Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Camping adventure

Turtle sunrise 2, originally uploaded by travelingsuep.

Last weekend was the holiday to celebrate National day for us here in Oman. After having run into an old Nizwa friend, Annette, the previous weekend J & I then joined her and 10 others on a camping trip. Having left Muscat early on Wednesday we met at Mintarib on the edge of the Wahiba Sands aka Sharqiya. Small world, not knowing who was going apart from Annette we saw a friend of J's at the meeting point who was also camping with us. After a briefing from guides, fuelling up, deflating tyres, and toilet stops, six 4x4s, including our guides in the lead vehicle, drove 2 ks down a graded track, pass a camel convoy, and straight into the desert. We very quickly left civilisation behind and had our first cars stuck in the sand soon afterwards.

Having bought a new camera in the summer ready for SA at Christmas I had the perfect excuse to snap away at the dunes, sand, dunes, and more sand... by the end of the weekend the total was 257 photos taken of which I've posted 36 people pics on Facebook and another 20 on my flickr site. The turtle pic above is one of the flickr pics.

We spent all day in the desert driving across to the coast, with everyone, the guides included, being stuck at least once. We set up camp at the end of the sand dunes, overlooking the sea, with a steep slide down to the beach. Very beautiful!!! J & I slid down at daybreak and were lucky enough to watch dolphins very close to shore as the sun rose and we strolled along the beach. Back up at the campsite we had a traditional English breakfast and packed up ready for the second day of the adventure.

Soon after breaking camp we turned down on to the beach: J was not happy about this for HSE reasons, something about getting stuck in soft sand, tides and no exit points; whilst I wasn't happy as I try to act in an environmentally sensitive manner, which driving on beaches certainly is not. That said we had great fun, especially as the guides were like puppies chasing the gulls up into the air - great photos. Along that coast you certainly see the poverty that some Omanis live in. The fishing villages were little more than tin shacks a few meters away from the sea. Young boys ran along shouting to the cars asking for food, which was sad. Also, due to the red tide that has affected Oman the last few weeks, there were dead turtles, dead fish, along with more rubbish than normal, which had been washed ashore.

Back on the hardtop (tarmac road), some of the group played Frisbee on the new road as the guides reinflated tyres, and then it was along the road towards Ras-al-Jinz. One car left us to head back to Muscat, followed soon after by the guides having finished their job. After a few wrong turns and a tea stop, we reached the cliff top overlooking our intended destination. Unfortunately, it was at this point Emily had a tyre blow out on the gravel and when the tyre was changed, and following a text from her boyfriend saying the spare wasn't good, she decided to head back. Almost immediately, another car left on seeing the steep path down to the beach. So then, we were five of us in 2 vehicles.

We set up camp and J laid a huge bonfire; later we sat, chatted, drank, and ate dinner beside it. At the first camp the starlit sky had been amazing as there was no light pollution, but despite nearby towns, at this camp the sky was still beautiful. Jose, as a visitor to Oman got up in the middle of the night to patrol the beach and look for turtles laying their eggs on the beach. The rest of us waited until daybreak and then spent an hour watching the turtle (pic above) finish covering her nest and then return to the sea. Seeing one of these huge majestic creatures in daybreak was magical and so much more rewarding than when we had seen turtles by torchlight, which is not the way you should watch them, as they get disturbed. Then, sadly after breakfast and a quick dip, it was time to head back to Muscat and the adventure was over. Sx