We are not in the habit of sitting around waiting for stuff to happen. The plan is, as always, ‘get out there and grab it’. This philosophy we willingly embrace and will continue to do so while we can and for as long as we can!
We have often heard of a sink hole, some 100 feet deep and probably the same wide. We had to see it for ourselves so, we embarked on our well worn route south to an open area next to the beach surrounded by mountains. It was here that we discovered, well, a big hole in the ground really.
It is ideal for swimming, crystal clear and very cool waters but we decided against it as we saw the tourist buses begin to roll in. In all the guide books, we expected that we would not be alone for very long. We know we are a little extrovert but it’s not enough to want to display our wares to all and sundry on a day trip from their hotel. Nevertheless, we made our way down to the water where we hoped to dip our toes at the very least. For the very brave (foolhardy) there are various rocks to jump off and risk life and limb. We searched around for a number of cave entrances that we had read about, these required submersion before entering into hidden caverns. We looked, with no other intention.
At the end of the day, it was a big hole in the ground with some clear water at the bottom. An underground cave system was supposed to be somewhere and swimming, though acceptable, just wasn’t the thing to do as tourists looked on. We headed off for a picnic close by and pondered how we should amuse ourselves for the rest of the day. Family portrait before exit right…
As a quick aside, I hope you can appreciate the quality of my new Nikon Coolpix which is, I am assured, waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. I owe it to you all – no more shoddy pictures with foreign bodies on the inside of the lens. I did it for you people!
The town of Sur was close by, a couple of hundred kilometres away (which is considered close by Oman standards) and we had heard of a boatyard that was open to the public. Apparently, it was a Dhow building yard where magnificent Dhows where built from tree trunks, with only basic machinery, no plans and no health and safety whatsoever. We immediately set off as I, for one, will never cease to be amazed by the lack of Health and Safety that is clearly apparent wherever we go.
A number of tourists (German) had beaten us to it but we wandered into the boatyard ahead of the pack to marvel at a genuine, working boatyard with three traditional Dhows in various stages of construction.
The quality of craftsmanship was without question and beautifully displayed wherever we looked. The most amazing thing is, this boatyard is open to the general public. It is not a tourist attraction per se, it is a working yard that allows anyone to wander in and look around. So we did just that. We immediately saw an ancient and hostile band-saw attacking a large chunk of tree, teak shipped in from Malaysia we were told, and we were free to stand right next to the operator and stick our noses in if we so desired the risk. An angle grinder, again of ancient origin, re-cut teeth as it lay flat upon a bench being operated by a master craftsman Sparks flew up as we wandered by. If wandering about someone’s private workplace is not enough to satisfy your nosey-parker want, then jump up on his work and wander about that too. It’s fine, the worker will move aside to let you pass or stop to answer questions on what he is doing or how much it all costs (chiselling decoration rails and 120,000 Omani Rials were the answers to that). We climbed aboard.
Believe me, up on deck was a dangerous place to be as large holes in the decking went straight down into the bilge. There was nothing to break your fall should you happen to slip or trip into the darkness . The rickety plank to alight the boat was a challenge in itself, enough to wipe the smile off any kid’s face.
All in all, the place was a delight, traditional craftsmen going about their daily business with no concessions for the visitor. We struggled to understand why the owners would let the public in as there were no admission charges, no gratuities and not much to buy. Having said that, there was a small room with some delightful, hand-carved items for sale. Mostly models of dhows in various sizes for the cost of a little loose change really. They certainly wasn’t making any money from us because we bought nothing. Although a model dhow would have looked splendid atop our sideboard, or maybe one of the ornate treasure chests to put at the end of the bed? It seemed likely that these items were produced by the apprentices, if not the craftsmen themselves. Such highly detailed models, in the finest and most rare of hardwoods, deserved a new home but then, we would be contributing to the demise of a natural hardwood forest somewhere in the the world. We had our morals to consider. We went home empty handed.
This Dhow building yard is truly a gem and well worth a visit if you’re ever out this way. The Dhows are a work of art. Access is allowed for the simple reason that they are proud of their work, their craftsmanship, and they like to show it off.
The journey home was interrupted by the inevitable stop and search for sea-shells on a beach somewhere on the East coast. At the end of the day, we came home with sand in our toes, a haul of shells that needed washing and sorting, a head full of memories and a memory card full of photos.
We have heard of a journey, up Wadi Tiwi, that takes you to an abandoned village. It is reported to be the drive of your life. Unbelievably steep, ridiculously narrow, dangerously wet, a drive through a plantation, some hairy, hairpin bends with rocks and boulders to negotiate and then, it just gets worse. The gauntlet is down!