(An article published in a local Omani magazine Oman-Y)
My partner and I set out on our dream motorcycle ride in October 2014, leaving Australia and heading overland for London.
16 months later with 13 countries, 15 land border crossings, 2 boat rides, numerous ferry crossings, 1 train trip, and 38,000kms under our tyres, we entered Oman.
There is always excited anticipation at what awaits us in a new country. New experiences, new cultures, new landscapes.
However, I felt this time more dread than ever and an overwhelming tiredness. Somewhere, this’ dream ride’ had become difficult. Numerous landslides, mudslides, near accidents, monsoons, challenging roads, even police chases had taken its toll. We have ridden the ‘highest’ motor able roads in the world. We have ridden through the mighty Himalayas. We have been to many places few travellers venture. And of course, we have met so many incredibly welcoming people who make the real memories of the journey.
Somewhere, though I had ceased to experience any WOW factor. Is there such a thing as travel fatigue?
We allocated 10 days to see Oman before continuing to head towards Europe.
Well I must say that 10 days in Oman was what my soul needed.
With the easiest, friendliest, efficient and most helpful border crossing ever, it was the first time I had entered a new country with a smile on my face.
Armed with information about ‘off road’ riding, we headed towards the Hajars. To be free to camp anywhere is in this world a privilege. And to do it in the beautiful mountains of Oman is even more of a privilege. Naively, as an Australian, I thought the whole world would provide us with pristine, natural camping. But this is not what we experienced. In Oman, I felt instantly soothed and relaxed. The experience of Wadi camping was reminiscent of desert camping in Australia; solitude, peace and safety. Hold on to that Oman because it is precious in todays world.
Heading up Wadi Al Shatan we decided to tackle the mountain road described as epic and incredibly steep. Once we established what the locals called Ya Saab (not Yasab or Yasib) and found the beginning of the road which we could see winding its way up the sheer Jabal walls, we began a very challenging ascent to an altitude of over 1700 metres in a very short distance.
Finally, I had found the WOW in my life and i just had to stop to say it aloud.
An internet search of spectacular roads and dangerous roads will bring up an impressive list, but none will be in Oman. However, the winding, steep roads of Jabal Shams and the Western Hajars are akin to none. Looking up at the familiar Orions Belt whilst camped above the village of Madruj, I reflected upon our ride so far and how empowered and calm I now felt. Blessed with beautiful weather, clear skies and sensational sunrises and sunsets, I had found the dream ride I had been searching for. Campsites to ourselves, spectacular geological formations and we had experienced a glimpse into the Omani culture.
Wadi Bani Awf was our next destination. Taking the time to stop at the villages, we were overwhelmed by the practice of villagers to stop and ask if we needed anything and if we were OK. Without prompting, people stopped their vehicles to inquire about our welfare providing us with a familiar feeling of safety. We have experienced this kindness of strangers in every country, the world over. However, few are as forthcoming as the Omanis in their desire to help and support us.
Climbing over the spine of the Hajars, we dropped into Nizwa and headed for Muscat and another first for us – Couchsurfing. Choosing an Omani as a host proved to be a great choice. In what we now know as true local hospitality, we were made to feel at home and welcome. Our host took us on a tour of this beautiful city, to the highlights of The Opera House, Castles, city views, Old Muscat and its intriguing souqs and the beginning of my love affair with the aroma of Frankincense.
Our beautiful affair with Oman ended with a short exploration of the blue coastline and Wahiba Sands and, once again, fantastic camping opportunities. Resisting the temptation to head further to Salalah, we made the difficult decision to head back north for one last night with our gracious Omani host in Muscat before heading to our boat to Iran, our next country.
Thank you Oman for putting the WOW back into our travels. Thank you for your unique hospitality and for reawakening all my senses. Mention Oman and I will conjure memories of incredible aromas, awesome mountains and beautiful people.