You can read on the internet lots of blogs from bicycle tourers who love the touring in Oman. This isn’t going to be one of them 🙁 The weather is certainly perfect for riding in the winter, but the traffic is heavy. Perhaps Jack and I started with unreasonably high expectations after reading the glowing accounts from fellow cyclists. We found lots of new construction of buildings and highways and the associated noise, dust, and ugliness that comes along with it. Sadly the sprawling, auto-centric development will not make the country a nicer place to live or visit even when the construction disturbances are over.
Another reason that Jack and I might have arrived in Oman with unreasonably high expectations for our tour is because the previous tour we did together — five years ago in southern Mexico — was one of the best five-week bicycle tours I’ve done. I highly recommend the touring in southern Mexico. Oman, however, well…
Jack and I met in Muscat at the house of a warmshowers host, Stuart, who does “ultra” bicycle racing, sort of like brevet but timed as a race. It sounds crazy. As I write this, he’s racing in the first ever of this type of event in the Middle East, a 1000-km five-day event in Oman. Stuart will cover more distance this week than Jack and I did during our entire month in Oman!
One of the tourist highlights in Oman is to visit the Wahiba Sands (aka Ash-Sharqiyah), a huge area (70km x 150km!!!) of sand dunes 150km SSE of Muscat. Oman’s the size of Germany with a population of less than 3 million so I (wrongly) wasn’t worried about traffic anywhere in the country when planning our route. Jack and I started in Muscat and took the main inland route towards Wahiba Sands. Once we finally got away from the nasty traffic (~200 km south of Muscat?), it was wind that drained our energy and spirits for the next week. The wind got so bad that we holed up in a hotel in Al-Ashkharah for a couple nights. I think we needed a rest — both mental and physical — by that time anyway.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad, and I’ll focus on the positive, starting with spending the night in the Wahiba Sands for my birthday. As biking in soft sand is nearly impossible, we hired Ali and his 4×4 to drop us off in the dunes and come back in the morning to retrieve us. He said he knew a good spot, and indeed he did. In spite of a bit of wind (and blowing sand), we were very happy with this excursion.