… I am standing on the edge of the steep dune, better say “the deep hole” in between 2 dunes, my bike is 4 meters below me, sandy wind feels like needles on my face. How did I get here?...
…Three days weekend ahead of us, opportunity for “something bigger”, my mind was already generating various plans, most attractive for me was “something with motorbike” and decision did not take long. Harley stays home. Wahibas. As nobody is around, I will take it easy, I will start and I will see how it goes. If it will be hot, I just play for couple of hrs, or just have blast on the main track from Mintirib, and if I feel ok…
I loaded Honda on club trailer and around 11ish I was in Mintirib petrol station. Refueled, and also strapped 2 extra bottles of petrol on, one on front fender, another behind me together with bag. For case I took sleeping bag and some basic camping gear (means swiss knife), and some basic cloth. Some fuffing around and off I go. I am passing “castle” and then comes first dunes. I know that I am approx. 2 kms to west from main track, but I wanted to cross that several dunes and valleys in “Wahiba chalange style” - diretissimo.
As it turned up, with bag strapped above my back wheel it is almost impossible to shift my body to back and result was “near fall” over handlebars on one simple steep part. But I quickly lifted motorbike and (lucky enough) succeeded to start it on first time (good that I changed that rings ). Take it easy. Another dune, I waved on bedu’s and downhilled to the valley. Now I was on “my track” (on the base of gps). It was relatively easy but full tank did not help maneauerability and sometimes front end was “sliding away”. After longer while I reached well and I splashed water on my face to refresh little bit.
Let’s not waste the time. I hopped on (what was, with bag in the back, high motorbike, all the gear on and being not just very good in can-can, kind of struggle all the times) and off I went. I wanted to get to my first major way-point below the tree on 70km mark as soon as possible so I decide what’s next. I was looking forward the tree and shade and food. From distance I saw that below the tree is parked old Toyota and even older bedu was sleeping besides. Awaken by roar of Honda he came to shake hands, and after he heard me saying nicely “A’salaam aleykum” he started whole tirade, when he finished I nodded and said “sorry but mafi arabic, just shwey-shwey”. He wiped metal bowl with sand (and dang) from ground and offered me water, I drank little bit but silently swearing as it was full of sand (“and who knows what bacterias are in” in my mind), thinking about my clean cold Pocari in my camel back. In same time arrived another pick-up with 3 boys in age (just my estimation) 15, 11 and 4. Driver was that 11 year old. Shaking hands again, “mafi arabic” etc. After while I asked if they can give me some petrol (decision already made: I am going more to south. Well, I told that to bedu’s, I can’t turn back now!). “Come, come”. That 11 year old said that and already pulling hose pipe from behind his seat. He stuffed it to the tank and sucked full mouth of the petrol out, immediatelly spitting all on my seat, missing gps just by milimeters… Silly bager. Anyway, we put to my tank 4 bottles. Then the boss (that 11 year old one) started to show obvious “money” gesture with his fingers. “Fulus, fulus” he bruptted out petrol gases. OK, of course I give u some money. But the smallest note I had was 5 ryals. My mistake. That disapeared in their hands in second and I even did not know who had it. I asked it back, boy was showing that he will cry (well, I don’t care, cry) but after while of not getting anywhere I just waved the hand and rode away saying good bye with open trottle. It must be the most expensive trade per 1 liter of petrol in history of Oman Oil! The worser bit was that I could not eat in front of them, so I did not, but my gps was showing another way-point with trees so I just pressed on and stopped there. It was approx. 90kms from the start. I ate 1 banana and plumbs, tried to eat sandwich with nice slovak salami but I couldn’t make it through my throat. So I took serial bar and flushed it with half liter of water (1 of 3 half liter bottles I had in my camel back apart of 2.5 liter of Pocari in the bladder and another 1.5liter bottle in the bag).
14:00ish I set on, I was already not on track, just following the track on my gps. Dunes were gone, country was more less ondulating-flat with occational trees/bushes/heaps of sands. After another 30 kms I reached area with lot of small dunes and trees. I remembered it as relatively easy drive throu it, but gps track led via just biggest heaps of sands (not really dunes) so I had to circumnavigate a lot. But I was doing quite serious progress, from time to time riding on tracks (till gps took me away) and stopped on 140kms way-point, something about two 3-rds of the journey. Again some food and drink. As sun went behind the clouds and wind picked up it was quite pleasant temperature. I continued and “flat with trees and smal dunes” changed to camel grass, rather bigger one then around here. But I felt good and was flying through it, sometimes on purpose taking it “through the middle” to get some air, at approx. 60 – 70 kms per hr (I know, I would not impress anybody on Dubai Desert Chalange but also they are not riding with sleeping bag :) XXX ).
