It initially felt slightly counterproductive to be driving into the mountains to go investigate the coast east of Muscat! But checking the map, it all makes sense. We headed back over the mountains towards the al Amarat plain that I’d taken to the sandy tracks for the first time. I still got the shock of seeing the rocky Mars-like terrain around al Amarat when we peeked over the mountain – stunning view with less haze this time round. We were heading in to the Al Sharqiya region.
The highway through the Eastern Hajar mountains takes you past small villages off the beaten track and is saddled up against hills on your left-hand side that The Creator would be proud of! This part of Oman is a geologist’s dream destination. The mountains reminded me of tarmac roads that have been distorted and pushed up 45 degrees into pinnacles of their own. You can actually see the flat layers of rock that have been stressed and broken – I feel the geologist coming out in me (there’s a couple of friends who will be amused at my enthusiasm!). As you sweep through the mountains, the road slowly turns back to the coast and eventually a superb view of Quriyat and the Gulf of Oman opens up across the horizon.
We skipped Quriyat this time, but I may stop by at some point, and headed straight for the Bimmah Sinkhole. As we walked up to the sinkhole you start to see over the edge into the watery ice blue water below that turns into a black abyss further down, of which the depth isn’t actually known. Once at the bottom of the sinkhole (not literally) you could see the little fish nibbling away at an Indian family’s feet as they dangled them into the cool waters. It was very much like the treatment offered at a beauty parlour, and just like one of the Indian ladies announced, “you pay 20 rials for this in town!” – she was quite right.
It was nice and cool down in the shade that the sinkhole provided, but even then, we jumped back in the car and revelled in the coolness of the air con! It brought us back down to a decent temperature before we hopped out again a little way down the coast at Fins beach, which has beautiful white sands that you’d expect in this part of the world. Our little walk up the beach brought a little surprise with a sharks head marooned at the top of the beach. The signs of the fishing trade were all along this beach actually; a few fish heads, moray eel remains and, like I said, a sharks head. The beach needed a good high tide to wash the remnants of fishing leftovers and camping trips that had left a few cans of Krönnenburg on the pristine, powdered sand. I vowed to camp and BBQ here at some point, and hopefully that high tide might have been the day before I arrive next time.
We decided to drive right by the main attraction of this part of the coastline. Wadi Shab is apparently the most scenic wadi this side of the gulf and is lined with steep high walled limestone cliffs. Ideally, we needed cooler weather to carry on up Wadi Shab due to the 5km walk that gets you to the cool springs at the far end of the wadi… one day soon!
Instead we went to Wadi Tiwi just a few clicks east along the coast from Wadi Shab. Just as beautiful, but has a road concreted through the middle (has it’s benefits for access, otherwise we might not have ventured down it so readily). The wadi was very different to the dry Ghubrah Bowl of Wadi Mistal that I explored a few weeks ago. Wadi Tiwi had a stream flowing all the way down and the road was tucked up on a ledge, passing though houses and storage huts on the valley side. That’s not to say that the road didn’t get particularly narrow at any point, or make me wonder if the small 4×4 in front of me would actually get over a few of the valley corners propped up next to date palms and bushes. It was no comparison to the drive up to Wekan though!
We made it to where the road crosses the stream in the wadi and found some shade to eat quite a late lunch. We stopped just by several pools of clear blue/green water where a few Bahrain tourists were making the most of the deep water and playing around. I made the most of the rocky landscape on the wadi floor and clambered across to the other side of the wadi to take a few pictures of the aflaj snaking down the cliff side. An aflaj is an irrigation channel built onto the rock faces around here. They’re used loads around Oman, but this one was particularly dry! In one spot there was quite a bit of green algae where I disturbed a couple of frogs. I apologised to them and moved on!
On the way back to Muscat, I realised how sparsely populated the landscape is. I don’t mean with people, but with buildings. It reminds me of back-street America where there is so much space that your nearest neighbour might live 5km down the road. We passed the first petrol station in about 100km, where an Indian man looked pretty bored, but at least he was sheltered from the piercing suns rays. We carried on back home debating the existence of Bigfoot and what the universe is expanding into – your usual late afternoon tardy conversation!