Maseriah 2016

Trip excuse

As I had to work the previous "National Day" for Oman, and this weekend was the UAE National Day ("good for Juliet") I was able to slip away from the office for 1 day TOIL, and we decided to head to the island of Maseriah.

Dora looking happy as we had arrived at the ferry.

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Why Maseriah ?

  • Juliet had not been there ever
  • It was 11 years since I was last there (Alas when Eilse McKiver passed away)
  • Oppertunity for an IOTA activation

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The national ferry company nice new ferries which run to a schedule !! Next time we will 100% use these guys.

Getting there

From Muscat Maseriah is about 8 hours by road, and I break this down as

  • Muscat to Sinaw 2 Hours
  • Sinaw to Film 2.5 Hours
  • Film to Shanna 0.5 hours
  • Ferry 1.5 Hours

Grand Total... 6.5 hours. But you said it was 8 hours ? Well spotted - you see there is only 1 ferry company with a published set of sailings - and that is the goverment National Ferry Company (looks very nice by the way). Everyone else needs to use a private ferry - and they only sail when they are FULL.

When I say FULL I mean you can not fit a Fiat-500 on the deck unless you start stacking cars.

On the way out we waited a mere 3 hours for the ferry to fill up, on the way back - a mere 20 minutes.

When you get off the ferry the nicest camping areas are at least 1 hours drive....

8 Hours is the time from Muscat to Maseriah camping !!

Packed Ferries

As it was the UAE national day the ferries were very busy indeed. 80% of the cars going over were UAE - we witnessed a group of Indian expats hire their own private ferry (at some cost) - but we along with lot of Emiratees sat and waited for our ferry to slowly fill up.

When we eventually left - the 90 minutes trip only felt like 2 hours.. as there is nothing to do. We were at least able to get out of our cars - some people we packed in so tightly - you could not even walk past their vehicle.

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South to campsite

On leaving Hilf (which I confess looked just the same as the previous times I had been there)

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We headed out to the Indian Ocean side of the island - past where the BBC site used to be - opposite there is now a very large police station and what used to be the Crown Plaza Hotel, has been rebranded. Down the Indian Ocean side we drove, until Dora - who was the "unwell explorer" needed a rapid exit from vehicle. In fact she tested all her bodies emergancy evaucuation routes in about 5 minutes. This was worrying - as it is usually me who suffers from aliments when travelling - but if Dora has it first....

I found what I though would be a nice campsite - and leaving Dora in the car, set up the tent, shade etc. After some fluids and Advil colour slowly returned to Dora's cheeks.

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Maseriah Camping

Simply excellent - we had a nice spot, had only 1 set of visitors - who were happy to chat to us in Arabic, and seemed happy how we were parked (off the beach, clean - no lights etc) - not stealing from their fish traps we had spotted also probably contributed to the generaly good behaviour from both sides.

IOTA

A little frustrating to be honest. My KX3 seemed unable to output more than 5W of power, despite recent improvements via the firmware regarding the output power. I tried to check if this or that setting was to blame - but in the end, I feared that the recent ATU and 2M modules had somehow caused something unpleasant to occur.

I managed to work 10 countries - the furthest being Luxembourg - and the closest being the UAE - which ironically was much easier in AS-014 rather than from Muscat.

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KX3 Problems

On returning home, I discovered that the power leads are simply to skinny - and by replacing them with thicker core leads I am able to pull higher power. Sometimes the simple things are the most difficult to find.

BuddyPole Problems

I am continuing my love-hate relationship with buddypole, whilst it is a well thought out - easy to use system, it is one that has a 0% chance of surviving if anything goes wrong. With a few string gusts of wind this weekend, one of the tent pegs was pulled out of the ground and seconds later the whole things crashed to the ground. The result 2 totally broken poles. An exact replica of Dec 2015 !!

I can fix the current breakages I think with a set of jubilee clips - but I lost 18 hours of opererating due to this failure.

Wildlife?

Nothing, we saw nothing cool except

  • flamingos
  • partridge
  • wagtails
  • Egyptian Vultures
  • Ospreys

And as for fishing...

Gallery

There are lots more images in the gallery.

Red Arrows 2016

Welcome back the Red Arrows

It had been 3 years since the Red Arrows were last in Oman, and there was definatly a buzz around the Shatti beach area as we approached the centre of the Air Display.

Rather fearing a large traffic jam at the end of the show, we chose to walk about 10 minutes to our meeting point with Mike & Wendy.

After moving down to the sea front, I met some other long time residents who I had not seen in literally in years.

Humid

The weather seemed very usualy for November, instead of clear bright skies, it was quite poor visibility not due to sand or cloud, but due to the very opressive humidity.

Some of the ground crew mingled wigh the crowd handing out posters and little flags to (mainly) yound children.

