| Sun 10 Jan 10
1000hrs: Everyone still in bed. A knocking on the hull. Alongside is a dinghy with a Caucasian man and two others with a weather-beaten appearance. We learn later the Caucasian fellow’s name is Mark and he’s a Kiwi. He owns a boat called Quo Vadis which is up on the hard stand supported by wooden poles. He’s about early fifties, number 1 crew cut, an average build and intense eyes that fix on you.
Mark is quite inquisitive. Wants to know all about us, who we are, where we’re going and details about the Vasco da Gama rally. He’s obviously deduced we’d been part of the rally because we still have the rally banner displayed along the stern rails. I had mistakenly surmised he was from the only other yacht moored here named Alamic, a Swiss registered yacht. Mark tells me it is supposed to be heading for Thailand tomorrow.
I’m still a bit fuzzy headed from having just woken up so don’t pick up immediately on asking more important questions such as how and where to get water or fuel, exact details of booking into the country and so forth. The little group moves off to shore with promises to catch up later. Mark gets off on shore and the others go over to Alamic.
Looking around in the bright daylight across our little mooring basin is an Omani warship, which to my limited knowledge of naval vessels might be a small frigate. At the end are a couple of small Police patrol boats. Further around to the left are several large, brightly painted, tall timber-hulled boats with relatively small topside superstructure and huge rudders. Just to our right is a concrete launching ramp and further along are several exotic looking fishing vessels with high prows and a long timber shade structure sloping along the poop. There are several men of Indian appearance working in and around them.
Beautiful day. Large shoal of fish up to around 20cm or so milling around the front of our boat, keeping a clear distance in a ring around the anchor chain as it drops down in the light green water to the bottom.
Morning: The others don’t get up for a couple of more hours. I settle in to do some computer work bringing my hand written journal notes up to date. After the men get up we spend time just leisurely doing minor odds and ends cleaning up after our last passage.
Late Afternoon: Go ashore. Climb a million steps up a concrete stairway leading to the Port Control Office on top of the hill adjacent to the yacht mooring area. Once up there we find the building also houses the Harbour Master. After knocking on a door marked with Arabic writing we find ourselves in the main Port Control room. Inside are a couple of men, one in an impressive white maritime uniform with lots of gold trim. He ushers us next door to a conference room then asks what can he do for us. After explanations he goes away and comes back with a form already completed with all our details and stamped with the Port Control Office stamp. They’d have recorded all our details when we got permission to enter the harbour last night over the radio. He tells us we now have to go to a place called CGT Finance to pay the port fees. Takes us outside onto a terrace and points out where the place is, hidden from view around the corner of another nearby hill.
As we walk down the hill a younger uniformed maritime man driving a big black Chrysler Jeep like an imitation Hummer stops and asks if we need a lift. He seems confused about where we have to go but drops us off near where we’d been told to go. In a nearby office we find a small cashier type booth but the bloke behind the counter. He’s wearing one of the common long white smocks and vari-coloured brimless caps that seem to be all the rage in Oman, but he doesn’t know what to do with us or what we want to do. Back outside we look around but can’t find this CGT place. There’s a little Police building with a sign saying Passports and Residence but no one is there.
With nothing else to do we start trudging along the main road. Trudging, trudging maybe a kilometre or so. The loose dust on the side of the road soon covers our lower legs like long white socks. A semi-trailer turns off the main road in amongst big piles of loose stones leaving a powder white dust storm in its wake. Wait for it to clear. No one stops to give us a lift. Reach the front gate manned by Oman Police. Inside are four men at the counter. They’re all dressed in the standard white smocks and all talking at once to a Sergeant, a Corporal and another unshaven man standing behind the counter with a dirty smock and towelled head. Everybody is talking at the same time without regard to anything the other is saying. It’s a real babble in there. Two of the police wear sidearm pistols, the other two do not. Quite a difference from Egypt and Yemen.
The staff don’t speak English very well so one of them eventually rings the Port Control Office who gives them instructions what to do with us. We’re led outside to a Police car.
Under a sign which says Passports and Residence, a Police Sergeant (three stripes) after some more apparent confusion and mucking about starts to process our papers. We’re beginning to learn that the officials here are not much used to handling cruising yachties, only the big shipping stuff. Several forms each with two carbon copies, much signing and payments made. That’s Customs completed. We now have to wait for the Immigration people to arrive.
Make enquiries back at the Customs/Immigration counter.
