Saturday 18 October 2008

Oman: off to the desert

The wood from last night's fire was still smouldering as I tiptoed out of the room before sunrise to take a few photos along with one of the camp dogs that had a fear of tripods.

At precisely 9.30 a.m. we pulled out of the hotel towards Nizwa. The tour programme included a brief diversion Jabrin fort, where we distracted a large group of schoolchildren who found us more entertaining than their teacher's lecture on fort architecture. We departed behind a couple of camels contentedly travelling at 120 kph in the back of a truck.
After an early lunch stop at Falaj Daris we drove eastwards on empty roads but still managed to include an emergency braking manoeuvre due to an oncoming vehicle in our lane. To our horror, the turning off route 23 to the Al Areesh Desert camp was blocked by a bulldozer and a team of men building a new road which extends to a water station just before the dunes.

The camp was deserted so we drank large amounts of tea until the owner, Salim, arrived with two more guests. Mrs M talked the hind legs of a donkey while we drank even larger quantities of tea.

At 5 o'clock the chaps went for a dune drive with Abdullah while I followed with Salim for my first serious dune-driving lesson. At the top, Mrs M joined us for the drop down the final slope where I stopped to impress the crowd below.

We needed refreshment and nibbles. A bell sounded the arrival of dinner and we ate for England accompanied by a bottle of house Argentinean white.

Mrs M limited our Westoll intake to medicinal quantities before we settled down for a night under the stars on the barbecue racks.

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