Wednesday 13 December 2006

Oman: Al Hoota cave

Taking advantage of a free day we headed with Russ to Al Hoota Cave, 25km northwest of Nizwa. Hoota has been developed into a three million rial tourist attraction and was opened at the beginning of December…..but it is certainly far from complete. Teams of workers are still frantically scuttling here and there, palm tree dance around looking for their holes, and the sound of drilling fills the air. Apparently the train is also having a few teething troubles as we were informed that it was not running today…..oh, and they were also closed for lunch (!). We returned after an hour and paid the hefty entrance free of 5.5 rials each (only 2 rials for locals… and walked to the cave with a group of like-minded explorers.

Our female guide had could barely be heard over fractious babies and chatty locals as we walked the along the illuminated walkways. Half way round we stopped at a lake which hosts the famous pink-coloured blind fish that are apparently born with eyes but lose them, relying on feelers instead (explain that Mr Darwin).

When we finished the forty-minute tour we were told to wait for the train which had sprung into life. The noise as it thundered into the tunnel suggested it was approaching like a Japanese bullet train, but it crept around the bend into sight as if it was being pushed. The train, which looks as if it is made from old aircraft components, screeched back along the 675m track and was set upon by a team of engineers before I could get the camera. Some work to do there, I think.

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