Since arriving, I've wanted to get out there and go camping, and this weekend, we finally got round to it. It did mean that I had to start a-fresh with all my camping gear (have a garage full off the stuff back home, but couldn't fit it in my freight to bring with me). It doesn't seem like there are many dedicated shops to this kind of thing, even though it's a popular past time for Omani families and ex-pats alike. In all fairness, Carrefour does a pretty darn good job of catering for anything you'd need here anyway! I managed to get a decent Coleman 3 man tent, air bed (no match for our Thermorest beds back home), camping chair and cool box all for a healthy 60 rials. It was a good start and I was getting in the mood for the weekend too!
It was quite nice to have someone else organise everything for us – down to who brought the meat, salads, potatoes and snacks for the BBQ on the Thursday night. We jumped in four cars and headed for Jebel Akhdar (after some cheeky pre-trip bacon rolls in the garden before it got too warm!). We stopped en route to pick up some scrap wood at the side of the road, and carefully loaded it into the free back seats of one of the cars. As we approached the check point before heading up to Jebel Akhdar, the car was trying to tell us that it was 40 degrees outside! We were already at what must have been 1000m, so I didn't want to believe it… until I got out of the car for 5 min… it was pretty flippin' hot! Fair enough, car 1 – 0 Paul.
As we drove across the Saiq Plateau and approached the top, we turned off on to a really rocky path into the middle of nowhere. After 10 mins of “up hill and down dale”, we pulled over at a patch of the mountain that had less rock and was possible to actually pitch the tents! By this point, the car was telling it us it was a cool 25 degrees outside now – bliss, and at 2,500m, I could believe that! I found a good spot just under the shade of two juniper trees with a little clearing in the rocks and scrubs. This is where I admit to putting my new tent up the night before in my apartment to make sure I didn't look like an idiot on the day! So, 15 min later, I had a cold beer in my hand, chair ready for the evening and was appreciating the skill that had gone into making the camp fire.
Had an evening with a good BBQ, laughs, guitar by the camp fire and the silence that surrounded us. If we all kept quiet for a few minutes, all you could hear we're the crickets in the scrubs – so alien compared to Muscat. The only extra company we had were some braying donkeys at about 3am, which scared the living daylights out of me (there's not many things that cause me to sit bolt up right in bed!).
We were up relatively early the next day as we had little people within the group! We made use of the extra time we had by paying a visit to Wadi al Ayn; a stunning mini-Grand Canyon gouged through the plateau before us. The two small villages of Al Aqr and Al Ayn were perched precariously on the edge of the wadi sides with stepped agricultural land falling away into the valley. This was the starting point for the W18b national trekking trail, which takes you through the two villages and down into the wadi below.
We finished off with a pot of coffee in the Sahab Hotel, overlooking this superb wadi before heading back down to Muscat, far, far below.