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Old 12-17-2008, 09:39 PM   #1
Bowes OP
Oman Dirty Biker
 
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Sultanate of Oman
Oddometer: 214
Lap of Oman for Mary 2008 - Offroad on Dirtbikes

A short intro for the ride, it took 12 months to come together….but happen it did.

When I’m back home in Germany and I speak with people, I say that I live and work in Oman. Generally the next question is….. Err where’s Oman then? So, Oman is here and it looks like this on a map.














The ride is basically a “lap of Oman” with as much off road riding as possible, in total 3,500km over 7 days. The route would lead us through some of the most remote, inhospitable and uninhabited territory in Oman and arguably, some stretches of the ride the most uninhabited territory on the planet. It will take us from the capital Muscat, in the North, south through the Wahiba sands, down to Salalah in the South of Oman, close to the Yemen border. The route back would lead us in a winding northerly direction, through the Empty Quarter bordering Saudi Arabia.

The ride has been done twice before by members of our Oman Dirty Bikers Club. We are a collection of around thirty off-road bikers who regularly take pleasure in riding off road in this country we temporarily inhabit. Our members range from expert riders to muppets like myself.


Before Jerry & Alan stepped up mid 2008, to accompany me, I had no riding partner. Kindly a friend, Ian (Grumpy) Greasby (2 time veteran of Lap of Oman) offered to drive in a car as my support, he then cajoled some friends into it also, hence the car contingent. Car 1,Landrover Discovery driven by Ian Greasby carrying his three daughters, Annalie, Nina & Carmen. Car 2, a Mitsubishi Pajero driven by Steve Sayer, with his wife Deb, and their children Catherine & Matthew, Bob Cowe in the 3rd car which proved to be a “gets stuck in the sand a lot” Porsche Ceyenne. The cars would add a dimension to the trip which allowed the ride to continue after day 1 which graced us with really bad luck. Prime importance of cars to bikers is they are fantastic beer trolleys. They are also great instant sarnie machines, coffee and soft drink dispensing machines, and free petrol tankers.


And finally……Why Lap of Oman for Mary 2008? Well, Mary, is, was my mother. She lost her battle with cancer in March of 2008. After the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, it was charities that provided the support to my mother and family. The last time I saw my mum, I promised her I would ride round Oman, dedicate the lap to her and try and raise some money for a charity. The smile this provoked from her will remain etched in my memory forever, a profound and special moment I will treasure forever. I am sending a link of this ride report to friends and family who will hopefully donate at the link below.
http://donateinmemory.cancerresearchuk.org/pp_3920/Mary_Bowes.aspx

Everyone will have, or know a Mary, go on, do something special today, if you don’t want to give to this, just drop some change in a cancer charity box the next time yiou pass one.



Sooo, get yerself a mug of tea or a tin of beer and be transported into our adventure, Lap of Oman for Mary – 2008 starts here……..Game on!

Day 1, Muscat to Mahoot, total distance 600Km. ate w:st="on" Month="12" Day="4" Year="2008">– 4th December 2008ate>.



The ride would take us out from Muscat on blacktop to Quriyat which is about 90km. Pick up a track over the mountains to take us to Tiwi on the coast. Black top down to Fins, over the Hajr mountains off road. On to the top of the mountain to the beehive tombs, out into a Waddi Bani Khalid the other side, gravel tracks to Ibra, black top again to Al Mintrib. From Al Mintrib ride the Wahiba sands North to South to arrive in Mahoot.

The Bikers, 05:00am - Hatatt House Petrol station in Muscat.


From left to right, the riders, Alan Wright (Honda CRF450X) , Andy Bowes (me)(Honda CRF450X) and Jerry Minor (Yamaha WR450F). All spares, clothes, water (4liters) and what nots we carried on our backs in rucksacks, and yes they were heavy and no they did not get lighter with time. A heavy rucksack is like bellyache. The whole time you’ve got it you spend wishing it’d go away. The ride down to Quriyat was in the dark. Me, having the only good headlight and good night vision combination, was on point. Point duty in Oman, riding in the dark, means greatest likelihood of getting wiped out by a loon in a car. Oman has one of the highest RTA fatality stats on the planet….it really is dangerous to ride on the roads….that’s why we ride off road it’s much safer! The ride was very boring and slow as we had to keep speeds down to conserve our precious nobbles. Riding a Honda CRF450X on a black top is just not pleasant – they’re just not made for it. Like you would not take a CG125 into the Wahiba sands right? Not a good analogy as some of our number have done it. At Quriyat we fueled up as there would be no more “go go juice” until we got out of Waddi Bani Khalid , approximately 300km.

