Letters from the Oman Trail – Jabal Bani Jabir

Letters from the Oman Trail – Jabal Bani Jabir

Don’t worry man, I have all we need, I can help. Ropes, hooks, air compressor, safety kit, whatever it takes to get you out, It’s going to be fine. I just have to pass you on a trail not wide enough for that maneuver, but I guess it’s just a detail, isn’t it ?

I’m back on the beach for a second night. Since I have no internet connection, I can’t go on google earth for help and see what other real options are there for me. I don’t have a map either. That’s my real problem with out of the way countries, you tend to go blind often as map are very “elementary” to put it very politely ! I know the name of the blog is “Lost and curious”, but still, I like maps. I like to study them carefully. It’s part of the adventure. Defining the best routes possible, then improvise. In this case it’s a truly blind improvisation, and in Oman you need a lot of luck to catch on the right path and avoid dead ends.

The second approach to the upper plateaus of Jabal Bani Jabir passes through a village called Umq. At the beginning of the dirt road is another sign. This time it’s both in arabic and english. Apparently I’m entering a protected area and will have to purchase a permit to do so. See it as a national park if you want, and I’m standing in front of the ranger’s office. Only it’s empty. No one is there. The sign bans 4×4, camping, hunting, fire, etc, or to put it simply, anything most people would want to come here for… Only locals can pass freely. I feel local by now and I’m well behaved. I’m passing.

The road is easy, pleasant and not too steep as opposed to yesterday’s nightmare. But as all good things must come to an end, it’s about to drastically change once I reach the foot of the cliff. On my left the track goes toward a small village resting below in a wadi. On my right, it reaches straight up for the summit and looks in a dire state. Not again ! It’s pretty long of a climb, and to do it on foot under this heat is not a pleasant idea. I’m deflated. As Robert Pirsig in “Zen or the art of motorcycle maintenance” would say, my “gumption” is deflated. It started so great, why spoil it like this ?

Luckily as I stand hopeless in front of adversity, comes an old Toyota pick-up. They say those never die, but in my opinion this one had to be resurrected a few times already. You would fear it could crumble entirely if by accident you slammed the door too hard. In the front cabin, a local man, his wife and small child. In the back a very large tank full of water squeezing the back suspensions to flat and a couple of goats. He stops next to me to asks if all is good, and where I’m going. I point to the summit and ask if the trail is in good conditions.

-Yes, good. Good !

Feels like déjà vu. And obviously I’m not believing it at all.

– Came down from it this morning to go get water. Was good. You can follow me if you want.

That makes all the difference in the world. If he’s going up, I can simply follow and if anything goes wrong for me, he will be there to help out.

He is going faster that I thought, but again he knows the way. I’m just trying to put my wheels, where he’s putting his, hoping not to loose too much ground. It’s amazing how that ruin of a pick-up he drives, loaded as it is, can take all the cracks of this trail with such an ease. Or can he ? After being bounced around without mercy, almost loosing one of the goats in the process, suddenly, as if I had spoken too fast, he slows down and then comes to a full stop as we reach about half the climb. I wait. He’s not starting again. Just stuck there. I was counting on you to help me brother, not for a second I thought I was going to have to rescue you !! Selfish tourist me !!

After a moment that seems to last for ever, he sticks his arm out his window and waves for me to pass him. Don’t worry man, I have all we need, I can help. Ropes, hooks, air compressor, safety kit, whatever it takes to get you out, It’s going to be fine. I just have to pass you on a trail not wide enough for that maneuver, but I guess it’s just a detail, isn’t it ?

I hate those moments, where you start to sweat, your hands become humid, you feel your heart beat too fast. You don’t want to look down, just try to pass as close as possible of his truck without touching it, hoping that it is enough for you not to fall to certain death. As I reach his window, here he is on the phone, smiling. His kid is jumping on his laps, laughing.

– Signal !! You go !

He’s just catching the signal for his phone and enjoying an obviously funny moment with a friend or a relative. I wouldn’t blame him if they are making fun of me right now, as I’m probably hiding my stress level very poorly.

The rest of the climb is going smoothly, in a vertical way. (Google earth will later indicate a passage reaching 42% at times.) But again, the car is so capable, it seems nothing can stop it except my own fear. At the top, it’s a sharp contrast. All flat and bold. Baked by a sun without mercy. A second park ranger’s “cabin” is the only sign of civilization and like the first one below, it’s empty.

I’m waiting for my “guide” to catch up to thank him. When he finally arrives, he insists on giving me food and milk. He has nothing, I have everything, yet he wants me to take his to be safe. Can’t tell him that being vegan his milk will be much better used by his child, and that I really don’t need anything at all, it is part of their culture to share. Just wanted to thank him for the help, without him I doubt I would have taken the chance.

So long, time to expore…

Oman Trail Jabal Bani Jabir
Jabal Bani Jabir