Holi, Colours, New Arrivals and A Boat Trip with Eagles – Travels with Allie.
This weekend we ticked off something that has long been on my bucket list, namely to spend a couple of days cruising the fjords of the Musandam Peninsula in Oman, on a traditional Arab Dhow. I’d read an article about this remote part of Oman some years ago and it sounded amazing. Lucy had a weekend sailing there recently and her trip looked fantastic. She very kindly organised another for us this weekend as a gift for Bob’s birthday and a shared gift for me, jointly with Daisy for Mother’s Day.
But first we started the weekend with a bbq in the gardens of Lucy’s flat in Dubai Marina. Bob, Daisy and I had spent the day at Jumeirah Island’s Clubhouse, a pool complex in the villa development of Jumeirah Islands. Very nice, chilled day and the weather has definitely notched up with temperatures now in the low 30s constantly. Lu invited a group of friends to our bbq, most of whom we’d met before on other visits. 2 friends, Chris and James, we have known since they were about 16 and we all lived in Yorkshire. They are now working in Dubai too, so it was very nice to see them again. It wasn’t a late night because we had to be up and out by 6am on Saturday morning, but we had a good time. One of the bbq items were some cheese bratwursts that were really outstanding.
So, the alarm went off at 5am on Saturday morning and we packed up overnight bags and set off. It is a 4 hour drive to Khasab at the tip of the Musandam Peninsula but first we had to cross the border into Oman. Normally this is a relatively quick process, albeit with a lot of moving from one office to another and getting stamps. However, on arrival it seemed like everyone in Dubai had decided to go to Oman that day. It took us 2 hours to get through the border, purely due to queuing, no problems at all. We had to pay for visas and our vaccination status was checked but it was just tedious and it made us late for our boat departure at 10. It didn’t really matter as we had chartered the whole dhow so they were just waiting for us but it was frustrating.
The drive from the border north to Khasab is nothing short of stunning. This part of Oman is a sudden and sharp contrast to the flat sandlands of the UAE immediately before. It is a country of endless huge grey mountains, creased and etched by time, running down to the blue, blue sea, or sometimes with a narrow coastal strip and a little bay. The odd fishing hamlet clings to the coast, much like the road that has literally been blasted into the mountain side and winds through a series of chicanes. Driving it feels like the opening of a Bond film…. the views are stupendous.
Khasab is a dusty little port town with an active fishing fleet and also a departure point for a fleet of dhows catering to the tourist market who want to visit the fjords of the marine park. We had to clamber across a couple to get to our’s. Then it was shoes off, stow the bags and collapse onto the cushioned decks.
There were 9 of us: The Boler 4, Chris and James, Aaron, Kim, and Grace. Crew wise there was a captain and a deckmate, and they took care of us very well. There was an upper and lower deck, both carpeted and bordered on all sides by carpetted lounging pillows. We set off immediately we were all aboard, and we lounged on deck while being served fresh fruit, cold drinks and very weak coffee. The day was very hot and there was a heat haze over the coast which takes the brightness out of my photos, but the views did not disappoint. The land of the Musandam fjords is a wilderness of barron rock, striated with layers and strange shapes and sometimes a lonely, small tree. The water is so blue…….
We sailed into several fjords and eventually pulled up for lunch and a first swim. Lunch was grilled chicken, salad, hummus, bread, a dal dish, fragrant spiced rice. They put a ladder down for us and we happily got into the water and wallowed and swam. This is what we had come for.
After we were all back on board they took us further into the park and we saw the first pod of dolphins and stopped to watch them for a while as they dived around our boat. My photos are the usual glimpse of tail and fin……. But Lucy got a good one….
More swimming stops followed and we spent most of the afternoon in the water one way or the other. One stop was at a tiny islet with an old British built fort ruin on the top. We swam around that and some of the younger legs climbed up to the top of it. The sun started to set at this point so the captain moved the dhow to a mooring in the middle of the fjord where we could see it go down for longer and spend the night.
It wasn’t the most vivid sunset I’ve ever seen – the heat haze saw to that – but it was an incredibly tranquil scene, enjoyed with a glass of cold wine. The temperature hardly drops at night, so we were all still lounging about in our swimwear and cover ups. Dinner was taken in the same way – this time chicken, beef kebabs, grilled tuna, salad, rice, tahini…… They bbq’d everything in a grill clamped to the boat side.
After dinner, the captain leapt into the water to demonstrate the magic of bioluminescence to us. Amazing!!!!! He thrashed about with his arms and legs and everywhere he moved through the water lit up with the lights of thousands of plankton. We needed no further encouragement and we were all in the water again within minutes. It was so beautiful. The stars were of course in their millions above us with almost zero light pollution, and we even saw two shooting stars. And then we were surrounded by tiny stars in the water whenever we moved, and when you lifted your arm out into the air, it was covered in twinklling lights too. The boat supplied snorkelling equipment which we’d been using during the day, and the masks enhanced the plankton show by allowing us to see the lights under the water and on our bodies in the water as we generated sparks every time we moved. I wished I had an underwater camera with me to capture this wonder but it was simply amazing, you must take my word for it.
Later we dried off and the crewman put out mattresses, pillows and blankets on the deck and we turned in. The stars and moon above us. You know, I’ve had better night’s sleep, but not many that were more atmospheric: to be rocked gently to sleep on a carpeted deck under a canopy of stars………
We got up at about 7 am this morning and had breakfast and then we went to a last swimming stop where we snorkelled and wallowed again. Then a last play with 2 pods of dolphins before heading back to Khasab. My only regret was that it wasn’t a much longer trip…. I just loved it.
Getting back through the border was much easier today and we stopped for a late lunch at a beach restaurant in Umm Al Qaiwain, a tiny beach emirate north of Dubai. Home late afternoon for showers and a rest and a host of great memories to treasure.