered  amazing views, incredible vegetation and old fashioned village life.  The village is only spoiled by ‘progress’ in terms of metal lampposts and horrible metal bin – will be back in winter though to do the hike that goes through here – such a beautiful place.

As the heat became just too oppressive we sought shelter in the AC of the car and started the long trek home – full marks to Lenny who drove the entire time. 1100km’s covered in the car by the end of the weekend.

As always with good friends, the trip was full of light hearted banter, the kind of language no mother would wish to hear coming from their offspring, some amazing views, some dubious food, some weird animal noises (Lenny) and some priceless memories. This part of the world can be a very transitory place, but I count myself lucky enough to have some pretty good friends here who’ve stayed the course. So Matt ‘Hunter’ Wilson and Jonathan ‘Lenny’ Lane, thanks for an awesome weekend adventuring. Look forward to the next one!

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