The second entry into Oman after visiting the Musandam Peninsula, also runs smoothly at the Hatta border … only that our online visas that we applied for again got stuck in the system this time (probably because we applied for while still having a valid Oman visa). At the border, the officers finally manage to pull my online visa out of the system after a long back and forth, but unfortunately this doesn’t work with Karin’s visa and so she has to take a visa “on arrival” and we have to pay again …. Annoying!
The north of Oman offers few highlights and so we drive straight to Muscat – the capital. An early Christmas present awaits me here: Karin has invited me to the Chedi hotel for three days – it’s one of the most beautiful luxury hotels in the world and I’ve always wanted to go there. As attentive as my dear wife is, it landed on her gift list a long time ago and now we’re close by … We spend great, relaxed days and enjoy this completely different life – one that we also appreciate! Nevertheless, we are happy that after three days we are putting our things back in Shujaa again, starting the engine, hearing the large-volume, deep, sonorous hum – as we love it – and can start looking for nice overnight places to stay again.
We set off for the nearby Hajar Mountains with their up to 3,000 meter high mountains and many deeply cut wadis. First on the north side, then on the south-east side, to the region around Jabal Shams – the highest mountain in Oman, which of course I also have to climb as part of a very, very demanding day hike. The nearby, so-called “Grand Canyon of Oman” offers great overnight camping spaces at its over 1,000 meter high cliff as well as spectacular views of the Wadi An Nakhur. We drive through this Wadi the next day with our quad bike and are amazed to see up to the very top of the cliff where we have stayed the last few nights. We visit impressively large clay fortresses in Bahla and Nizwa, interesting oases with complex irrigation systems in Misfat al Abriyyin and in Al Hamra. Back in the mountains, we drive up to the Sayq Plateau, which is much more accessible with paved roads, numerous villages and various luxury hotels … but also has to offer many wonderfully beautiful corners in the back area.
The close coexistence of great nature and culture make this area so exciting and we spend a lot more time in that area than originally planned. In addition, Oman is an almost perfect travel destination for Overlanders: very sparsely populated (only 4 million inhabitants), many great overnight locations, very relaxed and friendly residents who also respect privacy at all times and a very good infrastructure (the supermarkets have European quality and price standards). After visiting Iran, you also learn to appreciate that you can pay with credit cards again and that the ATMs spits out local currency with Western bank cards.
After so many mountains and wadis in eastern Hajar, we set off for the Wahiba Sands, an approximately 300 x 120 km large desert area where the dunes run exactly in a north-south direction. This makes it possible to drive deep into the desert in the respective valleys or even to cross the desert completely. At our pitch, on the first evening, we are approached by the organizer of a local off-road SUV desert tour. He asks whether we don’t want to go with them the next day … which we then do. An absolutely unique experience!
The Hajar Mountains also have a western part that we tackle next. Once again we encounter deep, green wadis with many water pools and again spectacular mountain landscapes around the Salma Plateau and Wadi Bir. The people up here live a completely different, very secluded life than the cosmopolitan and modern Omanis around Muscat … and nobody speaks English! Unfortunately, our planned crossing of the mountains from east to west to the sea with Shujaa does not quite work: we fail on a tight serpentine curve. Although the track is concrete due to the extreme steepness, we cannot get around in one go (the turning circle is increased due to the activated front axle in 6×6 operation). When I want to back up to maneuver, we start sliding backwards a bit on the steep ramp. Many small stones on the concrete make it difficult for our tires to get sufficient grip. Not a good feeling! We decide to stop and drive back all the way and continue our way to the coastline on the highway.
The next day we drive the route backwards from our overnight stay at the sea with our Quad Shujoo: Curiosity about the further course of the route drives us. We recognize that there would have been a few more, much more difficult passages and are satisfied that we made the right decision yesterday. It just makes a difference whether you are on the road with a wheelbase of 1 m (Shujoo) or 4.20 + 1.40 m (Shujaa).
Merry Christmas to you all!