Craziest Mountain Road Ever to the Turtle Beach

Trip Start Jun 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Turtle Beach Resort

Flag of Oman  , Ash Sharqīyah,
Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Left our trailer around 9:00 and went straight to the town of Qurayyat so Hilal could do some banking things for his new house. The first bank gave him close to $1,500 more than he was suppose to. Hilal could have easily walked away with the money. He said he would be happy for 5 min. and then unhappy the rest of his life. Most Omanis are like this. He returned the money to the joy of the banker. Then we got some fruits like apples, apricots, oranges, and mangos from the market. Then off we went on the coastal road to the south. 
    After 45 min. on mostly highway, we reached our next destination which was, of all things, a huge sinkhole. The sinkhole was almost a perfect round shape and about 200 meters from end to end and about 75 feet down to the water. Yes, there was water at the bottom. Since we were only a few kilometers from the ocean and the sinkhole is connected by underwater caves, this water was more salty than the ocean, but less than the Dead Sea. Of course Pooja had to go for a little swim. Hilal and I just walked around the bottom. Divers have gone around a few of these underwater caves but they have not found the exit to the ocean. So the water is pretty deep. 
    After 30 min. and lots of pics and videos we went to our next destination which was a gravel road route from my "Off-road Oman" book. It was only 30 min. to this entrance. Instead of taking the highway, we took the small coastal road through some sleepy little towns. All the small towns have speed bumps to slow you down since you never know when some kid will be chasing a football down the road. Many times the houses in the towns were built before cars so they can be narrow. 
    The entrance to our route was next to the town of Finns. After the highway the road was all gravel and all crazy. If front of us was very high mountains rising very close to the sea (Arabian Sea and/or Indian Ocean). The gravel road went up just slightly but with lots of twists and turns. After 3 km there was a turn off to see a gorge – not Grand Canyon steep but bigger than anything east of the Mississippi back in the states. Then, the crazy road started – many parts went up at 45 degree angles. So onto 4x4 mode. Lucky for us Hilal was driving. But even he had never seen anything like this. Besides going up at a steep angle there were several twists and turns and then more switchbacks. After going a quarter of the way on this crazy loop we discovered something that all of us should have seen in the morning – our gas was low. Since the steep road was taking so much gas and we still have 5 km more to go up, we had to turn back. Before we did that, we found a tree and took a break – well Hilal really needed a break. We rolled out the mat and ate some fruit and had some water. Hilal and I took small 15 min naps. Then this South African couple came down the mountain in their Toyota 4x4. They came the opposite way. We asked them if they could follow us just in case we ran out of gas. 
    Going down was many times harder than going up. The gravel road was not small rocks but medium sized rocks. And every time you turn the wheels of the car it would slip a little. At the end of each turn was a cliff straight down. The only guard rail was some dirt and larger rocks – maybe they would work, or maybe not. We did not want to find out. You have to drive very slow – like 5 – 10 mph - to make sure you keep control of the car. Hilal said his wife and his mother would really be fussing at him if they knew what he was doing. After 1 hour of 45 degree roads going down, we reached the relatively easy drive (think crazy US roads). Of all the people of this road (two) the other was this Pakistani who was driving a huge Caterpillar tractor down the mountain. He said he broke down three weeks ago at the top. He could not drive it down so he had to find a way down to get some tools and then find a way back to the top to fix it where it would drive back down the mountain. Imagine – this little detour took him 3 weeks!!! I'm mad if my detour last a few hours. He spoke some Hindi so Pooja talked to him for awhile and gave him a big bottle of water and some food. He was very happy. Since Omani people are always helping, we would do the same for others too. 
    Finally we reached the highway. But Hilal was now confident that we would drive the 70 km to Sur for the next gas stop. About 15 km down the road was a small hike through a wadi that Pooja and I wanted to take. But the road to the trail was blocked because of a washed out road (there are many of these in Oman as the last Cyclone hit just a few days before I came to Dubai). I think there might be a way to get to this trail. Maybe when Pooja and I are on our own we might try to make it back here. 
