Friday, June 29, 2018

16 D'u Bai anything at the Mall today!!

With the heat and haze, even Garry could not be enticed outside for sail in.
I had to go out there on my own, you know, I might miss something!!
We docked at the newer and larger terminal and we had to attend a face to
face as we passed through immigration. Much faster and easier compared to
the process in Singapore.
We didn't arrive till noon, so we were at a quandary of what to do in the
few hours we had before our meeting time for our dinner on the creek that
Really there was only one option, air-conditioned mall with free internet.
Armed will all our peripherals we headed for the first free shuttle we could
find. Well lo and behold it was going to the Dubai Mall, there's $25 saved!
We managed to update all phones, ipads and laptops. Sent all emails, caught
up with all the Facebook updates/ OMG so much internet we didn't know what
to look up next.

15 A Dubai - Bateaux Dinner Cruise


15 B Dubai Bateaux Dinner Cruise

That evening eight of us met up and headed out for a Dinner cruise with
Bateaux Cruises.
It was a lovely few hours as we sailed around the creek in our glass sided
boat. We admired the lovely coloured lights that lit up the waters edge and
the flotilla of vessels also cruising the creek.
The food was magnificent, starting with a refreshing Green Apple and mint
Juice and mix of 3 delicious hors d'ouevres. A tea cup of a thick potato
soup, duck & pate entree and the most tender pieces of lamb cooked 3 ways.
Desserts were amazing though I settled for a platter of cheese.
We paid for unlimited wine and the bottles came out a plenty, though the
first cork could not be popped until the ship left the dock.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

14 Muscat, Wadi Al-Shab and a knapsack on my Back

"I love to go a wandering
Along a mountain track
And as I go, I love to sing
My knapsack on my back.."

This pretty much summed up our day today. I am still humming the chorus as I
write this, and I can't help but smile, cause I am not sure there was a
whole lot of loving going on at the time LOL..
Sail in to port was just as magnificent as ever, especially with the calm
seas we were finally experiencing again. After all these trips you would
think that I have learnt pictures aren't always good first thing in morning.
Never take haze on .. You won't win.. So today my sail in pictures will
actually be my sail out pictures.
Last time we docked at the Port Sultan Qaboos there was not a Passenger
Terminal to speak of. We were simply ushered on to shuttles and driven
straight to the port gates. Today we were loaded into the shuttles, driven
100m to the terminal entrance where we security screened. Shame no one told
us that is what they were going to do, because I did hear of people leaving
their bags on the shuttles! We exited out of another door where we were
first bombarded by the Taxi mafia, who were trying to catch the business
before everyone reached the mass of taxis waiting just outside, then back on
to the shuttle for the ride to the Port gates.
With all these taxis at the gates, they must not have got the email that
said "hey the shuttle drop off point will be at the Muttrah Souk." Keep that
in mind if you ever visit.
Our tour guide from Oman Day Tours was picking us up from the gates so we
asked to be dropped off there. We arrived early so we had a little bit of a
wait before we found our guide. it was already starting to get hot.
Mosa turned up dressed in his white, well let's call it a kaftan so you all
know what I am talking about. His sparkling white airconditioned Prado was
also a nice touch. Prompted by a very inquisitive Peter he spoked to us
about life in Muscat and Oman during our drive.
Now not turning this into a history lesson but here are a few fun facts.
The current Sultan Qaboos came into power by overthrowing his father. In
his father's reign Oman was not a very pleasant place to live. Hardly any
infrastructure, lucky to have 6ft of paved road in the whole country. Hardly
any schools or hospitals. Hardly anyone was allowed in or out of the
country. Even after the Sultan started trading his oil, his coffers grew
larger and still nothing was spent to improve the living conditions of his
subjects. His only son was educated and sent to England but when he
returned he was kept under house arrest. Dad was starting to go a bit loopy
and became paranoid of a coup. He brought in stupid laws like no one being
allowed to be seen talking to each other for longer than 15 minutes. Enough
was enough and with the help of MI6 he overthrew his father. All this
information has come courtesy of Mr Google and this next part I kept getting
conflicting stories. Originally, we were told, showing leniency towards his
father, Qaboos shot him in the foot and then sent him off to London to live
out his years in a 5 star hotel. Another version is that he actually shot
himself in the foot as he tried to draw his gun. I will let you choose.. So
the roads, schools, hospitals, airports, seaports have all been built in the
last 40 years.
We got to the see the modern Muscat as we drove through the outer suburbs to
get to the Sur Freeway. So barren and rugged with the odd satellite town so
white against the surrounding rocky grey mountains. No lush green lawns or
colourful gardens of suburbia like we are accustomed to.

