After last night’s short and light rain the stars come out, and in the morning the sun is back. Skye and Sandra climb the ridge opposite to the camp to catch the sunrise and get another view of the area. They cross paths with a dung beetle dutifully pushing a perfect sphere through the sands. Everywhere there are tracks in the sand from insects and small rodents who were active during the night.
We enjoy a lovely and copious breakfast, while trying to figure out a group of young French guys all dressed in dishdashas (the Omani robe). They arrived late yesterday evening and are also sleeping next to us in the low budget tents. Nevertheless, Oman is an unusual destination for a group of 20-something guys who look like they’re at a stag party (in dry Oman!). As we’re leaving one of the guys asks us if we also drove here ourselves through the sands. He explains that they came from the north road by night; it turns out they are French marines and their ship has stopped over in Muscat for four days so they get to do some tourism. Their next stops are Cochin in India, Vietnam and then they are off towards Australia… cool life!!
We head back north and it’s a more well-trodden and easier track with packed sand and only a couple of turns on sand ridges. Soon we reach the paved road in Badiya, fill up with gas, and have our tires pumped back up to road pressure. The skies have clouded over again, and after a rather monotonous stretch in the plain we reach the Jebel al Akhdar (the Green Mountain) range. In Birkat Al Mauz we decide to pick up some food, and as in the good old times before supermarkets, dry goods and fruits and vegetables are sold in different shops so it takes us a while to find the right store. We hunt around the little shop but can’t find any flatbread (pita), so we stock up on crackers and cookies as well as local coconut cakes. At the checkout, surprised not to find Omani bread (as they call it) in Oman, Skye asks the checkout guy and he whistles to a colleague in the back who opens a big plastic beer cooler to reveal tons of pita! We quickly run back for a tin of hummus: lunch is sorted!
We want to get up the mountain so we decide to put off lunch for a bit, and head for the hills. We pass through the police checkpoint at the bottom of the mountain and start driving uphill, wondering about the huge red warning signs everywhere that scream “USE LOW GEAR AND 4WD!!!” We are expecting the road to degenerate into a dirt track, but it is a perfectly paved road like any in the Alps, intelligently designed with 3 lanes: 2 up and 1 down so that we can easily pass the large trucks crawling up the mountain.
We reach the Sahab Hotel, it’s very pretty and overlooks the valley and terraced villages. We have a nice suite with a personal deck facing a lovely garden with a pool and a Jacuzzi. Ryo prefers the latter as up here on the Saiq plateau we are at 2000m so the air is much cooler and the pool water is freezing!
After a refreshing shower to remove all the desert sand from our bodies we eat our delicious coconut cakes and decide to take a nap until cocktail time. We take a table overlooking the valley, order some mocktails, and enjoy the view. It gets really cold really quickly and there is a stiff breeze, so once the sun is set we head back to our room to read, sort through pictures, and work on our blog posts.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant is à la carte. Skye orders the garlic fish, Sandra a vegetable Jalfrezi and Ryo penne Alfredo. Some people have brought their own beer and wine, and we eye them enviously wondering how they got hold of their goods. Since the restaurant is dry we opt to drink tea, which warms us nicely as the evening is cool. Off to bed for a full day exploring the plateau tomorrow!
Answer to photo quiz: it is a picture of the sky, reflected in the bathroom mirror of our open-air bathroom, while sitting on the throne!