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Beach Boys – Surfin mUSirA

Beach Boys – Surfin mUSirA
Mesiarah Island trip 2009 : 01st–04th July
Dave Brooks, Rich Clarke, Ian Greasby …plus a couple of others
1,250km over 3 days, and 7 or 8 curries.

Trips like this don’t just happen. They need planning.

As our “pert ex-military” consultant explained. “Plan the ride, and ride the plan”.

Having a plan to ride is one thing
Author - Having a plan to ride is one thing but having a bike to ride is another

Wooooah, heavy words indeed for a team of Oman’s Dirty Bikers. But his words of wisdom were noted and even actioned…… well as far as planning the ride went anyway. We planned it, very well to be honest, 5 of us planned it almost to perfection in fact, several weeks in advance. But plans can change, as unfortunately 40% of the group found out…… having a plan to ride is one thing but having a bike to ride is another!!

We’d need 3 days for our ride. So we all booked Saturday off work, drew up some maps, routes, tracks and loaded GPS’s. Split kit, emergency bits and bobs, thuraya phones, medical stuff, tools, biltong, the works. That took nearly 30 minutes and 16 e-mails. Sorted.

The route would start in Al Qabil with a curry, and sleeping a night in the guesthouse, followed by an early Thursday morning razz through Wahiba and Woodlands, a visit to the commonly known “Very Big Huge Dune”, and the now world wide web famous 8th wonder of the world ….“Landy”. Then onto Mesirah island for a night with some “Surfy Boys” and a curry, plenty refreshments, and a night in their “love tent”. Then back to the mainland for a coastal circumnavigation of Bar-al-Hickman, followed by a Dakar replicating 2nd Day Lap of Oman coastal route to Duqm. Here we would enjoy a curry and spend the night in luxury accommodation “pre-booked” in military fashion without even so much as a click of an on-line reservation request. Finally we’d re-trace our Dakar tracks, and then head straight up through the middle of the formidable Wahibas, to Qabil where not much more than a car, trailer and a single can of warm beer would take us home to Muscat via a curry house. We’d ride 1,250km over the 3 days – or thereabouts.

Unfortunately 1 of the 5 bikes wasn’t quite ready for the ride in time. Some small “technical niggles” caused a little concern and given the forecast 48 degree heat, massive expanse of empty Wahiba’s and a first for Mr Sensible…. only 4 bikes left for Al Qabil that night. 3 bikes and 1 trailer set off at sensible O’clock on Wednesday. The final one, set off at ridiculously late O’clock with wife and 3 kids squashed into the back amongst last weeks riding shirt, unwashed pants and socks, spare engine and plethora of oily rags. Thankfully there was a plane at Seeb which saved a 13,000km detour for our hero, and he was able to kick them out, pay a wee fella 200 baisas to carry 12 suitcases to check-in…. and that was the beginning of Freeeeedom. Au revoir, we’re off biking!

And so it was. The 3 boys ate curry, drank beer and started to tell lies of previous biking conquests, while one boy drove all alone hoping he’d find the guesthouse. Unbeknown to Pikey the 3 mates were staying up later than intended desperately trying to woo some strange looking and foreign speaking female type Russian ladies…… not surprisingly they failed. But when Pikey arrived and cracked open the remaining beer one last non-attempt passed, and sleep seemed a more appropriate option. Alarms were set for 3.5 hours hence. Goodnight.

A lot of snoring, some tossing and the occasional turn preceded a 4:45hr alarm clock call. (Daves was 10 mins early, as ever, just so he could enjoy 10 more minutes in bed….interesting theory) Anyway, we were up, fresh as wilted daisies picked with the delicacy of a 5 year old boy from a rugby field in November….in the rain.

we were up, fresh as wilted daisies
We were up, fresh as wilted daisies

By 6:00am we’d drunk so much water and Procari we were so hydrated we were peeing more than sweating, so we had to set off. 3 electric buttons pressed and 30 boots full of kicks to the Bike of Pike, and the adventure began.

and the adventure began
...and the adventure began...

