Taking the coast road back.

Trip Start Nov 30, 2007
Trip End Jan 17, 2008

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

I woke up a little groggy; okay, a lot groggy. That's what a long drive the night before and a short sleep in your car will do to you. The car camping wasn't awful; I've got a Suzuki Grand Vitara with fold-"flat" seats, but I've had better nights. In addition, the view wasn't particularly gorgeous -- the liquified natural gas plant at Sur -- but it was kind of neat to see it glowing at night.

In the morning, I drove into the centre of Sur; once a little more important, but still a site of naval heritage (albeit in decline). Swung past the dhow yards and a reconstructed dhow on display in what looks like the start of a museum, then to the wharf -- by which I mean beach. Let myself get talked into a buzz around the bay in one of the fishing boats; little 3 person boats or so. I know nothing about anything oceangoing, and as a consequence of this (due to my life growing up in the prairies), consider anything that floats on water advanced magic it is irresistable to participate in. We went around for most of an hour, giving me a good look at Sur and the watchtowers across the water.

Next was the coast road back to Muscat. The Sur-Muscat road is one of the best known off-road journeys in Oman, but, sadly, they were in the midst of paving it and converting it into a four-lane tollway, which is a great loss. Despite this, it was still an amazing trip, with the ocean on my right and the mountains rising to the left. Shortly after leaving Sur, I stopped at Qalhat; formerly a great trading city -- Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta (of mall fame) wrote about visiting it during their travels -- there's now only one major building standing. (And was an archaelogical site my cousin Jana worked on for a few months a few years ago.)

The second stop I made was at a beach, with white sand meeting turquoise waters, only ten other people on it, and no name more than GPS coordinates. After a wonderful, relaxing swim, I continued on to a wadi. Wadis are valleys or canyons, with the implication of nonpermanent streams. Everything was dry, but the canyon was spectacular. A single dirt track wound through the bottom, past goats and a couple of small farms, before coming to a pool of water, sitting at a bend in the canyon. It was astounding; real Indiana Jones sort of feel. One landmark; I took photo 10,000 with my camera -- not bad for less than a year! (The first photo I took on this trip was #6650.)

After these, it was on to Muscat. The road was a mix of dirt and new, with a few detours where a cyclone this past July had washed out the roadway. Amazing power. The road to Muscat moved away from the coast, but kept winding up and down through mountain range after mountain range, with the flat spaces in between dotted with acacia trees. It was a very Serengeti-like feeling. And, then, I wound up back in the big city.
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