Monday, January 26, 2009
This area falls between Hatta and Burraimi in the Hajjar Mountains. There are a number of oases in this area. The Falaj system (water channels for irrigation) is used for bringing water to the fields from far off mountains. The main crop is Dates and vegetables.
UAE and Oman
Mountain driving, Camping, Off-road
Total Distance Covered:
Report coming soon.....
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Musandam Peninsula is the northern tip of UAE but in Omani territory that is separated by UAE from the mainland Oman. Khasab is the main town in this area that boasts the highest mountain of this area i.e. 2200m called as Jebel Hareem.
UAE and Oman
Mountain driving, Fjords, Coastal drive, Ocean, Camping
Total Distance Covered:
475 Kilometers total out of which 125 Kilometers was dirt track and offroad.
Musandam Peninsula is also termed as the Fjords of Arabia and it is situated at the tip of Arabia. Offering such a pleasurable and beautiful drive once we cross into Oman. The border crossing is at about one and half to two hours from Dubai and the fun starts from here. The road winds right at the coast offering breathtaking views and the scenery keeps changing at turns.
This is the first trip of the traveler family in the year 2009. What a start for this year by starting this trip on the early morning of Jan 1st 2009. The night before was new years night and the kids didn't want to sleep to celebrate at mid-night despite knowing that they would have to leave very early in the morning. John and his son Zak couldn’t make it to our place for over night due to fog, now they'll have to travel an extra two hours to catch up with us early. Sohail, Nabeel and their families would join early as well at the gas station.
Finally it was time after sleeping for a couple of hours. We woke up to make the kids ready, the luggage was already packed in the truck last night. In no time we were on the road to make our first stop to get some ice and then the second at the gas station to wait for others. Morning was very foggy and the drive real tricky. The journey started with four trucks carrying 7 adults and 8 kids. We stopped at Ras Al Khaima for some Arabic breakfast and finally reached the border to cross into Sultanate of Oman. It used to be a simple check post on UAE side but now they have a nice immigration office and border crossing and ironically they charged us 25 dirhams for each passenger to exit the UAE, while Omanis charged only 10 dirhams per person to let us enter their territory. We were already on the coastal drive in no time. This road has one of the best views and the next 40 kilometers was right on the coast going up and down the hills. On your left you would see ocean making geysers after hitting the sidewall of the road and on your right mountains rising up.
The next stop was Khasab the only town on this side of Oman other than a few villages doted on the coast. It offers amazing views with the town snaking into the gorges offered by the mountains. From here a dirt track leads towards Wadi Bih then into RAK or into Dibba. Unfortunately we as expats cannot drive through to any of the two destinations mentioned because the border crossing is military operated and is not an immigration border. See our other blog to check story on the other side of the check post. The track crosses through the highest point in this area at 2200 m above sea level. This rise in height is achieved in less than 30 kilometers.
Our target was to reach the top and then do some off-roading in the mountains before finding a good spot for camping. When we were very close to the top, John had a flat tire on his rear left wheel. The tire was replaced after a bit of learning on how to change a tire on Ford Explorer sportrack truck. Without having a spare it was decided that they will sit with others to continue our off-road drive and we would collect the truck on the way back. We drove on a very rough and steep track for some more time and reached a spot from where we could not turn our trucks and the track going further was closed with a wall of rocks. We had no choice but to reverse on the steep surface for about 400 meters before getting enough space for turning back. We parked our 4x4s at the closed location and hiked up to the top to have a view of Khasab port that we had left many kilometers behind through the mountains and here we were standing tall overlooking the same spot with our binoculars from far. Priceless views from this place. Finally we headed back to where the 4x4s were parked and started our descent. The journey back had another leg of exploration to Khor Al Najd, once a small flat surface blocked by high mountains on one side and by ocean on the other. Now a dirt track goes right down to the spot and seems to be a popular one for campers. The seven kilometers track takes you high up and then brings you right to the zero above sea level. The track is very steep and one should negotiate it on low gears. After reaching there we had our lunch and then decided to camp out there only. Let me explain this place, a body of water creating huge lake has come into the mountains leaving the fast flow and noise of sea far behind. This offers marvelous views from anywhere you see it.
Sohail and Nabeel's families planned for the day trip only and were getting ready to head back while we pitched our tents. But after seeing our dedication and love for this activity we had put them in second thoughts about staying over night. Once they decided we had this question that how were we going to accommodate four adults and three kids, because Fazeel the fourth one was already staying with us. John being named as Macgyver who would find solutions for us threw this idea of making the back of the truck a tent for two. Myself and John made a camp with Tarps at the back of his open truck and the land cruiser was also made shelter for two people. The remaining we had to fit into our two tents. This exercise created excitement and children really took interest and helped in building the tarp tent on the Ford. The two women who were not staying were driven to the town of Khasab so that they could do little shopping as a compensation of staying in the bush.
