Sounds
of silence

It was our 7th trip into Omani interior since 2011. But this time, we did something different. This trip had nothing in common to previous ones. Everything started long time before we moved from Muscat to the desert interior. The plan was ready in the autumn last year and we were waiting for the final list of the participants. The main question was, how many 4x4 adventurers will join us in February 2014. Around Christmas last year, situation get complicated and finally Pawel could not come. During the online conference, we decided to completely changed our trip, instead of usual few Land Cruisers and the trip focused on the central part of Oman, we have made a custom expedition for Ute and Andreas, our friends from Germany, that we have met during the TLC Camp and  Buschtaxi Meeting in Germany last year.

 

Ute and Andreas are well know travelers and very experienced adventurers. They spend many years on the rough roads of Easter Asia. More details about their magnificent experience you can see here: www.heart-of-silkroad.de

 

Winter adventure 2014

The first dunes, where we just stopped for a while on our way to Muqshin.

The first campsite near Muqshin.

Around January, Andreas send us an email, that they would love to visit Dhofar region, even off monsoon season. There was no need to convince me, that was a perfect idea.

 

Finally, Ute and Andreas, landed in Muscat and after one night in the small hotel we moved together into the desert around 9 am.

 

As we wanted to reach far point in Muqshin Oasis, we started our trip with some nice distance, around 600 km from Muscat.

 

Just a few minutes before sunset we set of from the main road and moved quickly into the small sand dunes. After few kilometres on the horizon we spotted trees, mostly twisted and clumsy. It was our first night camping site.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Discover OMAN • Photos by Jerzy Wierzbicki • Design by Pyrka

Desert around us was full of trees.

In the morning after quick breakfast, we were back to the main road to Dawkah, where again, we left  asphalt road, straight to
the Empty Quarter. After 70 km we've made a short break
in small village called Shisr, where we refueled our cars.
60 km in the sandy track and we will be between
the most magical and massive sand dunes I have
ever seen in Oman. This is Ramlat Hashman,
big part of Empty Quarter in Oman. The
temperature slowly goes up, proportionally
to getting deeper to the sandy desert.
In the small wadi, near the main track,
we collected some wood for the night campfire.

Dried woods for camp fire on my car.

The main track leads us into the Ramlat Hashman.

After break in wadi, we were ready to go between the dunes. First one was around 70 km from Shisr. All the time we were driving on the main sandy track, however every now and then, we were forced to take over the sandy heaps covering the main path.

 

The dunes on the track.

First big dunes seen from our cars.

In the afternoon, we decided to make a longer break for a lunch. We chose a massive sand dune, that was our campsite previously, during the trip in autumn 2012 on Empty Quarter (I constantly follow my points from the GPS locator).

Ute and Andreas set down behind a car and enjoyed the silence of the desert. This is an incredible experience for someone, who is living in the town, and never experience a perfect silence, without the sounds on civilization. Here on Empty Quarter, the only one thing you can hear is a wind.

 

After lunch, we came back to the track and set our cruise between Ramat Hashman. My destination point was still around 30 km ahead. I wanted to establish the final night camp somewhere close to the point, where we reached the Empty Quarter with Husky and Veronique during the expedition in Spring 2012.

 

The place where we stopped for a lunch.

The dunes on Ramlat Hashman.

 

The views from the big dune on the entire Ramlat Hashman.

In the evening we parked our cars on the high dune. I found a small plateau, big enough for two cars. We walked to the top of the dune all together. From the edge of the dune, the view was absolutely overwhelming! The all majesty of the biggest sand desert in the World  surrounded us. The sand had a saturated orange color, enhanced by the warm light from the sunset. The silence was still with us. We sat on the sand, and just admired the views.

 

Our cars.

Trop running on the sands.

Regular sand’s shapes.

We came back to the cars very glad. It was still bright. To complete sunset we had around half an hour. I found a place that looked perfect for the night camp, located just one kilometer from us, on the next high dune.

 

I went first, Ute and Andreas just right behind me. The real adventure just started. In the middle of the dune, there was a small hole fulfilled with the soft sands. My light FZJ76 passed over without a problem but standard huge and heavy GRJ200, stuck in the center of the hole and could not move. Places like this are always a bit more dangerous for the drivers. Now I know, that I should stop my car just behind the hole and indicated alternative route for Andreas. After a long day we had an opportunity to get an additional exercises. We had to dig out the big J200 from the sandy ambush.

 

Regardless all circumstances, we had a great humor! Andreas, as a most experienced driver here, gave us unique tips on how to get out from the sand. Even Trop was involved into the “project” and helped us to dig under the J200 wheels.

GRJ200 in the sandy hole.

Trop digging under the tire.

