If there’s one thing for sure while riding your bike, it’s that you have the freedom to change plans anytime. After postponing our plan to ride the Al-Jaylah pass, we thought visiting Wadi Bani Khalid would be a nice detour. One way and one very steep uphill, but most importantly.., water to swim in and to cool down!
After a fresh mango juice at the crossroad we turn left towards the Wadi, hidden in the dry mountains and one steep pass further. It’s hard work when the meter reads 20% grade, but the reward is a fast downhill. In a village we follow the signs to the Wadi. We park our bikes and walk the last two hunderd meters to the fresh green waters of the Wadi. We are a bit dissapointed that the natural beauty has been replaced by a restaurant, bridges and picnic spots… and quite a lot of tourists! But nothing is stopping me to cool down and I jump in the water, so refreshing and still worth the detour.
The next day we find ourselves back on the main road, which is straight and boring. As soon as we have the chance we take a turn to a smaller road towards the sea. In a village we tap fresh water and try to beat the headwind as we cycle North. We’ve cycled maybe 45 kilometers as I spot a picnic place just off the main road, next to the sea. It’s only one o’clock, but this place is so tempting, that we decide to stop early today and spend the rest of the day here. Swimming and relaxing. As the sun sets, we put up our inner tent and we fall asleap with the sound of the braking waves.
Spotting turtles at Ras al Jinz
In the morning the wind has died down and in just a couple of hours we ride to the Ras al Jinz reserve, where we will spend the night to look for turtles. In the afternoon we walk to the beach and find breeding holes and turtle tracks and even though this is not the right season, it looks promising for tonight.
A group of 15 people are waiting in the lobby. Some guides have gone to scout the beach and as soon as we have a go we walk into the pitch dark night. We all are a bit anxious and in a speeding pace we hike to the shores, following our guide. He leads us to the first turtle… she is laying here eggs. We are so happy to witness this, because it’s rare this time of the year! And it’s not just one, no, there are three females! As the guide is telling us all about the green turtle, I suddenly notice a tiny green one, covered in sand. It’s smaller than my hand and it is trying to find it’s way to the water. So cute!
In the morning hours before sunrise, we return with only a few other enthusiasts. No more adults, but about 10 little ones and a beautiful sunrise to finish this experience with.
In Sur we take a day off and roam around the souq and the waterfront before we ride to Wadi Shab. Just as we reach the town close to the Wadi we run into Amber and Ben from California. We have lunch together and arrange a boat to take both us and our bikes across Wadi Shab where we set up camp. To cool down we all go for a swim in the afternoon, before we make dinner together. Early in the morning before the first tourists arrive we hike into the canyon towards the source of the Wadi. We wade through the water and swim for a while and just as we see others joining we head back to the bicycles and arrange a boat back to the other side. Amber and Ben return to the village and we ride up towards the turn to Al Jaylah.
Al Jaylah pass and beehive tombs
We need water and there’s nothing here… but a luxury hotel. We take our chances and ask the guy at the reception desk if he has water. No problem! We fill all our bottles and a water bag and now we are comfortable enough to cross the Eastern Hajar mountains. To our surprise a village turns up after the first climb, and there’s a mosque where we tap more water. It’s so dry and super hot, we need a lot of water for the rest of this day and the full day tomorrow. There might be more villages, but there’s none on our GPS or map.
After this no-name village the climb really starts. It’s offroad and soon we are pushing our bikes up steep hills. And I mean really steep! Between 20-30%!!! Ok, I’m lying, 29% was the steepest. We can’t ride the bikes anymore, we need to push them up the slopes and that’s hard work too. You can’t really stop, because the bike just tumbles back down. My calves are burning, the muscles are aching in my neck and arms, it’s crazy. We are pretty exhausted after the early rise this morning, the hike into Wadi Shab, swimming and now pushing our bikes. I look up and try to figure out where this road is leading us, and I can’t believe how steep it is. Elmar is just ahead of me and I can see he is not able to push his bike by himself anymore. As fast as I can I walk up to him and together we push his bike. In a curve we can lay his bike down and we walk back down to my bike where the whole ritual starts again. We do this a couple of times and slowly make some progress.
“This is crazy!”
“Yes, but what can we do…”
“I will ask the first pick-up truck that passes to take us up this pass…”
“What pick-up truck… there’s no traffic here!”
Then, in the distance we see 4×4 cars slowly climbing up towards us. I have high hopes as one passes us that could fit two people and two bikes. I wave to the guys, but it’s to steep for them to stop and they continue. In the curve I see they stop for us. My bike is already up there and they are willing to wait for Elmar. I rush over to him and we both push the bike up to the truck. We give up. It’s the heat, the heavy bikes, the steep hills and the lack of water if we don’t make it in two days. Just 10 kilometers further the guys stop in a village and we thank them for their help as we unload our bikes and start riding.. uhh pushing again. It didn’t feel right to give up, so we continue this quest by ourselves again. As the sun sets we find a nice camp spot and quickly fall asleep after dinner.
The next morning the climbing continues, but large parts we are able to ride so we make some good progress. We pass some beehive tombs and eventually a steep downhill starts. So steep, that we also need to walk! But, that’s easier and by noon we reach the main road again and welcome the smooth tarmac to Ibra.
This crossing was a tough cookie, but very beautiful.