Oman Redoux

Riding 2up into Oman on a KTM 1190 Adventure R

Jon and I are drawn to places which may not be on too many people’s radars. Last December we got very very itchy feet. We decided on a whim to book some cheap low cost flights to Dubai, from where we would take a bus into Oman, and then rejoin our route from a couple of years back. The general idea was to cycle along the Arabian Sea, in a quest to reconnect to our former vagabond selves. To camp, eat from street joints, live simply, and be free. Why Oman, out of all places? Because this country sitting in the corner of the Arabian Peninsula defies all expectations. It’s Arab, multicultural, Ibadi Muslim, the region’s peace heaven, and an absolute monarchy, where people genuinely love their ruler. Once a sprawling empire with the capital in Zanzibar and spanning from Pakistan to East Africa, modern Oman has now shrunken to a fraction of its former size. The KTM was waiting for us in the kingdom’s capital, Muscat. We arrived there after a flight to Dubai and another 6 hours by bus. Muscat is an ancient city dating back to around 6,000 BCE, so we devoted some time to a stroll in the Mutrah souq, to sipping chai on the elegant Corniche, and to a visit to Sultan Qaboos Palace and the Grand Mosque. 
Meanwhile, the scope of our trip had become so much wider. Two days before departure, with bicycles prepped and packed, I had emailed Pete, an ADVrider inmate who lives in Muscat, the Omani capital, to let him know that we would be passing through at some point. I told him that we would be keen to have a coffee together. And just like that, everything changed. Pete happened to be at a life's crossroad himself. He had quit his dayjob to follow his passion, and was about to launch Oman's first motorcycling adventure tour company. He was not only eager to meet, but also ready to host us and to borrow one of his motorbikes, a KTM 1190 Adventure R. Deal!

The loop

Thanks to its geopolitical location, Oman boasts one of the cheapest petrol in the world. So we planned a generous 3,500 kilometers loop for the next two weeks: zigzagging the Hajar mountain range, which covers most of the northern half of the country, then around the edge of Rub al Khali, the largest sand desert in the world, and finally back to Muscat via the coastal route hugging the Arabian Sea. An hour of intense packing and a short trip to the gas station later, we were all geared up and ready to go.

Adventure awaited out of Muscat

While cycling allows for more inner exploration, an engine-powered vehicle is a tool for conquering the world. For the next couple of weeks we tried to stay off the grid and on a loop into some of Oman’s wildest and most stunning places, always ready to do whatever it takes to get to the perfect bivouac.  From the arid Masirah Island we returned to the mainland, where we paid in sand, sweat and tears for access to a secluded paradise - the last refuge of world’s population of green turtles. To bivouac on this wild shore is to befriend the howling wind and the many foxes that hunt throughout the night. At dawn we abandoned our tent and the bike and hiked about 7 kms to a place where white sugary dunes rise against the Arabian Sea. There is a trail that leads to the foot of the white desert, but it is only suitable for 4x4s. Oman is such a peaceful place, that we were confident that even if a wondering soul would have stumbled upon our bivouac while we were gone, they would not touch a thing. Later in the day we returned to pack our stuff and went in search for more fun. 

Into Oman's Highlands

After days along the sea, we were longing for mountains. Oman has some impressive ridges in the West Hajar. Some, like Jebel Shams, were familiar sights. It was quite interesting to reflect again on the differences between motorbikes and bicycles as tools for exploration. The first time we climbed it, the very steep and winding road to Jebel Shams felt enormous and exhausting. Cycling was satisfying, and hard. Now, with a twist of the throttle and a camelback of water only, we were back on the summit before noon, with energy to spend. So we befriended a grup of locals and hiked together for another 5 hours to an almost magical place hidded inside the canyon, where we shared dates and tea. Then it was on to East Hajar. From rocky trails so steep that your heart skips a beat, we pushed to hairpins covered in the powdery dust called fesh-fesh that even Dakar riders dread. After hard and exhilarating days in the saddle, we cooled off in wadis filled with turquoise water. Some of these wadis are real life Ali Baba’s Cave of Wonders, requiring a mix of bouldering, rope climbing, diving and such to complete the journey upstream. We had by now re-settled into the moto-vagabond rhythm, scooping an ever more amazing bivouac on each night. From the bottom of a windswept canyon... to mountain faces where we could hear birds fly. The weeks were packed with action, dramatic hikes and unforgettable rides, but also with the heartwarming Omani smiles. Oman is a land that brings out the best of people. We are stoked to now call Pete, the man who facilitated our trip, a true friend. Thank you!
Actually Pete is the man to know if you want to ride in one of the world’s last secret enduro wonderlands. He is now rocking a fleet of CCM 450s, plus beefier bikes like this 1190 and even a 690 Enduro. The squad's name is Oryx Adventures and they offer all sort of off-road tours and training in the region. A word of warning though. If you go, buckle up for one of the best rides ever. From a simple rideout, Oman may become an obsession. Look, it's been months since our trip, and we are still haunted by the idea to return.
3,500 km / 3 weeks
By KTM 1190 Adventure R