Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What a year....

Well it has been just over a year since the lovely Mrs L and I packed up from the windy city, bid farewell to our amazing friends, shoe horned Ralph into a big crate and made our way East, not too far, just to the middle bit. 

We would be lying to say that it wasn't a bit of a culture shock when we got here but all in all, the past year has been pretty good fun. We have met a ton of new people, been on some pretty cool adventures and have had the pleasure of experiencing a whole different way of life. We have also enjoyed one or two champagne brunches too.

Oman is a wonderful country to live in and the people are very open and welcoming. The summer weather is a challenge with temperatures hitting mid 50s a couple of weeks back, and yes that is celsius! Ramadan will soon be on us again which brings its own issues when trying to get through a working day. Obviously we still miss our family and friends back home and don't get anywhere near enough time with my fantastic nieces and nephew. And on top of all that we have to put up with a 0% personal income tax rate and petrol at 19p a litre!

Jenny and I also hit 10 years married this May which proved a lot of people wrong. We had an amazing romantic wedding anniversary sharing a Burger King in the services of the M1 outside Bristol en route to the Heineken Cup Final at Cardiff. I know folks, you don't have to remind her how lucky she is. Believe me, I know who the lucky one is.

From a professional point of view I think if you were to take a learning curve, angle it upwards, keep bending it until it is nearly vertical, that might begin to represent the journey that both of us have been on. For Jenny, she made a huge transition but as always nothing fazed her and in her own (nerdy) way, she once again acted like a big dollop of elmlea and has quickly risen to the top!

Most people know my work background and again I think it is fair to say I've made one or two minor tweaks and adjustments. In the last year I have taken over the running of 2 companies, set up another 2 new ones and have a few big projects on the horizon. Whilst it has been hard work, the Omani lady who owns these companies is possibly the best boss a person could ask for and on top of that has made it her personal mission to ensure I never lose weight again. 

When you live as an expat somewhere like this or indeed the States, there is always a lot of conversation taken up by the discussions of moving home and the likelihood of that happening. For Jenny and I, never say never. But for now we are happy to turn the AC up another notch, order another plate of hummus and see what tomorrow brings. Looking at the weather forecast there is a good chance it will be dry with a smidgen of sunshine. Again.

Here's to another year.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Kayak & SUP Safari

Stand up paddleboarding is becoming quite popular in Oman and a number of our friends have their own boards. January seemed to have been a busy month for many of our friends, recovering from the excitement and overindulgence of Christmas. For us, it was a busy time at work and also we had the pleasure of entertaining our friends from Chicago, Sinead, Valerie and Barry (Barry not so much of a pleasure!) So, a plan was hatched to do a bit of a paddleboard safari around Bandar Khayran and a camping trip. I’ve tried SUPing a few times and whilst it’s OK it doesn’t rock my boat, so to say. I’d much rather be in a kayak. So that’s what we did.

There’s a little road that leads down to BK from the highway, which is only accessible by a 4x4 – which meant a long walk for Anna!! Despite the location being relatively inaccessible, it was still quite busy with families picnicking and enjoying watersports, so we decided to set up our camp on one of the neighbouring beaches. As the tide was out, loading up the kayaks and the paddleboards and wading round the corner wasn’t too much of a big deal.

Bandar Kharyan is a small bay inlet about an hour's drive from The Wave on the road to Sifah. The scenery is absolutely stunning. Sadly, it was a bit windy and the video doesn't really do it justice, but hopefully it gives an idea of the crystal clear waters and beautiful coastline.


Now of course, it would be wrong for us to leave Ralph at home whilst we're off enjoying ourselves and he loves to get involved. He got to try both SUPing and kayaking, and whilst he was particularly skilled at SUPing, I think he prefers to be in the water rather than on it. 

The placement of the tent is very important and we thought we were being clever and all Bear Grylls by looking at the tide mark before deciding where to set up camp. However, it turns out that we weren't so smart as we were enjoying our barbecue when the tide came right up and through the middle of the area where we were sitting. Fortunately, it just missed the tents, so we were good for a dry night's sleep!

