A good Oman

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by The Blue Kazoo, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2009
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    I have enjoyed numerous threads on AdvRider over the years. A lot of inspiration from fellow travellers have spurred me on to take advantage of riding the world. I've been lazy on the posting side of things though, too content to read others adventures.
    So, its time to give a little back.
    I recently (Feb 2017) took a four day trip to Oman. To clear the head, see the mountains and remember why I love motorbikes so much.

    I arranged to hire a KTM 990, which I collected at the UAE/Oman border. I never rode a KTM before, I listened too intently to others mishaps and kept denying myself an awesome true adventure inspired bike. A four day test ride in the mountains would change my mind on KTM, for the better of course.

    [​IMG]IMG_0214 by gormedic, on Flickr

    The weather had been pretty unsettled for the Gulf around this time, with strong winds, dusty conditions and the threat of some welcoming liquid sunshine. But the forecast was looking good for Oman with clear skies and gusty winds without the dust storm.
    [​IMG]
    IMG_0169
    by gormedic, on Flickr

    All set at the border, ready to cross and do battle with some horrible crosswinds and brutal blowing sand and dust for the next 200km.
    #1
  2. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    Good start.
    #2
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  3. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    Oddometer:
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    Crossing the border at Al Ain into Oman is pretty straightforward, at 10 am in the morning there are only locals and some truck drivers using the border post. At weekends and evenings it does become busier but its still a relatively stress free process.

    I pointed the KTM south towards Ibri, and settled into a constant struggle between crosswinds of hot desert air and sandblasting which reduced any sightseeing to about 50m at best. There is only one road speed in this part of the world and thats warp speed. It doesn't matter where you are going, school run/local shop/intercity/Sunday (sorry Friday) driving, whatever. The purpose is to get there with maximum engine revs and as little thought for the prevailing conditions as possible. Everything will work out fine, Inch'allah.
    Along this route south you cross the magical 23 degrees North latitude Tropic of Cancer. There are no road signs to acknowledge this so you have to waypoint it on your own gps if you are interested in stopping for a souvenir photo. Today I passed, maybe on the way back if I can see further than the front wheel.

    South of the city of Ibri, the scenery changes and the weather clears to skies appropriate for south of the Tropic of Cancer. Turn off the main road and head to the Beehive tombs at Al Ayn. A UNESCO heritage site. Mountains, camels and twisty roads are an added bonus for advrider tourists, good work Oman Tourism council.

    Jebel Misht in the background.
    [​IMG]IMG_0170 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2661 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Camel and KTM by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Omani landscape by gormedic, on Flickr

    The beehive tombs, I think they are tombs, there is little information at the site. Apparently dated to circa 5000yrs old. Pretty impressive site and ideally sited by the people who built them. I hope they see another 5000yrs without any vandalism or destruction.
    [​IMG]DSCF2672 by gormedic, on Flickr

    I guess the monks on Skellig Michael island off the cost of Kerry in Ireland used the same plans in the construction of the beehive huts there, although thousands of years later.

    [​IMG]
    Pic sourced from net search. Irishexaminer.com

    I could have stayed for hours and imagined I was Indiana Jones walking around the ruins but the beast was calling from across the wadi, and Indiana Jones wasn't exploring in bike gear.

    I used a short 20km dirt track to link up with the route to Jebel Sham (Sun Mountain) across the mountains. It was nice to be heading into the mountains proper, always feel more content when I'm in the mountains.

    [​IMG]DSCF2702 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2703 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0192 by gormedic, on Flickr
    This photo amused me a little, I enjoy making shapes out of the clouds with my kids, sometimes the landscape plays along too. Here I see two koala heads, the one on the right is yawning coz my bike V-twin just woke him.

    [​IMG]IMG_0189 by gormedic, on Flickr

    Eventually this track spits you out onto tarmac again for some steep twisty fun before becoming dirt track again leading to Jebel Sham plateau.

