After the tough ride through the Western Hajar mountains, we continue to Nizwa in two easy days. We camp in the desert a couple of hunderd meters away from the main road and once we arrive in Nizwa we check in into Hotel Al Diyar, not too far from the Souq and Nizwa Fort.
The parking lot in front of the Souq is busy in the early morning hours. We pass trucks with goat and camels filling the street as we find our way to the Goat Souq, because this is the highlight of the Nizwa Souq. People from all around come to Nizwa to sell their live stock. Cows and goat, guided by their owners are walking in circles showing off like models. Omanis are negotiating on the price as many change owner here. We are merely spectators and none of the Omani seems to be bothered by our presence. We continue to roam around the fish souq, vegetable souq and dade souq before we pay a visit to the Nizwa Fort. As everywhere in Oman, exactly at one o’clock everything shuts down and the streets are empty again. We spent the rest of the day at the hotel restaurant enjoying a fresh lemon-mint juice.
The ride up to Jebel Shams, Omans highest mountain, is something we’ve been looking forward to for a while now. It’s not that far from Nizwa, but it’s another tough cookie. The ride up to the end of the valley we make good progress, but then the steep climb starts. 25 kilometer to go! It sounds easy, but it’s not! It takes us almost all day to reach the top. The first 5-6 kilometers are the toughest, it involves more pushing than riding with 20+% grades. It’s terribly steep.. who comes up with these roads?!?! With the heat, and the 8-kilometer unpaved intermezzo it’s hard work again. The views though are getting better and better… As we reach the top the earth seems to have split in two as we look down into a deep bottomless canyon. The sun is setting and temperature drops.
Wadi Bani Awf
Getting back to the coast from Jebel Shams leaves us two options: either we go around the mountains on the paved highway or we take the Wadi Bani Awf road, which involves another steep climb and an offroad track down into the canyon. According to the guidebooks, the track through Wadi Bani Awf is the most beautiful one in the country… well, no doubt in our minds! We take the tough one and we find ourselves riding up another steep climb to the 2000 meter high pass. The road is paved, traffic is slow, but the wind! Incredible! Headwind is slowing us down even more. As we finally reach the top, we leave the tarmac behind us and we literally drop into a deep canyon. The track turns and twists, passing small settlements on the way down. We reach the bottom of the canyon just a couple of kilometer after we’ve passed the most beautiful football field of Oman… in the middle of nowhere..! A strange place, if you aske me! Then it’s uphill again and pushing is involved. The track is covered in powder dust, which reminds me of Bolivia. At times it’s too steep to ride down, I mean, whith 26% grade I prefer to walk instead of tumbling down! We follow the Snake River Canyon downhill on this bumpy road, I’m glad we chose to ride with 27.5 inch rims and 62mm tires!
We reach asphalt again and via Rustaq we continue straight to the coast. Our Oman adventure has almost come to an end and we decide to celebrate it with a day in a holiday resort. We swim in the sea, drink an alcohol-free mojito at the pool and fill our tummies with delicious food in the buffet restaurant. Completely relaxed we ride the remaining kilometers along the coast to our hotel in Muscat. Here we visit the Souq and the fish market, before we pack everything up again for the flight back to the Netherlands. This adventure has come to an end! Oman has been hot and bone-dry. But, we’ve met very friendly people, camped a lot and enjoyed the desert landscapes. The steep climbs we won’t ever forget!
Yesterday, as we sat by the pool, we were already fantasizing about new destinations, riding our bikes around the world never gets boring! Georgia, Mongolia or maybe back to the States or even South-America? We haven’t figured it out yet…