Forts, castles and loudspeaker towers


Forts, castles and loudspeaker towers

Jim Vause

Jim Vause

Omani Erewhon
Omani, Erewhon

I saw a cloud today. Wisps of white that coalesced, to exist for a minute or two, gone by the time my gaze returned. Blue dome days have been de rigueur since we arrived 12 days ago, but this is not a real blue, more a steel blue desaturated by the haze.

Oman is dry. Bone dry. 10 per cent humidity today in Nizwa. It rained lasted at Wadi Bani Khalid in 2008, so said Abdullah, a lad who wants to be an electrician and move to New Zealand, or Canada.

"Good income, an electrician in NZ," I said with a certainty resultant from house renovation experience as we climbed down through the cave to the source water for the wadi.

No building on reflectivity

Late spring and the heat is on the rise, as if 43°C isn't enough. It keeps the tourists (no campers vans!) away except for Kiwis escaping the dank mists of May.

With summer around the corner, haze from the desert sands destroys the famed Arabian sunsets. But the landscape has a stunning starkness.

Omani cellphone tower

The lack of vegetation, at times in totality, stunningly smooth roads threading between the 3000m peaks of the Al-Hajar Mountains, millennium-old villages perched on cliff faces that could never exist on our shaky isles, the incredibly clever and intricate falaj irrigation water ways that move precious spring water many miles, as they have done for centuries, all add up to a photographer's dream.

One scene fulfilled a childhood nativity vision, of goats and donkeys grazing dry rocky ground among olive trees and ancient junipers. It lacked only a Joseph and Mary.

Add in the very amicable people, a total lack of crime of the type that so afflicts Aotearoa, plus the very pocket-friendly prices away from the tourist traps and you have a great destination that, like all Shangri-Las, has one big flaw.

Plastic is everywhere. Cities, towns, even out in the desert.

You walk up a narrow wadi for a hour in the early morning heat, no one in sight and slip into the cooling pristine clear waters of a wadi pool.

You quietly swim up the wadi, through small caverns and under overhanging rocks, feeling as if you were an aquatic Dr Livingstone.

You enter a final chamber, seeking a shore to rest and there, on the perfectly positioned smooth rock ledge, lies a pile of plastic.

Insomnia no more: our air bnb (top right)

I am sure the Omani crime rate would not be so benign if littering was a crime.

If only the Q'oran had warned of the hazards of plastic, as it has of global warming and rising sea levels according to the maitre'd of the Al Shanagar restaurant in Bidiyyat, then this pollution would not occur.

They are trying but have a long way to go.

Old Muscat
Traversing the sights

We have explored from Muscat to the east, as far as one can go in Arabia.

We've camped on a beach, climbed a dozen fort watchtowers, played turtle midwives, lost ourselves in the Muscat Souq (market), explored mudbrick villages, driven up a 2000m mountain road that required 4WD on the seal (makes the Treble Cone road looks simple) and almost bought a very nice doe at the Nizwa goat market. Their goat auction system is a bit different from the Blenheim sale yards.

Alas we must leave, to a pilgramage in Porto we go.

A mountain road
Misfat sunset