United Arab Emirates – Oman
In the Christmas holidays 2013 – 2014 it attracts us to the warmth and the bicycle. We are looking for a suitable country and find positive travel reports from Oman. The free camping, which we loved so much, should be very easy. So we start our journey in Dubai with the goal to cycle to Muscat.
Into the desert
After a day of sightseeing in Dubai, we assemble our bikes and cycle on the only road southeast to Oman. Despite a service lane, the heavy traffic forces us to push a high pace. In retrospect, we would have better taken a taxi for the first kilometers. But the farther we get out of Dubai, the less traffic it has and we can start to enjoy the dunes and the sand desert on the left and right of the road.
On the first evening, we are looking forward to free camp. But a strong wind swirls up all the sand and makes it very difficult to pitch up our tent, cooking or showering is impossible. With united forces we finally succeeded in setting up the tent. Quickly and so that no sand can get in, we creep into our shelter. Much later after dark, the wind drops and we can cook the food we prepared in the tent outside and enjoy a shower. Well, enjoying is a bit exaggerated, because as soon as the sun is gone, it is icy cold in the United Emirates.
The next day we fight against strong head wind and for a moment we only reach 10km/h. Nevertheless we reach the customs, but this does not seem to be operational and we somehow made it unexpectedly fast into the Oman. The next day, we learn more by chance that we must have an exit stamp of the United Arab Emirates, to be able to enter Oman 50 kilometers further inland. We should order a taxi to get back to the V.A.E. in order to get an exit stamp, then travel 50km inland to get the entry stamp of Oman and finally come back to our bikes to continue our journey. This all seems a bit too complicated. Since we want anyway to Al-ain, which lies again very close to the border of V.A.E, we decide to try our best there. This all works out wonderfully and ultimately and as it happens, our route led exactly to the right customs and we finally received our entry permit. After this toll, we turned off the main road with the heavy trucks.
Dead end – or not?
We enjoy our cycling on a lonely and uninhabited road. But the idyll is quickly over. After a short time we are followed by a car. The driver tries to tell us something in Oman and does not understand English. He does not let go, always waiting for us. In the next village, we ask for help if someone speaks English. However nobody can help us, as we continue we are even followed by three cars. Since it also starts getting dark, we feel somewhat uncomfortable. Finally, one of the car driver stretches out a mobile phone and tells us that his brother is on the phone who speaks english. This is how we manage to communicate and understand why we are being followed. They want to know where we are going, because the village is actually a dead end. We should go back to the main street. We tell them that we have a GPS and that this route is on our track. This reassures them and they finally let us go. The first car driver pretends to show us the way. We feel uncomfortable, because we do not trust this man with his bloodshot eyes. That is why we are very happy when a large digger blocks the way and we can pass with our bicycle. But after a short moment we are really at the dead end. In the middle of the road is a big sand mountain that blocks us. Three yellow construction caps of grinning indian workers emerge from the other side of the mountain and wave at us and assure that the road continues on the other side. Helpfully they help us to push our heavily loaded bicycles across the gravel heap. Then they are picked up by a jeep and we are alone on the big construction site. Also for this night we find a beautiful, secluded spot on a high plateau for camping. Very close is a small oasis where we can get the shower water. Secluded from civilization, the starry sky is very close.
The next day is Christmas Day. The new day greeted us as always with sunshine and with a blue, almost cloudless sky. Joyfully we swing on our bikes and cycle through the construction site. On this Christmas Eve we want to make a feast. But we misjudged the heights and kilometers and we’re not getting to the next village to go shopping. Slowly it gets dark and we also run out of water. A friendly construction worker, of course an Indian, tells us that there is not far away a white water tank. While looking for this tank, we come across a beautiful little oasis, to our surprise even with warm water and we can enjoy a bath. This Christmas bath completely compensates for the fact that we have to cook our emergency supplies instead of the desired feast.
Water in the desert
Water is normally not a problem. Often it has water tanks right on the roadside and usually even refrigerated water. But in the desert, the water can suddenly become tight . So we are glad that giving alms is the duty of every Muslim. We experience the Omanis as very friendly and helpful. So they are honking and waving to greet or stop to give us water.
Pass – Highlight
The ascent is a paved road and as shown on the GPS, the other side is gravel and it needs a four-wheel drive jeep. We enjoy the beautiful view and the long, rapid, bumpy mountain bike descent. Further down, we can meet countless organized tourist jeep tures. We become their photo model and unbelievable looks are thrown at us while we bravely ride the steep, sandy counter-ascents with our heavily loaded bikes.
Dusty and tired we arrive at the bottom of the pass. We still have 100 kilometers to go to Muscat. We are looking forward for a shower and a comfortable bed. When we see the busy road without any shoulder or bicycles lines, we do not have to think long to make the decision to find a taxi which takes us to Muscat. Faster and more uncomplicated than we thought, a taxi driver agrees to our request. As soon as we are his guests, he takes care of the loading of the bicycles. That means, he organizes the loading: he calls an Indian boy, and then the Omani observes the work of the Indian with a stern look. Proudly the driver looks at the final work. On the way to Muscat, he stops once to check whether the bicycles are still okay.
Faster than planned, we arrive at Muscat. We are enjoying our last holiday days and recover from our bike tour. We realise that Oman is really an ideal country for touring with the bike, as the free camping is very easy. The route selection shows us once again that it is also worthwhile to accept sandy sections or a high pass, as these experiences remain and make traveling by bike varied and exciting.