Trail running in Oman

January 30, 2015

Living in Kuwait doesn't give me the opportunity to include a lot of elevation in my training. This country has absolutely no mountain and the highest point is somewhere like 308 meters above sea level when I am standing on my finger toe. Otherwise it's only 306. But the country provides me with a lot of opportunity to travel and one of my favorite playground to climb hard is the sultanate of Oman.

 

It is in Sohar, an ancient capital and known as the gateway to China, that Sindbad the sailor  السندباد البحري was born (or it is assumed).  The mythology of Sindbad still remains a symbol of the region's seafaring history, and tales of his exploits are retold in different form throughout the Arab Peninsula. It is also in Oman, among all Arabic countries, that I felt the biggest cultural shock and I believed to have gone 50 years back in time. Everything was quiet all the time and speaking of time, you could really feel it (Wondering if Einstein didn't feel it there as well).

 

I arrived in Muscat where I met with a friend coming from France. We bought the beer in the Duty free (tons of beer) as it is not allowed outside, took the 4x4 we rented and went to the nearest Carrefour to buy all the provision for the coming week. And then we were on the road. Memories of the movies "The land before times" came back to mind. How long was it since I had seen the movies ? 15 years maybe (I am not that old ;) ), but watching the rise of the orange colored mountains on the horizon made me feel like it was yesterday.

 

We drove all the way to 'Al Hajaar" mountains, passed al Hamra, where the highest summit of Oman is resting and waiting to be climbed. Once we were near 'Jebel Shams', جبل شمس, the mountain of the sun, our next playground, we stopped to rest. We set up the tent, drank a beer or two and slept gazing at millions of stars until the morning would come.

 

"This is it!" I thought once I woke up. I was about to climb the summit I had dreamt of the last couple of weeks. An initial two-day-trekking-journey was about to become a one-day-trail-rungasm. We took the car, drove past the Wadi Ghul and started from the village. When we crossed the river, a few villagers had come to see us running and probably were wondering who those disguised ninjas were.  They followed our ascent to the abandoned villages until we disappeared from their sight.

The terrain was very difficult and very rocky. But the added difficulty was to be able to follow the route set by the map. See, there was absolutely nothing around us except for mother nature and some faded marks on the rocks. The challenge was to find those marks and follow the path until we could follow the Saydran Gorge and then everything would become easier.

 

 

Not easy to follow marks when you are surrounded with beautiful landscapes that keep on taking your attention. Until you bump in a rock and you suddenly have to go back to the last mark you had seen so you can find your way (Yea.. that happened several times).

But we knew we finally reached the Gorge when we saw the ground fall a 1000 meter lower. I had to be very cautious on where I was running. One missed step and I would fall in nature's depths. But what an incredible feeling of freedom and power to be able to run on the ridge. There, time stops and silence is king.

 

I stopped several times, and looking at the spectacle displayed in front of my eyes. Difficult to not fear heights in those moments. It was attracting me, like an old lady with a candy, whispering in the softest voice: "Jump." I was mind blown. I wanted to jump and fly but instead I slapped myself back to reality. We had done only 25% and the sun was already high in the sky.

 

We carried on until we arrived to a small village where we saw some kids playing. A good spot to fill up the waterpouch and the bottles. As we climbed higher, the colder it became and the weather was quickly changing. I was exhausted due to the lack of training in those kind of terrains and I was terrified the weather would change drastically. In this secluded place, it would be very dangerous.

 

And there it was, the clouds turned grey. The majestic scenery became a perfect place for a horror movie and I was amazed by the change. How could something this beautiful become this scary. Both were grandiose sights that released this impression of immense power and make you reflect on how tiny you are.

"What, you pooped on my rocks earlier on your run? Here I crush you small insignificant human piece of shit!"

We continued. Only few kilometers were left until the summit. My calves were killing me but I was too scared of the weather and I climbed quickly only to stop because of the storm. We could see the summit. At 2.900 meter we were "almost" at the highest point of Oman (for a few 175 meters) and it was Beautiful!! I felt like Simba when Rafiki carried him over that disproportionate rock (Damn, Oman! You have the ability to bring up those sentimental memories).

 

To describe what I felt is a difficult task. They say " It is during our darkest moments that we see the light" and I truly believe it. But you are literally in the middle of nowhere. You have two choices: Drop out or continue. The latter will make you grow and the former will give you regrets, but ultimately you will grow too. We chose the former which is the latter of the previous sentence (not making it complicated on purpose ;)).

 

We quickly enjoyed the view and hurried up down the mountain in order to get to the road. 10 kms later, completely wet and frozen, we arrived on a mud road where we tried to hitchhike to wadi Ghul. Half an hour later a car came: "Salam aleikoum! Al hamra ?" "Ya habibi" the rest we did not understand as he spoke no English but we assumed there were only one road to al hamra and on the way there would be our parked car.

 

 

We reached the car and it was still raining turning the ground into some kind of soft mud mix. The roads were flooding and in this area it happens fast. We drove far away towards 'Fins' and a couple kilometers after having driven past it, we found a nice white beach where we could lay and sleep gazing at the stars once again.

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