Given a choice, I would rather poke out my eyeballs with a damp cocktail stick than see another fort.
Unfortunately, I had no choice.
We set off once again, my famous Mackerel pasties packed for our picnic lunch, in search of a fort or two. With GPS co-ordinates duly punched into the sat. nav. which was stuck firmly with spit to our car windscreen, we headed for Ar Rustaq in the Western Hajar mountains. In the Middle Ages it was considered to be the capital of Oman and has, about its location, a fort and some hot springs.
However, first things first.
A relatively short drive away in Halban are the beehive tombs that we had been looking for last time out. With some more trusted GPS numbers to assist, we eventually found the last resting place of those that lived and died during the Bronze Age (2700-2000BC). I am reliably informed, this makes the tombs about the same age as the oldest of the pyramids in Egypt. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids however, the beehive tombs are not famous, they are indeed famously tricky to find, but they have no fences or admissions charges and certainly no touts or pestering guides to mar the experience. The down side to this means that all and sundry can do as they like when they get there, so most of the tombs are no longer recognisable as such but mere piles of stone. There remains a peaceful ambience and a sense of the very ancient nonetheless.
It was decided to include the family album shot, much requested I might add. to give the tombs some perspective.
Are we blissfully happy? You bet your life we are!
Happiness is often short-lived though, especially when good things come to an end. This particular end came with the realisation that it was time to go and look at another fort. Any offer of poking out eyes was immediately dismissed so we took Route 13 to Ar Rustaq. We thought it was a little on the warm side whilst bumbling about the beehive tombs so a quick check of the outside temperature, courtesy of the car dashboard, showed a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius at 11.30 in the morning. We reckoned, our next excursion would have to take place in the midday sun, the hottest part of the day, sweating and flagging, trudging around a fort. What joy!
A pretty impressive fort it must be said. I liked this fort immensely. I really did. This is the best fort to date.
The fort, unfortunately,
How we sobbed, how our little faces, burnt by the blistering rays of the sun, showed our disappointment and despair.
Not really. Move on…
The village has another fort, even better than the first. It is a lot older and even more likeable. Every entrance, or possible entrance, had been bricked up.
That was all the forts for the day. We could now enjoy ourselves with all the other attractions that this ancient village had to offer. For example, some hot springs that formed pools in the ground. These had been tapped into to provide bathing facilities, the most rudimentary of structures, for the locals. We were unable to determine whether there were any healing properties associated with the springs but were assured that these are the same springs that feed the hot springs we visited in A’Thowarah . So, as we had all previously paddled in this water, we considered we had already exposed ourselves to any of the beneficial effects that these waters may have had, so there was no need to get wet again.
It would seem that getting wet is a segregated affair and as we weren’t accustomed to being separated for our ablutions, we forsook the opportunity to splash around.
A path made itself visible so we headed down it not knowing what to expect. We were, as usual, wandering off the trekking trail to our destiny. Lush vegetation tempted us to explore further and someone, somewhere, was knocking up a curry lunch. We followed our noses and headed for adventure town.
Leaving behind the older of the old forts, we wandered in the heat that drained all energy in an instant. The wind blew a gentle breeze that was a fierce, fiery furnace blast. Shorter legs began to crumble so we about turned and headed back to ‘old’ civilisation before the heat overtook us completely.
Lunch was served in the shade of a park umbrella but, silly old me, the pasties were still frozen solid. We made do with a bag of crisps and an apple and headed for the satisfying chill of the car air. con. Such pleasure in the most simplest of things.
The heat of the day had caused an early end to our trip so we decided to do a little reccy for a future excursion. Now suffering the effects of Wadi withdrawal, we headed for Wadi Bani Awf.
I shall never cease to be amazed by the way that the road suddenly ends and there you are, on the dry river bed, a trickle of water to wash your tyres, mountains on all sides and a track that leads to who knows where.
It is, at times like this, we slap ourselves firmly on the back (and one another sometimes but rarely in appreciation or congratulation), for our good fortune and even better foresight of purchasing a 4×4 workhorse. Yeehaa!
This really was no more than a quick look around. Further on the track disappeared totally and there was little to guide us other than driving between the mountain walls. The ‘book’ says there is a village somewhere further up, terraced fields and a waterfall to enjoy. With fuel too low to continue, we turned around and made for the main road. Somewhere up the road, back in civilisation, for no apparent reason, we were corralled into a checkpoint where men with big guns stood to peer in our windows. Military vehicles, not so well hidden, sat beneath camouflage netting with even bigger guns mounted onto the car frames. Fingers rested on finger guards as we drove by, desperately trying to look like innocuous tourists. To be honest, that’s exactly what we are so we were waved through without incident and headed for home, some heated mackerel pasties and a dollop of ice-cream for pudding. Another adventure in the bag. Now for the working week.