After 10kms of reasonable riding through small dunes direction Mintrib, the first stop was required to ease those swelling bladders. Pah, if only it would get hotter and we could sweat more! But lo….. Pikey sprung a surprise “I only have 5 gears lads, and neutral sounds like a cement mixer full of KTM engine components” All things considered, he set back to the base, some 10k’s back, avoided temptation of 8 hours in bed, with the (remote) possibility that one of those ladies couldn’t resist his invitational snoring, and took the sensible option of driving home to Muscat, stripping the bike and preparing it properly for the next big ride. Oh…, sorry…..he cracked open 1 of his 8 cool nectars and headed straight for Mesirah Island, trailer and bike in tow……..text machine at hand to update the uninterested bikers of his rapid progress.

Woodlands were being conquered
Woodlands were being conquered

Meanwhile, the Northern Route and Woodlands were being conquered, by the 3 remaining bikers, lead by Grumpy wondering if these 3 days really were going to be “Followed Easily”.

Ian Greasby, Dave Brooks and Rich Clarke, all on ex-DC bikes with numbers proudly displayed. Arriving at the Shell station in Qurun (Bangladeshiman to Dirty Biker travellers) the story finally took a turn for the better. For the first time in 3 visits there was actually petrol available. We filled up, congratulated ourselves and …….. promptly set about repairing Rich’s front wheel puncture. Grrrr. Claims of “its only just happened – probably on that Sabkha when I slowed from 130 to 110” were quashed when the inner tube was removed, valve-less and with the valve hole almost 180 degrees out of line. We couldn’t quite work out whether rim locks should be mentioned at this point, but we all smirked and thought of our dear friend anyway. 20 minutes later, 2 breeze blocks, and 2 bicycle pumps later we were off. With only 1 pump left between us, all further punctures were banned. Until we could pick up Pikeys in Mesiarah that is….. so long as we remembered to ask him for it…..which of course we didn’t !

Shell station in Qurun
Shell station in Qurun - we promptly set about repairing Rich’s front wheel puncture

There are 2 ways to get to Mesiarah now. 1 way is to travel all the way along the tarmac road, which passes “Landy” by only 100 metres. This would probably take an hour or so. The other way is to ride 3km either side of the road through dunes or along the beach. This would take up to 3 hours. We chose the latter. These dunes were brilliant. The 26 km of pure virgin slip faces is now known as “RollerCoaster”. The clue is in the title. Dave decided at this point that the slip-faces were too much for his bike, as it bogged down on a near vertical slipface for the umpteenth time.

Rich had a quick blat, and concluded that Dave should stop faffing and give it more welly.
More welly was given and then so was all hope…..well given up on anyway.

More welly was given and then so was all hope
More welly was given and then so was all hope
Dave decided that a gentle cruise down the tarmac/graded road and a scenic lunch was more appealing than listening to Rich’s blatherings. So off he set, and indeed 1.5 hrs later he was found enjoying a kip in the shade of his bike, on top of a dune. A happy man. Chilled in the heat of the desert. Cool.

Grumps and “Rich of all subtleness” hit the RollerCoaster.

Grumps and Rich hit the RollerCoaster
Grumps and “Rich of all subtleness” hit the RollerCoasterr

For the first time ever in the slip face ascent direction…..WOW. Flat out in 4th gear was really the only way to conquer these monsters. Massive rear wheel power slides, big jumps, and “one or two” tumbles ensued. Heart beats pounding we reached Very Big Huge Dune and with the recent sand storm and high winds it was back to its near vertical self, as per 4 years ago. Remembering the crazy launching of an aged XR400 in 2004 Grumps eased off the throttle at the top yet still managed a 7metre jump, followed by much the same by Rich.

Flat out in 4th gear was really the only way to conquer these monsters
Flat out in 4th gear was really the only way to conquer these monsters

Squealing with excitement of being launched nearly vertically Rich refused to do any more jumps, but chose for the “live to see another day” option. This jump is more vertical than horizontal and you feel so high in the sky as you plummet back down for that anticipated and suspension bending THUD. One more for the camera and Grumps gives it the welly. Only to bottle it at the top and ease off, but thankfully so, cos still managed over 11 meters of horizontal distance and what felt like 6 meters of height. Thump went the suspension and out went 10 litres of air from the hugely expanded Grumpy lungs. With breath back, the jump missed by the cameraman, and no chance of a repeat we headed hastily to Dave, adrenhalin slowly returning to normal levels.

