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Jebel Shams

The Mountain of the Sun and the Grand Canyon of Arabia

sunny 24 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The last major excursion of my visit to Oman was to Jebel Shams ("Mountain of the Sun" in Arabic), the highest mountain in the country. On the way we again past through Nizwa and its spectacular fort about 2 hours out of Muscat but this time we stopped to have a look. What I had expected to find was a museum with well laid out grounds and old canon; what we found was a virtually deserted Souq.

It turns out what Nizwa Souq is famous for is its livestock market especially of live goats but we had chosen the wrong day, we needed to come on a Thursday. Never mind, what I did stumble on unexpectedly instead was the specialist gun area of the Souq and it initially shocked me to see guns so openly on sale.

Nizwa Fort

Nizwa Fort


Street scene in Nizwa by the Souq

Street scene in Nizwa by the Souq


Gun shop in Nizwa Souq

Gun shop in Nizwa Souq

We then began our drive up to Jebel Shams with a photo stop at the vacant village of Ghul at the mouth of the canyon and became aware of the goats - more on both anon!

The vacant village of Ghul at the mouth of the Canyon

The vacant village of Ghul at the mouth of the Canyon


Goats at the side of the road on the way up to Jebel Shams

Goats at the side of the road on the way up to Jebel Shams


The road to Jebel Shams

The road to Jebel Shams

Despite being the highest mountain in Oman (10,089 feet, 3,075 metres and site of a military radar station that can apparently see as far as the Mediterranean Sea) what Jebel Shams is really famous for is the spectacular 6,000 feet deep gorge that runs along side it. Known locally as the "Grand Canyon of Arabia" it is so leg wobblingly deep that it is impossible to convey this in a photograph - although I did have a try!

Looking over the edge at Jebel Shams

Looking over the edge at Jebel Shams


Me next to the canyon edge at Jebel Shams

Me next to the canyon edge at Jebel Shams

In addition to a few Bedouin women selling handmade trinkets, there soaring above us were eagles; we must have seen about 6 - mainly sea eagles but also a brown eagle - and then there were the goats. These appeared out of no where and loved to be fed the apple we had brought up for them. A handful of German tourists took loads of photographs of me oblivious to what I thought was the far more spectacular sight I was trying to point out to them of eagles circling only a few feet above their heads.

The goats at Jebel Shams do like to be fed apple

The goats at Jebel Shams do like to be fed apple

We then made our way back down the mountain the same way we came up to the village of Ghul at the entrance to the canyon we had been looking down into and began our drive in. None of the precipice edges to the road this time but a challenging 4WD none the less. Eventually we reached a small village which was as far as we could go and looked up at the gorge rim we had been at looking down from only a couple of hours earlier.

After exploring the village I accepted the offer of taking over the driving, my first experience of off road driving and enjoyed it more than I expected - even if there was the constant worry of misjudging and hitting a rock! We then drove back to Muscat and this time I was able to share the driving taking over just beyond Nizwa.

The entrance into the Gorge

The entrance into the Gorge


Our road through the Gorge

Our road through the Gorge


This was as far as the road would take us in the gorge

This was as far as the road would take us in the gorge


Looking up at the Gorge rim - we were up there looking down less than 2 hours ago!

Looking up at the Gorge rim - we were up there looking down less than 2 hours ago!

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Oman Tagged mountains animals birds markets canyon forts videos souq 4wd Comments (0)

Rottnest Island

Chasing Quokkas on Rotto

sunny 27 °C
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Rottnest (or "Rotto") is a small island 12 miles off the Fremantle coast famed for its wildlife (and in particular "quokkas", cat sized marsupials) and used as an idyllic holiday retreat by the locals. The day started with catching the early ferry from the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth and then an hour long cruise down the Swan River past West Australia's equivalent of Millionaires Row to Fremantle.

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty


View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle

View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle


Fremantle Harbour

Fremantle Harbour

Having berthed up beyond the "Costa Deliziosa" Cruise Ship (the big cruise ship currently in port) and loaded up with more tourists, bicycles and ballot boxes (for the imminent state election), the ferry sped past ships queueing to berth up in Freemantle Harbour. Arriving on Rottnest Island about 30 minutes later, we then got on a RIB (Rigid Inflatible Boat, apparently similar to those used by the SAS) for a 90 minute "eco-tour" right around the island stopping at coves to see the wildlife along the way.

