We arrived in scorching Muscat pretty excited. All our luggage had arrived which is always a bonus. Just passed the iris scanners used on labour is the Visa counter, which is a thinly disguised forex beareau de change.
Through the arrivals and I see Theo waiting. All smiles. We hustle around looking for a 4×4 rental, usually you can take your pick. Not today. Its Friday, and its December. Panic sets in. The day is getting on and we are a long way from south. We rent a small car to explore town for more options. Still nothing. Not a single vehicle available, and today is technically a weekend in the arab world. they tell us to try again Monday or Tuesday.
I pop a few messages to Ray, hes down south hunting perms already, no signal. Then one or two to Andre van wyk who hooks us up with some contacts.
Surrounded by other westerners at Mcdonalds we make the call, “lets head back to the airport”. I know we smell of desperation, not the best way to go into a negotiation. First counter and the guy says he has one. The same guy who laughed befoe and told us to try January. So here we go. We’re promised its brand new. First inspection and it isnt, but what the hell.
Off to the Qurum centre, just further down Qaboos Bin Saaid drive, the highway that bisects the town. Massive ornate mosques line the roads and the gardens are Taj Mahal esque.
We start packing the supplies in to our shopping carts and hold our breaths for the total. 180 Rial. Not too bad.
We hit the 15 through the mountains, first stopping for gas and a shwarma. And my first funny experience. There are two stakes cooking at the shwarma joint. The one on the left is chicken. My travel radar says no. So I ask the guy,
‘whats the one on the right?”
“this one is meat!”
No, its meat
No, this one is meat
“Right, Ill have two of the meat”.
Things go pretty smooth for the first 500km, then while abot to pull into a gas station we see some camels, we take off into the dust for pictures like real tourists, then we fill up with gas. I pull out of the gas station, not realizing im on the wrong side of the road. I go the entire way round the cirlcle and we find an army roadblock, Men with automatic rifles jumping all over the place. (Still dont realize im on the wrong side of the road, even on the wrong side of the roadblock).
Some angry Omani army officials surrund us, and we finally realize the mistake. We pull over to the side of the road, and the car wont start. Dead. Absolutely dead. Anger quickly turns to sympathy on our onlookers face. They jump in to help. Loose battery connection. Then Theo cant find his passport. Even more sympathy. We find everything and with car running they send us on our way (on the correct side).
200kms further we pull into location 1 and desend the dramatic mountain pass. We make camp just off the mountain pass, expecting to meet Ray tomorrow morning. A few domestic cats rock up, the black and white one is named Felix. He seems to pride himself in getting closer every time we toggle the flashlight on. Ninja Felix.
Its 1 in the morning when camp is set up, cots are out and we’re looking at the stars. Tomorrow it starts properly