SwimTrek Oman Day 5

Day 5

8.45 start from the hotel to the port. Passed the two cruise ships that arrived this morning! The water was flat as a tack across the bay outside the port. We were heading to the back end of the khor, for our last two swims. First a 4km around 5 bays on the southern side of the channel. This was to be followed by a swim along CeeBee island later in the day.

We didn’t see any dolphins today in the way in. Matter of fact, no one was looking. I think we were all enjoying the smooth ride on the dhow, the magnificence of the surroundings, and the anticipation of two great last day swims!

We motored to within a few kms of the end of the khor, and started preparing for the first swim – slapping on sunscreen, fitting rashies and caps, adjusting goggles, and getting ‘Vaseline’d’.

The five bays looked a bit like this:

You know the drill by now – yellow caps first, then pink caps, and orange last, went over the side and into the first bay. The water felt a bit cooler today which could have been due to the lack of wind! Because all of the bays in the khor are surrounded by fiords, we had to be careful as we hugged the shoreline that we didn’t run into submerged rock and shale in our paths.

Green algae has been a small nuisance in some days this week. We swam through some today in a couple of the bays. The first and second bays were ok, but the third had a real buildup in one corner, which meant we cut across the bay about two thirds of the way in.

We did about 2 kms through the first three bays and another 2 around the last two bays. Amy and I teamed up in the fourth bay going in, and with a following swell and the breeze behind us pushed the pace up for a very quick crossing!

After this swim we moored a few hundred metres further along, and the guides led most of the group on a climb up to the mountain top for a view over the meeting place of the gulf of Oman and the Arabian gulf. Steve and I stayed aboard and had fun with the crew, as Badir tried to coax a manta ray over to our shore.

They arrived back just as curried lunch arrived. I made tomato in flat bread sangas for the 4th time as the others devoured the local fare!

A bit later we prepped again and went over the side for our final 2 km paddle. This was a smooth run along the leeward side of CeeBee island, which extended into a full circumnavigation to provide a very satisfying end to a brilliant week of open water swimming.

As I write this on the dhow nearing port, I can say that this trip has met and exceeded my expectations. The group and guides and dhow staff have all been easy to be with. Every element of the week has been filled with humour, cooperation, and the most positive vibes.

SwimTrek Oman Day 4

Day 4

Up at the crack of 6.50 this morning. The bus was leaving earlier as today’s swims were to be further into the khor, so a longer voyage either way. The only slight hesitancy in the minds of group members was the strong cold north easterly blowing and the 1 to 2 metre chop outside the harbour.

Guide John was positive, expecting the wind to drop once we were in the khor, and it did. Our swims were in the northerly side of the channels, so mostly sheltered from the breeze.

Each day on board we have access to endless tee, coffee, biscuits, fruit, fruit juice, and of course, delicious dates! As usual, we were into the supplies as soon as we arrived in cleaner waters. Amazing how much fuel is needed for a 4km swim.

So the morning swim began with a few hundred metres down the lee side of a bay, and was followed by a lumpy crossing to the headland on the other side.

I mentioned Matt the ex-marine previously, who is extremely fit, as is his wife Amy who is a triathlete. She was a bit seasick on arrival but opted to swim – “anything to get off the boat”! The second part of this first swim was a 1500m crossing which was rough, but we had the wind and tide behind us. Amy and I had paced each other for part of yesterday, so decided we would see if we could set a good rate again. We picked it up within a few metres and bolted for the other shore. It was great fun!!

After lunch everyone stretched out for a while and enjoyed the peace and quiet on the calm waters, with the dhow gently rocking some to sleep. Of course, the quiet was too soon interrupted by John suggesting another 2km swim, this time along the calm coastline of a crescent shaped bay. Now who could refuse that? Turned out a couple could! The rest fired up the cozzies, sunscreen and Vaseline. Having settled into three small groups over the days, we depart in yellow, pink, and orange cap groups, a few minutes apart each time, and did so this arvo. By the time we oranges dived overboard there was a pod of dolphins off the stern so we swam a bit, watched a bit, swam in their direction and waited, and then turned back to our course and enjoyed a reasonably slow navigation of the rest of the bay.

