Rustaq, which is situated around 150km from Muscat in the middle of the desert, is not one of the most entertaining of locales. Nightlife options and fine dining are extremely scarce. The nearest bar is 55km away, the closest fast-food joint is 65km away and to find decent shopping, you have to travel all the way to Muscat. Because of this, I have occasionally found myself getting a small dose of cabin fever. Every few weeks I find myself climbing the walls and yearning for a change of scenery. The best solution I have been able to find to this problem has been to jump into my Toyota Yaris and do a little exploring. The destination is usually immaterial, the journey and the scenery along the way are of greatest importance.
Early in the Eid Al Haj holiday, I was sat in my apartment feeling rather bored and uninspired. So, I decided it was time to head out in search of ... something. I started by heading south in the general direction of the coast. After about 20km, I turned and headed northeast. The signs said that there were two wadis - large rock valleys - about 45km away. I formulated the vague plan that I should try to drive there. At first, the landscape was flat and void of any major features, making drive rather dull. However, as I headed further east the road began to move gently upwards and the scenery became gradually more dramatic.
The majority of the hills and mountains across the panorama were dry and arid. They were made up of sand and small rocks. However, as I got higher and higher things began to change. The mountains remained arid and grew more imposing, but the valleys grew deeper and a hint of green began to appear. The valley bottoms were wide and sandy with trees sprouting out into life. On two or three occasions I felt forced to stop the car to admire the scenery. It was a fantastic contrast. The dry, windswept rocks and drifting sands seemed so dead and lonely, whilst the trees that poked through seemed to evoke images of vitality. I imagined that the trees must be unbelievably resilient to exist in such a harsh and unwelcoming environment. It struck as being representative as the country as a whole. Almost all of Oman is either desert or mountain. Yet, life pokes its way through the sand enduring in one the most oppressive climates on earth.
Each kilometer I traveled away Rustaq, the scenery became increasingly spectacular. The mountains got higher and more imposing and the valleys got deeper and greener. As I continued to drive, I had a burning desire to push further and further on and to find ever more spectacular scenery. However, my journey was cut short. For a while, in the distance, I had seen a bank of gray clouds forming and growing in size and density. Then, a few kilometers further down the road, I saw the heavens open. First, I heard dislocated rumblings of thunder. Then, I saw sparks of lightning bounce of the center of the road. After, the lightning came waves and waves of pouring rain.
The rain was enough to extinguish my burning desire to drive on into the wilderness. As enticing as the scenery was and the as interested in the wadi as I was, there was no way I was going to battle through a massive storm in the wilds of Oman. As I headed back towards town, I felt satisfied that I had experienced a taste of … the Omani countryside … a taste of something different … of something.