Monday, January 16: At the bottom of Jebel Akhdar, otherwise known as Green Mountain, a policeman at the checkpoint checks my residency card and asks my nationality. He notes there are 3 of us in the car. If I didn’t have my GMC Terrain, or some other 4WD vehicle, he would make me turn around at this point. In order to go up this steep and winding mountain road, The Royal Omani Police require drivers to have a 4WD; many people have met their deaths coming down this road while relying only on their brakes.
We climb the mountain, a good 40 minutes chugging uphill, alternating between first and second gear. I am always surprised that this is a good, and fairly new, paved highway. There is construction going on and huge concrete blocks have been put in place to keep people from flying off the mountain.
The view of Oman’s brown mountains below are beautiful and almost otherworldly. It reminds me of scenes from some fantasy movie like Lord of the Rings, except in browns instead of greens. Wisps of clouds hang loosely among the rugged and wrinkled mountains, like shredded cotton balls. I must keep my eyes on the road, but I keep pointing out the view to the boys. They’re in awe.
When we arrive at the top of the mountain, I call my Omani friend Moo, who comes out to the road from his house to flag us down. He’s a native of Jebel Akhdar and knows the mountain like it’s a family member. We head out immediately to hike through the terraced plantations on the Saiq Plateau. The day is clear blue and crisp, like a fall day in America. We park at a turnaround circle, and from the road we see terraces built all down the side of a steep cliff. I am captivated by this view, which looks like I imagine Macchu Picchu looks.
We head into the plantations, past pomegranate trees and walnut trees and rosemary bushes. We walk past the terraces, down rocky ledges and across boulders, and through farmland. We balance like tightrope walkers on the walls of the falaj that carries water to the crops.
Finally, we end up in a small village where a small herd of goats congregates on some steps to greet us. A welcoming committee! We take some pictures and then continue on.
Moo plans to take us to a viewpoint for the sunset, but because I have been a little slower than him and the boys, the sunset is approaching faster than we anticipated. He and Alex decide to RUN back over the path we just took to fetch the car and bring it to the village. They do that in about a half hour, and we hop in the car and head up a long winding road to a place Moo calls “Juniper Trees;” this is a peak covered in (surprise!) juniper trees. We stand at the top and watch as the sun sets. The wind up here is strong and biting, and we’re too cold to stay long.
We stop at a lone coffee shop and order some hot tea and some roti, an Indian bread that is hot off the griddle. The boys love this freshly made bread and order several pieces.
Later, we go back to Moo’s house where he makes a fire out on his patio. The boys have brought zucchini, potatoes, peppers and onions which they chop and wrap in aluminum foil packages. I brought Moo and I a couple of hamburgers. Moo has some gin, which he mixes with soda water, and we warm ourselves, inside and out, by the fire. We sleep in Moo’s house, which, being at the top of a 2000 meter mountain, is freezing.
Tuesday, January 17: In the morning, I get up early to go to work, and I leave the boys with Moo to hike for the day around the mountain. Moo brings them back down to the Falaj Daris in the evening, where they play a number of rousing games of pool. I sit and eat dinner and drink a beer, choosing to enjoy some peace and quiet rather than get involved with the game. It’s obvious the boys had a great day hiking with Moo and I’m thankful for his help keeping them entertained while I worked. All evening the boys rave about the hike and I know it’s a good thing I stayed behind and let the boys take this mountain.