Back in July 2011, we decided to take a trip through Oman. It was 50 degrees in Dubai and we wanted to escape the heat somehow. The only place where this was possible was Salalah in the South East of Oman. Since Avinash, one of my best friends, had grown up in Oman, he decided that he would love to join in too! Dushyant had just joined his new job so he couldn’t come along. However, he did join us later in Brazil and got punched in the face – that’s an interesting and terrifying story too!
Salalah is a beautiful city right on the Arabian Sea. It’s surrounded by high mountains and therefore receives a lot of rainfall every year. Contrary to most parts of the Middle East, the place is really green! The drive to Salalah is extremely picturesque with clouds coming down to the streets – almost unbelievable in that region!
The route we planned for ourselves was:
Day 1: Dubai -> Nizwa
Day 2: Nizwa -> Salalah
Day 3 and 4: in Salalah
Day 5: Salalah -> Ras al Jinz (a turtle reserve in the North East of Oman)
Day 6: Ras al Jinz -> Dubai via Muscat
So with that plan in our heads, we set off! However, on the first day itself we ended up going to Muscat instead of Nizwa. This happened because we left from Dubai too late in the evening and only made it to Muscat at around 4am. We didn’t have time to head to Nizwa.
We slept in Muscat and since we slept really late, or early, we ended up waking up late. So after lunch we decided to attempt our drive to Salalah. Since we had around 1000kms to cover, we zoomed out of Muscat and drove at a steady 160kmph (100miles/hour) but the heat was incredible! My BMW’s air conditioner was on high but was barely able to cope. The road from Muscat to Salalah is a desolate one. Fuel stations are sparsely laid out and you’ll find a single refueling point every 300kms or so. What adds to the whole “You are alone in this world” feeling are the miles and miles of straight road, cutting through the dry desert, with only sand around you as far as the eye can see. The air outside is so hot and so dry that your skin can crack. But inside our protected little car, we have the AC running and some great music. And so we drive along…
Until a few hours later I saw a tire pressure warning in the dashboard. Now, this BMW is rather fancy and therefore comes with what they like to call ‘run-flat tires’. The most useless idea since nutrine nuggets! Run flats are supposed to be useful when you have a puncture because you can drive on them for around 100kms after your tire gets punctured. This allows you to quickly get to a BMW tire dealership that can then extort you since you always need to buy a new tire. (run-flats cannot be repaired) Oh and there’s another beautiful thing about run flats. Since you can drive for a bit on a run-flat, they don’t actually give you a spare tire any longer!
So here we were, in the middle of the desert, 50 degrees outside (BOILING HOT!) and we’re at-least 200kms from the nearest village/fuel station, with a flat tire and no spare. So I decided to continue driving ’cause I still had another 100kms that I could go on these run flats. Well, a few minutes later we smelt something burning so we decided we had to stop. The car couldn’t go any further. The tire was really burning by then.
Now we decided that we needed to call for help. It was already night and we could see nothing but blackness all around us. There were tons of stars but this was a moonless night. We had a little water and some snacks with us so that was good. So we tried calling the police for help. Unfortunately, they only spoke Arabic so we communicated as best as we could. Eventually we got someone who spoke English and explained our position to them. As we were so far out in the middle of the highway, they told us that someone would come to assist us but it may take about 2 hours.
Luckily, the car’s engine was still running (we had plenty of fuel!) so we were comfortable inside with the air conditioner on. We decided that there was nothing else to do but watch a stupid movie on the iPad. So out it came and Avinash nominated the brilliantly lame “Not Another Teen Movie”.
So there we were, stranded in the desert, watching dildos flash by while we waited for the cops to come get us.
Time flew by and suddenly we had a massive Nissan Armada pull up behind up: the Royal Oman Police had arrived! But again, they only spoke Arabic! So we communicated somehow and they said that they would call a tow-truck for us and it would drop us at the nearest town – Haima. We had to wait for another hour+ and the police waited with us.
So the tow truck finally arrived and took the car to Haima. We rode with the police in their souped up ride! They could really zip along in that car! So after a while that seemed very long with the darkness engulfing us – we finally saw some lights in the distance! Hooray! We’re in Haima!
Not so fast. By now it was 10pm and everything was closed. So the tow truck dropped my car off in front of a workshop and the police drove us to the only hotel in town. The ‘hotel’ was a truckers’ stop and as we walked in through the door we came upon a proudly displayed notice “This hotel is proud to be a 1 star hotel”. WOW! An. Entire. Star.
Luxury was at our feet! So we inquired about how much this hotel would cost and they said OMR 35 (~$100) for a night. WHAT ?! Well, it was clear they were extorting us but by now we were so exhausted with the events of the day that we decided to pay up and call it a night.
So we headed up to our quarters which ended up being infested with cockroaches!
Oh no! On the bright side, we had decent air conditioning…
So I woke up in the morning before everyone else and decided to head out and see that the car gets fixed. I went to the workshop where the car was and found out that it was owned by a Pakistani man. But no one was around. It was Friday morning and all the muslims were at the mosque! Oh man.. So I stuck around until he returned. I explained that I needed a new tire and he obviously did not have a BMW run flat with him. He said that he would fix a regular tire (a used one that he had lying around) and he would charge me around OMR 25 (about $60). So I said, alright – that sounds fine – I just wanted to get to Salalah!
So, the man fixed up the car, pumped up the tire, and I went back to the hotel with the car. I bought some milk and fruits for breakfast on the way and we ate, packed, and left from Haima.
Five minutes down the road the tire was flat again. DAMN IT! So I drove back to town and went to the same man. I asked him why the tire was flat. Apparently he had sold me a junk unit and now he started to blame me saying that I drove over a nail. Incredulously I asked him if the roads around Haima were full of nails. I hadn’t even driven for a kilometer. Then, I asked him to show me the nail. Nothing. So I asked for my money back and he refused. Then, I proceeded to shout at him and tell him how Allah was watching everything he did and that he would face his punishment when the time comes. Since his children (grown up..) were around and it was Friday, the man relented and returned 15OMR out of the 25. Still, it was something.
Then, I found another guy who owned another tire shop. This guy seemed like a really nice chap. He too was Pakistani (appears that the whole town was inhabited by Pakistanis) and he told me that the other guy was a total crook! Anyway, he replaced my tire with another used tire (also, not the same one that my car needed) – HE DID NOT EVEN CHARGE FOR IT – and said, hey I have all these tires lying around so if you ever come back this way, just return it to me! WOAH!! I could not believe that there was such a kindred soul in this absolute dump – Haima. Amazing!
So now, with our new tire we were all set to hit the road! We buckled up and drove towards the sunset! After around 5-6 hours we climbed out of the desert and into some mountains, the air turned cool and then we were surrounded by clouds – right next to the street! There was greenery all around (when you live in the Middle East this is something you come to appreciate) and we finally made it to Salalah by 9:30pm. We were really tired but our lodge was on the beach! The waves there are really scary and crashed down with tremendous fury. It was really great to finally have arrived and we slept really well that night – no cockroaches!
But that wasn’t the day we drove 1000+ kms. The day we drove 1000+ kms was the day that we drove from Salalah to Ras al Jinz.
A day full of mystery, fear and adventure! READ ON…