17:00ish With 190kms on clock I was getting closer to the end, but still 20kms to go. Unfortunatelly gps track led approx. 90dgr to direction of wind and sand bumps, what made it quite nightmare, everything rattling and the most my bones and jaws. But after while I hit the trail again and in distance I already saw hard plain bit which is close to Sh’ana-Mahoot road with something like bus stop on cross roads. Then it came to me. “Man, you crossed Wahibas”. Yupee. My left had flyed up in victory. In the same time I hit some ditch and almost fell. OK, just get to Mahoot safe and then jump. I kicked off for my last bit to Mahoot on tarmac road. The wind was so strong that I rode in 70dgr angle! It was so strong that gogles pushed my sunglasses painfully towards my nose so I had to remove them and I am sure helmet turned quarter of turn so actually my left eye was INSIDE the helmet!
In the moment the water tank track was passing in opposite direction and I hit the wall, air stream behind it almost kicked me off the bike. After something what felt like “forever” I came to Mahoot and seeing the Mahoot Motel I did not hesitate the second. I took the room (plus sand in shower minus board on toilet dish, but for 10omr I found it bargain).
Then curry, cokes, petrol (cury for me, petrol for bike). I counted that I used 21liters for that 250kms (210 off road and last bit on tarmac) so there was not need to buy any petroll from bedu’s. What to do, heheh.
As it showed 3 cokes were far too refreshing and in combination with omani or indian (or whatever it was) family shouting and slapping the doors till 3am it was bad night. In the morning I had breakfast in next door cofeeshop – just fried eggs with toasts. Last evening I was making plans, around is picturesque Pinnacle and Rudists, nice beach near Muzibalat and Khaluf, ride around and maybe return in the evening, but after that night I decided to ride home. Still I wanted to see the beach near Filim (20kms away) and if the tides are OK (I remembered it to be low around 9-ish) ride another 10-20 kms to south by the beach (I don’t know why I remember some passage from Offroad in Oman book where it is said u can) and then return up and through the east coast of Wahibas to Woodlands.
Friday 8:20 From Mahoot to Filim is now new black top, so it took short while to get there. Filim (apart of the workers building the road) looked quite deserted but on the beach I spotted fishermen. But 1 of them probably after his morning bath was comming out of sea completelly naked, so I changed my mind and stopped on another piece of beach further. There was boat on the water full of colorfully dressed women. Around just huts built from palma tree leaves, fences from fishing nets, roaring of the sea, I felt like discovering completely different world with life so simple, far not 20kms from civilisation but 20 light years, that amazes me and calls me back somewhere to the roots of life without all that mobiles, internet, computers, traffic jams and plasma screens, property markets and money exchanges…
As I found out, you can’t ride on the beach from Filim as it is rocky, so you must take road around something like lagoon. That I did not want so I returned to Mahoot, toped up petrol (today no spare strapped bottles) and kicked the horses. In the end of tarmac I took pic of the signpost and hopped on again. Closer to the the beach I had to ride through the pools of salty water, and then beach. Immeadiatelly I knew that I was late and low tide is not low any more, but still some 2 meters of beach was there which allowed me to ride around 50kms per hr but it was not flat, so when jumps looked unpleasant for me I slowed down.
Suddenly my attention was dragged to big round stone, which tured up to be turtle, unfortunatelly the dead one, I pixelised it to my gsm photocamera memory and rode on passing another 3 dead turtles. Soon on horizon rised sandstone reefs and I hoped I can still sneaked on the beach below them, but after 50 meters I ended up knee deep in the water. So I waited the wave to go down, turned motor bike and rode back to find track in between camel grass, sand and sharp edges of sand stone layers sticking up now and then. After while track came back to the beach but immediatelly headed to huge yellow dunes. I stood on the pegs and turned trottle open to climb the first one watching carrefully track on gps. Than it came, strong wind full of sand and soft light mixed into such a strange visibility, that it was impossible to recognise crest of the dune you are climbing on and the next one. Too late I realised that with 70kms/h I was racing towards the edge of steep dune, in last moment I spoted deep hole - growing below me like I was not on motorbike but on rising helicopter – with flat rock on the bottom. Anyway, combination of factors, I flew over the handlebars, motorbike upside down, petrol pouring out of the cap pipe, full gloves of sand etc. etc. you know it. As soon as possible I made a knot on tank cap pipe then rescued gps (not to be damaged by petrol), turned motorbike and luckily with kick start lever away from the dune…
… I am standing on the edge of the steep dune, better say “the deep hole” in between 2 dunes, my bike is 4m below me, sandy wind feels like needles on my face.
