A Week in The Oman

madjbs

Ol'Timer
Apr 10, 2006
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Last October I went on a fantastic weeks bike tour around the Oman. People may not think of the Oman as a biking destination but I can tell you that it was absolutely fantastic. There are hundreds of miles of great riding roads both on and off road. Mountain passes, dried out river beds called "wadis" and everything in between. Another pleasant surprise (unlike Dubai) was that the locals are by far the most friendly bunch of people I have ever met. Virtually every single car that you passed would honk and wave at you, if you were stopped at the side of the road people would always stop and ask about your trip and if you needed help with anything. A complete contrast to the UAE!

We started out in Dubai and made our way to the Oman border at Kalba which is a 200km ride mainly on multi lane highways, although there is one great mountain pass just before the border checkpoint.

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Bikes at the border

We carried on another 60km to the beach town of Sohar where we planned to stay the night at the only beach hotel in town. Unfortunately there was some kind of conference on and the hotel was full. Plan B, we decided to push on along the next days route and camp somewhere up in the mountains. We rode off up into the mountains to find that the previous week there had been a ton of rain storms and when it rains there the roads turn to rivers! There was river debris ALL over the road for maybe 75km. Eventually we got up out of the valley and found somewhere to camp on the mountain top.
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Washed out roads

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Up into the mountains and camping

On day two the plan was to ride to the top of the middle east's tallest mountain "Jebal Shams", which is around 3000m high. This means the temperature can reach 0c in the winter and around 20c in summer, which is a huge difference compared to the 40c heat down on the plains. There is a resort on a plateau about 500m below the peak where you can rent a room for the night. The route there involved around 80km of wadis and mountain passes, however when we got to the start of the off road we discovered that the storms had made it impassable.

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On the way to the wadi

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Start of the wadi

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Which soon became impassable (note overturned bus from the floods)

We had to back track and take another route which still involved about 40km of gravel tracks but wouldnt nearly be as much fun. Unfortunately the V-Strom decided it would break down in the middle of the off road section. The battery had gone dead....Bump starting a 1000cc V-twin on gravel in 40c sun is no easy task, let me tell you.....We had to abandon the plan to ride to the top of the mountain for that day and instead retreat to the nearest town 60km away
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Broken down, Jebal Shams in the background

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Hotel room for 2nd night, about 3000THB

On day three the V-Strom seemed to have repaired itself, so it was back to plan A with the ride up Jebal Shams. Along the way we took a few off road route options although it is actually paved till about 5km before the resort where we would stay the night.

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Another mountain opposite Jebal Shams with a 2000m rock face, the face has been climbed in 8 hours by western climbing teams

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ancient bee hive tombs on the hill top on the route up to Jebal Shams

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off road side route

The road up Jebal Shams itself was fantastic with great scenery and dozens of great switchbacks, i was having so much fun I forget to take any photos! At the end of the paved section we stopped and checked out the views.

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Overlooking the Jebal Shams plateau

Another 5-10km further on and we had made it to or destination for the 3rd night. Jebal Shams Resort.

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Nice rooms with sunset mountain views

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fantastic local food at the resort, perfect after a days riding (no alcohol at this resort)

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goats hungry

About 500m over from the resort you can walk to the edge of the Middle East's Grand Canyon or "Wadi Ghul". Its an amazing 2000m almost shear drop to the bottom. The road actually traverses along its edge at a couple of points.

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Day 4 would be a long easy 400+km road ride to Ibra on the edge of the Wahiba Sands, which is a large area of desert sand dunes stretching hundreds of KMs over into the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia. Along the way we stopped off and had a quick look at the Nizwa fort, which is a popular tourist destination in the Oman. Nizwa looked like a nice place to stay, much nicer than Ibra where we were heading to.

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After the stop at the fort we carried on to Ibra where we stayed at the only hotel. There are desert camps where you can stay in traditional arabic tents but we didn't fancy taking the bikes through the sand. The hotel itself was very strange, it was built around a central coutyard with pool and was very 70s in style and feel. The staff told us they had a bar, which we were very pleased about! The bar was the weirdest bar I have ever been in.

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Everything furry red velvet, neon lights and packed full of hammered Arabs in their dish dashes from about 10pm onwards. Whoever said Muslims didn't drink!

