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Wonderful Oman 6-9 November

After having tried in vain to get Ray's Indian visa both in Geneva and in Paris, we tried Tuesday morning to get it from the Indian embassy in Muscat. Initially we were told that they had to wait for a fax approval from the Indian embassy in Wellington, that the embassy in Muscat was closed Thursday and Friday, and that we could not have the visa before Saturday afternoon. Ray and Angela then told them about all the trouble we had in Geneva and Paris, and showed them the Indian flight authorization for Saturday morning. They finally gave in and issued Ray's Indian visa the same afternoon! Hurrah!!

Angela and I arranged for a scuba diving /snorkeling trip with the Oman Diving Centre at Jussa beach. Their little cove, the lunch on their shaded terrace as well as the diving trip by boat was simply paradise!! We love Oman! Muscat is a very pretty city, the people are friendly and it is not very expensive.   Also, there are no tourists and the only Westerners we have met are either expats or visiting family of expats. One of the expats was a young Irishwoman called Aoufi, also married  to a Dane called Flemming!

We spent a couple of nights at the hotel on the corniche and then rented a 4 wheel drive Toyota landcruiser and headed for the wilderness.  We swam and snorkeled in the Bimmah Sinkhole - a large semi freshwater pool that was formed when rainwater caused limestock rock to collapse into an underground cave.  Concrete steps have been built leading down to the pool.  It didn't contain many fish - just a few little ones and only one solitary fish of a "decent"size with a blue band around it and yellow eyelids.

Just before nightfall - the sun sets at about 5 pm - we found a suitable spot near the beach for Ray to sleep on the hard-packed sand, while Flemming and I  slept in the back of the landcruiser - a rather lumpy arrangement of folded down seats, but it was less hard than the ground.

Next morning we breakfasted on melon, mango and bananas that Ray and I had bought at the colourful vegetable market beside the fish market in Mutrah (Muscat) the previous morning.  Then we swam again in the sinkhole - this time joined by Ray - before driving off in the direction of a Wadi that we had read about in the Offroad in Oman guide recommended by our Irish friend.  As we drove along we were surrounded by a stark countryside of desert and  towering cliffs, with the occasional scrub.  Sometimes we came across a narrow river where the vegetation of mainly palm trees was lush in comparison.  We discovered a beautiful natural swimming pool beneath a water fall and Flemming and I were the only occupants.  As the waterfall met the pool, the water was bubbly, just like in a jacuzzi.

After a fruity lunch in the shade of a rock, we headed back in the direction of Muscat, stopping off at a public beach this time.  I went for a snorkel and then sat on the beach to survey the scene and guard the video camera while Flemming snorkeled.  There is a large population of Indians in Muscat, and almost all the women I saw were of Indian origin.  However, even they did not swim.  They sat together in large groups, fully clothed in their saris, with their children running aound them and down to the sea.  The Omani men swam in shirts and boxer shorts.  Then, to my delight, I spotted a large shoal of flying fish, flashing like silver before they disappeared again beneath the waves.

Back in Mutrah, we booked into a better category hotel with a direct telephone line from the rooms.  Flemming was determined to get the website up at last, so the first thing he did was to set up the computer while I had my shower.   But, it was soon apparent that the direct phone line didn't work from our room.   We called the reception and they said they would send a technician to fix it.   But when the technician arrived two hours later, he said that there was no way of fixing the telephone in that room and we would have to change rooms.  Having unpacked our bags I would have to repack everything when we returned from having dinner out.

We dined outside at Muscat's most swanky hotel, the 5-star Al Bustan Palace.  It was there that we discovered where all the tourists and ex-pats dine.  Most of the tables outside were taken and it was quite a lively scene.   Delicious food and impeccable service - it was a special Italian evening - and everything was perfect except that we didn't feel we were in Oman.

Back at the Marina hotel, we changed rooms and I went to sleep while Flemming worked on the website.  Having finally succeeded in getting it all to work, he climbed into bed at 5 am.  I was very glad we weren't flying that day.  

Our last day in Oman was a Friday - the equivalent of our Sunday in Oman, so unfortunately all the museums were closed.  I wasn't too disappointed as I wanted a lazy day before the long flight to India the next day.  We got a taxi to take us to the main attractions such as the Sultan's palace and the impressive forts before continuing on to the Oman Dive Centre for a last snorkel trip.  We won't be in snorkeling country again until we get to Thailand so we made the most of this one.   Apart from the coral, we spotted fish of all colours and shapes, needle fish, sting ray an octopus, lion fish and little reef sharks.

Departure from the hotel was scheduled for 5.30 a.m. so before retiring early, we ate a mediocre dinner at the hotel, where they wanted to charge almost double the price for a bottle of wine than we paid at the 5-star Al Bustan!  We drank beer instead. 

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Lunch at Oman Diving Centre, Jussa beach

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Angela enjoying the crystal clear waters of the Bimmah sinkhole

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A genuinely happy Kiwi after a night on the beach

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Mango and melon breakfast on the beach by the Bimmah sinkhole

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Angela enjoying the natural jacuzzi by Wadi Souwayh

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Sunset by Jussa beach, a public beach frequented by the locals

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Mutrah fish market

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Muscat with forts and the Sultan's palace

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