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle


Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry

Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry


The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island

The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island


On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

The ride bouncing along at up to 35 knots outside the speed restriction areas was fun and we saw lazy New Zealand Fur Seals, nesting Ospreys and well as foraging Stingrays but I must admit I had hoped to see more as dolphins and seas lions are often also seen on the trip I took.

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island


Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island

Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island


New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island


Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

On returning to Thomson Bay (the main settlement on the island) I hired a bicycle for a couple of hours to explore the island's interior as with cars non-existent this is the recommended way to get around. I managed to reach the Oliver Hill Guns (WW2 Battery installed to defend Freemantle Harbour), Wedjemup Lighthouse and ride past some of the salty pink lakes (4 times saltier than sea water and like the Dead Sea you naturally float in them) before I had to return back to make sure I was back in time for my ferry.

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill


Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island

Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island


A pink lake on Rottnest Island

A pink lake on Rottnest Island


Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle

Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle


Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Back in Thomson Bay I made a quick visit to the museum and "Quod" (old prison now hotel, Rottnest was used as an aboriginal open prison during the 19th century) was beginning to worry the only quokka I would see would be the one sleeping by the surf boards at the bicycle hire shop. I need not have worried, literally just before I got back to the boat one wandered out in front of me and good as posed for my camera!

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay


The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay

The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay


Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship

Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship


The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches animals birds museums lighthouses boat forts cruise_ships harbours tour perth marine_life videos prisons solo Comments (0)

Auckland Museum and Domain

Introduction to Maori Culture and Memorial to the Fallen

sunny 19 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The big park near the centre of Auckland is called "The Domain" and is the site of yet another currently inactive volcano (called Pukekaroa) whose crater is now used for sports fields (there's got to be a cliche there somewhere!). Dominating it all is the Auckland Museum, an iconic building that looks like a Greek Temple that also serves as the Auckland War Memorial, an approach I have seen adopted in several other New Zealand towns as well.

The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!

The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!


Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum

Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum


Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum

Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum

The ground floor of the Museum is dedicated to Maori Culture with the impressive Maori Court containing amongst other things a Maori Meeting Room, Store House and a large War Canoe. The Maori arrived in New Zealand (called Aotearoa in Maori) about 1000 years ago from Polynesia. Meeting Houses are at the heart of every Maori marae (village) and are full of symbolism of the ancestors. There are protocols that need to be followed before a stranger is allowed to enter a marae (non Maori are called pakeha).

The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum

The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum


Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!

Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!


Inside the Maori Meeting House

Inside the Maori Meeting House


Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)

Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)


Maori War Canoe

Maori War Canoe

The highlight of the Maori Court was the Cultural Performance, after being greeted and taken into a small theatre we were given an explanation and display of traditional Maori dances. The most famous Maori dances for women are with tethered weights known a Poi. There is also the Ti Raku where a stick is thrown from dancer to dancer, this is the basis of many children's games and it is considered bad luck to drop the stick! However the most famous Maori dance of all is the Haka War Dance and this was used to close the performance.

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi


Maori Poi Dance

Maori Poi Dance


Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance

Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance


Haka War Dance

Haka War Dance

The next floor of the museum was devoted to nature and as the Kiwi bird that symbolises the country is nocturnal I (as it turned out wrongly) assumed the stuffed specimen I saw here would be the only one I would see in New Zealand. Also covered on this floor were the volcanoes and earthquakes that have moulded the country's landscape. This included a room that looked like a normal Auckland suburban lounge with a patio door looking out onto the bay and a news channel being broadcast on the TV in the corner. The news follows the emergence of a new volcano in the harbour that can be seen through the patio door and then as it erupts the cloud moves towards you and the floor of the room shakes mimicking an eruption and earthquake - definitely one for the kids (including older kids!).

A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum

A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum


The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum

The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum

The top floor of the museum is devoted to New Zealand's military history and emergence as a nation through the loss and suffering of war. There were galleries covering every conflict New Zealand has been involved in since the Maori Wars of the 19th Century with particular reverance to WWI and WWII including a WWII Hall of Memories where the names of the fallen of Auckland are inscribed on the wall.

World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum

World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum


World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum

World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum


World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum

World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum


Spitfire in the Auckland Museum

Spitfire in the Auckland Museum

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged buildings birds volcanos museums concerts maori videos solo earthquakes war_memorials nz_north_island Comments (0)

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