The night came and the best fire pit was ready courtesy our official MacGyver of the trip. We had a huge fire, put on by the kids and all of us. The night continued with enjoyment of sausages on the prongs and especially with the wonderful environment and feel to be away from the day-to-day chores. The disturbance was very much felt from the people having their generators put on with lots of lights around their tents. That really kills the purpose of camping by having exactly the same comforts of the city. That continued late in the night and it seemed like sleeping in a factory rather than in a bush. It was a terrible night at a magnificent location.
The sleep was again very short last night. After we were done with early morning activity behind the rocks we started getting hungry. Time to prepare breakfast then. We had a good breakfast and the two 4x4s with Sohail and Nabeel's families left for Dubai. We debated for not staying at the same spot for the second night due to the disturbance we experienced last night and finally decided to wrap up to go to some other location. We headed back to Khasab to find a nice spot along the beach. On the way stopped at a cafe to get children some snacks and then reached next to the Golden Tulip Hotel where there were some other campers already dotted along the sea. The weather was very nice and the views were amazing. We pitched our tents and had a little look around. Due to the long weekend there were quite a few parties camping there.
Kids enjoyed at the sea by making their clothes wet and dirty. There was red tide on the whole of East Coast for the last 6 weeks but fortunately this spot was clean and the water was not of terrible red color. Once we explored the area, we started cooking some nice chicken and chick peas. We had bought some biryani earlier to add to our dinning that night. The food was delicious and the environment was priceless.But the wind was really picking up by then.
A nice firepit was prepared and a fire was started to enjoy the camp fire which is the most important activity while camping. This I have learned in years of camping that without a good fire its really to take the dressing off of a nice cake. Therefore a camp fire is a must activity. Kids love it as much as the elders love it. Its give you a good warm up, a very good reason to sit late around it, enjoy exchaning notes, telling stories, cracking jokes and telling others about your travel experiences. A very good teaching time for the kids as well.
Well we never knew what we were heading into and only noticed when the wind changed into a storm. It was gusting at a very high speed and it seemed very difficult that out tent will survive the night. We used all our luggage to hold the sides but had to borrow everything from John's truck to dot them along the inner side of the tent. Finally had to open all four windows to let the air have some passage to cross through. Fortunately it wasnt a cold night with all the wind gusting crazily. Soon we got to know that this was not the only thing to ruin our sleep, there were people driving to the site in a big number, one after the other and they would put their lights straight at our camps to have a closer look. I don't know what was wrong with those Khasab people. It was if they were coming to see the nuts leaving the comforts of their homes and fighting the storm in the middle of nowhere or may be it was kind of zoo for them to see the city people there. Whatever that may be I'll choose secluded places for camping as I always do but don't know what on earth made me choose such a place on this trip and we experimented to this level even on day 2. We could not sleep anyhow due to the storm which continued into the next day. Another terrible night for us and another wonderful sleep for John and Zak at the back of their truck. I'm so jealous!!
Our expensive inflatable mattress added fuel to fire and gave up during the night and made our night even more uncomfortable. One would think who wants comfort on a camping trip! Let me tell you one tip...Do not buy these inflatable mattresses which are made to fail one day!!
Third day started very early because we never slept the previous night. I got up and clicked some pictures of early morning sea waves and the surroundings. It was a very fresh feeling and then the walk with my wife on the beach finding nice shells made the day. Today is going to be relaxing one. We tried to make breakfast but the wind never allowed us to do anything. So we planned to wrap up and load up the trucks before we go to find some breakfast for us and bait for fishing. Bringing down the tent was a task but we managed to do that somehow.
Sajeel and Fazeel wanted to learn driving at the age of 11 and 13 in the wide-open area. I finally gave up and gave them a try. Sajeel did it while witting in my lap because he couldn’t reach the pedals to accelerate or brakes while Fazeel did it by himself. Kids went crazy due to the adrenaline to pump more gas. It was their first experience driving and I remember when I did it for the first time and the excitement, that was a wow!
We drove to the town and had breakfast and then peeked into shops for some window-shopping. It’s a nice little town to explore. You will see a lot of tourism shops offering the Dhow Cruise for half or full day. We opted not to take it this time due to the red tide in the sea and moreover the Dhow are without side rails and we would be running after our hyper children whole the time. And it was more of a camping and driving tour then relaxing on the Dhow.
We were able to find the bait for fishing and John did the trick to fix the rusting fishing rods. He has been doing fishing since his childhood and children found a good teacher in his shape. We came back to the seashore to try luck. Everybody did cast into the sea without and positive outcome. We decided to try at an other place while driving back in our lunch break but that didn’t help either so we finished the fishing venture by going fishing without a catch. We enjoyed the coast drive on the way back and stopped at a few places for sightseeing and then for lunch before finally making it to the border.
We entered into UAE and after one hour or so we reached home after a three days of very interesting and tiring trip. Looking forward to another one.