UAE, Oman, Israel
Finally I stop procrastinating.
So there it is, the work of December 26 to February 20. It’s more cluttered than previous maps becuase I marked my rest spots on there also and didn’t start changing the color of the marker until the end. Were I consistent, night camps would be green and day beds yellow.
So I finally left my friend’s hospitality. It was time to go, I could tell. I was slightly afraid to set out on my own. He encouraged me to make myself at home as long as I wanted. Yet I sensed an annoyance in response to a question or two of mine about his holiday activities. And to be fair, I sort of expected I’d get annoying at some point. I am or have been the kind of guest who through laziness or fear of the unknown or avoidance of the exigencies of aimless travel might overstay a welcome and then use the resulting tension as a motivation to depart.
And he had another couchsurfer coming through, a woman from Germany who liked to surf (waves). He was cool with three people in that tiny room. Me not so much. I did some odd things like bought a ladder so I could climb up the shelf above the door and potentially sleep there. But upon testing out that idea, decided against it.
In addition, this was the time of Omicron. My friend had been being a social butterfly, heading to various christmas parties and visits with friends. “If anyone would get it, he would,” crossed my mind. (Turns out he definitely caught something harsh that I avoided as he reported a few days later.)
So, early on the 26th I packed up. said goodbye and set out. He said, “You’re coming back, aren’t you?” I couldn’t be sure. Possibly I’d stay away only until the new couchsurfer left.
Possibly I’d go to the east coast of the UAE and then cross into Oman, and then head to Salalah as my one Dubai bumble date (an airplane pilot from Spain) had suggested I do. So I took everything, though I forgot my black diamond carbon Z hiking pole, left up on the ledge I had considered sleeping on.
I rode about 65km that first day. I booked it over the flyovers (no bicycles allowed) past many skyscrapers and survived. Stopped in Sharja to ask about booster shots (not here, she said, maybe Dubai or Abu Dhabi). I had a goal in mind—an open space away from buildings, roads and air pollution, with some trees. And I made it to the place I had in mind as the sun set. After getting some food and water I found a road that went away from the coast. There was a youth road cycling group out exercising, trailed by a protective police truck. Nice to see some other cyclists. I scoped out the empty / more wild landscape to the north of the road, and eventually schlepped the bike through dunes and across a packed sand road to where there were some trees and not many tracks of offroad vehicles.
It was very nice to be in a relatively peaceful place alone for the first time in a while.
Now, what is the point of all this wandering? Part of it is a running away from things I didn’t like. That doesn’t really lead to much of a story line.
But at the most simple level, living this way prevents being stuck. Forces a degree of physical activity and forces encounters with new environments and people. Ideally I’ll become comfortable in more places. And Arabia was actually rather comfortable until I heard more of the perspective of longer-term women residents via my bumble dates mainly.
Forced vaginal inspections of women on departing flights from Qatar after an abandoned newborn was found in the airport for example. Risk of imprisonment in Oman due to a few school parents percieving a poster advertising a fundraiser to be a political statement. Discrimination in prize money and respect against women participants in races. Rigged race results to allow particular imposters to win. Attempts to prioritize Omanis and Emiratis in employment (extended nepotism vs. a meritocracy), which on the plus side puts the colonialists in their place, but in practice harms entrepreneurs. Difficulties for women in progressing to the higher levels of business or technical positions.
But for an oblivious male western bicycle tourist it can feel relatively nice, though something is obviously lacking (freedom of speech, empowered women, what else? Non-geometric art?)
I met an interesting European—Raffi. Or Rafael Talbi Criado. The Europeans get 90 days visa-free upon entry to the UAE and this man seemed to specialize in travelling the world to warm places where he could live inexpensively and do long walking trips. At the time I met him he was camped in an uncompleted wildlife park not far from a neighborhood of primarily abandoned half-completed palaces. We talked in the sun for an hour or more. He recommended some places to visit. Malaysia in particular I believe. Philippines were inexpensive but too crowded in his opinion.
Here is the abandoned palace I explored before meeting him. Last I heard he was headed to Sudan.
I pedaled off to find a place to sleep. I went inland for a while, probably using satellite view to aim for some trees.
I did find thorn trees, which was a good thing. Since a rather intense storm came through. I believe I spent three nights here. I applied for my visa to Oman online, which cost about $50 for one month. In the night there was some disruption from motorheads who used vehicles that made a lot of noise as they drove about on the generally abandoned nearby road or in the desert.
