Sunday, November 27: This morning, after having coffee in Sur and then driving north for about 30 km, I enter Wadi Tiwi, a wadi with a narrow and winding uphill road between lush green plantations and emerald pools. This wadi is also known as the “Wadi of Nine Villages,” because the road cuts through numerous small villages. Apparently there is an overnight hike that can be done to Wadi Bani Khalid, where I went yesterday, but I am not attempting such today.
Driving in to the wadi, I can see there is quite a bit of traffic as holiday-makers are out in droves for picnics with their families. I am in my GMC Terrain, of course, and I find very soon upon entering there is a narrow road, with room for only one car at a time to pass, going through the first village. There is a lot of backing up and pulling to the sides while the cars going up have to make way for the cars coming down, and vice versa. I sit for quite some time, backing up, inching forward, backing up again, pulling into side alleys, and squeezing past other 4WD vehicles. Finally I reach a wide clearing past the first village and I think maybe I’m home free. Then I come to another bottleneck that is worse than the first, and people are all getting out of their cars, shouting that cars need to back up or pull aside. I ask someone walking past, “Is there only one road up and down?” They tell me yes. I see the futility of all of this with these crowds and so decide to park my car near a wide stream and take a walk up the mountain.
I start walking up a steep incline, with cars squeezing past me going up and down, and I walk and walk until I come to another cute little village. All the roads along here are lush with tropical greenery, and I don’t really know my plants but I think some are banana trees. Suddenly I come across a Bangladeshi boy carrying a very sharp machete. I think to myself that if I ran across a guy like this, carrying such a weapon, in someplace like Southeast Asia or Central America, I’d be afraid for my life. But I’m in Oman and I have no fear here. Besides, with these crowds of people going up and down this narrow road, how on earth would the guy get away with chopping me to bits with a machete?
When I encounter this friendly knife-wielding fella, I ask him how far it is to the top of the mountain. I’m ready to tackle this thing! But he bursts my bubble by telling me it’s 5 km to the top and most people drive up. I am exhausted from all my travels this holiday weekend and I think no way am I going to walk up a mountain for 5 km. I finally give up and decide to leave this place. I’ll return another day when the crowds are not so thick.
So. I eventually make my way back out of this hornet’s nest back to the main highway, where I can either drive 350 km back to Nizwa, or I can drive 175 km north to Muscat where I can get a pedicure and then drive 140 km back to Nizwa. It’s almost the same distance either way, but if I go to Muscat I’ll be driving on a brand new coast highway which I’ve never driven before, with a pedicure as reward at the halfway point, OR I can drive nonstop back to Nizwa on a crappy road with no break at all.
I decide the former. I drive up the coast, which is a beautiful drive overlooking the Sea of Oman to my right and brown mountains to my left, and then through a lot of brown mountains more inland.
Finally, in Muscat, I have no idea where to find a pedicure, especially as it’s that time of day when most Omani businesses are closed for nap time. I end up at the shopping mall Markaz al Bhaja, where I find a salon on the lower level. The salon has just opened apparently and when I ask for a pedicure there is a lot of scrambling around as they try to find someone to give me one. Finally, they find a Filipino girl who I’m not sure has really ever done a professional pedicure before. She’s very friendly though and she does a painstakingly thorough job on my feet, which I admit haven’t had such special treatment since I left America in early September. This pedicure lasts a solid three hours as the girl spends literally over an hour just trying to sand down the rough skin on my heels. I keep telling the girl, “It’s okay! It doesn’t have to be perfect!” But she won’t be swayed and keeps going at it until my heels are as smooth as apples.
After all this, it is getting quite late and I hop in my car to drive the long drive to Nizwa, where I happily crash in my villa, exhausted from all the exploring I did on the National Holiday. I decide I will stay home and relax all day on Monday, so I can at least have a short one-day vacation from my vacation. Back to work on Tuesday & Wednesday, and at the crack of dawn on Thursday, an Italian friend will be dropping in to Oman. Let another journey begin.