Alan & Jerry tanking up in Quriyat. The facial expressions are natural and not posed by the way.




The observant ones on the picture above will note two Honda CRF450X’s and a Yamaha WR450F, with a distinct segregation, offered by the petty pumps. In Oman with the Dirty Bikers, Red & Blue is like Liverpool & Everton, Man U & Man City football teams. While red and blue might hail from the same neck of the woods, they are generally fierce rivals who often clash swords with derisory insults and black humor. Not on our trip mind! However the ethnic separation of red and blue, it is apparent will take many years to change. The Yamaha would disappear from the riding line-up later that day unbeknown to it’s rider and fellow riders. More later….The very observant readers will also notice the Omani apprentice petrol pumper. As you can see from his posture, he was positively enthused in learning his new trade.

Tanked up we left out for the graded track over the mountains to Tiwi. We were all relishing getting off road and having some fun. The short 30Km ‘ish ride over the mountains was quite rapid and uneventful. At least now we were riding in day light as dawn broke at 06:10am. We then hit the black top to take us up to Fins and then the graded track over the mountains into Waddi Bani Khalid.



The Hajar Mountains.

The Hajar Mountains (Arabic for stone mountains) is a mountain range in northeastern Oman and also the eastern United Arab Emirates. They separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau, and lie 50-100 km inland from the Gulf of Oman coast.
The mountains begin in the north, forming the Musandam peninsula. From there the Northern Hajar (Hajar al Gharbi) runs southeast, moving gradually further from the coast as it goes. The central section of the Hajar is the Jebel Akhdar, the highest and wildest terrain in the country (with the highest point in eastern Arabia). The Jebel Akhdar (and the smaller Jebel Nakhl range) are bounded on the south by the low Samail Valley (which leads northeast to Muscat). East of Samail are the Eastern Hajar (Hajar ash Sharqi), which run east (much closer to the coast) to the fishing town of Sur.


You can see the start of the winding track we’d take up the mountains just in the middle of the picture. Wherever you stop in Oman, even if it’s for a minute, somebody always appears from nowhere to say hello, like these children below. Bikes are quite rare in Oman so they always generate interest wherever you go.



Off we goes to the Beehive Tombs on the top of the Hajar mountains.

Alan the dust eater!


The Beehive Tombs


The tombs are built of stacked flat stones which occur in nearby geological formations. They date to between 3,500 and 2,500 years BC, to a period when the Arabian peninsula was subject to much more rainfall than now, and supported a flourishing civilisation in what is now desert, to the west of the mountain range along the Gulf of Oman. No burial remains have ever been retrieved from these "tombs", though there seems no other purpose for their building.
Here we snacked on cheese and onion sarnies which went down very well. Below is a pretty typical view of the terrain up here. It was a truly beautiful morning, the riding was stunning.


Down the other side of the mountain, through all of Waddi Bani Khalid! I was chastised at the petrol pumps by fellow riders for not following track. Ooops! I had not looked at the GPS for hours as I knew the way so well. Aw well….. ride is a beaut, lots of small villages, water crossings, fast easy riding. I was disappointed that Eric Estrada the Omani copper was not there – he normally rides round on his police bike – complete with LAPD cheesy shades, screeching “Weeeelcome toooooooo myyyyyyyy Veeeeelage!.” Blacktop all the way out to Al Mintrib and inaugural chicken curry, the first of many, many many chicken curries. We headed out into the Wahiba sands for the North South crossing at about 12:30. We would be riding down what is known as the “M1” which is a major track.

The great Wahiba sands are longitudinal dunes 200 km long and 100 km wide running south from the Eastern Hajars to the Arabian Sea. The dunes are 100-150 metres high in shades of colour from orange to hues of amber. Bedouin camps can be found along the tracks and trails in this isolated desert. In sporadic areas can be found stands of single-species woodlands. Where the sands meet the ocean, outcrops of aolianite (sand compressed into rock) can be found displaying unusual and attractive abstract shapes. Here the beaches mellow into soft shades of yellows and whites.

