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Ras al Jinz Turtle Beach and Wadi Shab

baby camel
We drove over to Ras al-Jinz turtle beach earlier in the week in the 4wd. On the way there we took the inland road through the desert, past sand dunes and camels where it was 40�c in the shade. Oman has had some of the highest temperatures ever recorder on earth and in the summer 50�c is fairly normal.

We'd taken tents with us so we camped in the nature reserve on the easternmost point of the Arabian peninsula, had a big fire, and drank vodka. Late at night the guides came to the camp and took us down to the beach where up to 13,000 turtles lay their eggs every year. By torchlight we watched as an almost metre long Green turtle dug into the sand to bury it's eggs, and another came ashore out of the surf. It was really fantastic to see, though apparently if we were there in June or July there would be hundreds of turtles laying eggs on the beach every night. We had to be careful so as not to stand on any baby turtles which were running across the sand towards the sea. They're attracted to light and if you shine a torch on the sand then they'll turn around and waddle towards it.

Back at the camping site we threw some more wood onto the fire and sat back looking at the stars. Suddenly I saw something crawling past my foot. It was a baby turtle on a suicide mission towards the fire! We couldn't figure out where it had come from as the beach was about half a mile away, but we picked it up and set off down to the sea to set it free. Dozens of foxes eyes reflected in the torchlight while they scavenged and dug in the sand looking for turtle eggs. We put the baby turtle down next to the surf and it swam out then disappeared into the sea. A tiny percentage make it to adulthood but if they do they can live for 150 to 300 years.

In the morning we had a swim on the beach then set off on our way back towards Muscat, which was 300km away, on tracks along the coast. I did the driving back and it felt really great to be driving off-road again which I hadn't done since I'd had my own four wheel drive years ago. Pretty soon, however, the track became worse and then we came to some kind of petroleum complex which had been built across where the road used to be. We followed the fence around through the desert, spotted an Arabian gazelle, and after a few rough sections came back onto the track.

We had a break in Qalhat, perched on the cliffs, which is now just a poor village, but prior to being razed by the Portugese it was the first capital of Oman and one of the great ancient ports of Arabia. The only remaining ancient structure is the mosque. A little further on we stopped at Wadi Shab, one of the many oasis-like streams that exist in Oman, paid a young boy to take us across it in a boat, and walked upstream through the steep gorge. It was unbelievably lush after being in the desert, full of palm trees, and locals were tending plants and date plots as we made our way up. After an hour or so of walking we stripped off, waded through rockpools, then swam upstream through clear, blue water for five or ten minutes. Colin had been here before years ago and he knew where he was going, which was just as well, as, typically, the Lonely Planet doesn't mention the place at all. There was no-one else around and everything was silent apart from the sounds of birds in the trees. At what appeared to be a solid cliff face, we dived underwater, swam three metres or so, then surfaced in a grotto inside the mountain! It was unbelievable. Light was filtering in through holes in the roof of the cave, and a waterfall tumbled down the rock face. I treaded water to try to take it all in; it was one of the most fantastic places I'd ever been in my life.

The rest of the drive back continued to be fairly exciting, mainly because we were so low on petrol that the car must have been running on fumes. It was getting dark and there were virtually no other cars on the track as we began to see ourselves getting stranded in the desert and eating each other. Amazingly, however, a petrol station appeared just in time, the first we'd seen for 130km. We celebrated, filled up, and sat and had a coffee and shawarma in the forecourt.


with all the best

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