    [​IMG]Resting in the evening sunshine. by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2712 by gormedic, on Flickr

    I made it to the viewing point just in time for the last rays of evening sunlight to light up Jebel Sham summit and the shadows creep up wadi Ghul to usher in the end of a fantastic day on the bike. Jebel Sham is the highest point on the Arabian peninsula, first to greet the sun and last to say goodnight. I will have to return to complete the hike to the summit.

    [​IMG]Jebel Shams, grand canyon. by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2719 by gormedic, on Flickr

    Day 2 to follow asap.
    #3
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  4. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    Day 2 began with some threatening skies. The generalised forecast wasn't predicting rain, but I know high mountains can generate their own weather patterns. The local guardian at the campsite agreed that it looked like it might rain.

    [​IMG]IMG_0216 by gormedic, on Flickr

    My route today takes me around the back of the Jebel Sham mountain through some isolated mountain villages. Well, isolated for me, probably well serviced communities in their own right.

    [​IMG]DSCF2770 by gormedic, on Flickr

    Wide open vistas, kind of spaghetti western type landscape until the morning prayers from the village mosques drift on the wind. The weather cleared too. Sorry, I'm Irish, I'm obsessed with the notion of "will it rain today and piss on my parade" its engrained in us from an early age!
    [​IMG]DSCF2767 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2779 by gormedic, on Flickr

    I really loved this route, it descends through numerous villages before hugging the side of the mountain and climbing again to a high point. The constant battle of debating whether to stop for photos or carry on riding was tough. I gave in to stopping for photos often. I may not get back here again on two wheels.

    [​IMG]DSCF2748 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF2743 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0236 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0243 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0245 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0247 by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_0248 by gormedic, on Flickr

    Around midday I opted to head to the town of Al Hamra to refuel, petrol and coffee. Its obligatory to find a coffee shop whilst on a big adv bike isn't it?
    And in finding said coffee shop, I also stumbled across another KTM rider. He was on his own tour of Oman, having come from Saudi a few days earlier. We were riding the same route although via opposite directions. Nice moment to meet and chat for a few mins. Not sure if he is a member on here, but if you see yourself hope you don't mind the selfie.

    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    I have to say I'm bonding well with the KTM. But really, no fuel gauge and two separate tanks! First world problems I guess, but I could imagine it would be annoying over an extended trip or even a regular daily commute. Glad the newer machines have moved from the dual fuel tank design.

    After sufficient nourishment with coffee and cake I headed towards a mountain pass at 2000m to begin the descent into Wadi Bani Auf. This wadi route comes highly recommended from all the research I've done.
    The view from pass at 2000m. The cooler air was a gift also.
    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    The descent into the wadi starts off steep within about 200m of the end of tarmac road and just gets steeper and tricker. Each of the hairpin turns are covered in soft dust/pulverised rocks/ or slate type shiny rocks. Its a well used route, which means some tour groups in Toyota landcrusiers appear exactly at the point you need the most room to manoeuvre! The big KTM's engine braking is welcome, but the slower speeds mean the engine temps creep up quickly. Great excuse to stop and take some more pics.

    [​IMG]Wadi Bani Auf by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Wadi Bani Auf by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Wadi Bani Auf by gormedic, on Flickr

    Just as I'm stating to feel the weight of the bike and luggage on this route and the challenges its posing I notice a truck further down the route. On closer observation he is carrying a full load of bricks for some construction job. Christ, he must be enjoying this delivery!

