After picking up our rental 4×4, we began our journey into the mountains of Oman, hoping to find Jebel Shams, the Omani Grand Canyon, and a particular hotel overlooking the canyon.
Our first stop was a gas station to buy a map, a case of water, and some snacks for just in case. Water, check. Snacks, check. Map? Haha.
We asked the lady at the checkout how to get to Jebel Shams. She told us “Go straight, go right, drive, drive, drive. Maybe three or four hours.”
Right. Ok. Did I mention that we were starting from Muscat, the capital city? These directions seemed a bit simple maybe.
We headed out of the gas station and turned right down the next major road. A few kilometers out, we decided to try again for a map. Even asking about maps in Oman seemed to create confusion. No map, but we at least got confirmation that we were headed in the right direction.
Every thirty minutes or so, we would stop at a gas station to ask if we were on the right track. It seems that in every Omani’s English vocabulary, no matter how limited, were the words ‘left’, ‘right’, and ’roundabout’; unfortunately, many of them seemed to confuse the words right and left which made the directional accuracy questionable at best. At one stop we would be told “Roundabout, roundabout, 30 kilometers, roundabout, go left.” only to hear the exact opposite at our next check.
On a positive note, this increased our desire to verify our route more frequently. You see, the constant stopping suited me just fine as I am into fulfilling all pregnant lady stereotypes, so naturally I wanted to use the restroom about every 30 minutes anyway.
As we ascended into the mountains, the gas stations became more and more sparse. Eventually, the dual lane paved road narrowed to a single lane that twisted around hairpin turns going farther up into the mountains. Finally, as instructed, we turned onto a winding network of rutty dirt paths, climbing higher and higher. I was not entirely convinced that we would find our hotel, or any hotel at all even.
Out of nowhere, signs for camps began to appear, including a sign for our hotel! Success!
We did some exploring, enjoying spectacular views of the enormous canyon! It was quite a sight and really did remind me of the Grand Canyon.
Although the canyon was spectacular, I think that Chris’ favorite part of the day was playing with goats. I still cannot get over the number of goats that we saw. After seeing a goat in a tree, I was determined to photograph a goat in a tree, but unfortunately it never panned out.
Chris did not believe me about the tree goat. My claim was met with an eye roll and some mutterings about that being quite a feat for a goat. Only later, after seeing his own tree goat, did Chris believe me. They seem to like to climb up and eat from the tops of the trees down, it is difficult to photograph them though because when we got close enough to their trees to take pictures, they would jump down to come see if we would feed them.
We spent some time asking about a variety of hikes that were available before determining that they were all hikes to nowhere. No peaks, valleys, waterfalls, nothing. Just hiking for the sake of hiking. Don’t get me wrong, we love to go for a good hike, but usually there is a destination of interest in mind. We decided to head back to Muscat before dark so that we could explore the coast in the morning.
It was a pretty fun day, especially the thrill of not having a map and not being sure of we would ever find our intended destination. I would definitely do it again if given the opportunity.
[As you can see, we basically flew all the way to Oman to hang out with goats.]