So the idea of having a nice quiet beach away from everyone else was a good idea on the night before, the morning after we had to resolve the issue of getting all of our stuff back to the car, now that the tide was in. After a bit of head scratching we decided to lash together three of the SUPs and load our kit onto that. I then towed everything back to the cars in the kayak. It was a bit hairy at times, making sure I kept it all balanced, but we made it back in one piece with everything still dry. That just left the others to swim round! 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Desert Driving - Top Gear special

I love my cars. When we moved to Muscat, one of the biggest decisions I faced (aside from the trivial ones, where to live, how to get a job etc) was what car to get. With petrol only costing the equivalent of 20p a litre it seemed inconceivable to get anything other than a 5.7l V8 monster truck. However, Jenny’s mind doesn’t seem to work the same way as mine and after a number of “discussions”, we compromised on a Ford Explorer.

Now, with some of our friends having a "proper" off-road vehicle, such as the Jeep Wrangler, I’ve had a lot of stick about my car having a “sand button”. The only logical thing therefore was to take the cars off road and into the desert to see what they could do.

Gil had been on a trip to the desert with some visiting friends and had met with an Omani tour guide called Tariq. He offered to take us into the desert and show us how it’s done.

After a stop for lunch in one of Oman's oldest villages, we headed down to Wahiba Sands, stopping  briefly on the edge of the desert to let the tyres down.

We practised tackling some smaller dunes whilst looking for a suitable campsite.  We set up at the top off a large dune overlooking one of the many official campsites in the area and enjoyed a barbecue and a couple of drinks under the stars.

The next day was time to put the cars to the test. The weekend we went was the Wahiba Challenge, where jeeps race from one side of the desert to the other. This, together with the fact that Wahiba seems to be a very popular place, there was a lot of cars to watch and learn from.

Who can say whether it was the magical sand button or whether it was the skill of the driver, but the Explorer made it to the top of every hill we tried – which I can’t say for all the other cars.

However, the lack of ground clearance compared to the others meant that although we got up, we needed a little push to help us get down!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Keith & Carrie - Wahiba Sands

With things having been so mental recently, we are slightly behind on our posts. This is from a few months ago but that doesn't take away from how much fun we had and what a pleasure it was to have our besties Keith and Carrie in town to visit!

There are a lot of things that Keith got up to whilst he was visiting that we won't be putting on the blog, but one of the many fun activities with them was a trip to Wahiba Sands. 

Wahiba is one of the deserts in Oman, approximately a 2 hour drive from Muscat. There are a number of small camp sites in Wahiba, but we decided to stay at the Desert Nights Camp as we'd heard that it was the best one around. 

The campsite is made up of over 20 private bedouin style tents (although as you'll see from the pictures it's very hard to believe that you're actually staying in a tent!) and a small hotel with restaurant.

On the evening we arrived, we took a car up to one of the dunes to get a better view of the campsite and watch the sun go down. The next morning, we were up early for a short ride on a camel, followed by poor attempts at sand boarding and rounded off with a couple of hours exploring the dunes properly on the quad bikes. Amazing fun; reminded me so much of my younger days!!

Check out the pics and videos below!

Desert Nights Camp




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snake canyon

One of the things that has been on the "bucket list" since arriving in Oman is to go canyoning in Snake Canyon. Snake Canyon is a narrow gorge in Wadi Bank Awf, which gets its name from the way it winds its way through the Al Hajar mountains (rather than being full of live snakes!).

We met up with our guide Rob from Oman Adventure early doors before setting off on the 2 hour drive to the start of the trail. There were 6 of us on the trip, Jen and I, friends Gill, Dawn and Amy and another girl Kristal. We left one of the cars at the bottom of the canyon (and remembering to take the keys with us!) we drove the other 2 up to the starting point which is about a 10 minute drive away and got kitted up. 

We were very fortunate that there had been some rain in the week preceding our trip so the pools were quite full. However, due to the rains the depth of the pools had also changed due to rocks and silt being washed down. After a 5 minute walk into the start of the canyon, Rob took the plunge first to test the depth of the water and once we all took the initial plunge we were committed to keep going as climbing back up the algae covered soft rock is near impossible.

The walk through the canyon involves hiking, jumping, climbing and sliding across and over rocks.

There are 2 main walks through the canyon. They have different starting points, but come together in the middle for the final section. When we reached the point where the 2 meet, we decided to take a walk into this area of the canyon to see what the next trip would be like. Just a few minutes walk in there is  a rock about 6m tall, just asking to be jumped off. 

This was a great day out and I'd highly recommend to anyone with a sense of adventure. Bring on the next Snake Canyon trip.