28 January 2020

Oman Trip

  1. Direction puzzle Jan 28, 2020

    I am in the plane in Doha airport getting ready to take off for Muscat. You can see the runway in front that we are going to use but beyond that in the horizon you can see downtown Doha.

    Which direction is North?

  2. Where desert meets the ocean Jan 29, 2020

    (strictly speaking this is a gulf)

  3. 5K run. In the 25th country Jan 29, 2020

    This is in the Al Mauj area in Muscat

  4. Finally… the reason I am in the Middle East Jan 29, 2020
  5. Hotel Pool looking into the Gulf of Oman Jan 30, 2020
  6. Al Mouj Beach Jan 30, 2020
  7. This surprised me in Oman Jan 30, 2020

    Had some free hours before heading to the airport for a late night flight. Got a cab and started towards Wadi Shab. (Wadi means a river, I think). On the road, we went thru 100km of mountains. Never saw the end of it. I did not realize that Oman had so much of mountainous zones.

    Errata: Thanks to Rupa, I now know that Wadi means a valley.

  8. Gulf of Oman near Daghmar area Jan 30, 2020

    The water is very clean and blue but the beaches are nothing but stones and hard rocks.

    Fittingly, it is called Pebble Beach Sur

  9. This is my new friend Jan 30, 2020

    23 year old Mohammed took me around for a seven hour trip outside Muscat. Got to know a lot about his family, the country and local culture. One of 14 siblings, he has a very interesting name. Mohammed Mubarak Khamis Humaid Al-Jabri. I asked him why does he have such a long name. Found out those are respectively his name, his father’s name, his grandfather’s name, his great grandfather’s name and then finally, his family name! By that logic, I would be Rajib Abhaychandra Madanmohan Debendranath Roy !!!

    Very nice gentleman. We are on Facebook now and I have his birthday and phone number. Fairly sure this is not the last time I have talked to him 🙂

  10. Trekking to the Wadi Shab Jan 30, 2020

    It took about 35 minutes to maneuver thru a lot of rocks and non-existent paths. Those were some impressively sheer walls of mountains on either side.

  11. Like I mentioned, the mountain walls were impressive Jan 30, 2020

    Soon the wide path ended and there was no… well.. path. One had to constantly negotiate stepping over rocks and stones but the one thing that kept anybody from straying was vertical walls of the mountains on either side.

  12. Stooping low to conquer Wadi Shab Jan 30, 2020

    Some parts of the trek was scary. There were a couple of areas only one person could squeeze thru. One wrong step and it would be a steep fall. There were spots that some folks were too scared to cross backing up the line behind.

    Unfortunately, I did not have proper shoes on. And I was afraid of my ankle rolling. If I had known this would be involved, I would have come in shorts and half shirt..

  13. Reminded me of a trek thru a valley in Mongolia Jan 30, 2020

    Roger, when are we hitting the roads again?

  14. Where there is an ocean… Jan 30, 2020

    … there is a ship (of the desert)

  15. Reached Wadi Shab!!! Jan 30, 2020

    Unfortunately, I did not have change of clothes. Else a dip in the cold water would have been the perfect reward for the tricky trek.

  16. Bimmah Sink Hole Jan 30, 2020

    After Wadi Shab, we headed towards Bimmah Sink Hole. This is a nearly 300 feet hole created not too far from the Gulf (you can see in the picture). In fact, there is a small tunnel that joins the Gulf to this sinkhole and that is where the water comes from.

    While the locals would have you believe that a meteorite caused this sink hole, in reality, it was created by a collapse in the limestone thru constant erosion below. (Once again, who knew there are limestone rocks in the desert country of Oman?).

    No amount of researching the internet or asking the locals helped me understand the timeframe of the creation of this sinkhole…

  17. From the bottom of the sink hole… Jan 30, 2020

    To get an idea of the scale, check out the folks on the top of the rim…

  18. One last look at Muscat Jan 30, 2020

    The Gulf of Oman behind.
    The city of Muscat in the middle.
    Yours truly in the front!

  19. Almost did not make it Jan 31, 2020

    “I cannot give you a visa to enter the country”, the immigration office assured me.
    “Why not?”, I asked
    “Well, your next flight is in three hours. The rule is six hours.”

    That was a bummer. I had not expected this. I was hoping to see Natasha Balseca after quite a few years. In fact, if I managed to meet her, it would be the third time I would have met her.

    The very first time was somewhere around 2008/2009 time frame when on a dark morning at 5:10AM, Samantha (or was it Lara?) had introduced me to Natasha when we all showed up at the running group’s starting point on Windward Parkway.

    I had learnt that Natasha lives in Ecuador and was in Atlanta to teach at a school for some time. Eventually she left for Ecuador but we kept up thru Facebook and birthdays. Then one summer, about 5 years back, she was back in Atlanta to teach some summer school. I met her up that time and we again put in a run, this time near Windermere Parkway. Since it was one on one, over Starbucks coffee, I got to know about her whole life story. And the fact that one of her cousins is in Galapagos. Which is some place Sharmila and I want to go to. Good to know that there is somebody we can reach out to.

    That followed a couple of years of mostly Facebook and birthday contacts only. She then moved to Doha, Qatar with her family as a teacher. Funny thing is that I go thru that airport eight times a year but never managed to get out and meet Natasha. My connections are usually 2 hours or less.

    This time, from Kolkata, I was headed to Muscat. I had a little over 3 hours. I was determined to meet her. In fact, I had asked her to come in her running clothes. I traveled in my running shoes and had my running clothes in my backpack. If we could figure out a way to run outside the airport without drawing the attention from the security guys, that was what we were going to do. 3 meets – 3 runs.

    Except the immigration guy had other thoughts.

    The good news is that after about five minutes of explaining my situation, I was able to convince him to give me a temporary visa. Phew!!!

    As I came out of the customs area, I texted Natasha “Coming out” and started scanning the waiting crowd carefully. I was looking for any woman by herself in running gear. II did see somebody vigorously waving at me. She looked like Natasha all right but she was with somebody else. I looked behind me – there was nobody. So, it had to be Natasha.

    Turns out Natasha’s mom – Gina – was visiting from Ecuador. Natasha had dragged her along. We decided to give running the boot and instead settled down at a tea shop to chat.

    It was great to meet Gina for the first time. She was born in Virginia, married an Ecuadorean, had Natasha and then moved to Ecuador.

    And I was thrilled that I was able to finally see Natasha after promising her every time I passed thru Doha that some day I will make it. Found out that Natasha is gearing up for a half marathon and that she has taken up rowing.

    Thank you Natasha and Gina for coming to the airport and spending the time. One of these days, I hope we will put in a run together.

  20. How to enter US Jan 31, 2020

    My text messages updating Sharmila on my status

    Pretty much a step by step instruction on how to enter the country!!!