Sunday, 11 November 2007

Day 172 - Birka (Oman)

Well at last I have left Dubia and it seemed strange to be cycling again.

The road out of Dubia was basically a motorway and very busy at times which once again made crossing junctions tricky. Once away from the city the road was through sandy desert, with dunes on both side, but it was partially obscured by trees that are watered and I still can't work out where they get all there water from. It was hot, hotter than Iran, most of the afternoon was between 35 and 40c but thankfully there were garages and rest areas on the way so plenty of opportunities to stop for water. My intended stop was at Al Ain, a big city that isnt even on my basic map. Once in the city I asked around for hotels but they were very expensive and thankfully full. On the way to one of the hotels I passed a nice park, so I went for a bite to eat and returned at about 21:30 to set up my tent, but I was amazed, the place was packed with people having picnics, don't they have homes to go to? Still, I set up the tent and people passed constantly, even after I had gone to bed.

Thursday was a bad day, right from the start. I was awoken at 2am by people telling me to get out of the tent. I woke very disorientated and wondered why I couldn't hear Andre through all the noise, then I remembered I was on my own. I opened the tent to face 3 men, thankfully one was a security guard, but they told me I had to leave. I informed them that their colleague had told me I could camp there but I suspect he hadn't understand my question and just said yes, anyway I refused to leave as I had nowhere else to go. They said they would call the Police and I said go ahead and soon I was talking to them on the phone. After another phone call the Security Boss Man Chief Thingy said I could stay until the morning, then 2 Police cars turned up and they said I had to go. I explained the situation to them but they still said I had to move so I told them I would go and find a bench to sleep on, but they didn't like that either. In the end they said I could stay until 7:30 as I had nowhere else to go. Come 7:30 I was off and I was amazed at the amount of litter left by the crowds and a team of men were already cleaning up, a far bigger problem than me camping for the night. I soon passed into Buriami or whatever it is called. They were a couple of guys on the border post and they waved me through. It is effectively one town split in 2 by the border. It wasn't as plush as the U.A.E. side and they didn't water everything, but other than that it was similar. The road soon went through the desert and to the mountains and it was a steady climb up to a lowish pass and after 45k I arrived at the Oman border post. Bad news lay ahead as they wouldn't let me in as I had no exit stamp from U.A.E. even though I was just waved through. They insisted I had to get one before I could enter Oman. I told them where I had come from and then found out the the border crossing is only for locals and I had to go back to a different border and get my passport stamped, but they couldn't show me on my basic map where it was so it was all a bit hit and miss and it is safe to say I wasn't best pleased. Thankfully I found the border crossing easily enough, but then I had to explain that despite coming from Oman direction I was actually leaving U.A.E. not entering it. By the time I got back to the Oman border post I had wasted 3 hrs and done a round trip of 50km, but at last I could get through. Consequently I didn't get as far as I hoped and camped out in the desert, but at least I had a good nights sleep.

The following morning a guy from a nearby new date plantation showed me around whilst he worked, then asked me back to his house, but I declined as I could see another day of not getting anywhere. I had opted for the coast road rather than the desert route after doing some research on my last night in Dubai. I soon reached the main road but it was a few kilometres inland so I cut through on little roads down to the sea and was able to cycle on the sea front through houses and fishing boats. The gap in the wealth here is very visible and basic little scruffy houses are alongside big fancy houses painted in bright colours. Some of the little fishing boats were made of rush though most had fallen into disrepair. I wanted to camp with a sea view but as light went down there were again a long string of houses, but I found a little spot at the top of the beach where the sand wasn't so soft and right opposite a mosque. There were lots of people about but it didn't really bother me but as expected I had lots of visitors. One said he would return at midnight, so I said I would be asleep, no problem he said, I will be back at 5am! Dinner was tuna, very appropriate and just to make it more authentic it was full of sand!

I can confirm that if you spend the night with a Cricket in the tent you don't get much sleep. I spent ages trying to find the little bastard and decided it was between the inner and the outer as it would shut up for about 10 minutes if I shook the tent vilently. I found it in the morning as I was taking everything out of the tent. Thankfully I didn't get my early morning wake up call from the locals, it came from the mosque instead. Today has been back and forth between the coast and the main road, sometimes resulting in a dead end and retracing. I had wanted to get a bit further than Birka and camp along the coast but I heard there was a hotel here and as I am desperate for a shower after 3 nights of rough camping and my clothes are filthy I checked into the comfortable hotel on the edge of town, enjoyed a nice hot shower and did my washing. Oh it's good to feel clean again. There is also a travel agent here so I popped in to see about a flight to India and they had a direct flight to Ahmedabad for only 49 pounds, too good to be true, so I have booked to fly there on Tuesday night. I had dinner in a restaurant where the fan was so strong that it kept blowing my plastic cup of water off the table. Food here is generally very cheap as like UAE there is no tax. I noticed I was the only one who was given a spoon and fork, the rest ate with there fingers. I make enough mess with rice as it is. Blimey, the sauce was hot!

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