Monday, January 23, 2006

Another Catharsis

Oman is an extremely peaceful place. Although I could only go to places located around Ibra, I’m sure the warmth is the same allover. This break came as huge relief after the slog for the memorials. However, the law school is on, and I’ve already missed a week of classes. It’s now time to go back to Raipur.

I’ve a flight to Sharjah tomorrow morning from Muscat. After a six hour transit period, I would be flying to Mumbai in the evening. I’ll reach Raipur on the afternoon of 24th January. God willing, I’ll post soon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Turtle Beach

21st January, 2006.

Ras al Hadd, a natural habitat for green turtles is around 70 Kms from Sur, a city on north-eastern coast of Oman. The drive from Ibra to Sur was completed in around two hours.

Fuel of the nation. One liter of gas is priced at around 35 cents (US) or Rs. 15. Even electricity is generated from gas here.

Minars at Sur.

The evening sun going down at the Sur seafront. Ras al Hadd is still some way to go.

After zigzagging through the Sur streets, we were once again on the highway running along the Arabian Sea.

As the darkness set in, we reached a very aloof place called the Turtle Beach Resort. My bro hit the pool table soon while the Omani gentleman sitting in the background keenly observed his skills. It is imperative to point out here that all the Omani nationals (men) have uniform code across the country. The costumes of woman on the other hand vary in style from region to region. The men’s costume is called Dishdasha, a long sleeved, collarless gown that extends to the ankles. They also wear an embroidered cap called the Kummah.

The continental dinner was quite flavoursome.

We reached the beach (a conservation area) around 9:00 PM. After buying the entry tickets, we were asked by a Ranger to join the other tourists in a circle for him to explain to everyone, the behaviour of the green turtles. These turtles come to the beach in the nights to lay eggs. They come in hundreds in the months of June, July, and August. In January though, they do not frequent the beach in such numbers. It is a real tragedy that out of around thousand eggs, merely two or three go on to become fully grown turtles. And human beings are one of the reasons for this. These turtles live up to the age of around 150 years and can grow up to around 1.5 meters. Tagging them has showed that these turtles after leaving Ras Al Hadd reach places as far as Malaysia, Maldives and Somalia. Once out of the eggs, they come back to lay eggs only after around twenty five years. As of now, this is all I can recall. Soon, we were led into the beach in small groups (No camera flashes are allowed).

Now that’s a once in a lifetime shot. A green turtle laying eggs. I was lucky to have a carried a tripod. In the torch light, I was forced to have a very slow shutter speed.

Covering up the eggs, the most this mother can do to protect them

Almost done. Very soon, the turtle would leave for the sea to come back after four years. Truly, a hair raising experience! We headed back soon and reached home around 1:00 AM.

Muscat Again

20th January, 2006

Unlike my brother who is staying back till the 27th, I wouldn’t have had another chance to see around Muscat as I am leaving on the 23rd. So, soon after we came back from Wahiba, we were back on the road.

A distance of around 180 Kms was covered in 90 minutes flat.

No…this isn’t any Grand Prix!

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is built over an area of 40, 000 Sq. mts.

The Omnipresent M.

A triumph of human endeavor.

Near the port.

A Hindu Temple in Muscat.

In front of a yachting club.

We had our lunch at Asha, a South Indian Restaurant in the heart of the city.

The Oman Sheraton.

After the tiring day, the drive back home was just perfect.

Wahiba Sands

Soon, we were on our way to a place known as the ‘Wahiba Sands’ for some frolic in the desert. As Hamid sped up on the sandy track, and as the afternoon sun blazed, it was almost as if we were cruising on a golden river.

The Al-Raha tourist camp’s ambience was charming enough to leave me gawking at it when we reached there. We had the option of staying either in the cottages at the base camp or in one of the tents mounted in the desert. We opted for the latter and didn’t repent. The tents had been put up at the higher dunes above the base camp.

There was some time before we could go for what is known as ‘Dune Bashing’. So we lazed around till that happened.

We hit the sands soon on a Land Cruiser.

We had a time of our lives bashing the desert.

The Base Camp from the dunes above.

Ours wasn’t the only vehicle around.

The evening had started to set in.

My bro on the Wahiba landscape.

Soon, the four-wheeler went for the final plunge as we headed straight down for the base camp. Believe me, the fall (if you allow me to call it) was an out of the world experience.

After the evening coffee at the camp, I joined my bro in trying out skateboarding on the sands. The landing wasn’t as cool as the take off. Nevertheless, it was fun.

We had some wonderful Omani food for the dinner.

The dinner was followed by some lively Arabic music and dance by our hosts.

A night in the desert. The tent was unexpectedly comfortable even in that cold.
Under the clear night sky, it was an intimate date with the desert.

We got up early next morning and climbed up the dunes to see if we could catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Though the clouds prevented a full fledged view, it was still a sight worth the effort.

The desert at the dawn.

After the breakfast, we were on our way out of the camp. As we headed for home, we came across some locals on camel backs going about their daily chores. Our day’s revelry is their way of life. A fact worth a ponder.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Oasis in the Rocks

19th January, 2006

Our first venture into the Omani outback couldn’t have been better. Wadi Bani Khalid is named after a Prophet, and is a spot no visitor to this country can afford to miss. It has pools of crystal clear water formed from cascades flowing out of the small openings concealed in this rocky valley that encloses the area.

Hamid, our driver for the day, zoomed at speeds of over 100 Km/hr as we headed towards Wadi.

At an eat out on the way.

Back on the road.

The sudden upsurge of greenery gave us an inkling of what lied ahead.

There it is! Truly, a sight without an equal!

We were already on our feet and had started scaling the rocks.

It isn’t always the worst of experiences to become a subject of somebody’s attention. These kids seemed more than interested in analyzing our ascending skills.

Heading for the cliff.

Climbing down to this pool was a very scary experience.

Once there, the source was never far off.

Dad zooms in from the top as my bro poses for my cam.

My bro couldn’t keep off the water for long.

The sight right above the pool.

Back on the rocks above.

The wadis of Oman, though dry when the weather is still, turn into raging streams on a rampage when the rare rains pour down. I truly enjoyed this Grand Canyon of Oman, negotiating my way through its rugged corridors, following the instinct of a hill dweller.