We had only one shovel, so every one just crabbed anything that could be use for a digging and moved quickly to work. After a half an hour, Andreas decided to move, but still a Land Cruiser 200 could not leave the hole. Finally we used a sand traps and towing belt. The newest model of our favorite car left the hole!

Towing the “Big Mama”.

After all, we set up a camp and prepared something to eat. We were very hungry!

 

The night on the Empty Quarter are always memorable! Wind stops and stars shine with a unique intensity. After shower, I took my camera on the tripod and moved to take some photographs.

 

The night was long and very cold. We woke up in the morning and immediately made a coffee. After breakfast I checked the position, we were almost 150 km from the last asphalted road. On the way back, we drove around the dunes and captured many of photographs. Morning light and the air on the desert is especially good for landscape photography.

 

Our campsite in the night.

Morning light on the Empty Quarter.

Land Cruiser in it's natural environment!

Dunes...

Dunes...

Around 10 am, we were back on the main track to Shisr, where we visited a small archeological park. Our goal for today was to reach Dhofar region and Salalah.

 

Suddenly, on the track, two cars appeared. Andreas quickly turned towards them. Two land Cruisers HZJ78 on the german plates!

HZJ78 on Empty Quarter.

We met our friends from Buschtaxi meeting. They were all together in the far Asia years before, so such a meeting, here in the Empty Quarter was really impressive. The world is so small.

Trop finally finds his love! Amy.

After a small chat, we came back to our track to Shisr, to archeological park and then towards Salalah and Dhofar mountains. Environment around us dramatically changed.

 

We pass Salalah and drove toward the Yemeni border. Around 60 km from Salalah we turned into narrow and steep gravel track to Al Fazayah Beach, where we set our destination point for today.

 

Meeting on Empty Quarter.

The track to Fazayah beach.

Rocks in Al Fazayah.

The weather was slightly different. It was not very hot like on the desert, but humidity was much higher. We jumped to the warm water just to get some relax. In the evening, as usual, small campfire. During winter, in this region, algae gives this amazing illumines effect on the waves. I tried to capture them with my camera.

 

Fancy rocky forms on the beach.

The weather was slightly different. It was not very hot like on the desert, but humidity was much higher. We jumped to the warm water just to get some relax. In the evening, as usual, small campfire. During winter, in this region, algae gives this amazing illumines effect on the waves. I tried to capture them with my camera.

 

Shining waves.

Salalah was only 60 km from us. Ute wanted to see a traditional bazar in old part of Salalah, called Al Hafa. Around noon, we parked our cars in the old town and moved between the shops with local, traditional frankincense.

Cliffs in Al Fazayah beach.

With some time reserve, we went to Frankincense Museum
and Khor Rori to visit the ruins of ancient Sumhuran.

Frankincense shop in Al Hafa.

 Birds in the shallow water in Khor Rori.

I wanted to spend the night somewhere between small towns called Tagah and Mirbat, where a long beach stretched between both cities. We stopped on the white sands next to the ocean and high cliff. Location was stunning and perfect for camping. Warm water and sun create a perfect and relaxing atmosphere, we really needed before the next day, as we will spend most of the time behind the steering wheel. Here, we found flushing waves as well.

Bird that i could approach a bit closer.

Shining  waves again.

Next day, we were back on the main road. We went to the small wadi, where you can find a lots of baobabs. Baobabs have opinion of one of the biggest trees in the World, however omani trees are not huge but still they are making nice impression.

 

I have visited this location six months earlier, during the monsoon season and I was curious how it looks in the dry season. That was a completely different scenario, no leafs, no rain or fog, made this place to look more like an european autumn.

 

In the Baobabs valley we spent a half an hour, then we moved to Mirbat.

Baobabs in Dhofar .

Another massive trees in the baobabs valley.

Mirbat is around 12 km form the baobabs valley. The place is well known from the battle between the British special forces and communist partisans in 1972. Mirbat is a sleepy little town, with a small fishing port and castle located just next to the beach.

The view from the castle in Mirbat on the harbour.

After quick visit there and small shopping and we moved to another typical Dhofari town called Sadah. The road to Sadah is very picturesque. Winding between the mountains and the rocky shoreline, along with many small lagoons called here “Khors”. Khor is a specific lagoon, that established mostly in Dhofar region at the end of the wadi (periodical stream)  very close to the sea. Water in Khor is fresh rather then salty and most of the Khors are occupied by many species of birds. Water in the ocean there is very intensive turquoise, especially on the black rocky shore.

 

In Sadah we went to eat a small lunch in some local restaurant.

The castle’s interior.

Sadah. The old Town.

From Sadah we moved forward north and traveled to the one of the most beautiful road in whole Oman. The road snaked between high mountains and rocky seashore divided by many small white sand beaches. Suddenly Andreas pulled over his car, next to the one of the beaches and quickly moved into to the sea. He spotted a small group of Dolphins just several meters from the beach. I installed a long lens on my camera and captured a dozen photographs of dolphins played around in the water.