    [​IMG]DSCF2794 by gormedic, on Flickr

    Eventually the route levels out a bit and I come to a crossroads with a super view of some wadis which I think might be Snake canyon, or at least smaller canyons which feed into snake canyon.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    Sometimes the world throws you a curved ball in the things you see. Here I am, self imagining some wild exotic adventure through the Hajar mountains with fantastic scenery and suddenly I come around a bend to find an all weather football pitch!
    Field of dreams if ever there was one. I hope it gets used by the kids living up here in the mountains.
    [​IMG]Field of dreams by gormedic, on Flickr

    I didn't want this day to end. The scenery and wadi track are just what I've been looking for lately. The constraints of city living are well and truly being purged today. I come to a campsite with a few other travellers in 4x4s already established and strike camp for the night.
    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr
    #4
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  5. Suncoaster

    Suncoaster Been here awhile

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    Where the girls are green and the grass is pretty.
    Oh man, that's a rugged country !
    #5
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  6. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    Day 3. Wadi Bani Awf to Muscat.

    After a decent nights sleep on somewhat rocky ground I woke up to the sound of my German neighbours 4x4 landcrusiers departing for an early start. I think hunger pains got the better of them. They had tried to arrange some food from a nearby mountain village after talking to a local last evening but it never showed up. Nothing like a hungry belly to get you moving in the morning.

    The scenery continued to impress, just being surrounded by these steep rocky mountains was enough for me. Every turn of the track offered new views on yesterdays decent into the wadi.

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    The view of the previous evenings descent to the campsite shows the track above some steep ground which forms part of the many narrow canyons and gorges in the area. Snake canyon is one of the more adventurous slot canyons with water jumps and slides to be found. I read about a few tourists who died there in the late 90's after a flash flood trapped them in snake canyon. If it rained on these tracks with a fully loaded bike I would have been in big trouble. Makes you appreciate the dusty sandy conditions with all there own flaws.

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Track above gorge, wadi bani auf by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Road above gorge by gormedic, on Flickr

    The wadi track continues further down the mountain until it eventually spits you out onto tarmac road on the eastern side of the Hajar mountains. The terrain levels out and all signs point to Muscat. But I found a nice detour en route to Nakhal fort. An impressive looking restored fortress surrounded by date plantations and the backdrop of rugged mountains. Time to get off the bike and stretch the legs again.

    [​IMG]Al Nakhal Fort Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Nakhal fort, Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Al Nakhal Fort Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Al Nakhal Fort Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Al Nakhal Fort Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Al Nakhal Fort Oman by gormedic, on Flickr

    After some lunch at the fort it was back onto the bike and a pretty boring drive towards Muscat. Is any city driving exciting after being in the mountains? Anyway, I had a room booked near to the oldtown port and had to negotiate some heavy traffic to get there. You don't see many bikers in this part of the world, which means car drivers don't SEE many bikers! But that doesn't mean they ain't happy to see you. I had lots of drivers speed up beside me in the next lane, beeeeep their car horns and wave like mad with big welcoming smiles before speeding off down the road. At first I would slow down and check my equipment, make sure pannier lids were closed, no loose straps, etc. then look ahead for maybe a police checkpoint or speed trap. But I could never spot one and my gear was squared away neatly. I guess they were just being polite and showing some hospitality. Scared the shit out me the first few times but it happened in other parts of the country too, so I guess Omani drivers are bike aware :happay


    After getting checked into my room I fell asleep for a few hours. Must be getting old, siesta time is becoming appealing.:snore

    I decided to take a taxi down to the souk and mozy around at my own pace without the cumbersome bike gear. Evening time here is still pretty warm. Muscat is the only capital city which sits on the Tropic of Cancer (about 10km south on my location) and it certainly feels like it.
    I took some more pics of the souk and coastline by night and then went souvenir shopping. I don't like haggling, its been breed out of us and my job doesn't involve haggling so I'm brutal at it. If you sell crap at ridiculous prices in a tourist market I'm your guy! I usually bid a little less than the initial sellers offer but then I give in. I'm sure they need it more than I do and my conscience gets the better of me. Sure the kids will only smash whatever I get to pieces within a few days anyway so no loss, the stuff never accumulates thankfully.