I finally emerged from this spot after three nights / days of relatively little exercise. So far I had yet to establish much of an exercise routine when I was camped away from everyone and everything. So, this laying about is not exactly healthy. What did I do in those three days besides apply for a visa? My screenshots give some clues.
Watched the markets, read twitter, played with cryptocurrency (d)apps, studied Arabic in duolingo. I think I actually managed to swipe through all the women on Bumble in the UAE/ Dubai at one point. . . So, to be fair, passing the time somewhat aimlessly but not unenjoyably. And there was enough sun to keep my batteries charged between clouds and storms. And I cooked food from time to time.
Not every night did I manage to find trees. This night I had hung my hammock from these poles. I’m not far from a place I had swum the day before. This is just before Ras al Khaimah I believe. There is a Shiekh’s palace not far away (I’m facing it and the wall around it). and there is a friendly guy from Bangladesh who was making sure I didn’t camp in the grove of trees next to the palace. The palace is waterfront on an inlet.
I’m in the Al Jaziraah Al Jamra Ghost Village. I stopped in there to get out of the rain and wind for a brightID conference call to prove that I’m a human. I haven’t got further with brightID than that. . . and from the recent Eth Denver conference there was a yet another ID solution discussed among others (Disco). If you want to help me finish my BrightID connections (need two more), let me know. As with many of these things you might make some coins from completing the process. ProofOfHumanity.id is another. In any event, I was the only North American on the call, it being 2 pm here and 2 am there I think. So it was many people from India I think. . . well, all over. I think Latin America too? Philippines. It’s good to see how many people worldwide are learning to use blockchain dapps, and are able to make meaningful amounts of money from doing so from time to time. Here’s the newsletter reporting on some of eth denver.
This was actually a great spot where I stayed two nights, less than 3km from the ghost village a short walk from the Al Aswaq supermarket. I’m maybe 250m from the sea where I swam twice. People from the town nearby would walk and drive slowly along the coast here but no one bothered me. I did some jump rope and various other exercises. So managed to workout even though I wasn’t bicycling anywhere.
This is Jisal from Kerala. He said hello after I had replaced my chain near this shopping center in Ras Al Khaimah. I also had to buy more data for my Du Mobile sim. He offered to get me lunch but I was happy just to talk to him and his coworkers. They ran the kayak rental place on the inlet/ harbor that we are facing. Ahmed (or Iljas?) and Alex were also there. The chain I replaced thanks to Ashley’s example (I met him in Sicily) I’d been carrying the new chain for a while.
After that I went to a pharmacy / Amazon counter to pickup a new battery charger since my portable mini Olight one broke (the Olight ones do not seem to last long even if babied). Then I headed for the relatively wild places in the hills east of town and on the other side of the highway (and got food and water on the way).
Among the things I did while here for at least two nights was to browse the instagram of Teresie Hommersand, who bicycled from South Africa to the very north of Norway. After this I was finally heading into mountains for the first time since Sicily. I got a flat at some point the next day also.
The Omani guy in the middle paid for my oranges and a watermelon from this seller (Shukran/Thank you!). Like I said it can be quite comfortable being a traveler in Arabia. People both respect your privacy and are very hospitable and there’s plenty of room. He also introduced me to a kind of fruit I had not seen before. It was green and smooth skinned, like a tomatillo but had a pit I think. Watermelons in UAE were often not so good. Many were grown in Iran and some were good, of course, but until my time here I’d never really had white flavorless watermelon.
The roads here are very well graded. And have a wide shoulder as you can see.
On my way down the hill into Dibba, I got propositioned by a gay Emirati/Omani. At least that is my interpretation. A driver pulled over. I stopped to chat. Eventually he asked if I was gay. I said no but have friends who are. Then I asked if he was gay. . . I think he said no, or I said, “If you were you couldn’t tell me I guess.” And that’s about the extent of it.
On my way to my next stop I managed to buy another bicycle tube. There was an interesting historical sight (Al Bidya Mosque) but I got chased away by an over-aggressive wannabe guide.
My next camping spot was one of my favorite. A night on the rocks will make a hammock spot that much better, but it was also oddly fun to be sort of close to a night time hangout spot. So in spite of the nearby noises and vehicles slowly driving about (I was sleeping with my noise cancelling sony wh1000-xm4) I found it all somewhat comforting and cozy I think. For one night it was fine.