14a Muscat, Wadi Al-Shab and a knapsack on my Back

To quote lonely planet "The Wadi rewards even the most reluctant walker with
turquoise pools, waterfalls and terraced plantations" We didn't start off
reluctant, but we were close to it by the time we got there.
Mosa told us that Wadi Al-Shab means "valley of stones" and yes, it is true
to its name.
When you arrive at the Wadi Al-Shab carpark you are entertained by the all
the goats. Like stray dogs they wander around lying around in the shade,
foraging for scraps of food and taking a liking to some of the parked cars.
To start the hike, you need to cross the river in a small boat. For the cost
of a couple of Rials you have the enjoyment of precariously trying to board
a small runabout and pray that it doesn't topple over as the next person
jumps on. The 2-minute ride takes you across to where your adventure

14b Muscat, Wadi Al-Shab and a knapsack on my Back

At first you think "this isn't too bad" as you start to hike the easy large
flat areas where small farms have been established. All along the wadi you
see black irrigation hoses or concrete channels to bring water down for the
watering of the fruit trees and date palms.
As you move further into the wadi the towering sandstone cliffs move closer
and closer together and the flat now becomes rocky and the climbing begins.
Like mountains goats we are scampering up and down the rocky outcrops. Some
made easy with man made steps others a little hairier with steps of the
mother nature kind.
Small pools of fresh inviting water teasing us as the sweat was now pouring
off us. Taking photos was nearly impossible as salty sweat droplets stung
my eyes when I tried to focus. With thoughts of "what have we done", we
pushed further into the canyon.
Ready to give up we spot a couple of hikers on their return, confident we
must be close as they were still wet from their swim. "Not far now they
said", not far for someone coming out, but for us still going in it still
seemed like an eternity.

14c Muscat, Wadi Al-Shab and a knapsack on my Back

Finally, with just two more steep rocks to "slide down" we reach the first
swimming hole. and for Sharon, Peter and myself, it was enough and we spent
the half hour or so frolicking in the cool clear waters. As a bonus we
found that we were in a natural foot spa as the little fishes started
nibbling at feet.
Mosa was pleased that Garry said he wanted to see the cave with the
waterfall. Off they went Garry armed with his go pro but no reef shoes
which made for a tricky and at times painful trek. From his reports it was
quite strenuous and at times there where long deep pools of water you had to
swim across to get to the cave. Swimming upright through a narrow passage
with just enough room for your head so there is no need to dive, you are
rewarded with a very nice waterfall. Garry was pretty pooped by then, but
Mosa grabbed a rope and scaled the rock next to water fall, played up to
Garry's Go Pro and dived back into the water without, well I was going to
say breaking a sweat, but he was already wet. Eventually a very tired
looking Garry return to our pool where we were still enjoying out time. The
walk back never seems as long and it certainly didn't seem as hot, but I
suppose the water had really cooled down our body temperature.
With not much time to spare Mosa stopped at a local restaurant for a quick
take away. in hindsight we should have gone sandwich, but we went biryani,
not easy to eat in the back seat of the car. It was delicious. I don't
even have a picture as my lap played "table" and there was no way I could
take a picture and not have everything end up on the floor.
Sail away was stunning now that the haze was gone. With the most impressive
sights being the Tower in the shape of a incense burner, so white against
the mountains behind it. Forts that blend into the landscape look like
book ends protecting the palace that sprawls along the waters edge below..
Thankyou Muscat for another great day!
Another good stepping day.. Makes up for a couple of bad sea days!! Count is
now 279,624

Saturday, June 23, 2018

13 I say Ceylon, you say Sri Lanka.. Lets just go to Galle!

This is our third visit to Colombo and each time we have docked at a
different pier. It was a short ride and we were the first shuttle from the
ship to arrive at the port gates.
Preparing ourselves for the onslaught of Tuk Tuk drivers as we walked
through to gates, you could imagine our surprise that no one was in sight.
Suddenly, with the realisation that we had arrived, a tsunami of drivers
suddenly came charging around the corner towards us. We were only
interested in the one that was booked to take us to Galle for the day.
Having survived the first challenge of getting past all the touters, the
second was facing the traffic of Colombo. We are not sure if we were taken
along the back streets on purpose or maybe there are no direct routes, but
it took quite a while before it even looked like that we were on the
outskirts of the city.

13a I say Ceylon, you say Sri Lanka.. Lets just go to Galle!

Elephants! Did you say elephants?, I know where there are elephants!  We
made a slight diversion to a temple that kept elephants as pets… well they
cared for a few older retired elephants that come out and are decorated for
ceremonial events.
When researching Sri Lanka, a must-see stand out, are the traditional Stilt
fishermen.  An old tradition where the older fishermen, who no longer go out
in boats, sit on these crudely made platforms and fish the waves as they
break on the sand.
Stilt Fisherman - Commercialism has taken over this time-honoured
tradition.  Pulling up, there was just one lone fisherman surrounded by many
empty stilts, sticking out of the water like crudely made crucifixes. 
Suddenly there is a call and a few others jump out of their make shift
shelter, wrapped sarongs around their rip curl shorts, grabbed a stick and
ran onto the beach.  Like little birds they scampered up and perched
themselves upon their stilts. But hang on, there are no lines nor hooks on
those sticks ….  OMG they are fake!!   Having read trip advisor I had
already read that so it came as no surprise.…  For the bargain price of $5
each you can take as many photo's as you like…