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    Muscat old town by night.
    [​IMG]Muscat at night by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Muscat at night by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Muscat at night by gormedic, on Flickr
    #6
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  7. MazztheSpazz

    MazztheSpazz Adventurer

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    Steamboat Springs, Co
    Enjoying this. Thanks for posting.
    #7
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  8. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    Day 4. Muscat - Nizwa - Al Ayn/wadi Damm.

    I skipped breakfast for an early start, the German approach (from yesterday) had rubbed off on me. I was keen to get moving and see a few more sights around the harbour of Muscat in daylight before leaving the city and heading north towards the mountains and ultimately towards home.

    I was tempted to park up and visit a museum or two, the opera house and grand mosque. But what a waste of a KTM that would be!
    So I took a couple more touristy pics of Muscat and joined the queue of traffic leaving the city.

    Incense burners and arabic tea pots are common sights on hilltops and traffic roundabouts, and why not? Always good to be reminded to smell nice and stop for a brew.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    Muscat is surrounded by sharp jagged hills right down to the shoreline. A perfect place to sight forts and canon emplacements. It has a strong maritime history being an important port along the old Persian/Indian sea routes to Europe. Its easy to see how it was a well defended port.

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    I left the city shortly after a fuel and coffee stop. It was uneventful motorway driving, except for the long slogs of uphill driving as I entered the mountainous interior again. So much freight moves by trucks here. Most of the time the drivers are ok and stick to the inside climbing lane. But there's always one or 10 old clapped out smoggy diesel truck drivers who imagine themselves in a dakar race replica truck trying to overtake the guy ahead of them at exactly 1mph faster than he's driving! Jesus, its agony to get stuck behind one of these trucks at wrong time. Western patience doesn't give way here. All the faster suv and sedan drivers behind will converge at a hairs breath from your back wheel or alternatively make a third lane beside the crash barrier to overtake. Why people? WTF, just chill for 5 seconds until its safe and your chances of becoming road kill are lessened.
    Thankfully the KTM had plenty of power to accelerate out of harms way most of the time and I planned ahead as best as possible to avoid getting stuck but it does happen.

    My next stop was Al Hoota cave system. It was only right that having being to the top of the Hajar mountains I should take a look at what lies underneath.
    En route to Al Hoota.
    [​IMG]Oman, sunrise, camp. by gormedic, on Flickr

    In the car park at Al Hoota caves.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    Unfortunately the tour guide at the caves stressed that there was absolutely no photography allowed, flash or suppressed, made no difference, ha'ram.

    So the next pic is of the carpark looking in the opposite direction!
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    The cave tour lasted about 50 mins, was very interesting and had some great examples of the usual cave system stalagmites, etc,. There is a flooded section you descend to that has blind fish swimming in it, well I didn't see any collisions between them but the guide said they were blind so I took his word for it. There are also several species of bat which you can see quite easily hanging on the cave ceiling, and he mentioned to watch out for spiders, thank the Lord for chunky bike boots, don't want those bad boys creeping around my ankles. I tried to take a few sneaky pics on my iPhone with the flash off but there were too blurry.

    My last night in the mountains was another wild campsite. The idea was to ride north in the general direction of home, find a flat tent sized piece of earth at dusk and pitch the tent. Staying away from tarmac roads and other people if possible. It got dark quicker than I expected and I was slow to get off the higher mountain tracks to the high plateau below before sunset and find a suitable site. I was punished with a rocky campsite about 10 metres from a track. It was too dark to explore further and I was tired, so I scraped a flat area clean of all but the most stubborn rocks and set up my camp.
    I woke to this view. Day 5.
    [​IMG]Oman, sunrise, camp. by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman, sunrise, camp. by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr


    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    My tent and bike, again, just like peas & carrots!
    [​IMG]Oman, sunrise, camp. by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    I packed up and took a good long look around. Days like this are few and far between now with work and everyday life. I'm grateful that I can be here.
    [​IMG]Oman, sunrise, camp. by gormedic, on Flickr

    I leave the camp on the high mountain plateau at 8:30am. I've got to be back at the UAE border for 11am. Its about 200km so no stress, still time to stop and smell the camels!