At this point in the journey a few things are happening. I’m getting closer to the Oman border which I need a negative PCR test to cross and perhaps a few other things. I got the visa (a number and a pdf by email). Technically you’re supposed to register at an oman health website and upload proof of vaccination and so on. Technically you’re supposed to have insurance to cover covid hospitalization. Technically you’re supposed to have a visa ahead of time. I think you could just show up with a negative covid test and take care of all the rest there, but certainly having done the visa paperwork online and then just telling them the number of the file made my life easier getting across.
I also need to time my days so that I cross within 10 days of the 10th of January. So the next day I began looking for places to get a covid test.
I had made an attempt to renew my UAE visa online, but I can’t figure out their system. Plus I think doing so would have cost $200? Therefore it was cheaper to cross to Oman. Oman is much bigger as well. And for another $50 I could stay another month in Oman. I think a third month would cost the same but the renewal would need to be done in person. I’d say Oman is more expensive for food and other products but not for rent. And overall I like Oman better.
The first town, Badya, seemed to be a no-go for the covid test. I showed up at a health center and by the time I’d figured out what was going on they had let in the quota for the day. You had to be in line at 830am I think.
But in the next town, Khor Fakkan, a pharmacist pointed me to a health center that was open all day. I met a friendly guy in the line who I afterwards ran into and he ended up getting me lunch at a restaurant he was just leaving. He left them some cash and told them to let me order whatever I wanted. . . so instead of chatting with him I talked to the Phillipinos and the Nepali who were there.
That was in the future though. First I had to pay for the test. They wouldn’t take cash. The woman in the office said my card had been declined when I saw that it hadn’t. So I called the phone number on the back of the credit card using google voice over my Du mobile sim data. A helpful guy answered, sounded American though it was midnight or later in most of the US. He’d have to reissue the card to cancel the charge, so not much good for me (how could I get a reissued card?). But what he did do was make a note I was out of the country (at least until September I said), which would make the card less likely to be declined. So, finally, I gave the office there the debit card for the account instead of the credit, and that time it went through.
In effect I think I paid $14 twice to get the covid test. So better than the $50 in Catania, and the Muscat airport test ($50?), and about the same as the prepaid Israel entry test.
So back to the other line. Then I get the test. And a helpful woman explains to me how to get the print out of the results the next day.
I go buy another bicycle tube at a shop nearby, then get offered lunch, eat, and then head off to try to find a nice place to spend the night. & to get food and water.
The Sharjah Resistance Monument. Many people were killed trying to defend the nearby port of Khor Fakkan from the Portugese in 1507.
The oil storage and export facilities. . .
So I keep going, through the city of Kalba and cross the border. You’ve got to pay some money to leave UAE. . .
I made it into Oman as the sun was setting. Immediately there was less stuff.
It was as if I had crossed into a remote part of north Mexico. There were ample roads, but any towns, mosques and buildings were small, and there weren’t many of those.
The stars were very visible once the moon went down.
Explaining the events of the previous night. As soon as I crossed into Oman, my Du Mobile sim no longer worked. So for about 48 hours I had no internet and managed to read a bit on my kindle. Unsure exactly what motivated me to make a video. But I think I had some setting on that made mini videos with each photo taken. . . perhaps that got me started? And no internet to distract me?
My second night in basically the same spot except I took the time to figure out how to hang off two nearby thorn (mesquite?) trees.
First swim in Oman. A friendly guy drove by a bit later on his way to help pull in some nets. Aside from that I think only two people, a couple, walked by the whole time I was here.
I stayed here two nights as well. . . I had gotten my data sim in the nearby town. It was Haji Mohammed Abdul Mannan whose employee sold me the OmanTel sim and put the first 30GB on. I believe the cost was $50 about. Here’s a photo he WhatsApped to me:
He is from Bangladesh. I think his employee may have been as well. And he’d been in Oman for 20 years I think. Maybe longer. Shinas Souq was the town.
Sahel waved me over as I was cycling by after I managed to leave the previous spot. He is from Shinas too. One of the boys is his son. They were camped out down the hill to my right. It certainly appears to me from this that iPhones take better photos than my Samsungs. . . They gave me some juice, water, and some sort of corn or potato puff snack. Shukran!