Outside at the main gate we ask for directions to the Oasis Club. From the guide books back onboard this is the place to go for a good meal. It’s apparently not too far away and alcohol is available. The guard directs us to another gate back inside the terminal but a man with crossed eyes tells us we have to exit through the road leading out through the work area.
Walking, walking. Come out on the main road near the front gate again. Show our passports to the Police guard and head out the gate, along the road, left at the intersection and up the hill. Long walk. Brightly coloured lights at the top of the hill mark the Oasis Club and we thankfully go inside. Pay the US$2 price for Wi-Fi access and send some emails off. Change some US Dollars for Oman Rials. US$20 equals 7.200 Rials. We have to multiply the price of things by 2.5 to get the roughly equivalent Aussie price.
Have a couple of drinks. Order a meal. Roger goes for The Challenge – a huge Kiwi steak plus two 500ml beers to be finished inside half an hour for an Oasis Club T-shirt?
Approx 1000hrs: Catch a cab waiting outside back to the port but the Police stop the taxi at the gate. We have to walk from here. Back onboard everybody is well and truly bushed. Off to bed.
Mon 11 Jan 10
Morning: I stay on board to finish updating my Jenzminc journal. The other boat Alamic had left early in the morning. Andy and Roger go ashore to find this place where we’re supposed to pay our Port fees. Roger is back after a few minutes to change his clothes. He’d slipped on the slippery surface of the concrete launching ramp and got wet.
They go first to the nearby Police building marked Passports and Residence. Unattended. Walk over to some nearby offices. Nobody knows where this CGT Finance place is. As they walk along the local docks next to the fishing boats a man says hello and makes his acquaintance. Asks what we want.
About 10 minutes later Mohammed arrives in a large Kia All Wheel Drive and introduces himself. He’s probably about middle age and black African appearance, although he later said he’d been born in Oman. Says he spent many years in the Oman military and then in the Royal Oman Police before becoming an agent. Takes the boys over to the Administration Building where we’d been last night and up the stairs out the front of the Customs and Immigration. This is the CGT Finance place. Mohammed had apparently been thinking we were leaving but on learning otherwise tells the boys that this port payment can all be done on the last day.
Mohammed drives them into town to hire a car for about 11 Rial per day. It’s a little four-door Toyota Yaris, small but suits our purpose admirably. They fill it with 35 litres of petrol for about three Rial. Mohammed then takes them to a place where they can pick up a map of Salalah. They also grab an Oman phone simm card so that we can keep in easy contact with Mohammed. Return to the boat.
Afternoon: All ashore again. We’re on a mission to buy two new house batteries having decided they’re on their way out and it would be best to replace them now. Find Mark on board his boat Quo Vadis nearby. Interesting man. Had been in charge of IBM in New Zealand some years ago but retired to go permanently cruising. Had left Salalah for Aden but had problems with his sail-drive and returned here. After lifting the boat to inspect it he found all the engine oil like mayonnaise treacle. It’s now been on the hardstand for about 8 months and he’s replaced the sail drive. Has seen a lot of cruising yachties coming and going since and is just waiting for a rally group to arrive in Salalah to tag along with to Aden.
Mark learns we want batteries and elects to show us where to get them. Climbs into his Nissan sedan and takes off towards the city centre with us following. It’s about 20 km or so. Beautiful roads lined with ornate black and gold painted light poles. Surprised to see speed cameras. Couple of big roundabouts. Clean roads and streets with workers using hand brooms. Most of the buildings look recently new. There tends to be a lot of vacant desert land between some of the bigger buildings. Very spread out. New multi-story buildings going up everywhere, mostly with a distinct Arabian Nights or Persian architectural look. They have a different but pleasant aesthetic appeal to western eyes. Well maintained. Some big tourist resorts and a couple of big hotels such as The Hilton. Almost no litter anywhere.
Mark guides us into an industrial area and pulls up outside a reasonable sized store. All the staff are Indian and don’t really speak very good English, but we’re able to get across what we want since we’ve taken one of the old batteries with us. They don’t have any deep cycle batteries in stock and don’t seem to be able to source them either. However we are able to get two 110 Amp Hour maintenance free, long-lasting batteries for 170 Rials after bargaining them down from 97 Rials each. Andy also buys a 5-litre container of diesel engine oil. Head uptown to change some Euro’s into Oman Rials at a Western Union office.
Dusk is coming on as we start heading back out of town. Get a flat rear tyre on the passenger side and pull over to the side of the road. Search high and low for the jack. Find it under the driver’s seat. The handle is under the boot cover and the tools in a little bag in a side pocket. Three young local lads take a keen interest in what we’re doing.
