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Dateline: Dec 2001 - Some great changes are happening in Jebel Akhdar. The road up the mountain from Birkat Al Mooz has been opened to tourists. You still have to have a pass in order to proceed beyond the military checkpoint, but you can get it by ringing the new Al Jabal Al-Akhdar Hotel <firstname.lastname@example.org> on 00968-429009 and faxing through a passport copy plus car registration details on 00968-429119. They then arrange with the guards at the gate to enter your details in a ledger and if they can find it written there when you appear at the gate just past the old fort at Birkat al Mooz, they wave you through. The hotel is very comfortable and I have it on good authority that if you notify them well enough in advance, they can arrange to have your favorite beverages available at the hotel (otherwise, the hotel is dry).
There is a new book, Adventure Trekking in Oman, by Anne Dale and Jerry Hadwin (2001) that gives routes around the Jebel and GPS points, so all you have to do is switch your GPS to Oman data UTM 40, plug in the points, and walk there (a lot easier than the dead reckoning we used to employ). Furthermore, there is a network of roads there now so that many villages that used to require a day's uphill gain of 1000 meters or more to reach are now a half hour's drive from the new hotel, and from there you can easily (well, relatively, with some effort, this is rugged terrain up here) reach villages we used to only see in the distance from where we used to be able to walk on foot in the time we had available. What's really amazing and interesting to witness over the past decade, is how the lives of the people in the Jebel have changed. We used to reach their villages after rough hiking and be invited in to coffee and dates in buildings made of nearby stones, skillfully coined inside and out. Now they are building with cinder block brought in by road, gaily painting their houses, and installing satellite dishes on top. Water is now piped down to the more remote reaches even offroad, so after an hour's hike you might find a water tank brimming with cool liquid (or might not, so still be careful). Despite the changes, the villagers are still remarkably friendly and still offer coffee and dates and oranges in their newly remodelled sublahs.
Bobbi and I did a couple of walks up here on recent excursions into Oman in December 2001. Over the UAE national day in early December, we went diving at the Damaniyite Islands, ran the Muscat hash on Saturday night, and spent Sunday night above Wadi Halfayn on our way home. Then during Eid later the same month, we checked in at the hotel and made some walks around the Saiq plateau. More about this here later.
October 1998 and April 1992 - Mountain Rain, hiking - Vance reproduces a tale of walking from Wadi Bani Auf to Wadi Bani Khurus during freak monsoon rains, but illustrates it with pictures taken from a more recent walk with friends. The destination of the later walk turned out to be the pass at Aqabat Zhufur.
November 1998 - Aqabat Zhufur hiking - Vance, Bobbi and Dusty walk up to this picturesque mountain pass and spend the night out before walking back
June 2001, January 2001, and November 1994 - Majlis Al Jin - Crownpiece of the Selma Plateau in Oman, Majlis al Jin draws us up, down inside, and spits us back out again. Reach a trio of tales about our adventures, including how you can walk up there from Umq.
December 1997 and December 2000 - Hoti Cave through trips - Hoti Cave is a popular day outing for the expats of Muscat. We even mounted an expedition on the cave with some good friends from Abu Dhabi to spend the night (and most of the morning) inside the pitch dark of the resurgence entrance on the occasion of Bobbi's birthday Oct. 25, 2000. We lowered in sufficient beverages plus 8 kids in on ropes and lit the chamber with 50 candles for the occasion. But for the more adventurous, the Hoti through trip top to bottom, a 4 or 5 km trek underground, a quarter of that swimming, is a chance to see one of the most beautiful comfortable (no tight crawls!) caves that one can drive to.
June 1999 - Tawi Atare cave in Salalah. Vance invited by couldn't make the flight to Salalah all the way from Abu Dhabi or Dubai, so we make do with Cemal's report, or the first part of it at any rate.
January 1999 - Jebel Kaw caving - Vance goes with friends to the 3rd longest cave in Oman just south of Ibri
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