The journey home was quiet, if a little cool, and the biggest event was finding a rock that looks like a fish’s head. Quiet dinner tonight in the hotel, which is the only place in town you can get a drink!!

SwimTrek Oman Day 3

As I lay thinking about a nice long lie in, Steve woke and was up and about like an Energiser battery. His energy caught hold and we bolted to breakfast, which seemed to improve the feelings about the day.

In contrast to yesterday’s wind and early cloud, today was calm and sunny, and like a mill pond going out to the khor.

Goals today included a 4km swim around and between three islands, another Uber Eats lunch, a snooze for some, and a 2 km dash to finish the swim day.

Our first stop after the morning dolphin watch, was Telegraph Island, which is about 100 metres in diameter. The 4km swim was once around the island then over to circumnavigate Flag island, about 50 metres around, and then over to Sham island, through a small inlet only passable at high tide, out to the back of the island, and a little further to be picked up by the show.

Back on board, it was off to Telegraph Island for a look around and history lesson from Guide John. Fascinating stuff about opium wars and issues between England and India, and the need for a telegraph cable and repeater stations to set up telegraph capability between the two countries. The island station was staffed by two people and was used for about five years.

Another hot lunch arrived by boat as we were coming back to the mother ship. Needless to say the lunch was despatched in short order and most took advantage of the quiet space to sleep or just recharge the batteries.

The afternoon brought an opportunity for a small bay run followed by a crossing. Both were in reasonable water and gave us 2kms to bring our daily total to 6.

Dinner tonight was at Al Shamaliah in Khasab. Great restaurant with lots of spicy treats on offer. The end of a very satisfactory day!

SwimTrek Oman Day 2

Up and away by nine this morning, we boarded our dhow in the harbour and headed for the khor (area of our swims). Spotted some dolphins around the second bend and moved closer for photos. I quickly realised that they will disappear as soon as I go for the camera! Anyhow, here’s our group for the week – 9 Poms, 2 Yanks, and 4 Aussies.

Across the bay our first 4K swim awaited. Yellow caps, pink caps, and orange caps departed over the side with enough time between so that we would arrive at the destination point at around the same time. At least that was the theory!

So, in we went and to my complete surprise I found I was closer to the front of the group than the rear. As we warmed up we all settled into our own rhythm, and by the first drink stop were swimming in twos and threes. My buddy up front was Matt, an ex marine from England. We paced each other through the 4 kms and it was one of the most satisfying swims of my life. All the training with brother in law Terry has paid off.

The morning swim was following the coastline into the peninsular. We saw lots of small fish and a few stingrays, and passed over a fair bit of coral. There were also a few tourist dhows faffing around in the area.

Now wait for this: Lunch was delivered by speedboat and we enjoyed curried fish, spicy chicken, Dahl, vegetable curry, and flat bread. Welcome to Musandam!!

We had a cup of tea and a lie down after lunch, until our guide John suggested an afternoon dip. Good idea except that the wind had risen and we were doing a 2 km crossing from point to point. Turned out to be a tad lumpy but ok if you breathed on the side away from the swell (another theory!). Everyone got in and made the distance. Woohoo – our first 6km day in the bag!

Back to dinner and a big sleep at the hotel! Not sure my body will let me do this again tomorrow!

SwimTrek in Oman

SUNDAY

Steve and I met the other Trekkers at Dubai airport to board the minibus for our transfer to Khasab. The three hour journey took closer to four due to a storm encountered as we neared the Omani border. It was quite impressive, hovering over the massive peaks and dropping flood level rain which resulted in at least 30cm of water across the road!

Following our first meeting with the SwumTrek guides we all wandered down the road for an initiation swim. It was only about 300 metres, so naturally SM and CW did another lap to be sure!

Our hotel is quite comfortable, food is good enough, and the location is excellent. This was our Sunday night view:

Ocean Swim Wellington

Race day dawned a little overcast! Steve, myself, and the two Parkers headed down to Oriental Bay to collect our packs (swim cap and timing chip), and to prepare for our respective events. They were doing the 3.3km and I was the 1km.