A short Biltong break at Landy was enjoyed followed by the 3rd set of “this’ll gut Mellor” photos in 3 successive weekends, some along the beach and up the dunes riding, and we came out in the far South of the Wahibas, with just 30 km of tarmac to ride to the ferry. A good job cos Richs GPS was on the blink and his electric starter was “intermittent”. Just a loose battery connection it turned out to be…..obviously nothing wrong with Mother Honda!

A short Biltong break at Landy
A short Biltong break at Landy + another “this’ll gut Mellor” photo
A short Biltong break at Landy
(l-r) Dave, Ian and Rich - another “this’ll gut Mellor” photo
As we approached the ferry, everything looked civilised
As we approached the ferry, everything looked civilised

As we approached the ferry, everything looked civilised. A small wheely along the man made pier, and before we even stopped the engines we were greeted by some honking horns and grinning faces. The WindSurfy boys had arrived, at exactly the same time.

Before I even had my gloves off Lord Grieve was presenting all 3 of us with an ice cold and well insulated Am-Stel-Light. Fantastic. This boy knows how to host. Not only had these guys carried down our beds, some spare grundies, our sleeping bags, but they had also chilled our donation for their week in the wilderness. They kept the hard stuff for themselves…….for a while at least.

Getting onto the ferry:- You could write a book about this. Suffice to say, the roll on, turn round and roll off ferry is not ideal for local patience and ability to queue. As the first ferry wasn’t running today because “no-one had told us to sail today” we had to wait for the next one to come in. 2 hours later it arrived. As the bows ramp was lowered the first cars started to ascend and board the ferry. The small matter of all the cars and trucks getting off was overlooked. There then underwent a 2 hour debate as to how the 25 cars all squeezed up and trying to get on should back up so as to allow the cars and trucks on the ferry, off. You’d honestly think this was the first time this had happened, but apparently it happens 5 or 6 times a day! We waited. Some debate took place, much gesticulations, raised voices, more gesticulations, hand shaking and finally some reversing took place. Some of the surfers got on, some didn’t. There is always room for a bike. One car tried to squeeze past me so closely that he left a neat curled up roll of plastic and paint on my side stand. Several other minor crashes and scrapes took place, but no-one seemed perturbed. Incredible.

Once we were on, and Malcy, the Moss Bros. etc were not, we were treated to several refreshments by LG once again, served in insulated holders, or bikers gloves as the holders ran out. The crossing passed remarkably quickly and we got off the ferry in a bit of a blur, to say the least.

we were treated to several refreshments by LG once again
We were treated to several refreshments by LG once again

Egged on by LG a rather wobbly wheely greeted the island of Mesirah, before meeting up with Pikey, who had endured a curry and the final stray warm refreshments he found hidden under his rear seats. Pikey followed the Surfey types to the camp on the south of the island, we 3 bikers filled up with fuel and set off on our Lap of Mesirah… a Tigery haze An hour or so later we’d ridden on the beach, jumped over dead turtles, shook hands with some dodgy blokes at a ship wreck, ridden onto the rocks on the South side of the island, and generally sobered up.

Finally on Masira
Riding Mesirah

By 6:30pm we had found the Surfers, stripped off, cleaned up, erected our beds and were found sitting in someone else’s chair, drinking whatever was thrown at us, waiting for the curry to commence. It did, and it was fine. Surfers have brushes and cloths and gas and everything. Very professional. Even a ships clock. The evening progressed, even without Malcy and Rich Moss who were enjoying sleeping on the pier waiting for tomorrows early ferry, haha
I can’t remember the rest, but we woke up around 7am, I think.

No time for breakfast. Some jetskiing and windsurfing was admired, a croissant consumed, various wheelies and mini bike idiocy enjoyed. But the call for “Ferry across the ****sea” echoed in our ears, and we left Pikey to endure 2 more nights of crazyness with these very strange people. He seemed happy, in a way only Pikey can!

