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Monday, November 28, 2016

11/5: Hiking in Oman's Grand Canyon

The lovely, morning view from our 'Arabic tent' at Jebel Shams Resort at the summit of Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain:
Too bad we hadn't been told about the pool when we checked in last night as it would have been very refreshing after the long day and tough drive.

The mountain road didn't look any better in the light of day either! The reason we had stayed at the resort last night was so we could take a hike of the nearby Wadi Nakhr aka Grand Canyon of Oman. We noticed that some people had just pitched their tent at the summit. It was nippy enough for us in the cabin so I could only imagine how very cold they must have been camping in the open air with no facilities whatsoever.

The 'trailhead' for the hike known as the Balcony Walk was only about a ten minute drive from the resort. Since it was already getting hot out by 8:30, we were glad we hadn't started any later as we had a long hike in front of us. Enterprising locals had set out items they had made but we said we would look on our return.
Before the trail began, we needed to pass the untethered goats!
Some of the local homes at the summit:

The beginning of our trek around the edge of the canyon. Do you see Steven carrying one bottle of water? Stupid, stupid us as that was all we took and we knew it was going to be about a three hour hike at close to 10,000 feet. The only shoes we had were our river shoes which were not the best to be hiking in especially in this dangerous terrain. All I can say we were darn lucky that neither of us had any sunstroke or sprained an ankle.
As long as we kept this trail marker in sight, we wouldn't get lost.
The views were absolutely spectacular from the start to the end.

Unlike you, Lina, I've not hiked the Grand Canyon but the Omani version was fabulous and more than a little scary in many places because of  the almost vertical 1000 meter drop to the wadi below.
One of the ten or so hikers max we saw the whole hike:
You can see why they don't call this the Balcony Walk for nothing!

One of the few rest stops along the trail. The only issue was that it was located well above the path and wasn't easy to access.
I couldn't imagine what somebody had been thinking when s/he built the cairn so close to the edge. I'd have been lying on my stomach trying to place the last rock!

You can follow the trail we took as it hugged the cliff.
One of the hazards we had to be careful with were these very thorny jumipers.

Figured this fellow must have been training for some endurance competition as he ran past us on the trail one hour in on the hike.
I couldn't resist picking up some of these grayish-black rocks with white markings as souvenirs.

I didn't like looking down much as I have a fear of heights.
One or two false moves and you'd be a goner for sure.

This abandoned 'village' located in an opening under the overhang had originally been our goal but we pushed ourselves and walked even further. The village reminded us right away of Mesa Verde in Colorado 
We could hardly believe it when we saw the remains of this fort that had been built just a few feet from the trail.
The rock was so soft, it just broke apart easily.
Part of the abandoned village had this door into the rocks. I looked inside but it had been emptied.

The gecko was the only animal we had seen up until then - I figured it was too hot for all the others. We turned back here as it was hot, we had little water left and also because there was no trail guide to let us know how much further the cliff walk went.

Parts of the trrail were very rocky and we had difficulty seeing any trail markings so it was tough to know how to proceed.
When I was clamberig up the rocks, I don't know who was more shocked when I saw this mountain goat in front of us: him or me! I was glad I had the presence of mind to take a photo right away.

For sheer grandeur, we’ve never hiked any place like Jebel Shams before. It had to be one of our all time favorite hikes in terms of  the difficulty of just getting there, its sheer beauty and amazing views and especially the challenge and thrill of hiking a trail on the edge of vertical cliffs. 

What a relief getting back to the flat terrain of the parking lot by 12:30 after hiking for close to four hours. We bought a few trinkets from the two women selling souvenirs before returning to the resort to freshen up for a couple of minutes.
In a country where there was almost no use of any colors in house paint or buildings or even cars, seeing these gaily decorated doors was refreshing.
Steven, aka Mario Andretti, used his excellent driving skills to get us down the treacherous road from Jebel Shams safely. We then proceeded to drive across a good chunk of central Oman to the town of Al Wasil where we were staying for one night stay at the Oriental Nights Guest House. We had planned to stop in a few towns along the way but the hike had taken longer than we anticipated and we were both tired from it.
We had seen so many camel crossing signs before this but had only seen one camel actually roaming freely in the desert. I wanted to make sure I took a photo of this sign as I was worried it might just be the last one we saw.
The terrain changed suddenly from flat desert conditions to these 'mini mountains' which made the drive very appealing. The roads were in excellent shape and well sign posted, thank goodness.

Steven and I were always amazed at the very large courthouses in the towns we passed going through Oman as they seemed out of proportion compared to the size of the communities or towns. This one was in Ibra, one of Oman's oldest towns.

 It wasn't unusual at all to see homes in Oman outside of the capital looking like wannabe castles! Almost all homes had walls enclosing the home on all sides.
On the drive to Al Wasil, we had time to reflect on our travels so far in Oman. Even though we still had a couple more days here, we both agreed it was one of the few countries we've been to where we would like to come back and visit. We had only scratched the surface of what there was to see and do in Muscat, the country's capital and there were still huge areas of the country we wouldn't have time to explore at all. The country is so incredibly varied with rocky terrain as well as beaches, a charming capital and interesting villages, is modern and yet still quaint, and has lots of activities for those either seeking adventure or just wanting to relax. I wonder if we'll ever get back?

Posted from Kruger National Park, South Africa on November 28th, 2016.


  1. Sensational hiking and spectacular views .. so impressive !
    I hiked only part way down the Grand Canyon .. your hike was far more demanding ! BRAVO to you both ... Lina xo

  2. I love that you picked up rocks for souvenirs. My boyfriend brings me rocks from his hikes up fourteeners.


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