Heavy winds were blowing in our faces the next morning. It was everything else but an easy ride. It took us three hours to cover the first 30 kilometers although it was all flat land. To escape the burning sun during the hot midday hours we sat in the shade outside of a village mosque. The mosques caretaker welcomed us and boiled a pot of water for us so that we could make soup and coffee. Visitors walked in and out of the mosque and always greeted us with a friendly "Salam alaykum" or stopped for a short chat. With only one exception, we were always welcomed by the mosque caretakers or Imams during our stay in Oman. They often offered us coffee, dates or at least a pot of hot water to make our own coffee and food.
The head wind situation didn't change the next day. Sand blew straight into our faces and also wafted in waves across the road. Patrick and I barely talked. Both of us were too focused on ourselves to make it through this. A petrol station employee outside of Ibri told me that it was low wind season. I thought he was kidding but he was serious. I didn't, and still don't even want to picture cycling across the desert during high wind season. That must be a real mind challenge!
As we were about to leave, Jahawer also gave us a big bag of dates, a bottle of milk and a thermos of coffee. The dates were delicious and lasted us for another week. We finished the coffee within a few hours until we arrived in Bahla. After visiting Bahla Fort we set up our night camp in a suburban neighborhood.
I looked into Patrick's tired red eyes and he into mine the next morning.
"Did you also barely sleep last night", I asked.
He laughed. "Not really! This damn coffee caused me palpitation!"
"Yeah, it was the same for me!"
He was on his phone as we had breakfast. "I just googled Omani coffee."
"And? What about it?"
"Apparently you're only supposed to drink 2-3 small cups per day because it contains so much caffeine. It's actually more an espresso."
We both looked at each other and just laughed.
I said: "I think each of us had one liter yesterday."
He nodded. "At least!" We kept laughing and finished our breakfast.
Tired but in a good mood we continued our way.
The rest of the time we spent exploring Muscat and watching movies in our living room which we also called "The Cave" since it was so dark in there. It only had a tiny window to a shady two square meters backyard.
Getting out of Muscat in direction Sur was quite a challenge since this his area is very mountainy. The first day we made about 1,000 meters of altitude and then followed the coast line. The rocky and bumpy dirt path alongside the coast turned out as a dead end. Thus we had to return to Yiti and then follow the main road. This detour included some extremely steep mountains which forced us to hike our bikes uphill at times but it also included a beautiful night of camping on the beach at the Gulf of Oman. During sunset we could observe local fishing boats on the seas surface.
An Imam invited us to rest his mosque's coffee room and a visitor joined us after some time. "Are you going to the Bimmah Sinkhole?" he asked. We affirmed his question.
"Don't jump in the sinkhole", he said. "I work at the hospital and just had another patient who did. If you understand. Swimming is okay but please don't jump."
Swimming in the Bimmah Sinkhole with its cool and clear water was a more than welcomed affair since it was a hot day and we once again had to push our bicycles against strong head winds. Thus, it felt like liquid heaven. The sinkhole is only a few hundred meters away from the sea and locals believe that it was created by a meteorite. However, it was actually formed by a collapse of the surface layer due to dissolution of the underlying limestone. Although the sinkhole is a popular tourist attraction, admission is free.
We did a quick stop at Wadi Shab - which you can only access if you take a boat - and bumped into a Spanish cycling couple as we were about to leave Sur. Bego and Hugo just finished their five years bicycle journey around the world a few months earlier but since they left out this part of the world they were already back on the road. We teamed up and cycled together to Ras Al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve. Two cyclists from Switzerland also joined us along the way. As we cycled towards the reserve we also decided to camp together that night and try our luck to see some turtles. As we were near the beach one of the Swiss guys said: "Oh no, I don't camp. I booked a room in a nearby hotel" and simply pedaled away. :D
Bego and Hugo recommended - as also Robin in Dubai before - that I should apply for at least a 30 days visa for my next destination Vietnam and not to leave out the north of this country. So I did! Thus far I only considered to take the free 15 days visa, fly into Hanoi, cycle a bit down alongside the Vietnamese coastline and then turn west into Laos at some point.
A few days later I found myself on an airplane at the airport in Muscat. Ready for take-off. Next stop Hanoi. Vietnam.
PS: Thank you Patrick for being an amazing travel companion! It was a lot of fun cycling with you! I hope we'll ride together again in future.
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