    So on to Sur we went via the highway. Finally we got some gas and some drinks. Pooja found a Maltzers Ice Cream there and just had to get it. From here we drove to Bilad Sur Castle just inside the town. We just took outside pictures as it was being refurbished. Hilal needed a break in Sur so we dropped him off at a coffee shop so he could pray at the mosque next door and then get a coffee. Pooja and I had an hour to take in the coastal city. We drove the cornishe along the coast and they are about half way done with the development here (large sidewalks, beach facilities, etc.). At the point the guidebook said there were ferries to take you across to the small town across the bay – but now there was this brand new bridge (Hilal did not know it was there either)
    Our main purpose for the town was to see the Dhow yards. This is one the last places in Oman that makes Dhow’s (the traditional Omani trading ships made out of wood). In fact, the traditional died out in Oman so now Indians come over and do the building. None of the boats have a drawn out plan as everything is done with the eye. The ships are about half the size of a Mississippi River boat. We were allowed to walk all around the yard too see the wood they use to how they put it together. We spent about 30 min. here and when drove across the new bridge. We got out of the car and walked to the middle of it to get some great views of Sur and the small town of Al Ayjay across the bay. In Al Ayjay there were three small forts overlooking Sur. We did not have any time to go check them out. On the other side of the bridge you had great views of the Dhow yards and a few Dhow’s in the harbor. Then we had to drive back to Hilal and pick him up. 
    We then went across the road to Sunaysilah Castle which sat up on a hill overlooking the city. Inside the castle was a large courtyard with a few buildings around the edges such as the watchman’s house, mosque, storeroom, etc. There were 4 towers on each corner but you could not go to the top. At the towers you could walk the edge of the walls – there were no guardrails so make sure you don’t fall down. 
    After 40 min. we left for the drive to Ras Al Hadd on the tip of the Omani coast. We went through Sur again and showed Hilal the new bridge. We went across and it took 45 min. to get to our final town. Most of the drive was along the coast on a two lane road with very little traffic. The town is not so big as is known as a place where giant Green Turtles lay their eggs. These turtles lay between 100 and 120 each time. The rate of the turtle egg reaching adulthood is 1 or 2 per 10,000 – not a good rate. 
    First we went to the Ras al Hadd Beach Hotel. It was very expensive and had no character – it was just rooms (boring). A person told us there was a resort on the other end of the bay – so off we went. It was called Turtle Bay Beach Resort. This place was pretty cool to start out with – right on the beach in the bay with straw bungalows instead of hotel room. However, they did not accept credit cards and Hilal did not have cash. So he talked to the owner. After the usual 15 min. Omani greeting everything was OK. I did give Hilal some US cash as insurance to show that we could pay. It turned out that we were the only people here for the night. This place turned out very expensive also – over $100 per room. It was a cool place but if Pooja and I were on our own we would not pay for this. After all, we did have a tent. The room was about 12x12 ft with a bathroom attached and a real western toilet – score!!! The shower was not too bad either but it did not have a curtain. There are a few things you expect anywhere in the world if it is over $100 a night. But it did come with dinner and breakfast. 
    After unpacking (not much since we were only here a night) it was time for dinner. Wow, what a dinner it was – one of the best on the trip. We had fries, hummus w/ pita, rice, fresh fish, and grilled chicken. Hilal and I ate so much we felt like beached whales. I had to hurry up back at the room to get ready to drive 25 km down the coast to catch the 9:00 pm tour for the turtle watching. 
    I was to drive myself as Pooja and Hilal were to stay behind and relax. I drove pretty fast to get to the place right at 9:00. I had to run for 5 min. to catch up to the group walking to the beach. It was about a 20 min. walk but we had a full moon to go by. Before long you could hear the waves crashing on the shore. Then we played “hurry up and wait.” We hung out at the top of the beach for around 30 min. before it was our chance to see the turtle. They only found one turtle nesting on this stretch (better than no turtle). She had already laid her eggs and was now covering them. My first thought was the size of the turtle – so huge. Almost 5 feet long and 3 feet wide!!!! We watched in awe as this turtle was using its fins and back legs to cover the eggs. She was already in a deep hole (having used so much sand already) that was about 2 feet deep. You were not allowed to take pictures as it might disturb them which is OK to me. So that is why there are no pictures here. Then we got to see the turtle finish and work its way out of the hole. From there it was back to the sea. To think these turtles have been doing this for millions of years. Something primordial about them. And then to see it disappear back out into the sea was priceless. A small truck took our small group back and I got to ride in the back standing up on the bumpy beach (tourists safety measures has not reached out this far in the world). Back in the car I drove the 25 km back in the dark of the coast and desert. At the hotel, Hilal and Pooja were just relaxing. I went into the room and typed a little before turning in around 11:30.
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