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The beach was pretty crowded by the time the display was due to start.

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At 15:00 we crowd watched and waited, but nothing - in fact the Red Arrows did not arrive for about another 5 minutes; I was beginning to wonder if the poor visibility was not a factor in this delay - but with very little warning or their arroach - the show had begun.

For the next 35 minutes the crowd went Ohh and Ahhh, as the display team put on a very impressive show.

The Pictures

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As usual more images available

Quriyat revisited

With the return of some very dear friends we used the National Day weekend to return to one of our favorite sites namely the area around Quriyat.

It is close to get too - but offers quite a wide range of activities - which cathing up on the news as well as relaxing high on our agenda we sped off from the rather plush Al-Bustan Palace Hotel - which was suitably bedecked in Omani national colours.

The trip there was quiet and un-eventful (not often you say that driving in Oman) - and we stopped and had a cuppa at the sea-front. The odour of Goats mixing in a rather sickly sweet manner with that of the sea air.

As we were heading out to explore - we came across a nice place for some bird watching....

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus is a relativly common sight in Oman around the coast line, We spotted 2 during the day - but this one was a little easier to approach having just caught a nice looking fish.

What massive Talons !

I was aware that Ospresy have talons specially designed for grasping slippery fish - 2 toes forward and 2 toes back - but the physical size of their talons is quite frightening.

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Yes the Osprey is sitting on a small football goal.

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Varied birds

Not far from the Osprey on a small drying sand bank, a collections of Cororants, Herons and Turns were perched.

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I am not sure what spooked them a few minutes later but they soon scattered into the sky.

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Curlew

Standing most still was a curlew - and thanks to the extra eyes in the car - as I did not see it until I had been directed at it.

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As usual more images available

Oman, Islamic New Year

With the possibility of a 3 day weekend, we headed out for a days exploring towards the Sumail/Jebel Akhdar region of Oman.

The weather previously had been a little cooler - but today at noon it was still quite a warm 39C (106F-ish)

After taking a wrong turn, I then compounding the mistake by making another mistake - and amazingly we found ourselves by an old deserted village.

The people were still living close by - just not in the old part of town. So we set off to explore.

Izki old town

We parked next to a rather shiny and new looking mosque - which had a lovely car park - next to it seemed a natural entrance into the old town.

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After carefully stepping through the gap (I am always mindful of snakes in such quiet at possibly cool places), a wonderful street greeted us - alas quiet now, but it was easy to imagine a time not too past when this would have been a busy thoroughfare.

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Grand Tower

A few meters down the street we saw a rather grand tower - which rather beckoned us to explore.

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Alas time is not being kind to such buildings, and care was needed when walking around. On the roof rafters Arabic writing (Quran based I would guess, and some art patterns abounded).

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After we passed through the tower - we were greeted with am impressive gate - a double set of sturdy doors - presumably meaning something or someone of importance used to live there.

The artwork on the door was still very impressive.

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Well Well !!

Roughly in the middle of the town was the well, I dropped a small pebble in - but did not hear the splash of water.

Next to this another house slowly deteriorated - yet at the same time maintained an air of defiance - resisting the elements.

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Also designed to resist were the battlements of the village - still looking very formidable. izki

Old Town Mosque

The largest and possibly tallest part of the town, appeared to be an old Mosque. As I found another well (so you can wash prior to praying) that confirmed my suspicion.

Note the Islamic Crescent design on the doorpost.

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Mountain Time

We next popped up the Mountain izki

Last day in DC

Sadly our trip here is just about over - and we needed to do something during the day - before our 2100 flight back to Oman via Qatar.

As we could not get an extension to the room - hotels seems crazily busy and expensive at the moment in DC; We planned a quiet day - with no need for showering prior to the flight.

Boat trip

The river winds through DC and there are plenty of trips avaiable from next door to the Watergate building, in an area called Washington harbour.

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Lincon memorial and the Washington Monument.

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The main East coast railway bridge.

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The type of boat that we were on.

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Police !!

The USA seems to have lots of different police forces, we have seen

  • Secret Service (sorry no photos they are secret apart from the writing on their car,bike, vest,badge etc)
  • Municipal Police
  • Park Police
  • National Park Police
  • Navy Police
  • Highway Patrol
  • State Police

The list just goes on... anyway this bike is from the elite Washington State Park Police Service. No idea what they do ... break up squirrel fights ? The other Harley looked like it had been dropped a few times (it wasn't me honest).

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After an excellent lunch down by the waterfront - we headed back to the National Zoo - to try and see some of the animals that we had missed the first time.

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Tiger

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Lioness

The Lions were being very lazy - partly probably becuase of the heat (and because even wild they are rather lazy until hungry).

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Wolf

South american - with the most amazingly long legs - that looked very much out of proportion.

