Friday, September 28:  Fins is a small village north of Wadi Shab, and between this village and Wadi Shab are numerous small & hidden coves with beaches, or wider expanses of sand, or cliffs dropping precipitously into the sea.  Only dirt tracks lead to these beaches and it’s not clear at all when you enter a track from the highway whether it will lead you to a decent beach or not.

We take numerous tracks to the edge of the ocean, and finally we find this one beautiful little secluded cove which entices us to either stop and take a swim or set up camp.

one beautiful little slice of paradise

However, we see the track down to the beach is on the opposite side of the wadi, and there seems to be no way to get there from where we are.  We head back toward the highway, but the only entrance to the highway leads north, and we need to get south to the other side of that wadi.

So we move on.  After driving to various dead ends and unimpressive beaches, we finally find a little stretch of fine white sand that doesn’t seem too crowded.  We decide we will set up camp here.

Anna and I head directly into the ocean to swim.  The Sea of Oman is quite salty and sometimes it feels like it approaches the Dead Sea in its salt level.  We swim and float for a while until we notice that Kathy, who has left her car parked on the other side of the road, has been missing for quite some time.

I go to check out what’s happening, and I find two young French guys trying to help Kathy out of a predicament.  She recently purchased her 2006 4WD Kia Sportage, but it came without a manual, and she hasn’t quite figured out how to engage the four-wheel drive.  Today, she has tried to drive across the sand and has gotten the SUV stuck on three large rocks, which the French guys are trying to dig out.  After they’ve dug out what they can, she still seems to be stuck on top of one huge rock right at the center underside of her car.  One of the French guys offers to drive, and Kathy, the other guy, and I push the car to try to free it from the rock.  Success! Kathy is able to drive her car over the sand and land near our campfire spot.

Anna and the little rock circle used for a previous campfire

Kathy is an industrious young lady, so immediately she begins to collect sticks and twigs to start the fire. Anna goes off and helps.  I get busy trying to set up my tent because I don’t want to do it after dark.  Plus, I’ve never set it up by myself so I’m a little nervous that I won’t be able to do it!  Anna, in all her kindness, helps me to put it together.  Then I help her.  Hers is a lot easier to set up than mine is.

Kathy gathers firewood for cooking

Finally, we sit down, but it is still sweltering even as the sun is going down.  Hot and humid.  Even though I’ve been swimming in the ocean, I feel sweaty and sticky and salty.  And I know this is how I will feel all night because it’s not cooling down and there are no showers.  I don’t want to jump back in the ocean, because that is a temporary reprieve; it would leave a new film of salt and sand all over me.

the north end of the beach

the south end of the beach

looking inland as the sun goes down

Smooth stones in the sand

Kathy gets the fire going and puts on a pot of water to boil some pasta.  We realize we have left in Anna’s Muscat apartment the eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers for the pasta, so we’ll just have to throw in some grated cheese and olive oil that we have on hand.

industrious Kathy holds the bowl of pasta while putting the meat on the fire

After the pasta is cooked, Kathy puts the skewers of garlic mint chicken and kefta on the fire.  I eat so much of the pasta that I’m hardly hungry for any of the meat.

our tents set up for a night of sweating

Later we sit outside by the fire.  I am still so uncomfortable, I just want to go to sleep to forget my misery.  Kathy and Anna are very content to be covered in sweat and sand and to sit listening to the waves and watching the sun go down.  I would be fine with that too, if I had a bed and a hot shower in a hotel room to look forward to.

These two love camping.  On the other hand, I’ve decided this will be my last camping trip. I love these friends: I admire Kathy’s patience and industrious nature and Anna’s inner peace, tranquility and kindness.  I need to learn more of all these things, especially patience.  But I don’t think I’ll learn them by camping.  This “extreme” activity just causes me to be more irritable and impatient.  Kathy says I’m a “princess.”  Maybe so, though I certainly have never lived a royal life!

Anna tends the fire

I climb in my tent, closing the door to keep out mosquitoes.  In my private little oven,  I lie on top of my sleeping bag and toss fitfully to and fro, wondering when this interminable night will end.

In the morning when I wake up, I’m surprised to find it is quite cool.  The sun is just rising and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to beam down its misery on the land.  I get up and sit out by the fire that Kathy has already made to heat water for coffee. Since we’ve forgotten our veggies for the omelet she planned, she makes sunny side up eggs. She’s very kind to do this, for I see sweat pouring off of her as she sits by the fire.  I’m grateful that she enjoys this.  Immediately after eating my egg, I start dismantling my tent.  I know it won’t be long before the sun refuses to have mercy on us.  I sweat and dismantle, dismantle and sweat.

Thank goodness it’s not much longer before this misery ends.  We finally pack up and begin our drive back to Nizwa.  We’re taking a new route back, and it turns out to be shorter than my normal route.  Of course, none of the shortcut roads are marked, but we somehow figure it out by following our slightly inaccurate map.  Around 3:00, we roll into Nizwa, and I’m ecstatic to be back in my air-conditioned flat with a shower and my cozy bed awaiting me.

I think I will sell my tent, so I never make the mistake of camping again.