This time the ferry was slightly more refined chaos, but the sober journey took an age. Rich entertained some by decanting 500ml of leaking Old Monk from his Tupperware into a water bottle and wondering if anyone could smell it. Meanwhile a very enthusiastic game of SNAP took place in the bridge while a 12 yr old boy steered the ferry, the Indian skipper being pushed to the side. But it was OK, because despite all of this, and the definite lack of life buoys, or even an inkling of a lifeboat, there were the reassuring words painted across the main deck in Big Red Capital lettering “Safety First”….which was nice.

By 12:30 I think we were back on the mainland. A fast blast for 35km across total moon landscape involved deep sabkha clutch sapping emptiness.

Thankfully the bikes held out although I’d say it aged the engines by 20 hrs each. But the beach on the other side was out of this world. Deep blue green sea, white sand. We were in heaven.

We then rode the whole of Bar-al Hickman coast
We then rode the whole of Bar-al Hickman coast...

We then rode the whole of Bar-al Hickman coast, round towards Filim, where thankfully we could cut across the Sabkha and not have to go all the way back to Mahoot. This would have added 45 km and around an hour of our time. We could have filled up with petrol but we calculated (rather to perfection I must say…..take note dear Youcef!) we had enough. So we started the Day 2 of Lap of Oman around the coast to Duqm at 3pm, hoping to be in Duqm before dark. “Just follow me, its easy….we’ll be there for sure”.

Hard pack salt flats, Soft pack sabkha flats, 140km straights, super soft white dunes, big open beaches, rocky climbs, trials ascents, Dakar goat tracks…..its an awesome ride.

We then rode the whole of Bar-al Hickman coast
Hard pack salt flats, Soft pack sabkha flats, 140km straights

Ask any Lap of Oman veteran or anyone else who’s passed this way. Fantastic. Only disappointment was Khaluf beach, which is glorious at midday at low tide but awful at high tide nearing dusk. Amazing the difference. Some old illegal fishing nets got caught up in the rear wheel of the Grump-mobile at some point. The small ones which trap turtles, and would explain the massive number of dead turtles on the beach. We were not sure when the netting got caught up but when it broke the rear brake and a turn went all wrong Grumps stopped and out came the knife. A difficult job but sorted in the end. A quick check of the front wheel showed Grumps might have another problem. Thick black oil was dripping from the engine block. Oh dear, its looking like game over. Trying to trace the leak was difficult. No obvious engine cracks, and when we checked the levels everything was fine and the oil proved to be clean….so why black oil everywhere? Then we noticed the tank, the wheel and the front forks. Oil everywhere. I must have ridden over a plastic container having used engine oil in, discarded on the beach, and it had exploded. Only a Honda could have oil all over the place, looking like death and yet be perfectly OK. I didn’t look pretty, but then again I’m not famous for that anyway, so we pushed on.

Khaluf beach, which is glorious at midday at low tide but awful at high tide nearing dusk
Khaluf beach, which is glorious at midday at low tide but awful at high tide nearing dusk

So at 6pm we were 35 km from Duqm and the famous “see that sand dune with rocks on top, I’ve been up there once” was called and they fell for it again!!! I pulled this one on Tom Sluijter, then Tim Redman, Scott and Sean and now Rich Clarke fell for it. They all have followed me up and fallen off and ended upside down. Ha ha. I failed once again to get to the top but I did make it closer than ever before. Ha ha but the reaction was the same again. Greasby, you’re a ****. Fantastic.

They all have followed me up and fallen off and ended upside down. Ha ha.
They all have followed me up and fallen off and ended upside down. Ha ha.

Approaching Duqm at 7pm, 9km before Duqm and Rich ran out of fuel. Tipped up the bike, got fuel in the right place and he continued. We did this twice and he made it to the fuel station in Duqm. Perfect fuel calculations. Dave ran out of fuel as he pulled onto the Shell forecourt and suffered the embarrassment of pushing his bike to the pump. Hey, better than riding 45km extra back to Mahoot I say. Close shave? Hey, the women prefer it to stubble!

Rich then led us to paradise. I’m not sure the 5,000 Pakistanis would rank it so highly but our VIP rooms, with Satellite TV, fridges, personal showers and double beds sure did beat Lord G’s camp bed and curry. We’re not complaining LG, your Mesirah camp was wonderful, but we really did enjoy the shower, fantastic curried buffet, and an evening of lies over the remnants of 500ml of Old Monk and some super cold cokes in an air conditioned portacabin. For us Duqm was heaven.

