I was able to return to the trail again through Wadi Khabbah.
I really don’t remember any other area except on La Palma, one of the Canary Islands,
where there were such steep roads.
I couldn’t make it to the top of the first mountain that evening and spent the night in a barren world of boulders. Completely exposed to the wind, I was barely able to sleep for the second night in a row.
I continued riding the next day completely exhausted.
My food supplies were about to run out, but the few settlements through which I rode were so poor that I didn’t dare ask them for food. Unfortunately, there was not a single shop in sight. I had simply underestimated provisions along the route and didn’t expect to end up in such a remote area.
Despite everything, a German couple approached me with their rented Jeep. They gave me bread and ham, chocolate and biscuits and water. But a short time later, I again had the well-known hunger of a cyclist.
Again and again I would come to intersections, where I had no idea which road to take. My old map was totally unsuitable for this section of the journey, but intuitively I was always able to follow the right road.
The trail was stupendous – the dream of every mountain biker.
Very late in the afternoon, I met more tourists who supplied me with bananas and boiled eggs.
With new strength, shortly before the darkness encompassed me, I managed to reach the summit at 2000 meters and found a nice quiet spot to pitch my tent in the rocky environment.
The next morning, as a wonderful reward, I was able to ride from the 2000-meter summit downwards
in endless serpentines towards the sea.
The coast received me with an extremely strong headwind. The road to Wadi Tiwi was a real pain, but my hunger spurred me onward and I was finally able to relieve it in an Indian coffee shop.
In Wadi Tiwi, in a little oasis, I crept onto the roof of an uninhabited house. Wonderfully protected from the wind, I was finally able to recover somewhat from the exertions of the last few days.
I visited Wadi Sahtan the next day before I ate shrimp around a campfire at White Beach by a group of friendly Brits and philosophized about the world.
Unfortunately, a bad case of diarrhea attacked me in the night. Back in the saddle the next morning, I was so drained I could barely make any headway.
The wind in my face was fierce and a few hours later, I sat down at the side of the road hoping someone would stop and pick me. I didn’t want to continue – I couldn’t continue.
And at this point, there was no longer an alternative to the highway to Muscat, so I made some excuses and admitted to myself that I had reached my limit. I felt miserable.
Finally, at the end of my rope, I got lucky. A married couple, who just happened to be on the way to Muscat, picked me up and took me with them.
At the same time, I was really embarrassed because I had not showered for several days. My clothes were absolutely filthy and I’m sure the horrible odor emanating from my sweaty shoes was radiating from the backseat to the front.
In Muscat, I already had a place to stay, because I had met a Czech man named Roman, whom I had met when visiting the archaeologists in Bat. He welcomed me warmly into his home and immediately offered me a shower when I arrived. I guess there must have been a reason for this ?
I treated myself to 5 days in Muscat before going back on the road. But I could hardly call it a break, because I had to answer dozens of e-mails, my Web site needed to be revamped, I needed to plan my route, etc. etc.
The main reason I visited the city was to go to the Iranian embassy to get a new visa for Iran. Although my previous inquiries should have been sufficient, the conditions had changed overnight, and now in Muscat, they asked me for a “reference number” – a number that you can only obtain through an agency in Tehran.
So I continued my journey without a visa and then applied for the reference number for the consulate in Dubai through an Iranian visa agency. Waiting period – 10 days. Therefore, the risk of not being able to get a visa continued to exist.
In a bike shop I bought a new rear wheel because the hub was completely worn out. In addition, I picked up two new ergonomic handle grips, since one of them had broken in a crash.
Meanwhile, I learned to trust the Omanis so much that I didn’t begin to look for a campground until about 15 minutes before sunset. First of all, I was always able to find a place anyway and, secondly, it really didn’t matter where I pitched my tent, because I doubt there is a safer country in the world than Oman – even for a woman traveling alone on a bicycle.
Pedaling along the Wadi Bani Awf, which was unfortunately partially covered with new tar, and the Wadi Sahtan, which was mutilated by construction work, I continued back in the direction of Dubai.
In a small village, I was invited to dinner, but I had to eat my food alone on the street while all the others dined together in the house. The boy (in his mid-20s), who invited me for the meal, told me a secret.
He had a girlfriend who he meets from time to time. But his father should in no way find out about that, because he would ban him from the house.
Some of the men in the country greet each other by touching noses. That looked really funny to me.
That evening, I camped in front of one of the houses. The residents invited me into their home, and for the first time ever I was allowed to enter a house.
