3 Centre Holiday in Oman: Wahiba Sands

The very name “Wahiba Sands” sounds SO romantic.  A huge area of dunes approx 150kms from North to South spreading inwards from the coast where the Indian Ocean crashes onto the beaches of Oman.In my mind I saw our journey like this……… replacing the camels with 4x4s of course! 

The reality was somewhat different!

Greenery as far as they eye could see, thankfully sandtracks through much of it but dune line crossings were like driving through a garden!  There’s always quite a few plants on the Wahiba apparently, but the foliage was enhanced by early rain falling on the Wahiba in the week or two before our visit, talk about bad timing!

Nevertheless we had a most enjoyable, eventful and interesting trip.

It’s a long way to get to the start though;  a 420km drive from Al Ain necessitated an early start for the three Al Ainers (Neil, Vince, Marina with Alexa as passenger) and an even earlier start for our Dubai friends (Kevin, Gary with Natalie as passenger, Saliya).

We followed the “Wahiba Crossing” route from Mike Nott’s book  Off-road Adventure Routes (UAE + Oman) which comes with full descriptions and a CD with downloadable routes.

 We’d only been driving for a short while when we had to cross a bumpy, holey, plant covered incline, and there we had our only popout of the trip.

Everyone in the group has lots of experience in fixing such problems so within a matter of minutes we were on our way again. 

The constant bumping over plants soon took it’s toll on the Chevy which lost a wheel arch liner but the guys soon had it back in place and we drove on.

The next casualty was the jeep which ended up parked over a small bush.  Now in every offroad book you will read, and at every rookie trip we tell the newbies “never park your car over foliage”.  The reason?  It might go on fire.

Just like this one.  It just shows how easy it is to make a mistake when you are tired; we all agreed it could have been any one of us!  Thankfully the fire was put out quickly with a couple of fire extinguishers (all offroaders should carry at least one in their car) but the jeep’s electrics were singed and the fuel lines had melted and there was nothing else for it but a tow out. (This is a very rare event, I have done about 400 offroad trips and never seen a car fire before.). 

 This was the easiest tow-out I’ve ever seen as It was sand track all the way in to the edge of town where recovery for the jeep was arranged.  In the meantime some of the group returned to the sands to set up camp and by late evening the rest of the team joined us. 

An early start was required next day and in no time at all we met our first challenge.

The blowout was quickly changed but this meant that the Hummer was now running without a spare.  There aren’t any tyreshops lining the Wahiba Sands sandtrack!

We made good but bumpy progress through the waypoints, thankfully taking the advice from Mike Nott’s book and finding the sandtrack after the goatfarms.  If we hadn’t – we could still be there yet!

This was the most horrendous terrain for driving I have ever seen in the desert ever.  Huge “molehills” of sand with plant roots running through them, as far as the eye could see.  It would have taken days to negotiate the 10kms or so, and it wouldnt have done our suspension or bumpers any good.

Soon things looked up – we were all SO glad to see the sea

it’s wierd to see the sea when you are driving in the desert!

We drove along the beach then had a swim. I discovered that it’s extremely inadvisable to drive along the shallows with your windows open!

We scared some seagulls

before heading inland and making camp, where camel stew with chapattis, as well as some bbq delights were on the menu.  Chapatti making demonstration duly observed by the guys. Don’t all rush to help!

We had collected wood on the beach to burn in the evening and Neil soon had a roaring campfire going.  I should maybe mention that every night we camped, our resident firestarter created a great campfire.

Now one problem with losing a car and most of its contents (by now on the back of a recovery truck enroute to Dubai) is that we were short of an awning to provide extra sleeping accommodation.

So our trusty windbreak was pressed into service to make a “Kev pen”.   I think he slept reasonably well as in the morning we were awakened by the sounds of frying pans as our smiling chef cooked us breakfast

After striking camp the Dubai folk headed back to the blacktop and home, whilst the Al Ainites, still with tyres and cars intact, tackled the second more demanding part of the drive.

But not before we had taken a photo of the intrepid Wahiba team!

Day three saw us in “proper” dunes with virtually no plants (Alhamdilallah).  

The sand was incredibly soft though.  This wasn’t a stuck!

but this was!

On days one and two all the Japanese cars had come through the drives unscathed, however today the Xterra had a bit of a hissy fit on approach to a crest.  The rear diff making worrying noises and rendering Vince with 3WD til we got it on the flat and reset the car computer.

At this point we were also using fuel at an alarming rate; driving in soft sand takes up so much more gas than blacktop or sandtrack.  It wasn’t too difficult to make the decision to head back to the road next to the sea, and the convoy cruised through the dunes without further mishap.

So there you have it – my account of an epic offroad trip in Oman.  A BIG thank you to Alexa for being a brilliant passenger and letting me use some of her photos for this blog.  Thanks also to our friends, without good humoured and capable companions this journey would have been a nightmare!

Vince and Alexa returned to Al Ain via blacktop whilst Marina and Neil had 3 days R&R on Masairah Island follwed by another epic adventure in the Umm As Sameem.

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