Monday, 10 March 2008

Indian Ocean north to Oman ... Feb - Mar 2008

Oman 01 - 10 March 2008

***All the hubble bubble pipes ready for action***The local men, sipping tea, smoking their pipes and gossiping at Mugsail***It's an Omani Camel up close - perhaps a little too close***The very tight anchorage in Salalah**

On Feb 21 we took to sea and arrived in the Oman after 9 days. We had a good passage with fair winds always in front of the beam and only the last day as we closed on Oman did we get unfavourable wind and choppy seas. Balvenie arrived at the port of Salalah in good shape so after catching up on some sleep we did not have too many boat jobs to do and became tourists for a change.

Gone with the Wind had stayed longer in the Maldives and arrived a day after us so we shared a hire car for about 30 USD a day (organised thru Mohammed onshore in the harbour) and drove all over this corner of Oman. Most of the country resembles a lunar landscape with a few dust blown towns dotted around but very interesting and very different from any thing we have seen before. One day we drove east to Mirbat on the coast, we felt sure this is where "Saving Private Ryan" was filmed as whole parts of the town looked totally bombed just as its filmset was. We did not discover the reason to this as Oman has not been in any recent wars. On the way back we drove inland to a couple of nearby wadis (lush areas where water gathers). It was nice to see some greenery in this very dusty landscape.

The following day we went west towards the Yemen boarder. This is an amazing road, newly built with an incredible switchback section that is a serious feat of engineering. We stopped at the Mugsail Blowholes which although the sea wasn't blowing up through them the updraft of air was enough to blow Marks cap off!! Next day we went north and drove up onto the huge desert plateau, it is miles of nothingness, rubble rubble and more rubble. We are convinced Apollo 11 landed here and not on the moon, looks just like it did on TV.

The people have been very friendly and we have experienced incredible hospitality and enjoyed some local food. There are very few Western tourists here so everyone wanted to know where we were from and why we had come!! We didnt see too many women around, it is place is very muslim and any women we saw wore the full burqa with full veil also. There were a few coalition warships from the US and UK in port, they patrol the "pirated" waters between Somalia and Yemen.

Our little haven of "normality" the Oasis Club which is like an English pub for the ex pats and is the only place around that sells alcohol was close to the port area and we generally ended up there for a cleansing ale after a sandy dusty day traveling and now I know first hand what having a throat as dry an an Arabs sandal really means. A great spot in downtown Salalah for eating was the Balbeck Lebanese, yummy, its on 25th (I think)July Street. Lulus supermarket was as good as anywhere and the fruit and veg shop next to Lulus was ok just let him know you want his best ones and out they come!!!!

Anchorage info: 16 56.23N 54 00.30E 4.5m average depth, sand over very hardpackd base. Very tight anchorage with poor holding, boats dragging in light winds, sheltered but in commercial port
Cruising info:
Weather - we had strong winds closing in on coast but fine while there. Boats ahead had sand storms/gales and very rough seas
Security - secure as restricted port area, felt safe everywhere
Phone/Internet - local sim card available, worked in Yemen also. WIFI at Oasis Club (pay) also at Brownies Cafe in town (free)
Checking in and out - checkin relatively easy but can take time before cleared off boat- cost OMR15 for boat, OMR12 for one month visas for the 2 of us, can pay by credit card
Money - OMR1 = USD2.60 at 01 Mar 2008. ATM machine on way into town and in town. Most also despatched USD or Rials
Tours/Getting around - remote port location, taxi to town more expensive than car hire for a day. Only place walkable is Oasis Club. Hired car for USD30 per day, interesting countryside like nothing we had seen before and easy to drive on deserted good quality roads
Provisions - excellent, can't get pork products at Lulus but there is a big cold store by naval base that has some, and of course can't buy alcohol to take away and only Hilton, Oasis and another big hotel sell it to drink on the premises and not cheap. There is another Lulus in Aden if you forget anything
Fuel and Water - no diesel at anchorage. Diesel jugs taken in hirecar to fuel station and filled by us (sorry cost not recorded but cheap). Water on dock to fill jug

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