Here again, the husband (57) had a wife who was 48 years old and a second wife, who was only 30 years old. With his first wife he already had nine children, and just one year ago, he married his second wife, who would like to have another 5 children from him.
The two women are as different as night and day; the young woman was very pretty and extremely slender; the elderly wife was toothless, unattractive and quite obese.
The young woman spoke a little English, so I asked her what it is like when you have to share a man with another woman. She laughed and said “one night he sleeps with me in my bed and the next night with her in her bed”. Both women have their own private room.
The older woman was for her “like a mother” and they understood each other very well. I had the same impression.
I asked her if she was jealous. “No, why should I be?” she replied. “Why didn’t you choose a younger man who still doesn’t have any children?” I asked. ”He loved me! That’s why I married him.“
I felt like the Iranians, who always asked me a lot of questions; I often wondered why they asked me so many strange questions and I’m certain that this woman felt the same way about me. I was asked some questions as well.
When I told them that my brother wasn’t married but had two children anyway, their faces froze into an icy stare.
When their husband entered the room, they all stood – both the children and the two women. He greeted each of them with a handshake, including the two women and me.
From the man’s perspective, I can imagine it must be very difficult to be fair to each of the women and I asked myself several times why he would expose himself voluntarily to that kind of stress.
When I pulled out my camera to photograph the food, the two women raced frantically out of the room. They thought I wanted to photograph them.
Since my last blog about Oman, the question still goes through my head whether the people there truly experience love or if the concept of the word or their emotional world is simply experienced differently than ours.
One fact is clear – the marriages there last a lifetime, which is not the case in my country. My thought is this: if I don’t really love a man because I don’t really understand what love is, then I can’t be jealous, so perhaps I wouldn’t feel like it is such a bad thing if I had to share my husband with another woman.
Is it possible for other people, meaning in this case the father or the mother, perhaps ultimately be better able to evaluate who is a match for their children and who is not?
Since, in Muslim countries, the parents often decide who will be the spouse of their children, is that the reason for the low divorce rate?
Is it perhaps a relationship more on a friendship basis that is at the root of an Omani marriage? Or are the prejudices that we have against the Islamic world correct and the women have no other choice but to stay with their husbands, regardless of whether the marriage is working or not?
I think I will have to experience more of the Islamic world to get an answer to all of my questions.
But, as I’ve already seen with my own eyes, the Islamic countries are all very different in the way they deal with their women.
Additionally, I have to admit that I can only have a small degree of understanding about placing myself in the position of others in such a strange world and most certainly, most of my opinions will be tainted with a “Western” point of view.
I simply cannot deny my heritage and find myself frequently thinking and feeling like a German.
I then had to leave the country; my 30 days had expired. I found it very odd that on this border even the drivers were X-rayed along the cars with a huge scanner.
will probably always remain a mystery to me.
Oman had fascinated me completely. Nice people, great scenery, tranquility, sunshine and warmth,
camping and campfires and good Indian food. Everything that I had wished for, I also experienced.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t see anything on my map that would indicate that I would end up in a military area. I squeezed my way through the fence hoping there would be an opening on the other side of the area.
After a while, instead of continuing on, the trail ended in deep sand. Luckily, however, I was eventually able to find a hole through the fence again and ended up back on a normal road.
That day, I matched my previous daily record of 178 kilometers and arrived wholly fatigued that night in Dubai. On the route there was really nothing but sand dunes, camels, headwind and cars.
During this long day, I stopped two drivers on to ask for water.
Otherwise, I would have had serious problems. On the way, a water bottle fell into the sand while I was drinking and I lost most of the water.
That day, I arrived at the first petrol station exactly 10 kilometers before my goal.
In Dubai I was able to stay with Lisa and Christian and their brood of children again. They spoiled me with Nutella and pancakes, Spaghetti Bolognese and wine jelly candy from Germany. Yummy!The next morning I was awakened by little Felix at 5:30 a.m. who wanted to say hello to me. There’s no way I could relax here either.
and I had previously confirmed them again by telephone;
I had also already taken them to the same counter on arrival. After waiting 2 hours I was then told that I still have to have my fingerprints taken at the main police station about 15 kilometers away.
Moreover, they would not accept my health insurance card.
With a sigh of frustration, I thought “Oh Great! It is always the same old story; you can never simply rely on what people tell you.”
Gertrud and Stefan www.magirus-nomaden.de , two very nice Germans, who were traveling with their Magirus, sat at the same time with me at the consulate.
