Do you remember the days when we were at school and were always expected to write essays on topics like 'A trip/visit to Jahangir's Fort'. In fact, I don't remember seeing any other topic, for some reason, the examiners and those who designed the 'guide' books seemed to be enamoured by Jahangir's fort, whereas, there are many more exciting places in Lahore!
Anyway, this blog entry is not about Jahangir's fort at all, it's about a recent excursion into Musandam Peninsula. Oman had been on our 'to-d0' list for quite a while now, and we were looking forward to the trip with keen anticipation. Initially, the trip to Musandam and the dhow cruise were planned to be on the long weekend that fell on 24th or 25th December. However, we hadn't done enough planning and it was postponed.
On the first day of twenty ten or 01/01/2010 (I only wrote it that way because all those alternate ones and zeroes look so cool!) we embarked for Musandam. For those of you who are totally clueless about what/where Musandam is here is some brief info. It is approximately 125 km from here (here means where I am) towards the north, when driving northbound from Ajman, you cross Umm ul Quwain first, then Ras Al Khaima, and then cross over the Omani border into Musandam peninsula. Beyond the Musandam peninsula is the Strait of Hormuz, which makes the tip of the peninsula less than 100 km from Iran.
It was 8:20 A.M, A. we were sitting at the Al Dhara checkpost on the Emirates/Oman border, A. was hurriedly filling the visa application forms, while I read out the requisite info from the passports to speed up the process. The dhow cruise was to start on 9:00 A.M, while we were still another 40 kms away from Khasab, from where the cruise was going to start. Then A. grabbed our passports and literally ran to the waiting queue which mercifully wasn't very long. While I fidgeted in the car, and irritably thought how useless my getting up at 5 O'clock in the morning is going to be, if we can still not make it in time for the cruise. Grrr... we had left home shortly after 6 O'clock, and here we were still stuck on the border post. A huge party of South Indians were waiting there too. Apparently they had some guest with them who was visiting from India on a visit visa and this meant an even longer procedure for them. He had to produce his return ticket to India and what not, while we had to just deposit some money as security.
Ten more minutes passed and A. was still standing next to the window of the small cabin like room.Are we ever going to make it to this dhow cruise at all! After all this planning and anticipation, it seemed as if the whole trip would be useless if we couldn't make it in time for the cruise. Another 5 minutes passed, I sighed with relief as A. came back. We had the entry stamps on our passports, finally we were free to go. The South Indian party were still there when we left.
The coastal road to Khasab is simply splendid. Simply spectacular. Imagine, I had lived most of my life not to far away from this place, and had no clue that such a beautiful place existed right 'next door'. Oh well, better late than never. We quickly gobbled down the egg and butter sandwiches that were prepared last night, while we wondered aloud for the umpteenth time, 'would we make it there on time'. Despite all his anxiety to make it to Khasab in time, A. had to stop twice to take photographs. He is a camera crazy guy, who has to take pic of everything, even mundane everyday outings. And this place was exceptionally beautiful, no wonder he went berserk with excitement. Every few kilometres, we noticed that people had parked wherever they fancied and were camping there.
At 8:55 we called Mr. Binoy (the contact person of Khasab Tours) and told him that we were running slightly late. Mr. Binoy reassured as that it was perfectly fine, the cruise was going to start on 9:30. I fished out the blue writing pad on which A. had jotted down directions for the Old Navy harbour at Khasab. At least we were going in the right direction.
"It says, after Golden Tulip resort, there is a fenced area... you should enter the gate at the left side and we will be at the Old Navy harbour" I informed A. "Ah, there it is!" We'd barely passed the Golden Tulip resort and there it was: the Old Navy harbour. I now understand how discoverers of old must have felt when they reached a new destination. We had made it there in the nick of the time. All the other people were already huddled around Mr. Binoy and were fussing over their snorkeling gear. We quickly paid Mr. Binoy, got our 'ticket' which was actually an invoice, and then A. too began to sift through the small pile of snorkeling gear.
To be quite honest, I was under the impression that it would be like a luxury cruise liner. Perhaps it has to do with watching all those movies and reading all those novels where...but it was slightly silly of me. I have always known what a dhow looks like! The dhow was furnished in the style of a traditional Arabic drawing room,: carpets, mattresses, pillows and bolsters. Everyone was lounging about comfortably, we too found a spot and settled down.
To be continued....