I tried already several times to kick it on, but bike ingnores any effort, I am getting tired. Fortunatelly wind is quite cool, but also throws lot of sand to the eyes and everywhere. It is almost 11:20, and I can’t move the bloody bike. I walked around, I saw the dhows anchored in the distance. OK, worse to worse, I walk back. Another attempt, bike coughted, roared for half second and died again. The worsest thing was that in the hole was no wind, so I was sweating a lot. I climbed up again to cool down, looking around and searching for escape way out of the hole. Another attempt – now succesfull, but it is just half success, I must to get bike out of there, and it turned up to be relativelly easy, I just rode “up the valley”, but my resources were shattered. I took rest again and then with much slower speed I carrefully continued. Suddenly I saw 2 men walking on the dune (“we are going to Hij”) in the distance, their Nissan Patrol behind the dune, so I rode towards them. Unfortunatelly surface was so soft that I ended up with back wheel dagged in till axle. Bloody hell. Fortunatelly I just wiggled it twice and turned the bike sidewayes downhill, and than sped through it. It was quite difficult to follow that track as there was – ehm – none, but after while I spotted “Landy”, I almost missed it. From there I remember the way through dunes as we were there in December but still … After while I reached the edge of big dunes, where were again lot of jagged edges of sand stone sticking out, but I found my way through onto the beach. But tide was even higher so instead of beach high-way I had to go in-land. Soon I was passing usual “north-to-south-east camp spot”. After that followed fisherman village of Sharqi, completely deserted. And the same was next 2 or 3 settlements, because of Gonu? Who knows, but wide track which was before very soft and crisscrossed with hundreeds of deep tracks from wheels of 4x4s were actually nicely ironed by wind and quite easy to ride.
Soon new graded (and black-top-going-to-be) emerged on horizon. I met there group of 4 Toyotas with bedu’s (“how are you” etc.) and 1 of them wanted to ride my bike and do wheelies – u bet!
From there it is just several kliks to Bangladeshi petrol man. What a dissapointment. He is not there any more, blue barrels disapeared from in front of “Tyre repair, oil change sale”-shop. Progress of black top from AlAshkara sent it to waste-land of history. Village itself was also completely dead (Gonu?). I got petrol in the next, 10kms further to north, village. I stopped in petrol station which was so rusty that I actually was thinking if it is this one or the one in Shalim (near Shuwaymia) who would win Rust of the year competition. Another disappointment – no cofee shop around – and as “good man” from petrol station told the next one is “in Ashkara”. No, thank you. I finished my bananas, ate some serial bars, toped water in my camel back. And let’s go to Woodlands.
Friday, 15:30 I returned back to the track I have on gps and turned away from black top to nice white twisty sandy track toward Woodlands, in between small dunes and later to trees.
This supposed to be last 75kms of the off road part. I was doing from pleasant 60 through nice 70 towards more adrenaline 80 and on open bits over 90, but to be on safe side, I kept it (s)low. I realised that I started to be hot and that in fact all the way up the coast I was kind of cold probably ‘cos of wind.
The roaring of my Honda was (unfortunatelly) scaring away goats and camels. Soon wood-land changed just to open plain and then to graded road.
Then splash in the wadi before Bani Bu Ali, to wash down all that salt and sand and again on tarmac. Picture in front of unique “42 dome mosque”. Soon boys gathered around but as soon as I wanted to take pic they were hiding their faced in their t-shirts.
My stomach started to emphasize the call of nature. In one of the restaurant they just kicked me out “no food, no food” (I don’t know, I did not comb my hair, but I was not THAT dirty). But in another one they served me nice chicken biryani, while my boots and socks were drying outside.
And that’s it. Just black top to AlKamil (what seemed to me – because of all that cars – was the most dangerous part). In Kamil I was thinking about northern route via Wahibas but I was getting tired and I did not want to push my lack. I just took main road to Mintirib. My painfull ass was real pain in the ass, so I was riding standing, soon the car with omani family started to honk on me, waving and taking pics of me. That was my 1 minute of fame.
In Mintirib car was as I left it the day before. Some young lad (god bless him) helped me to lift front wheel on the trailer. I straped the bike and then I noticed that on the side of bag strapped to my back was hole and straps of shaterred plastic bag was hanging out. It must be touching the tire – and one of my sandals was missing. Home I was driving in my new flip-flops
So I did it. Alone. Approx. 580kms mostly on the sand with average 55kms/h on off road. But as they used to say “Don’t try it at home, all this was done by highly trained proffesionals” (note from author: “you bet!”). But better take some friend(s) with you, at least somebody can take piss out off you when you do superman over your handlebars … and take the pictures.
- by me - 9.-10. Aug 2007