I like the Arab graveyard aesthetic. A pile of stones and a small slab if that.
This is a few nights later, the thorn trees in the moonlight.
It appears I didn’t take photos of the coastal towns. I liked the coast north of Muscat a lot, however. Much of it was similar in style to the ghost town I attended that BrightID conference call from. Smaller, shorter buildings. Much more human scale than the palace fad in the UAE. A lot more like desert towns in north Mexico.
The coast road often wound through these old human-scale neighborhoods. Although it actually didn’t wind that much—just that rather than going straight south there were multiple little shifts to the left and right between buildings with zero setback. So—the kind of narrow relatively enclosed roads you might see in old european towns in flat places.
And there are usually speedbumps everywhere. The ruler of Oman apparently took reducing traffic deaths seriously and pretty nearly every road that is not a highway is very traffic-calmed with frequent speedbumps. They are effective. See the video of the ride into Muscat below for an example.
Where I’m going with this is that while I was struck by these coastal settlments—while I liked them alot—it was obvious that they were being destroyed. Newer developments had been built further inland, and many of the older structures closer to the sea were being demolished—or were abandoned. Though many were still lived in.
At first I thought it was some precaution being taken in preparation for rising sea levels. But finally, after coming upon yet another washed out road, a road that used to cross a coastal inlet, I realized there had been a destructive storm at some point relatively recently.
I was offered a ride as I was schlepping my bicycle along yet another sand-covered former road around one of these inlets. The driver helped me get my bike in the back of his pickup and carried me on my way. He might have taken me around three such inlets. His name was Achmad I think. He was an air traffic controller and worked in Muscat and had worked for Americans on one of their airbases as well I think.
He had been here when the storm came. It was a typhoon, just this past October. He went out to check on his car during the storm and a cinderblock wall fell over and pinned him, breaking one of his legs and I think it got him somewhere else too—he still walked with a limp.
People had died in that storm. None of his family though.
He was headed to Muscat that night and offered a ride in if I didn’t mind waiting for him to leave later. I said thank you and decided to take the time to explore since I had another day to get there.
There were interesting things to see—
There was another one of these arundo cane boats across the street. I saw several others further along the coast road too—
There is some styrofoam hidden in there—
Is it possible that the same day I got the ride from Achmad, that I stopped to take a break later in the day and this man found me? There may have been a night in between. I’d learned by that point to hide if I didn’t want hospitality and at first my thought was to turn him down and make progress to Muscat. But it was midday. It was hot. I *was* tired. And I was wondering how to get some good food I was excited about eating so I could stay motivated to keep riding. . . And he was friendly. So I followed him on my bicycle.
He let me into a large room next to his carport which had walls lined with low couches around a carpet facing a small table with a model of an ancient human or mule-powered irrigation device (for getting water out of a well and into ditches that ran from the well to nearby small fields). On the wall behind the table was a large flat-screen tv which he turned on. There was a large bathroom with a shower next to that.
He did not speak much english. But communicated for me to stay there and he left for a while and came back with a plate of saffron (?) rice with seasoned chicken on the top with some sauce. And a bowl of fruit and some dates too. He left me for a bit to eat. He came back later with one of his small grandkids who shook my hand. He made it clear I could stay the night. I said I would stay until 4pm and see—but that I hoped to continue today.
After that he left me alone and after turning off the tv and eating, I found a convenient charger plugged into the wall and plugged my phone in. I set an alarm for 4pm (it was close to 2), and took a nap.
I woke before the alarm, and he appeared soon after. I asked him about the model of the irrigation device. In the process of attempting to explain he took me out to the well in his court yard. Then he offered to show me his cow and we walked further back past small fields of grass irrigated by ditches. There was one cow and one bull and maybe a goat too. The bull was big and beautiful and peaceful and tan- (or brown blond) and white-colored, and we petted it on the nose, or let it lick our hands—I can’t remember, but it was big and close and we touched. He showed me what he fed his animals—he (or his wife?) cooked food for them—in the pot below.
Then they put this mash in a pile and later took from that to feed them.
I believe the mash comes at least partly from from what they grow in their small fields, some of which might have been sorghum? Looks like they might buy some corn too to add to the mix.