The wind had abated from Saturday, dropping from 56 to 50 km/hr, and the sea was only moderately choppy. The better news was that the water temperature had not dropped below 18 degrees and it was not raining. The three intrepids duly lined up for the start of their race, with Kim and David amongst the 98% in wetsuits, and Steve with the 2% without.

About 50 minutes later, the Parkers emerged from the water and danced through the finish line. Steve was a couple of minutes behind, finishing strongly despite swallowing half the bay on his way. Perhaps the wetsuited had an advantage? Steve had the last laugh, winning the gold medal for his age group!!

SwimTrek in Oman

With the Adrenalin still pumping from our MG jaunt into New South Wales in September, Steve Maitland and I have spent recent months preparing for a week of open water swimming in Oman.

For those who missed the Wandering Wilsons’ account of our SwimTrek in the Greek Cyclades in 2014, I won’t bore you with the history. Suffice to say that SwimTrek (an English company) conducts a range of guided swimming holidays around the globe. These are typically of a week’s duration and involve up to 15 swimmers slashing their way around bays, inlets, rocky outcrops, coastlines, and crossing over tracts of open water, to experience a form of water borne tourism, while basking in the personal satisfaction that comes from distance swimming!

So, this time the wives have better things to do, and the boys have been encouraged to make haste to Oman. Naturally, Steve and I are travelling via New Zealand to reacquaint ourselves with international flying, complete a couple of swim races in windy Wellington harbour this Sunday, and to catch up with our NZ swim buddies, Kim and David Parker!! If we survive this first leg, we will head to Dubai for some R&R next week, and arrive in the Musandam Peninsula to commence our Trek on Sunday week.

Great day in Gundy!

The day started with morning coffee at “The Shed” a new cafe open only a few weeks ago in a little back lane in Goondiwindi.

At 10 we headed down to the Convention centre for the Gourmet in Gundy celebrations. $5 entry to a great range of stalls, fabulous live music and a relaxing grassy space to enjoy the activities of the day. We enjoyed some Pimms, coffees, tasty local produce meals, and fresh made berry ice creams. As we left we were chatting to one of the policemen who was about to participate in the “Battle of the Emergency Services” BBQ competition and he assured us it was going to be very competitive!

Home then via Millmerran and Toowoomba and farewell to our fabulous travelling buddies – till the next time!

Back to Gundy

Another hearty breakfast this morning at Morilla’s cafe , we were on the road heading to downtown Walgett for a cuppa at the Stones Throw Cafe. A little big of bargain shopping at the gift shop before on the road again to Moree for our late lunch. Great town and good cafe – Balo61.

Then on to our destination for tonight – Goondiwindi. Good thing we booked our accommodation because the raves are on as well as a Medical Muster, a shooting meet and the Gourmet in Gundy on Sunday. Busy place this weekend.

Dinner at the Vic Hotel and Lauren and Master George joined us again. Great night!

Exploring the digs around Lightening Ridge

What a funny day with our travelling group. After a hearty breakfast at the Gecko cafe in the Main Street of Lightening Ridge, we walked across the road to the John Murray gallery where the resident artist has created a fabulous collection of pieces which humourously depict the local scene.

A short walk down to the Opal Cave where we learnt all we needed to know about the different types of opals from owner Herman the German! Then in the cars and off to the Opal Adventure Mine where we we donned hard hats and descended about 25 steps in to a space which gave us a real sense of life for the miners. A short video explained the process of open cut opal mining and shared the stories of some of the personalities and characters drawn to the town.

Mike had a great suggestion to visit a couple of pubs which have been created in the middle of the Opal claims , hence the names – ” The club in the scrub” and ” The sheep yard pub”!

Lunch at The club in the scrub was delicious but hysterically Helen and Mike ordered a bowl of chips and gravy and the serving could have fed us all! A great lunch spot followed by joining locals at The sheep yard pub for Friday arvo drinks!

We passed lots of funny signs and sights, including Stanley the giant emu, Major Miner and the Ridge Jail.

Just an hour of driving then to return to our motel, park the cars and head the centre of action in Lightening Ridge – the bowls club! Dinner and a few drinks and we were all shattered!