Saturday, January 14, 2012

Travels in foreign lands-XXXIX (Journeys to Oman-III)

After breakfast we started for the border of Yemen along the coast. This is the spot very famous for gushing fountains of sea water. A geological phenomenon caused by sea water eating into the rocky coast line. The drive of about an hour is smooth mostly following the coast. As we near the border of Yemen, the landscape becomes quite rocky. The last stretch is sandy beaches for some distance and then just rocky coast jutting into the sea. All along this rocky outcrop one can see numerous sprouts of gushing water. It presents a very attractive scene with natural fountains coming off and on with short intervals. The bursts of water going quite high with sprays are very dramatic. It appears that there are crevices in the rocks facing the sea. There must have been some water soluble formations which have created these crevices. Once the sea water rushes in with force, it sprouts out to the top as fountains. We stayed to watch this natural phenomenon for half an hour and then returned to Salalah.
Next was our visit to the zero gravity point. This drive is also along the coast but in opposite direction. After about forty minutes drive we came to a spot where there is a sign board claiming it as the zero gravity point. Here a rough unpaved road branches out from the main road along the coast and leads towards the mountains. The entire scene is dramatic. High brown barren mountains on one side and the sea on the other. The driver took us on this stretch of the mountain road. He drove few hundred metres and then turned around and parked the vehicle on a sloppy ground facing uphill. He put the vehicle in neutral gear. After few seconds the vehicle started moving uphill towards the sea. As soon as we reached the flat part, it started accelerating fast. The driver immediately switched on the engine and stopped the vehicle. He told us that he had to switch on the engine as the vehicle had power brakes which would not operate without engine running. He stopped the vehicle just short of the main road. We did not believe him and asked him to go back and park the vehicle at the end of the stretch on a flat portion. Again the vehicle started moving. First slowly and then quite fast! We repeated the performance a couple of times and returned back to Salalah. It was a big tourist attraction in my view but I did not find many tourists there. It seemed to be under sold! We have a similar patch above Nimo in Ladakh but the effect there is nothing compared to the powerful forces at the Salalah point. In the evening, we took a flight back to Muscat.
However, everyone asked us to return to Salalah during Monsoon season which is locally known as Khareef. They said during this period there is fog and mist all over the place. It is like a continuous spray. Everything turns green. It is supposed to be the best time to visit Salalah. May be one day I have the opportunity of visiting Salalah in Khareef?
There was now one thing left to see! That was the famous red sands of Oman. We decided to take rest for couple of days. In the meantime, Nazir would find the ideal place to see the red sands. I was told that one has to drive a hundred kilometres or so and then go deep inside the desert to see these sand dunes. There are many camp sites inside the desert where the tourists go to enjoy the dunes and the desert atmosphere. The most famous are Wahbi Sands of Oman. Nazir had a Toyota land-cruiser with four wheel drive and special mechanism to raise the suspension to give more clearance from the ground. This is an ideal vehicle for moving in the desert. He tried to find out if there was some camp site functioning deep in the desert so that we could go and see the red sand dunes. His friend told him about one of the sites but we would have to drive almost hundred kilometres from Muscat to reach the spot. We started early in the morning and the drive was along a very good road which passed through mountain country. I had the impression of driving through some part of Ladakh. The mountain scenery is same except that there are no high snow covered peaks in the distance! After driving through mountains we came to flat desert country. Here we had to branch of from the main highway and go deep into the desert on an unpaved road. The drive was quite comfortable in the Toyota Land-cruiser.
After driving along a rough desert road we had the first view of red sand dunes going in waves. The sand dunes looked quite attractive. In the way we saw a couple of villages. It was interesting to see old desert type of houses with satellite TV antennas on top! We drove into a camp site. The camp seemed to have been abandoned and we could only see two local care takers. Ahead of the camp were quite a few high dunes. The driver put the vehicle in four wheel drive and raced up the dunes. We were able to climb to the top and descended on the other side. However, the descent looked quite steep. Nazir became scared and came out and started walking down on foot. I stayed inside the jeep with the driver. I told him not to drive but just give a push and let the vehicle slide down. Soon we were at the bottom of the dune! It was a thrilling experience. I had already had a desert safari in Dubai with some professional drivers. The camp care taker prepared some tea for us. We left back after spending an hour in the camp. This being the last sight seeing trip in Oman I went back to Dubai on my way home. I very much remember my Oman trips and find it a nice place to spend sometime on a holiday in winter. However, the best of Salalah is during the Khareef or the Monsoon! Next, I will relate my trips to Saudi Arabia.

No comments:

Post a Comment