Adventures in Oman - Jabal Haat on the bike, Jabal Sham by car

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Middle East » Oman » Nizwa
December 30th 2019
Published: December 30th 2019
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I transferred about 30kms from Nizwa to Al Hamra first thing in the morning, arriving around 9am, so clearly too early to check into my next abode, so I headed straight out on my bike. Today’s aim was to recce the second major climb featured on the Haute Route - Jabal Haat. It was a similar amount of vertical, at nearly 1400m, but much less steep. I knew the base of the climb was somewhere near the Hoota Caves so I followed the signs for that, although on arrival I realised that I had overshot the turning so I had to backtrack.

Almost immediately the road ramped up and I quickly dropped down to my lowest gear again, but the gradient then ebbed and flowed quite a bit which was a nice relief after yesterday’s unrelenting slog. The road wound it’s way up through the sparsely vegetated rubbly landscape, and I seemed to share it with as many goats as cars - such a pleasant change after the last few days of getting buffeted by fast moving traffic, while teetering on a next to nonexistent hard shoulder. The views from this climb, and my ability to appreciate them, were far superior to those from Jabal al Akhdar. On the other side of the broad valley there were layers of mountains, like cardboard silhouettes, and a glimmer of Nizwa far off down the valley.

The climb took just over an hour or so, with the top being close to a couple of red and white transmitter masts that I had spotted from the initial stages. I stopped at the view point to take the obligatory photo and then turned round and absolutely nailed it on the descent. So much fun! The road surface was like silk, and there wasn’t a single vehicle in the way for the whole 25kms or so to the bottom so the only reason to tap on the brakes was the odd hairpin and when there were herds of goats split by the road as the billy goats, in particular, can be a bit prone to leap out in front of you with no warning. Then I pottered back to the hotel to check in before jumping in the car for a bit of a road trip to Jabal Shams, home of Oman’s Grand Canyon.

Initially the road meandered along the valley. I had actually cycled some of it two days previously when riding across from Nizwa. Shortly after the spot that I turned round at the road ramped right up and even with my foot to the floor my little Toyota Yaris struggled to make headway. The main thought going through my mind was thank god I am not on my bike! The road continued tortuously - a never ending series of twists and ramps. After about 20mins I spotted a coffee shop so I popped in primarily for a coffee to help me focus on the job in hand, but ended up having a very tasty plate of daal and vegetable curry as well as I hadn’t yet had lunch.

Suitably refreshed I headed on. However, about a mile or so on the asphalt gave way to dirt while the steep gradient persisted. Hmm. I continued another mile or so feeling less and less convinced that the little Yaris was man enough for the job. Suddenly being engulfed in a cloud of dust as a platoon of 4x4s hammered down the hill past me sealed the deal. Time to jack in this particular exploit and look for an alternative option.

I found a parking spot not far from the coffee place so I pulled in there and went for a short hike down to a nearby wadi. As I came back up I was hailed by a local chap driving a sturdy Toyota 4x4, asking if I had been to see the Grand Canyon. On learning that I hadn’t he extolled its virtues and then after a brief haggle (rather half hearted on my part) I then jumped into the passenger seat for a bumpy ride up the top. At no point did I regret my decision about wimping out from driving myself. We passed one 4x4 that had overheated and subsequently conked out. Finally we reached a wide plateau incised by the gorge plummeting about 1500m to the wadi below. Sadly there were insufficient daylight hours left to hike down the precipitous path to the bottom so I made do with a walk across the top admiring the view, before reuniting with Hamid for the bouncing ride back to base, chatting away as we went.


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