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Closing

The USA has been really fun, and we have both had a lovely time - seeing friends and family, as well as the many thinks that this amazing place has to offer.

In the words of Gen MacArthur "we shall return"...

More Photos

There are more photos available.

Laramie and Rocky Mountain National Park

Jail Time !

This jail facility was basically a work-house (in UK terms) - where naughty people were sent - and whilst they were serving their sentence they worked for the owners of the prison. It was also a silent prison - which literally meant "no-talking"!!

There were several volunteers dressed up - at various points - who gave you their insight as to prison life.

Excellent few hours there.

Dora the criminal ! explorer, on realising she was being sentanced.

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Top quality state of the art transportation.

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The Cells !!

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The stockade. laramie

Union Pacific

Colorado Springs has a fantanstic railway line running past it - due to the gradient they have trains at the front and rear - and not just 1 power unit - several.

As I had spied not only the railway tracks, but a train approaching - we were able to drive within feet of the rails - and I waited for the train.

The driver - gave a momumental set of blasts (I think he was saying "hi", rather than "keep away").

The noise, rumble and wind - was overwhelming.

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Arapaho Wildlife reserve

Heading towards Denver we stopped to see some (more) wildlife.

This time - something new....

"Stop making a noise" !! laramie

These are White tailed prairie dogs not to be confused with the low-land black tail (and slightly bigger variety).

"He went the other way"....

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A herd of pronghorn antelope stood by, almost saying "be careful - they are small but very bad tempered".

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And then we saw what they meant !

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We got the message - and quietly left....

Rocky Mountain Grand Lake

Dora, decided that the time was good for some boating - and it so happened that there was a boating shop close by.

After confusing the staff by using the words "pass on the port side" (which was rather worrying they did not know this) - we proceeded to have a great few hours on the lake. Looking at not only at Ospreys but some very expensive houses.

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As always more photos are available.

Grand Tetons (again)

This is what we agreed - and so the alarm was set for 0500, alas sleep prevailed and I crawled out of bed at around 0545, Dora the surprisingly happy explorer, was already up, awake and itching to get going.

The plan was to do some gentle/scenic stuff - and try and find that elusive Elk.

Ox Bow Bend

As you drive towards Yellowstone Park - after just entering Grand Teton Park from Moran Gate - you will pass a nice spot to take a photo - this is Ox Bow Lake.

Now the "real" phorographers know this - and from sunrise -1 hour they are already camped there.

We arrived with Sunrise still 10 minutes away - and I got out the car - and quickly got back in - added more clothing and then tried again.

On walking past literally 20 top of the line camera, all on Tri-Pods - with nice Lenses. I sat at the end of the line, feeling like a school kid who had been sent to school with a 2nd hand camera. I took a few pictures - and did not like the viewpoint - so I moved !! Yes feet beat Zoom lenses !!

Now standing by the river with a very pleasant Czek photographer I came up with a plan - of course I needed a different lense.

Dora - the stay in the warm car - explorer was happy to see me, and wished me luck as I went back to -2C.

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Keep your eyes open for Otter - as there were a family living close by.

Sun at last

With the sun rising, and the temp still just around 0c, we headed out to see some more sites, and to try and find the Elk.

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Alas this diving Duck was the only animal we had seen so far.

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The walk not only had great views of the mountains - but the fall colours were really shining through.

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Cable car time

Dora, seems to have a bit of a thing for riding cable cars - Malaysia, Switzerland and now USA.

We went into Jackson, and then headed to Teton Village which seems to exist simply for skiing.

Jumping into a $38M cable car - and zooming up the mountain was great fun - and the views were excellent. It was as one would expect COLD - something that some of the natives here seemed to be surprised about - lots of people went up in t-shirt and shorts - most lasted 8 minutes at the summit - before taking the next cable car down.

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Last drive through Teton

Not wanting to get caught in the Jackson traffic, I took a small road back into the National Park - which was very picturesque, we did try and see some wildlife - but it seems that we had used our quota up yesterday (Grizzly Bears cost double ha ha).

Then at a very non-descript site - we pulled in, saw some people with cameras obviously looking at something and .... Elk.... Mother and a calf (About the size of a Pony already).

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Game spotting around our cabin

Dora has been pretty goot at spotting some animals - and on the evening game drives we have done (I just pick a foresty road - and we try and not get lost), we had been successful - today also.

This Mule Deer was under 10 feet away.

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As usual more images available

Yellowstone - Lamar Valley

Yellowstone - Lamar Valley

We returned to Yellowstone this time with a little more of a plan that previously - we did some research the evening before whilst having some home-made soup in the cabin, and at this morning at 05:30 hopped out of bed - and we were rolling by 0600. When it was -2C.

American Hospitality

Before I recant some of the sites we saw, I think it is fitting to say a big thank you to the many people we met today - who were without exception as charming and hospitable as you could imagine.