Dolphins in the Ocean.

They were less then 20 meters from the beach!

Our destination point was still around 150 kilometers ahead and we had to reach next camping location before sunset. I planned to spend the night under the rock near the sea in Wadi Shwamiyah. Place with a long history, where many of Discoveroman.eu adventurers spent a night. Rest of the day we drove slowly, admiring the views. It was our last moments in Dhofar Mountains region.

 

The view from the new
road from Hasik to Shwamiyah.

The Shoreline in Shwamiyah.

Fish from Shwamiyah Ocean.

Wavy ocean.

Quick shots and we were back to the cars. The next point was on the top of the cliff from which we had marvelous view on the entire valley.

 

From Shwamiyah we moved on the main asphalted road and traveled between flat and not  interesting part of Oman. In the middle of the day, we've made a quick visit in Khor Ghawi to see shallow lagoon with a lot of birds.

 

The view on the whole valley, seen from the top of the cliff.

Khor Ghawi lagoon.

Seagulls in Khor Ghawi.

Because we started to feel the hardship of travel, I've decided to moved on to my “personal” and favorite desert in Oman - “The Cinnamon Desert”. We set off from the main road for a half an hour and parked our Land Cruisers between the majestic sand dunes and many of small desert trees. This place is absolutely stunning and it's the only one, where the greenery exists with the sandy desert for whole year.

 

We choose a perfect place for a camping and we went for a little reconnaissance between dunes. The evening was a bit longer then the previous ones. Big campfire illumined the whole area and gave us a little more warm. Nights on the desert are still cold. Next day I woke up a few minutes before a sunrise. I was completely frozen! My dog Trop also looked for a place where he could warm up and finally he slept next to me under the sleeping bag.

Flamingos fly off.

After strong and hot coffee we went out form the dunes concentration and made a research around the “Cinnamon Desert”. The dunes stretched out for a several kilometers with often green trees on horizon, which makes for locals bedouins a perfect place to feed there camels and goats.

 

Early morning on
the “Cinnamon Desert”

The "Cinnamon Desert” dunes...

The trees between the dunes...

I checked my GPS locator and found out that we are around 12 km from the edge of the dunes zone. I wanted to reach the point where we can find one of the highest dune and fantastic overview on the desert landscape.

The overview on the dunes.

Trop on the “Cinnamon Desert”.

After a short photo session, we were back to our cars. The total distance for today was not very long. After less then hour, we've reached a small village Khaluf, where all Cruiser lovers have tears in there eyes. It's a place where we can find many of completely rusted old Land Cruisers, mostly from series 40 and 70. Behind Khaluf we set off again into the sandy desert and made a short break for lunch between the white sand dunes - in the point form the previous expedition in autumn 2013. Khaluf sand dunes are different from the “Cinnamon Desert” - white and much softer then reddish sands from the “Cinnamon”. After lunch we came back to the sandy track towards a small village called Filim. During this short trip we got some adventures and I needed Andreas’s help!

 

The Black Rock on
the “Cinnamon Desert”.

White dunes near Khaluf beach.

Before our last night camping, we've made some equipment collection. In Filim, woods before the evening on the beach and fast shopping in small town called Hijj on the way to Hikman peninsula. Prepared and stocked we've moved in to the most flat sandy surface in whole Oman, driving in the sand around 60 km to the end of the Barr al Hikman. The prize for this trip was waiting for us at the end of the track. Beautiful white long beach.

As I mentioned before, the sands in Khaluf are much softer :)

 

The way to Barr Al Hikman.

Sandy and flat surface of Hikman Peninsula .

It was a nice relief after a long day on the sandy desert. Beautiful camping place between small sand heaps, calm and warm water with very weak wind. Perfect place to relax after a long and full of adventures journey.

 

Our last day together, we've spend in the Omani interior, traveling from Hikman to the road number 32, direction North. Ute and Andrea, stayed for an additional night in Wahiba Sand, camping between the dunes. Trop and I, we went back to Muscat and when I parked my car next to my place total trip distance was 3164 kilometers.

 

The beach on Hikman. Obligatory location during
many of our adventures in Oman.

 

“Family photo" taken at the end of our road trip in Al Wasil.

Summary trip.

 

It was our 7th expedition into Omani interior since 2011. This trip was unique and different then the previous ones. Two cars and three people plus dog. We've done around 1000 km more then usually. First time in the Dhofar Region. Less kilometers on the off-road, but more locations and more divided landscapes (I add some new locations for the future expeditions).

 

"Sound of silence”  was one of the most unforgettable experience I had in Oman till now.

 

I would like to say thank you very much to Ute and Andrea for this experience.

 

Jerzy Wierzbicki