Oman's got three-day holiday this week so the Big Gremlin is with us over the weekend. It's funny how we delight when we both can have two consecutive days of coinciding days in a week to be together. You see, UAE weekends are Fridays and Saturdays while Oman has Thursdays and Fridays.
This weekend, we drove to Oman as planned, leaving early Friday and back home Saturday night, clocking 1,110 kilometers.
The drive's goal was to visit Al Hoota Cave. This is our second time in the area. On the first drive in March this year, we needed to call off Al Hoota Cave when we got too scared then to get caught driving at night in an unfamiliar single carriage-way-no-light-posts-
no-center-island road for the expected next 300 kilometes drive before we reach Al Ain border (it turned out that that scenario was only about half of the way).
Also planned was to spend Friday night at a hotel (rather than drive straight 145 kilometers to Big Gremlin's quarters in Muscat) so we could go roam other Nizwa, Jibreen and Bahla forts/ castles/ wadis. But with the long exhausting drive and our failed expectation on Al Hoota Cave, we decided to leave for Muscat right after the visit.
This post has nothing against Al Hoota Cave. The cave is a wonder in its own right for the region. However, I guess it becomes a lot different when one expects a lot in exchange of travelling six hours (including 1.5 hours traversing Al Ain roundabouts and stoplights and 30 minutes border formalities), 410 kilometers from Dubai and paying AED 55 cave entry fee per adult, one expects a big reward at the end of the tunnel. For someone like us from the Philippine mountains who explored the magnificent Sagada Cave, and many other caves we are taking for granted, our reward was to realize to take pride, love and care of our home resources, as how Oman is preserving the 'inactive' Al Hoota Cave. It's overwhelming how the Omani invested US$ 5.7m to develop the cave for tourism purposes, and properly mans it to ensure its preservation.
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We sure love long road trips but somehow we say enough when our interests and curiousity wanes down for a certain place. Either interest or curiosity make us return to a place twice. Road trips are mostly not comfort-based activities hence we make it a point to infuse something relaxing in it. To make up for the Al Hoota Cave exhaustion, we drove to Qantab beach the next day and took a chartered boat ride (photos in another post).
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Driving from Dubai to Muscat via Al Ain - Al Dhakiliya is long and tiring which we dont plan to doing again soon:
- 2.5 hours to reach the Mezyad border from Dubai, mainly due to Al Ain's stop lights and round abouts, (that's about 1.5 hours granting you have a map and a little acquantance of Al Ain). Dubai to Hatta Border is only an hour drive.
- This route is costlier at 3 hours and more than 200 kms longer compared to Dubai - Hatta- Sohar - Muscat.
- Much of the roadside is barren compared to the greener Sohar roadside.
If there's something to go back to Dhakiliya Region, I guess it will be a mountain retreat at Jabal Akhdar.