Soon in to the dunes we passed the cars who were taking a break for lunch. We stopped by to say hello, eat sarnies, drink pop, decant petrol, with bellies and tanks full we head off as we wanted to be well out of the dunes by dark which comes at 18:00hrs. We had 180km of Wahiba sands to negotiate.


Soon in to the run Jerry stops, his bike was losing power and there was a horrible “clack clack” coming from the top end. The bikers gathered round, some sharp intakes of breath…., our mechanical miester Alan proffers “Ooooh that sounds like top end clack Jerry”. This profound diagnosis proved to be the instant kiss of death for Jerry’s bike ‘cos it just stopped immediately. Would not kick over, seized solid. So no more clack, clack – The Silence of the Wahibas was then very deafening! Some more sharp intakes of breath…shhh, blank faces mirrored blank faces – what we gonna do now, stuck in the middle of the Wahibas with a seized engine?


As you can see lots and lots of nothingness around us, just the M1 and kilometers and kilometers of dunes surrounding us. Totally deafening silence with no more Yam clack – clack.

We wait for the cars which turned up in about an hour. Lady luck did play a hand here, if we’d been a couple of K’s on then cars would never have found us. Here Jerry’s bike was set upon by many willing hands. It was stripped down within an hour and in the back of Dave Brook’s Landcruiser for transport to Mahoot.



The Yamaha Surgeons in action dismantling


Alan foraging for remains of the Yam after the strip down operation.



Yamaha in the back of a Landcruiser


Tyres and all…



While the stripping down of the bike was going on Ian was doing his yuppie stock broker impression on the Sat phone wheeling and dealing a replacement bike for Jerry, a 2005 Honda CRF450X. Muscat bikers Sean, Rich and Ed rallying to the crisis.

Jerry hopped in with Bob, me an Alan set off to ride out of the sands. Soon after leaving the main track we rode over what were beautiful rolling dunes, interspersed with soft stuff – fantastic and very enjoyable riding. Quite tough for the cars following though. Ian later conveyed, he wished he had an off switch for Carmen & Catherine who were giving an animated rendition of Lolipop Lolipop the whole drive out, often at stress points of “are we gonna get out of here”.

Trees in the Wahibas


Myself and Alan arrived in Mahoot guest house at 17:30. Here we waited for about two hours for the cars to arrive. We were downbeat at Jerry’s bad luck but semi optimistic the replacement bike would roll up in the morning.

Upon the cars arrival we immediately set about building Jerry’s bike so it could be shipped back to Muscat. Again many willing hands and we had it together again in less than an hour.

Jerry’s Wahiba Bike.



The other components of the bike…






The rebuild operation proved amazing sport for the local boys…



Following the rebuild, a quick Chicken Curry and a beer, then early to bed. Cars would leave out at 07:00 the following morning; we’d await the arrival of Jerry’s bike and then follow on for the ride to Shelim.

The Mahoot Celebratory Curry following successful Yamaha build.



Words of wisdom and humor for Day 1.

A heavy rucksack is like having bellyache.
Oooooh sounds like top end clack Jerry.
Wish I had an "off" switch.

So day 1 done and dusted, I hope you've enjoyed reading about our adventure so far, day 2 to follow shortly





Bowes screwed with this post 12-20-2008 at 06:32 AM
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:33 PM   #2
Bowes OP
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Location: Sultanate of Oman
Oddometer: 214
Lap of Oman for Mary 2008 - Day 2

Day 2 – Mahoot to Shelim (650Km) 5th December 2008

The ride would take us on to Al Khaluf Beach, on to the salt flats and then black top and graded roads to Shelim.



Jerry’s bike arrived at 07:30 in Mahoot, we set about busily installing the 16 liter tank. The boys were actually dumbfounded at the punctual arrival of the bike, usually in Oman things never happen when they are promised.

Jerry’s new bike.


We got away at 09:00am. We were rearing to get on to the beach ride. It did not disappoint what a beautiful and stunning beach is Al Khaluf. The entry on to the beach was over some talcum powder white and very, very, very soft dunes. Fists full of throttle the Honda’s were stopping for nothing. We would learn later Bob get’s stuck in the sand a lot Porsche, got stuck in the sand. Heheheh

Jerry & Alan – Al Khaluf Beach


Jerry & Me – Al Khaluf Beach



Three Red Arrows in perfect harmony – No more red & blue racist segregation.