The people who like us were trying to see wildlife, holidaymakers, people who wanted to look at some photos we had taken - or who thought my accent was "not from around here".

Drive Up to Thumb

The drive was dark, misty, cold, icy and frankly the only I kept seeing were Elk standing by the side of the road. As we were on a mission - I was trying to have a no stop policy - else the trip would take even longer - but some rules are meant to be broken.

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A truely impressive animal. On the other side of the road from the Elk - the increasing temperature (-2c to -1c) was creating a 'smoke on the water' effect.

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Be Bear aware !!

With sun starting to warm the mountains the fog was lifting, as we entered an area where we had hope to find Bear. Of course everyone want to see Bear (just as when I went to africa I wanted to see the Big-5).

We threaded our way around a mountain pass - and noticed a few stopped cars (always a give away)

Looking around I could not see what the fuss was about - the quite narrow road had a 10 feet rise to a gentle forested area... where I could see a large black blob moving. This turned out to be a Black Bear.

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As if to say "Good Morning" on the peak across the valley the mist finally lifted.

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Antelope & Goats

Oman and the USA have more in common than they think - they both have Antelope and Goats !!

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Cute Bison

Yellowstone is absolutly brimming with Bison, but after yesterday I shall spare you countess images. Except this Bison - who looked like a 1300lb stuffed toy.

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Lunch time

We ate by a small stream, and were amused as people fled due to (of course) a Bison walking past.

Dora the Bear Spotting Explorer was feeling happy with the bears as well as being cold.

Raptor surprise

We then spotted some raptors in the trees. ys2ys2

I think it is a Rough-legged Hawk - but open to better suggestions.

More Bears

As we returned home, we paused close to the site where we had previously seen the Black Bear in the morning.

Amazingly the bear was close by - and we spotted him, but not in such a good location for photos.

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Dora was now very happy...

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And finally

As we exited Grand Teton park, I spied something that was elk coloured but not elk size...

After meeting a really nice wildlife pro-photographer who was also looking for this animal - we saw the following.

The first image is what you may see...

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If you do ... proceed carefully.

This was a Grizzly Bear !!

It had been radio-collared and tagged.

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There are lots more images in the gallery.

Bison Deer and Cayote

Exploring Grant Teton day 2

After an excellent meal and a decent nights sleep - getting going in the morning seemed a little more difficult than normal.

There are lots of guides - some you pay for, and some are free - regarding where to visit in the Grand Teton National Park, and being basically mean (and poor) I had been going a bit of background data collecting - and had worked out where I thought we should go.

You could just pay one of the many Jackson Photo-Safari specalists about $160/head and safe yourself the hassle.

Am I going quackers ?

One thing that we have not focused on - is the amount of birdlife here, for some strange reason the feathered wildlife seems much more skittish than their 4-legged colleagues.

But at a rather gloomy looking watering hole I spotted a family of Mallards who were obliging.

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Juilet (aka Dora the Explorer), then did a top class spot on a deer.

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This deer we walked up to within 30 meters or so. As we reminded ourselves of National park rules to keep 25m away from large animals, and 10m from smaller.

Ansel Adams

Mr Adams is one of the most famous photographers of the 20th Century, and his works especially in US National parks is rather the "Gold Standard" by which photos are sometimes measured.

One of his most famous images is of A Mormon Barn - which we also visited. Alas my modern technology is still beaten by his skill - but it was fun following in his footsteps.

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Coyete

Just a little way down Mormon Row we came across a very obliging Coyete, actually he just passed us by very quickly and then carried on hunting.

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Bison

We now did a little bit of semi-off-road, not ploughing a field - but unless you were in a 4WD you would not get there.

We had seen Bison all around - but a little ahead there appead to be few close to a vehicle - so we approached slowly, not trying to upset the photographer (who it turns out is a US nationally recognised artist) - and to try and not upset the Bison also.

We started with 4 or 5 Bison - but within 30 minutes there were at least 50 milling around the two vehicles. I by this time was sharing Terry's pickup truck tail-gate - whilst poor Dora the rather worried explorer sat alone - with some VERY large animals literally in front of her.

Notice the dueling scar just above his eye.

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Now who has not owned a dog that loved to roll in the dirt... so do Bison it seems.

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The really big male bison was occasionally fighting with other males - but most of the time a simple grunt was enough to put his opponents off.

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Something more peaceful

As the sun had finally come out - we ambled down to a river where someone was fly-fishing - when we spotted an Elk trying to hide - actually he did a very good job of hiding as it took quite some time to see him.

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Heading to our Lodge

Juliet is becoming quite an expert Mule Deer spotter - and upon her cries of "Deer" (she does not like to get too technical about the type of deer) - we spied this small group of deer.

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There are many more images especially of the Bison available here