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Published: January 1st 2020
Welcome to 2020! As the desert camp I stayed in for new year’s eve was solely occupied by groups of squawking Italians or couples from various European countries, it was a far cry from the fun cool place to welcome in the new year that I had anticipated. In fact I felt like a right lemon on my tod. Apart from chatting to the Hungarian couple I shared the transfer with and a French couple I had photographed by the camels I didn’t talk to anyone aside from the staff last night so I retired to bed well before midnight, got a bit grouchy with the racket from the Italians around the time new year arrived and then woke up properly to welcome in 2020 with the first sunrise of the new decade from atop the sand dune that towered behind the camp, sadly with quite a lot of others. I hiked off to the side about half a kilometre or so and finally had some peace and quiet to watch the sun rise above the rolling russet streaked dunes, with a thick mist lingering in the length of the valley below, virtually obscuring the camp.
After breakfast there was a bit of a wait at the camp, still shrouded in mist, for the transport back to Al Wasil. Once back in the car I hit the highway. There is a new three lane highway currently under construction, which is great for the newly opened section, but not so good for the various detours which inevitably phase out of signage about half way, so you’re left second guessing which way to go. On one of the detours I spotted a racing track of some description and about seven or eight lightweight, young looking camels all trussed up ready for action. I pulled off to take a closer look. I think they were probably undertaking a training session. As a watched they were led forward to the start, without jockeys aboard, and then four or five men wearing long white flowing dishdashas walloped them on their butts and when all the camels galloped off the men leapt into the backs of the 4x4s that were revved up at the side of the track, and then pelted along side of the charging camels. Through the billowing dust I could see one of them frantically waving at me to follow, but my car wasn’t quite close enough to join the action. It did make quite a spectacle.
Back in the car I decided to break up the journey by detouring via Wadi Bani Khalid where there was an oasis, a series of rock pools, a cave and a mountain hike. I decided to skip the cave but to check out the other available options. The lower section was pretty touristy, once again swamped primarily with screeching Italians but once a got past the mouth of the cave about a kilometre up from the bottom pools that cacophony faded out of earshot and the only noises reverberating around the cliff faces were the atmospheric calling to prayer from a few competing mosques and the somewhat less atmospheric high pitched beeps from reversing road construction vehicles.
The route up consisted of pretty much every variety of rocky terrain that exists - smooth river bed rock, jagged shale, rough boulders, loose pebbles, rocky cliff faces, and every other variation that the thesaurus offers up. I navigated a mixture of ravines and plateaus that delivered me up onto a ridge. From there I elected to turn back, which made it about a 3 hour walk in total, and I was rewarded with a refreshing dip in the pools once I made it back down.
I had a slight hiccup on my final leg of the journey to Sur as my phone’s touch screen stopped working so I couldn’t find where I was staying (booked using a phone app) or see a map with sufficient definition (downloaded onto my phone). Definitely makes you question how much one should rely on the damn things. Luckily I knew from the photos of the hotel that it was on a rocky outcrop over looking the Arabian Sea, so I passed through the town of Sur in search of a likely looking location. After the main part of town there was a bridge which looked like it may lead to the most promising part of town to deliver that outlook, and bingo there was a hotel that looked just like the photos. Phew! The position of the hotel is fantastic - right next to a small empty bay - so I popped down there for a quick dip just as the sun was setting behind the mountains, with a raspberry ripple sky for a brief stint before it turn a murky blue.
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