We then rode the whole of Bar-al Hickman coast
...air conditioned portacabin

5am came all too quickly.
Kitted up, and oil levels topped up we received an aerial tour of the rapidly progressing giant dock. An amazing place.

This was followed by a quick 40clicks of liaison up the main road to the Dakar turnoff. The now famous waypoint 84. 120km of sheer pleasure took us back along rough tracks, some sand, some beach, cliffs, salt flats, and 3 hours of Dirt Biking Nirvana.

rough tracks, some sand, some beach, cliffs, salt flats, and 3 hours of Dirt Biking Nirvana
Rough tracks, some sand, some beach, cliffs, salt flats, and 3 hours of Dirt Biking Nirvana

Caught on camera by some windsurfing tourists, we felt like Marc Coma, Rich noting that although the tourists probably thought Dave was Marc Coma, that in fact Rich could see that Dave’s huge power slide to the left was completely unintentional and that he was lucky to be alive…. But who cares, it looked great! Grumps’s only mistake was the tour of the shrimp farm, which ended up with a detour into a seemingly bottomless sump of sabkha. With axles rapidly disappearing we all just made it out, pushing and shoving and stinking of dead fish. We got over it though….

By 9am we were back in Mahoot, fuelled up to the brim we stopped for a quick breakfast of scrambled egg, dahl, paratha and copious cups of sweet steaming tea. Glorious. Even the Mahoot police admired our bikes rear ends with small (or non-existent) number plates, but passed on by without disturbing our dahl.

Fed and watered
Fed and watered in Mahoot

Fed and watered we headed North at 10am, direction Al Qabil. We cut across in a North Easterly direction in search of a track leading North-South. The first 20km passed like a breeze. The next 3km passed like a pregnant turtle caught up in a fishing net full of discarded bitumen. Well that’s how it must have felt for Dave anyway! Suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of hideous soft dunes. The temperature was well into the late 40’s as we were far from the coast, and the bikes weren’t really going anywhere. Over the bars, under the bike and literally suffocating in sand, Dave was trapped. He managed to battle his way out, but to quote our old friend the Prof………. He was toast.

We needed a way out. The mighty Wahibas had once again sucked us into its center and was chewing us up ready to spit us out, reminding us that it should never be tackled complacently. Navigating due North and then due East rather than riding North East proved the best way to get to the known North-South track. It by-passed the waypoint we were heading for but it got us on track relatively unscathed. With all the excitement over we then headed North on a free heading direction Al Qabil. This meant we didn’t drive up the monotonous M1, but managed to ride through virgin dunes all the way. Nothing too technical but loads more fun than up the M1. Hopping and popping over dune crests, and bouncing over camel grass clumps, our energy and enthusiasm rekindled.

The mighty Wahibas had once again sucked us into its center
The mighty Wahibas had once again sucked us into its center

Finally half way across our mini Wahiba Challenge we found the acclaimed Desert Nights camp. Wow, it looked impressive. And when the Manager came out to greet us, offered us a cold drink in his air conditioned bar, and the chance to meet Ivan ….well, how could we refuse. Ivan seemed a bit miffed that we were enjoying a ride on a Saturday while he was working, but that’s life and for once we were enjoying it! Mountain dew quashed there was only the Australian womens beach volleyball competition on the wide screen telly to keep us…….so we stayed a while, made use of the pause and replay buttons of the hard disc player, and then finally set off on the final hurdle of 20k’s of Northern dunes, direction Al Qabil.

By 2pm we were there, loading bikes and burning our feet on the ground and our hands on the metal trailer. 1,250kms, 19 hours moving riding according to the GPS. And 7 hours stopped in the sun, not including ferries, lunches etc.

A gentle drive home, one small cool refreshment enjoyed along the way thanks to the Al Qabil guesthouse waiter, and we were home to our loved ones. Chains rusting, aluminium tarnishing from salt, sabkha, sand and whatever else, the bikes got a deserved wash, coolant top up and oil change before dark.

The fridge then got the beating it deserved.

Fancy joining on one of Grumpys Tours? The rides are free, the beers and curries are plentiful. Just follow me…….its easy.

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