Approx 1830hrs: Meet with Mark at the Oasis Club. Wi-Fi internet not working tonight. Have some drinks and he joins us for dinner. During the conversations we learn that the fee to come alongside a jetty for fuel and/or water is payable only once and costs 55 Rial. From this we gain the idea that perhaps we might be able to tie up to a wharf for a few days until we leave. We’ll need to approach Mohammed about it tomorrow.
Approx 2200hrs: Back onboard Andy starts to replace the old batteries but strikes a problem with the terminals on the new ones. Makes a temporary connection but new clamps are going to be required.
2300hrs. In bed. Read a book for a short while.
Tues 12 Jan 10
Morning: Andy rings Mohammed to confirm arrangements with the Harbour Master for us to move over to one of the wharfs. Make our way over to the launching ramp where Roger slips again on the slippery surface of the ramp. Mohammed soon arrives down at the boat and takes Andy and I up to the Port Control Office. Roger stays down near the boat to dry out in the sun.
Under Mohammed’s guidance Andy writes a letter to the Port Operations Manager explaining that we need to do some repairs and will need around three days against the wharf to complete them. This isn’t entirely untrue. We do have to make some repairs to the wind generator mounting, a small tear in the mainsail and we need to service the motor. We also want to clean the boat, re-provision and take on water and fuel. Much easier to do all this when tied to a wharf rather than out on an anchor. The Operations Manager is at a meeting so Mohammed brings us back down the hill to the boat.
Mark arrives for a chat when we notice that the opposite rear tyre is now almost flat. Mohammed tells Andy and I to follow and leads us down to the container terminal. Pulls up in an area stacked with huge tyres and talks to the Indian man in there. We’re told to stay in the car. The Indian man pumps up our tyre while huge cranes shuffle back and forth just metres away. Head back to the mooring basin. Mohammed now leaves telling us he’ll call us on the phone when he’s heard back from the Operations Manager. His last minute instructions concerning the tyres are that it shouldn’t cost more than 1 Rial to get each puncture repaired.
Drive into town and pull up at a tyre place. Everyone seems to be Indian again and no one speaks English very well. One fellow eventually comes out to inspect our flat. He finds a cut and says the tyre will have to be replaced. Wants to replace all our tyres while we’re at it. No. Quotes four Rial to fix the slow leak on our other tyre. Andy tells him we’ll think about it. A visit to another shop gets some new terminal lugs for the new batteries.
We’ve learned there is a Lulu supermarket here in Salalah and find it marked on our map. Don’t have any difficulty navigating our way to it. Do some shopping but can’t use the ATM since its being fixed. Roger and Andy decide to take off and find a bank to get some more Rials to buy groceries, but as soon as they leave the ATM is working again. When they get back we finish the shopping, load up our groceries and head back to the boat.
Groceries ferried out to the boat. Andy sets about finishing the installation of the new batteries. New storage places have to be found for some extra groceries but it’s all duly put away eventually.
Afternoon: Mohammed calls on the phone to tell us we can now move to Berth 29 which is against a nearby wharf. Call Port Control to advise them. They tell us not to move yet and will call back. They soon respond saying permission granted. Rope untied from the rocks and pull the anchor up. Motor the short distance to the wharf and with the assistance of a couple of Pakistani fishermen standing around get Jenzminc tied up alongside. The fishermen continue to take keen interest in us. They squat along the wharf watching our every move. We were to learn they lead pretty hard and boring lives. The wharf is filthy with cement dust and the starboard deck is soon dirty from climbing back and forth. At least there are large rubber tyres lining the cement wall and with our fenders the hull is safe from damage.
Mohammed gives us a key to the “Royal Suite” which is a locked room to the nearby ablutions block normally used by the Harbour Master but is available to visiting yachties. It contains a shower, proper toilet, sink, mirror and cleaning brooms. It’s a much nicer facility to use than the public one which is used by the local Pakistani and Bangladeshi fishermen.
Late Afternoon: Everyone enjoys a shower. Late sundowners. There is some trucking activity in a large flat bitumen area next to our berth with some men walking around wearing reflective vests. Truck drivers are being trained in backing shipping containers with sharp right angled turns between 200-litre drums. One bloke is quite good at it and spins it in straight away. Another has all sorts of problems and keeps running into drums. More practice needed.
Evening: Visit the Oasis Club for dinner but don’t stay too long. Manage to send off some emails and do some internet banking. Everyone’s really bushed and return to the boat fairly early.
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