So I left soon, but not before a neighborhood kid took the photo of us two. Was his name Omar? (my host?) I’m not sure. But I could tell he was proud of his country and happy to share it. And his life appears to me to be a good one. I think I saw two of his sons, one of his grandsons. I’d guess he had 10 children or something astonishing like that—but at least somewhat common there. He seems healthy and happy, and probably not over 55?
The neighborhood kid rode off with me on a ratty excuse of a BMX bike with those wheels consisting of three or four big plastic spokes. It may not even have had a seat. It probably didn’t have brakes. It wasn’t very fast. One reason for its lack of speed is that the tires were somehow made of metal. I’m now kicking myself very hard for not having taken a photo of his vehicle. Were they layers of tin cans somehow wired on shingle-fashon?
So while slow, one advantage of his metal-clad wheels (aside from no worries about flats) was that he could drift and slide on the road at will. So he’d skid this way and that just for fun. Yeah, so anyway, how would you attach metal to a bmx bicycle rim so you could ride on them with no worries. A quick internet search wasn’t helpful.
I found a place to hang my hammock before dark and then got up super early the following morning. I doubt it was that much before 5am but it was full dark when I started and only 30min or 1hr later did light begin to appear. Here is a video from once it began to get light. The wind was in my favor as the air traffic controller friend had warned—
So I made it to Muscat by 11 or so. I couldn’t check into my airbnb until 3pm. But I found a place to nap in a wild alleyway between high walls behind a tall shrub (it was still very windy in exposed places). Then by 2pm or so the next day I met Daphne. Alas there are no pictures of us together. . . perhaps not a promising sign since we did manage to meet again the 18th to the 20th of February as well, and no picture then either! I attempted to once or twice but she protested about her own appearance not being up to it. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Feels like I’m not though at the moment. Let’s just say relationships with women far more busy and less responsive than me are difficult. They’re painful because for at least some multiple of hours in the past they were far more responsive and open to me and free with their time and themselves than I ever experience with anyone else for the vast vast majority of my life. So they do that, they focus their whole being on you and then the bright intensity of their focus moves on. . . and here I am. But what can I do.
She did let me try these moon shoes (I’m not sure what they are called). And took this picture, so that counts for something maybe.
The next day I set out for the wilderness once more but not before one more Bumble lunch date with Ece (sort of like “Asia,” she’s from Turkey), who was growing a marketing business here but with the added challenge of not being Omani or male. She suggested that Americans have more privileges in their business activities in Oman than most nationalities. I think we both had a good time but did not manage to meet again so far.
[So yes (noting I went from one date to another) anyone interacting with me romanitcally needs to protect themselves from the bright intensity of my focus moving on. . . How all this resolves itself in the long run remains to be seen. I think open communication about what we’re doing continues to be the best approach. If I end up moving on, she would know and vice versa. The less either of us is motivated to look elswere or to mess with the apps the more mature and by default committed the relationship is? Or is the best thing ENM. . . “Ethical Non Monogamy” and the communication that requires (one possibly helpful article with a TED talk link)?
From my experience, if I’m with someone and see her every day, I’m not that motivated to pursue or even pay much attention to others. It has been pretty easy to transfer and resolve any attraction or desire that might come up during the day with my long term partner who has been with me for so long and with whom I’ve gone through so much. We’ve both accepted a lot of and know a lot of each other by that point. If someone amazing came on strong and I wasn’t turned off by that that might be harder, but most amazing people are fairly respectful of existing relationships I think. The difficulty is when I’m not with my partner for long periods of time (months) and when I’m less certain of her attatchment to me—then I’m more motivated to look elsewhere too.]
I bicycled out of Muscat, which reminded me of LA in how relatively car-centric it seemed, found a LuLu Hypermarket, got food, got water, and then went up this hill behind this town and finally I was free of urbanization once more.
That was the view from my hammock, further out along the road above Al Hamriyah. I was half-hoping Ece might come visit me so I sent her that photo—she didn’t make it. But to my everlasting surprise, Daphne did.
Phenomenal. Now let me spoil some of the story here. Or should I just tell it bit by bit? I hope it’s not over between us, but one never knows about these things. And unless someone gives up their old life to wander around with me, or I give up my wandering life to stay where they have settled, a lasting partnership is not so easy. At any rate, after much back and forth and a few mildly dramatic whatsapp episodes, we reunited on the 18th of January and separated again when I left Oman early on February 20. As of this writing, we continue to give each other kudos on Strava from time to time, (or at least I do to her) so that is something. Lol.