    Descending the mountain I look in my mirrors and see the shadow of the mountain being cast onto the landscape. Shit, now I got to stop again.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    The view in front is just as nice. I'll never make my deadline if I keep stopping.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    The last of the local roadside camel pics.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    I make good time once back onto the main roads. The only other point of interest I have is that this road crosses the Tropic of Cancer on the way northwards, but like I said earlier its not marked. So I keep checking my location on google maps, gps app. Trying to narrow it the exact spot. It was a total anticlimax. Nothing to see here, move along. Must have crossed this Tropic at least 6 times since entering the country, you think someone would put up a makeshift signpost for us tourists.
    [​IMG]Oman bike trip by gormedic, on Flickr

    It was a straightforward ride to the border and back into the UAE. My short advride into Oman was over. I will be back again, Inshallah, as they say round here!

    Thanks for reading.
    #8
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  9. tominboise

    tominboise Long timer

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    Awesome - how was the English of most of the locals? Or do you speak Arabic?
    #9
  10. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    I've limited Arabic, enough to get the basics of introduction, numbers and ask some simple questions. There is a large population of expat/immigrants in the GCC states. Usually the English language is the common denominator. Obviously the more remote you go the less chance you have of meeting local populations with everyday exposure to English. But for motorbike travel here and all that it entails, fuel stops, border crossing, shopping, etc. you are probably going to meet an Indian, Pakistani, Nepali or Filipino worker at the very least who will also have some basic English language skills, enough to complete their job. And in the case of Government workers they will have some English language skills too.
    It wasn't something that I was too concerned about either. Once the bike has fuel and I've got a map or route I'll just go, the rest will sort itself out.
    #10
  11. MacMahoney

    MacMahoney Adventurer

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    Varlds Medborgare
    Thanks a lot for this great ride report. Oman looks amazing... Cheers!
    #11
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  12. The Virginian

    The Virginian Long timer

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    Epic, stunning photography, wonderful narrative in a far place that most of us will never see in our lifetime.

    Thank you,

    Eric
    #12
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  13. young1

    young1 Long timer

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    We are planning to spend time in Oman in October and so far have not considered hiring a bike. Can you share details of where you hired it from, costs etc?

    Great report and photos thank you

    Mike
    #13
  14. carp

    carp Adventurer

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    I lived in Oman for three years. Shipped my BMW K75 there and lived in Muscat. Omanis are very polite and a lot of folks speak english, but they drive fast on the roads and if you do get in an accident in the interior you can be quite a ways from help/ambulance. There are many miles of good asphalt, as well as good dirt roads. Be careful if you are riding after rain (not very often) as accumulated oil (especially in roundabouts) can cause for interesting cornering.
    #14
  15. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    Hi Mike, I used a company called Turkana motorcycle adv tours. They are based out of Dubai I think, but specialise in Oman as a tour destination. I did a self guided tour, just hiring the bike. There is another company or maybe just a bike dealer in Muscat which also rents bikes but I don't remember the exact name. Its a pretty small market for rentals to be honest. I was very happy with the KTM bike, it was in great condition for its age but I believe the company may be changing to Africa Twins later this year. Its run by an aussie guy who was a gent to deal with, very helpful with guidance for the region, etc. I'll PM you the costs.
    #15
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  16. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    You're a lucky fella, Oman is a superb place to bring your stead. I agree, the Omanis I encountered were very friendly and welcoming.
    #16
  17. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Thanks for posting your ride report. Great photos of an excellent trip in a beautiful place few of us will ever see. :clap
    #17
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  18. squonker

    squonker Stupid is the new norm

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    ^^ What he said! That was a very enjoyable read - thank you!
    #18
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  19. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    A short 1 min clip of shots from Oman report.
    Hopefully this link opens, please let me know if any problems.
    #19
  20. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Same trip, different area.
    #20