A long day today, with a 6.6 hour flight to Muscat into somewhat of a headwind all the way.
This meant we needed to keep an eye on (and spend some time tuning) our fuel consumption to ensure we kept adequate reserves to reach Muscat (Plan B, had that not worked out, would have been to refuel en route – but it did all work out well in the end).
On the way to Muscat, we crossed Saudi Arabia and saw the magnificent desolation of that country.
At one point we passed over a large agricultural development, featuring a large number of circular irrigation areas (using rotary irrigation systems) in the Australian style. Pete believes this is no accident, and that some advice in agricultural development in that area did indeed come from Australia. Its easy to believe, and these circular watered green areas in the midst of the desert presented a strangely familiar sight, far away from home.
We passed over a large city in the desert and a lot of smaller townships along the way.
Once we passed into Bahrain, we had the amusing experience of talking with an Australian air traffic controller, who was curious about what we were up to (so we explained it!). He then proceeded to chat to his colleagues and organise a somewhat shorter incoming route for us from Bahrain onward to Oman. Because we had been pushing into headwinds all day, it definitely helped.
It took ages to get sorted out on the ground today – refuelling took a long time, and the customs handling process was also a slow (but smooth) process. Eventually we were on our way to the hotel.
One amusing aspect of turning up as air crew, in your own plane, but in casual clothes, is that some of the customs and handling staff take some convincing that you’re a real pilot.
(It seems that real pilots wear white shirts with epaulets 🙂 )
However, we had all the right aviation IDs and valid passports, so it did all work out as it was supposed to, in the end.
Muscat is a visually stunning environment. Historically appropriate, white, quite beautiful architecture is in evidence everywhere. The modern Muscat has re-invented itself since the 1970’s but it is strongly connected to its deep and varied history. There is a lot of construction going on.
We had a quick dinner at the hotel and then took a taxi to ‘Old Muscat’, where Pete and I walked through the Sukh (the market precinct). This was older, featuring winding alleyways full of shops and stalls packed literally floor to ceiling with ‘stuff’. It was very atmospheric.
There were very few western tourists in the Sukh – the market was mostly populated with locals. It was really nice to see and experience, albeit briefly, this authentic window into the place and its people.
Travelling here, one is struck by the clean and new aspect of so much of the place. The freeways are amazing (pristine, smooth, and efficient). So are most of the buildings. The taxi drivers were consistently friendly, and relaxed, and conveyed the sense that this is a country that is comfortable in its (harsh, desert) environment.
Here are some photos (below) from the trip today and from Muscat.
Tomorrow its another long day… we are flying to Agra, in India (very near the Taj Mahal) – and then having a rest day there to visit the Taj 🙂