Al Khaluf is one of the most beautiful beaches I have had the pleasure to visit – riding down it was awesome. We enjoyed this glorious experience for about 30K’s.

Out off the beach and into the salt flats, they were stunning, magnificent riding as well.

Al Khaluf Salt Flats


Jerry & Alan Al Khaluf Salt Flats



On the way to Duqum, there really was lots and lots of nothingness around us for a lot of the time riding



Following a stop to answer a call of nature, these happened quite often as we were taking on so much water to keep hydrated. Back on the bikes and then Alan’s bike would not start off the button.


Jerry – “Me no problem” – “It’s Alan this time”



We suspected a problem with the kill switch, off came the tank to see if we were getting a spark – nothing. ECU changed out, nothing, rectifier changed out nothing, bullet connectors split for the kill switch nothing. It was also getting dark.
I actually had a technical laydown while riding round trying to find a GSM signal. Moral of this story is if you only have one brain cell don’t attempt to multitask when riding a bike ‘cos it hurt. On the other hand, no photo not recorded – never happened.

So what did we do? We towed it, or rather Jerry towed Alan and I played ride ahead and spot problems on the road. We towed for around 150K in the dark. By the end of the towing period we were doing a respectable 80 km/hr.

We’d been on the Sat Phone and spoke to the cars, they had made a camp 100km short of Shelim at waypoint 109. After Mr Unluck had cast a bad spell on us, lady luck allowed us to catch the cars in time to break and make camp. Five minutes later they’d have been off road and we’d have been stuffed, left out like tramps to doss on the side of the road. We were greeted in Waypoint 109 with cold beers and yes you’ve guessed it chicken curry, nearly 3 hours later.

Foreplay out the way, Ian asks, did you try kicking it? Three shaking heads, naah. Well one kick and she fired up. Well, we felt right idiots but were glad it was running again. Learning here is don’t call us if your bike won’t start ‘cos we are useless. This event, will go down, I am sure in Oman Dirty Biker History, to be brought up over beer and lies in the future.

Waypoint 109 Camp Beer & Lies Time.



Does this bike gear make me look fat Alan?



Riders with much needed “Red Tins” of re-hydration fluid.



By 22:00 tired boys were tucked up in sleeping bags and dead to the world. Long day tomorrow as we’d have the 100K’s we didn’t do today.

Day 2 Humor & Words of Wisdom

Does it start if you kick it?

Annalise - Dad I thought Porsches were supposed to be good cars?
Daddy Greasby – Well they are but they’re only for rich gits with loads a money, not the car for poor wanna be a rich git blokes, like yer dad.
Annalise - Well if they are so good why do they keep getting stuck in the sand?

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Old 12-17-2008, 10:37 PM   #3
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Top ride, I was in Oman earlier in the year, love the country and the people, looking forward to the rest of the report.
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:52 PM   #4
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:18 PM   #5
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Awsome please continue!
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:35 PM   #6
Bowes OP
Oman Dirty Biker
 
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Sultanate of Oman
Oddometer: 214
Lap of Oman for Mary 2008 - Day 3

Day 3 – Outside of Shelim to Salahla – 550KM - December 6th 2008



Day 3 started with a beautiful sunrise – there are lots of these in Oman.



We help break camp and get riding again. Deb the hostess with mostes made sure bikers were filled with coffee and brekkie. The route from the camp site to Shelim would be all graded road as the black top had been washed out. The bikers hit the graded road with gusto and make our way rapidly to Shelim. There were some nasty washouts on the graded road so we had to remain very alert to avoid an over the handlebars experience. Well Shelim, how can I describe it, I think the best part of Shelim is the bit when you leave it. ‘Cos leaving it we were on our way to Waddi Shuwamia which is spectacular.

Shelim Restaurant.



We fuel up in Shelim and then make tracks for Waddi Shuwamia. We would stop on the way at a viewing point. I will let the pictures speak for themselves……




Me & Alan standing on what felt like the top of the world.


