Mountain Driving for the Terrified

I am utterly petrified of heights.  You won’t find me high up on a ladder, or even standing close to a balcony edge if it has a huge drop.  However we are in Oman now, and  since I am trying to drive both the length and the breadth of the country, it is time for me to work on those fears.  I have done the length of Oman (in fact mainly offroad, from Jebel Hafeet to within 12kms of the Yemen border) but when trying to do the breadth the Hajar Mountains get in the way!

Starting off with easy driving through a “flat wadi”  – Wadi Hawqayn – was a great intoduction to the skills required for rocks and water.  A couple of weeks later we did the beautiful but easy Wadi Sahtan.  And last weekend we tackled some serious mountain roads in Wadi Bani Auf, which you can read about here.

I’d like to pass on some mountain driving tips for anyone else similarly terrified.

Don’t look down.

How good a driver are you?

a) People are always complimenting me on my driving skills  b) not sure, only passed my test last week  c) well, my friends always take the bus when it is my turn to drive

  • If (a) is your answer, please keep reminding yourself of this during the tricky bits!
  • If (b) is your answer,  get a bit more on and offroad experience before tackling the difficult stuff or
  • If (c) is your answer, you be the passenger!

Don’t look down.

Make sure all the stars align

  • If you are superstitious like me, don’t undertake this route on Friday 13th or if you’ve walked under a ladder recently or broken a mirror….
  • Be in a good place mentally

Make sure you are in good health

  • No headache
  • No backache
  • Feeling well generally

Don’t look down.

Make sure your car is in good health too

  • Brakes, make sure your brakes are in tip top condition, including the handbrake
  • Ensure your tyres are suitable for the drive – soft sided sand tyres are more likely to get punctured by rocks
  • Check your tyres for cuts and damage before you go – you really don’t want to be changing a tyre on a mountain road some 10 feet away from a 300 metre drop-off!

Don’t look down.

Travel with the right passengers

  • I am fortunate in that my hubby is an ex-firefighter, super calm and a great co-driver in tricky conditions – definitely the right kind of passenger to have (though we prefer separate cars when dune driving!)
  • Don’t take nervous passengers
  • Don’t take passengers who chat all the time and may distract you

Don’t look down.

Try a few easy drives before you work up to the big one

  • There are plenty to choose from in Oman, eg Wadi Sahtan, which has only one very short section of track with a steep drop-off to the sides

Don’t look down.

Drive at your very best

  • Concentrate totally on the track in front of you.
  • Don’t hurry, it’s not a race
  • It’s not like dunes where you might become stuck if you go too slowly.
  • Stop for a rest for a minute or two whenever you can, if only to get your heart rate back to normal.
  • Change into 4LOW whenever the road becomes steep.
    • More traction will help you ascend and engine braking will slow your descent

and of course…..

Don’t look down!

If you would like to see some of the Wadi Bani Auf “road” including the “short cut” back to Wadi Sahtan, without driving the route yourself, check out the video below.


  1. Steve Baker says:

    Hi Mountain Mistress,

    You done good, lady. well done. I think you’re well on you way to conquering that fear.

    A couple of observations, if I may:
    1. Raise your drivers seat, or get a kid’s booster cushion, to aid forward view when doing the steep climbs and peak break-overs.

    2. Vehicles going uphill have (the common sense) right of way, though the Omani farmer may have a different viewpoint…

    3. If you can stop and take a phone call, and talk sense, you really don’t need to conquer any more of that fear.
    3a. It might be worth getting a bluetooth earpiece, so you can calmly deal with your trip queries without stopping.

    4. I presume that Neil took the downhill photos.

    5. Well done to Neil and the kidlets (dogs) for handling the whole episode so well.

    Alternatively, you could just sub-contract me to do the mountainous stuff. I just love this sort of tracks and driving, and showing off the scenery to visitors.
    I have videos, but you probably wouldn’t want to watch them.

    Well Done, Team Bruce. Keep up with the Fun Stuff.

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