What happened next is I went quite slowly for a little while, staying multiple nights in the same spot instead of moving on from each one after just one night. Until, that is, some plans solidified in my mind. Yes, I would leave for Israel when Daphne planned to leave for Israel! The 20th of February. She planned to go there for the Tel Aviv Marathon on the 25th.
I had wanted to go to Israel even when I was still in Sicily. But it had been closed to tourists at the time. And I hadn’t been able to get a booster shot which appeared to be an entry requirement.
Daphne had told me of a place to get a booster shot. And I was successful doing that on my way to meet Ece before I left Muscat.
So once I had time to think about Daphne more and what to do next. . . I had already thought about meeting her when she went to Israel and using her going there as an excuse for me to go there (instead of just running out my visa time in Oman and the UAE where the weather would soon be getting hotter). The new thought was why not go at the same time as her on the same flights (which she had sent me a screenshot of)?
So I got the ticket for the same flights she was on. . . And let her know. . . (maybe more on that later). And then the challenge became to get to Salalah in time to get back to Muscat somehow to leave on the 20th.
(And, if possible, to get to Salalah in time to get back to Dubai to visit Saad before heading to Israel. I was forgetting that part of the drama. Getting the tickets from Muscat basically meant it was a lot less likely I’d see Saad in Dubai again in person for quite some time. Which I had really hoped to do. [Spoiler alert] We never did meet again before I left Arabia; attempts to video call before I left failed; and I thought his hate of zionism meant I was shunned for now being in enemy territory, but after a week or so in Israel we did get a video call in when he was briefly less busy one weekend. Which was good. I was lucky to have got to walk with him for a week before he got his new demanding and well-paying position. Yeah, he’s now yet another busy person who doesn’t have all the time in the world. Though I believe he plans to free himself for his next adventure by the end of the year.)
Going from near Muscat to Salalah by bicycle and then back by bus or plane in time meant doing 60km a day every day to cover about 1900 km with some buffer room.
Now there’s generally always a way to get a ride if needed in these situations but I did want to go the distance on my own if possible. So that was pretty much the end to being super lazy. I could only be mildly lazy until I got to Salalah. And that wasn’t so bad—
I stayed two nights in the spot above.
Charlotte and Jordi. They bicycled from France to Turkey, through Iran, and took a ferry from Banda Abbas to Dubai. And here they are in Oman. Currently in Uganda.
At this point I’m quite tired of working on this travelogue, so I put the remaining photos in one PDF of about 86 mb (same file is at both sites in case one does not work for you):
I’ll now make some notes on those photos (numbers may be off by one page):
shows wild mustard greens. Perhaps the only wild greens I harvested and cooked in Oman?
I found two large oysters which I cooked in a fire that had been left burning in the underpass. There were many fish in the Oman Sea. . . huge schools like I’ve seen in national geographic photos but the water was shallower. Plus many smaller multicolored fish as well. I didn’t get to swim again in such a good spot. And the water is warm. It is comfortable to stay in a long time.
This bird had appeared to be roadkill. It was on its side. I touched it and went to get out my camera. When I came back it was sitting up. There were many quite colorful birds in Oman.
The road system is mostly massively overbuilt. In this case I had a massive unused freeway under construction to cycle on. Near Duqm there was a dangerous stretch (no shoulder) between Duqm and the oil refinery, but aside from that Oman has some of the best bicycling road conditions I’ve found.
Used a dollar bill as a tire boot due to this gash.
There are prayer rooms usually with water, toilets, and often showers spaced throughout the desert. This man encouraged me to wash there. And to walk up the dune with him. He gave me a chunk of mashed dates and a bottle of water (better than the water from the truck in his mind and I agree in this case). I didn’t shower there but rinsed off at the next one I found further along that was in better shape.
I think the southern cross is visible, but I may need to double check that. (when double checking I think it is not)
There is a video of this mouse on Youtube:
Monir found me next to a grocery store in mid afternoon in the town of Hiji (or maybe it is called Mahout?) He offered me a place to rest, brought me fruit and cooked me some of the best fish I’ve eaten. I rested, but around four pm got out to make a bit more progress. Shukran Monir! He runs an electronics store almost next to the Al Baraka market.
There was I viper under a rock rather close to me when I woke up the next morning. Something to keep in mind.
The room I stayed in in Salalah (hosted by a Palestinian man who can never go back to his family’s land in Palestine. Fadi is his name. He runs a furniture store. The cost of the room is $10/ night or close to that—so he’s almost like a couchsurfing host!
145-147. The rooms I stayed in in Tel Aviv ($500 for the first 6 nights and $900 for the next 14 nights, the most I’ve paid in rent for years!!). In addition food is more expensive here than any place I’ve ever been. But it’s been good to be here.
[I neglected to make any comments about the the last Omani who hosted me for tea, milk, and dates one morning. The milk was from his own cow. One of his daughters spoke English to me and explained things more. He had ten children I think. Afterwards he went out to the beach with me where that big black rock mountain is, and then to the mosque nearby. It was Saturday. Shukran! I didn't note down his name. Ahmed? They had hosted a group of cyclists sometime in the previous year too.]
My last host has let me check out before 6pm. It is 3:35pm now. By four I should quit this and make sure I can get out in time.
It is a rather cold and gloomy day to be heading back out of doors, but after Wednesday things look good (it is Saturday now).
The Israel and Tel Aviv story I’ll save more for the next epistle.
I went back to Muscat from Salalah on the bus. I camped two nights and stayed two nights with Daphne or about that (we left for the airport at 230am or so). She drove me to get my covid test, and to pick up the bicycle box, and showed me where she works.
Her running partner with whom she originally planned the trip got covid. In order to not risk getting stuck in Israel in a two-week quarantine on the way back she decided not to go. (She had been stuck for many days in various quarantines earlier in the pandemic due to the entry requirements of Oman and Qatar I think.)
So I arrived here alone after having decided were I to die in two weeks I wanted to go to Israel first.
Was that the right decision? Had I stayed in Muscat longer—she had that week off. I could have changed flights to a later date. Gotten another covid test later. I suppose I was afraid of getting stuck in Oman longer if I later tested positive. (Jordi and Charlotte apparently had to do this before they could leave due to positive tests). In the end, neither Daphne nor I tested positive.
Plus it’s good with new relationships to have to separate and then make effort to get back together from time to time. Maybe.
It was quite a lonely time at first though. . . finally I started to make some friends from the dating apps and find company that way. No new lovers but something to keep me occupied and to help me learn more about the city and Israel. Five dates, one where we met three times, or was that just twice?
Oh yes, and, inspired by Daphne, I began to try to run again. You can look up my efforts on Strava. There are some more photos there as well.
So I wrote a fair amount about Tel Aviv already.
Going forward what do I hope for?
I’ve been thinking I might go to southern Greece after May 20 and then start working my way west and north. Ferrying to Italy.
I’ll keep trying to make more friends with the goal of finding a partner.
I’ll revisit the ones who will have me back and perhaps stay with them longer this time.
That really is pretty nearly it. Progress in fitness and good health habits. Meet my friends from my last trip here (2013-14) in the north of Israel and see what happens there.
I listened to quite a few audiobooks on that trip through the desert. Currently on my waterproof player is _Becoming Animal_. I like it alot.
There’s at least a chance an 18-year old will come join me for a bit as I travel around until he decides what his own adventure will be. Seems rather fantastic that such a thing might happen, but you never know. I last saw him when he was 8 or 9yo I think.
It’s 4:05pm here, time to focus on leaving. Until next time—
I'm out and well situated in my hammock in the coldest weather since Sicily. 9C / 48F. Between Rishon LeTsiyon and the sea.
Daphne let me know it's the end for us. Her reasons are sound. She's more of an activist and doer, I'm more of a navel-gazer. My words. My take-away? Often people project on to me what they want me to be and it takes varying amounts of time for them to realize I'm not that. Do I wish I were motivated to be more of an activist? Sometimes. I’d find more like Daphne were I to volunteer in disaster areas and war zones. Though even there there wouldn't be many like her. I'd find more like her were I motivated to pursue competitive endurance sports and bag peaks and so on, but again, not many like her even there.
To an extent it's the basic introvert/extrovert difference. Apparently in a group of good male friends a guy like me can shift more to the extrovert/activist/organizer end. . .
But you can't really argue with what gives pleasure and what doesn't, though I've tried—
So that adventure ends. It was a good one.
There is relief in no longer feeling I need to make an effort to live very differently than what I'm fairly used to.
I have ideas of where to focus next, but for now I'm more mentally free again.