Day 5 we were going to drive up to the capital of the Oman, Muscat. The original plan had been to go over a 80km mountain pass to the coast and up the coast road. However, once we got to the start of the mountain pass we decided that the storm the previous night may have made it impassable. Instead I thought we could link up with a nearby road which looked fantastic for riding on the map. The road linking us to that road appeared on my map but not on the GPS, we thought we would give it a try anyhow. It turned out that the map was wrong, the road had been planned but not yet built, so we ended up driving around 80km off road through a fantastic wadi and about 10 different river crossings. This unplanned section of off road turned out to be the best section on the entire trip! We eventually linked up with the road and had another 100km of fantastic road riding to Muscat where we checked into a properly decent hotel with a proper bar (also full of Arabs drinking!).

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My bike goes down for the second time in the trip (first time was in impassible wadi)

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Fantastic river crossings and scenery

Day 6 we drove all the way back to Dubai from Muscat via Kalba again. Nothing to report there, just a long 450km road ride.

Hope you enjoyed the report!
 

David Learmonth

Ol'Timer
Apr 23, 2006
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Interesting report & photos. We live & learn! I would never have thought of Oman as a place for motorcycling!
 

Dougal

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Dec 18, 2007
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Wow! Never thought I'd see a trip report from the ME.

Great report and photos.

Worked in a few ME countries and always thought Oman was the best.

Thanks Madjbs, looked a lot of fun.
 

DavidFL

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Chiang Khong
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Fantastic trip & photos. You certainly taught me something with this report. Great too to see you carrying on despite broken bikes & roads = where there's a will there's a way. Congratulations & well done.
 

daewoo

Ol'Timer
Dec 6, 2005
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thanks for writting this up... although you lost me at the resort without alcohol :D ...
 

TonyBKK

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Dec 27, 2007
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Fantastic report!

Did you ride your own bikes or were those rentals?

Happy Trails!

Tony :)
 

madjbs

Ol'Timer
Apr 10, 2006
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They are our own bikes. They live in Dubai with my family.

Thanks everyone for the comments. Before this trip I could find very little info on bike touring in the Oman so all the routes were planned from Google Earth, Garmin Maps and a couple of tourist books, luckily the careful planning paid off! Bike touring is very new there, I didn't see a single other bike above 125cc the whole time we were on the road. As more trip reports like this become available I am sure it will grow in popularity as it is a really great country to visit.

The main problem people will have is that there is nowhere to rent bikes and you can't buy one there unless you have a resident visa, which means temp import only. There are a couple of rental places in Dubai but I am not sure if they would let you take them into the Oman or not.
 

Rhodie

Ol'Timer
Mar 5, 2006
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Great report & pix - the tripping purple-haze bar is quite surreal!
Especially interested in other parts of the world that I have had occasion to visit, but not time enough to ride.
Did you encounter any problems re security, access and photography?
Last time I was there things were rather tense and bimbling around on bikes taking pix would not have been on.
Cheers and thanks for posting.
Rhodie
 

madjbs

Ol'Timer
Apr 10, 2006
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Rhodie;276877 wrote: Great report & pix - the tripping purple-haze bar is quite surreal!
Especially interested in other parts of the world that I have had occasion to visit, but not time enough to ride.
Did you encounter any problems re security, access and photography?
No, not at all. The Oman is very safe, no problems with photos either, unless it's a sensitive border area.

Last time I was there things were rather tense and bimbling around on bikes taking pix would not have been on.
In the Oman? As far as I know there has never been any security issues there for the last 30 years?
 

rob7711

Ol'Timer
Oct 30, 2010
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Good report madjbs! Seeing those washed out roads has made me re-think my next ride into Oman. I am planning to ride to Salalah and it would seem the best time to visit is during the monsoon July to September but if the roads get like that then I will have to make the ride sooner. Our cruisers cannot handle such conditions like your gs can.
 

Yan148

New Member
Aug 26, 2012
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Excellent report, planning a 2 day trip from Abu Dhabi to Oman, jabel shams looks exactly the type of trip I'm after, was looking at doing a Salalah trip, but not that can wait....
Was there plenty of petrol stations?
Also great to hear the contrast in the locals.....:happy2: