Dubai, a sea of Skyscrapers, big shopping malls, multicultural and big cars. For a short time I thought I’d arrived in Manhattan.
The traffic is mad. Full of bigheads driving their fancy cars without any consideration for anyone else and much less so for a cyclist.
More over there are prohibited signs everywhere. No swimming, no BBQ, no cycling, no anything. The top of the bans was that I wasn’t even allowed to park my pushbike in front of the Dubai Mall. At every corner there was a security man who sent me somewhere else.
In the city everything revolves around money. 80% of the population are Expats. The labour force are from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
The well educated Europeans are the middle class and the rich Emirates are the elite.
Rafael and I said good bye.
His plan was going along the coast to Muscat and from there to India. I wanted to peacefully see the mountains in the interior of Oman. It wasn’t easy for both of us to say good bye. After all we experienced a lot together.
I was tired and worn out, I was seeking silence and recovery. I wanted to get back to my own pace. Most of all I eventually wanted to go on dirt roads.
Quite often the traffic in Iran was too much. However, the main reason for going to Oman was the cold weather. Iran had the coldest winter for decades, so I wanted to warm myself up a bit.
In Yazd, Iran I met a really nice German couple from Dubai who offered me a place to stay.
Her settlement is a mirror of an American neighbourhood. Security guards, the school bus stops in front of the door, a nanny from the Philippines, golf course around the corner, people running along the roadside as well as the non stop watering of lawns.
In the night rampant lightshows along huge and cheesy skyscrapers.
Suddenly I was in a different world. Luxury amidst the desert.
In Iran I was almost looked at like a hero and treated nicely everywhere. Here I was absolutely no one. A poor European lady who can’t afford a car.
I applied for a Uzbekistan visa, asked for a Iranian visa and I was trying to get used to the new circumstances I was confronted with.
It was a real culture shock. I landed in exactly the same society that I left at home on purpose. But here it was even exacerbated.
It wasn’t easy to leave the city. Cyclist are not allowed to cycle on the highways, but there are no alternatives. However, I coped with the noise, ignored the prohibited cycle signs and pushed on to Oman. Accompanied by wonderful tail wind I managed to reach the border on the first day.
They checked my passport but didn’t stamp it. I found this a bit weird, but more about it later.
I left the Emirates with a lot of pleasure, hoping to find a more silent life in Oman.
The first night the darkness caught me too early and I tried to find cover in a mosque. But I wasn’t welcome and they sent me to the police. The police asked for my passport, which I normally keep like a treasure and don’t give it to anyone, but in this case I followed their demand.
It took ages until the police officer came back. He had a big bundle of copies in his hand, because he copied all my visa and stamps. I asked him what he was doing.
In the end they sent me away anyway, but first they registered me filling pages in a book.
Finally I sneaked into the mosque compound and hid behind a wall.
There was no stamp at the second passport control either. I was already a while on Omani soil and had neither a UAE exit stamp nor a Oman entry stamp.
Maintenance work was due. Surrounded by lots of marvelling Indians, I fixed my bike. I changed my chain after 5000km, replaced a worn out shift cable as well as a broken spoke.
In the afternoon I reached the third border checkpoint. The border policeman searched for a UAE exit stamp but couldn’t find one and asked me if I could show him where the stamp was.
I explained him that there wasn’t a checkpoint anywhere on the road where I had come from and showed him on the map which road I took and he confirmed that there wasn’t any border post at all.
The border post was 25km back the way I had come from, but on a side road. Big joke I thought, I have never seen a border post before that you have to search for. One of the police officers had sympathy and drove me back to the frontier.
The border post wasn’t visible at all from the road I came on. UAE charged 35 Dirham departure tax and the Omani police man said it was payoff, but I received an official receipt.
Back at the Omani border I asked for a 30 day visa which is 20 Rial/40 Euro, but I could only pay with credit card. This was the next problem, because I don’t have a credit card. It wasn’t possible to pay with cash, either in Dollar, Euro or Rial.
After a while back and forth, a very expensive car showed up. I hoped for the best and asked the obviously rich man if he could pay for me. For this friendly Omani it was no problem at all. He welcomed me to his country and said keep your dollars, it is a welcome present for you, enjoy Oman.
Woohoo, I said thank you, smiled to the officers, received my visa and pushed off. It was pitch dark.
At the border one truck after the other stood in a long que so not a good place to pitch a tent. Not far away was another huge fenced police station and I tried my luck again.
However they also sent me away. Weirdly, to camp in front of the entrance wasn’t a problem at all. Guarded by a armed officer, I fell asleep.
A family invited me to eat fruit and had obviously a lot of fun with our encounter.
That evening I was looking forward to camping alone with a campfire and lot’s of stars, but a couple invited me home. A huge family, 8 brothers with their wives and heaps of children, Uncles and aunts surrounded me.
I needed to wear a traditional Omani skirt and was photographed with lots of laughing. I felt a bit like monkeys in a zoo, but did not complain about the situation. This kind of entertainment or variety I provide is part of a cyclist life as much as the daily monotonous pedalling.
It is like paying for the hospitality I am receiving. It is a give and take as is so often in life. They gave me a Omani skirt, jewellery and a ash tray.
For supper they offered fried flat bread and sweet milk tea. I realized how much I was looking to recover.
This noisy yelling around me annoyed me a lot. On one side it was really interesting to see how Omanis live but on the other hand I needed a break from all these exhausting evening meetings.
We sat on a balcony. A campfire was burning in the middle of the area. Without noise a really cosy atmosphere.
Shortly after supper they asked me if I had a place to stay for the night. This was new for me, no one ever sent me away after dinner. I asked for a possibility to camp somewhere around the house and they allow me to stay but didn’t invite me in.
The next morning they had weird bread for breakfast, sweet noodles on the bread and sweet cay.
Finally the next morning I left the main road and cycled through beautiful desert scenery. I enjoyed the silence, listened to the sound of the birds and enjoyed the scenery as much as I could. I finally reached where I wanted to be for so long. I was back in nature.
No cars, no noise, no houses, only me. It was so relaxing that I stopped quite often and just enjoyed the silence.
The road turned from tarmac to dusty gravel. Camels crossed my way, birds of prey were flying high up in the sky, now and then I came across groups of goats or a little oasis.
I was happy to leave and left the presents behind. I was also not sure if they were serious.
I reached Bat, a Unesco World Heritage side. An archaeological excavation site from the bronze age.
For a lay person the first view is nothing really special but I was lucky and could join them for 3 days. They explained a lot, I could help in the lab and I had the task to seven different stone and sand batches to look for ceramic and stone tools. I was surprised how much I found, after all it is 4000 years old.
The landscape was superb and the best was it belonged all to me. Hidden away from the track I pitched my tent.
No lights, the stars bright in the sky, calm and peaceful and so relaxing.
The next day I pedalled to the Plateau.
The Road was brutally steep. At the beginning still paved it ended in a dusty road.
It took me a few hours to climb up the 1500m elevation differences before I was able to look into the depth of the canyon.
Once again it was really windy.
I couldn’t sleep for half the night because my tent was fluttering in the wind.
After the long decent I saw the real treasure of the canyon. It was much more exciting and impressive to enter the Canyon from the Wadi, instead of looking down from above.