As we were about to leave, we were putting our helmets on. A car full of young Omani lads pulled up. They were all really excited and were asking us when we are going to jump. They thought the rucksacks were parachutes and we were a bunch of base jumpers. Off we goes on the short detour to Waddi Shuwamia, around 35Km.





Negotiating a washed out track



Alan & Me Waddi Shuwamiya





Waddi Shuwamiya was like the Grand Canyon with high cliff faces and bizarre geology. Riding up through it I was thinking to myself….It does not get better than this….riding through this stunning scenery on my bike…what more can I ask for? We left out of the Waddi for the run to Salahla where we’d be staying in the Crowne Plaza Hotel. To get there would be a mix of graded tracks and road. We’d ride through Marmul which is part of Petroleum Development of Oman’s concession area……lots and lots of nodding donkeys. Did they have any engine oil at the main garage in Marmul, naahh, we had to ride round and eventually bought some off a nice pakistani man.
.

After a couple of 100 kilometers on graded road and tarmac we decided to head off down a track showing on the GPS. None of us noticed the skull and cross bones denoting it as a Oman Dirty Biker Hero route. We would find this out when the road ended and we had to negotiate some tough downhill terrain. The track took us into a large Waddi. The Waddi threw at us the toughest riding challenge of the whole trip, it was rocks, boulders, water a real, real adventure!



Just behind the bike you’ll see the trail that we had ridden down. In front of the bike it sort of stopped as the whole section of the mountain face had been washed out at some point.



This proved to be the toughest days riding but for me, Alan and Jerry one of the most memorable and enjoyable days of the whole trip. At this point in the ride we were about 40km from Salahla our final destination.
Waddi Traffic



Salahla we made it!!





Beautiful Salahla


Bikes sleeping in the villa at the Crowne Plaza.


We arrived in Salahla quite late as we’d ridden the Hero’s route. Ian (Grumpy), our resolute Oman dirty biker leader had been worrying we had taken the route and was busily contingency planning for a possible helicopter extract. If we didn’t feel proud of ourselves after completing the ride route, Grumps certainly did.

As the boys were on tour we decided against an early shower and headed straight for the hotel watering hole. We were very de-hydrated after our hero ordeal so we set about filling our bodies with much need fluid. Alan & Jerry provided our Indian barman Gupta with some much needed on the job training in the etiquette of making quadruple vodkas in a pint glass with Red Bull. “Me no Vodka” Bowes stuck to re-hydration fluid out of a red tin.

Following true tour etiquette of “What goes on tour, stays on tour” I am not at liberty to divulge anything further about the rest of the evening (well could be persuaded I suppose with some Red Tins of brown water).

Day 3 Wisdom & Humor

Who thought going down this track was a good idea?
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Old 12-18-2008, 03:22 AM   #7
Bowes OP
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Day 4 - Lap of Oman for Mary 2008

Day 4 Dossing in Salahla and Servicing Bikes- December 7th 2008

Bit of background on Salalah for the culture vultures out there….

Salalah (صلالة in Arabic), is the capital and seat of the governoror Wali of the southern Omaniprovince of Dhofar. The population of Salalah is 178,469 as of 2005. Salalah is the second largest town in the Sultanate of Oman and a traditional stronghold and birthplace of the Sultan, Qaboos bin Said.


Well, we had to put up with the Crowne Plaza for a day….life is hard sometimes….Day 4 report will be short ‘cos there was little riding. Task for the day to service bikes for the return leg to Muscat.

Thanks to Scotty and the Almarai boys our box with tyres, clothes and essential bike bits arrived in Salahla with no dramas.

Some of villa 4 residents were nursing bad heads so we didn’t get cracking to Honda Salahla till just shy of mid day.

Some pics of the Crowne Plaza




Our Villa

I’d arranged with Omasco the Honda agent in Oman to use their workshop for servicing the bikes. Honda Salahla performed admirably and made all we needed available to us.



Jerry’s bike would be like this a lot in the coming days, little did we know the puncture fairies would be out in full force for the run back to Muscat.



Below is the Honda man that looked after us, he had a name that none of us could pronounce so he was christened “Honda Good Man”. He came back to the workshop over lunch with his son to bring us some food and cold drinks.



Bikers were all in bed early to prepare for tomorrow which would be a long long day. Bars were shut due to the Eid Holiday, or someone said it was 'cos the Vodka Twins had drank the bar dry - shockin
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