They had come here every day for the last three days because their reference number couldn’t be found in the system – even though they already had the proof. They knew the exact procedure and drove me to the police station, because with the bike it would have taken me too long.
Strangely, they already knew me because of another German couple, whom I had met in Turkey.
They said right away, “Oh, you must be Heike?”
They had also read the newspaper report about me in the Times of Oman.
At the police station, Gertrud was now well known so we were taken care of right away. They took prints of all 10 fingers, the palm and the inner surface on the palm of the hand. “That will be 23 Euros please!” Shortly before noon, just in time, we arrived back at the consulate.
Somehow, I managed to dodge having to pay for their insurance and, along with Gertrud and Stefan, could pick up my visa the next morning with no problems.
All in all, everything went well. The total cost, however, was 107 Euros for a 30-day visa.
Neither numbers (to regulate who was next) were issued there nor did anyone tell me which window to go to.
The consulate was packed and, as might be expected, on my first try I went to the wrong window – like many others. 2.5 hours later, it was my turn and I was surprised that the Consul knew my name.
He still remembered me from when I had submitted the application 5 weeks before. With no difficulty, I was able to change my date of entry because I had been on the road significantly longer in Oman than expected.
Unfortunately, the Uzbeks are not very flexible with their visa policy. The cost – 70 Euros for 30 days – valid April 5 to May 4 – not a day earlier, and not a day later.
It was a long ride to the port in Sharjah.
The distances in Dubai are all insanely long and it takes forever to organize things. Instead of 40 Euros which I paid on the way there, I now had to pay 70 Euros for the return trip to Bandar Abbas, the port in Iran.
Of course, I should have known that in the rich country of the United Arab Emirates, they could ask for almost twice as much for the same trip. Unfortunately, despite my tenacious attempts at negotiating a better price, they refused to offer a discount for cyclists.
At the harbor I felt lonely. I had made new friends, but who knows when and if I’ll ever see them again.
When I said goodbye, little Felix had asked me when I would come back. When I told him, unfortunately, I’ll never be able to return,” he looked at me with a very sad look in his eyes.
Also, Vicky, the Filipino maid, hugged me and said “Your visit was wonderful; we will all miss you.
The day before, I had a special experience with Vicky. We sat together at the dinner table and ate lunch,
and when I was clearing my plate from the table to put it in the dishwasher, of course, I picked up her plate as well.
At first, she looked at me with a completely confused look on her face. Then, she smiled and said immediately, “that’s the first time in my life that someone cleared my plate from the table.”
It must be terrible to be a second class citizen. Although I saw how well Christian and Lisa treated her,
she is, after all, only the housemaid.
Lisa told me some stories of other Europeans who even monitor their employees with cameras installed on the premises and even prohibit them from eating in the house.
Vicky said “the Russians are the worst” and that hardly any Filipinos wanted to work for them.
I was infinitely tired and burned out. A cyclist’s life is no picnic; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Every day there are new impressions, things that have to be organized, struggles that need to be addressed, strangers that you have to re-adjust to and new rules that you have to keep. Every day, everything is strange and new, although it somehow begins to be routine. Regardless, it is never really easy.
Also, on such a long journey, I feel continuously under pressure to keep moving, because the visa regulations and the climate tend to write my trip plan for me. Sometimes, I would just like to stretch out my legs and do nothing, but there is never really time for that.
Even when I was visiting someone, I didn’t want to feel conspicuous there. I began to long for sleep and rest – for a few days of vacation.
I found myself becoming irritated and frequently reacted annoyed when I didn’t get an immediate response to my questions or when I tried unsuccessfully to explain to the Indians in the coffee shop what I wanted.
I was beginning to get out of balance. I realized I needed to change.
When I left the country, there were problems with my registration, because they couldn’t find my name in the system. I had repeat my passport number several times aloud and show them on the keyboard the keys to push.
They also asked me to repeat my name several times while they were holding my passport in my face
(I actually thought I knew my own name) and to tell them exactly where I entered the country.
They could have read that themselves on the entry stamp, because it was there in Arabic. After nearly 45 minutes, they gave up and wrote a number next to my exit stamp in Arabic numerals, under which my departure was finally registered so that I would have no problems with re-entry.
Somehow it’s still just a province country.
Barely on the Iranian boat, the crew recognized me again immediately, and as soon as I took my seat,
the endless questions began again. Welcome back to the land of many questions, I’m curious as to what I should expect in Iran this time around.