OMAN: Last night I travelled through The Empty Quarter – the rather large swathe of the Arabian Peninsular that is, as the name suggests, emptier than Paris Hilton’s noggin. I could try to remark about how unremarkable it was, but that would do it a disservice. Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t driving the bus.
This morning I arrived bright and early (7am on the DOT!) in the wonderful city of Salalalalalalalalalalah (to be henceforth sung like Trolololololololololo) in Oman. I had myself a usual Hughesy mooch which involves marvelling that my compass watch actually works, then heading off in the cardinal direction that will validate my Lonely Planet map. Soon enough I was touching the Indian Ocean for the first time since I arrived in Tanzania ALMOST SIX MONTHS AGO. Damn – this Odyssey is taking a quite frankly rude amount of time.
I got chatting with a local guy called Salaam and discussed my upcoming mission: Eritrea.
I have a few options and it might be fun to run through them with you here, see what you think is best.
Option 1: Hitch-hike onto a container boat from Salalah which is bound for Europe and stopping at Eritrea along the way. Get off the ship when it gets to Saudi or Egypt.
Option 2: Wait here until the next flotilla of yachts do the run from here to the Red Sea. Yachties tend to meet up here and then go in a group to minimise the chance of piracy. Persuade one of them to a) take me b) stop for fuel in Eritrea. Again, get off in Saudi or Egypt.
Option 3: Head through Yemen, the tourist kidnap capital of the world, and take a local boat from one of the Red Sea ports over to Eritrea (and back) through pirate infested waters. The local boats will no doubt be filled to the brim with guns or drugs or both.
Option 4: Take the semi-mythical ferry from Jeddah in Saudi over to Masawa in Eritrea. Would be the best option if the ferry wasn’t semi-mythical.
Salaam advised me against going to Yemen and suggested I head to the port, which I duly did. My taxi driver, Ahmed, was a total legend and stayed with me all morning while I dug around trying to find/sort stuff out. I spoke to a couple of guys from the Al-Majal shipping company who suggested I talk to their managing director, who is wonderfully enough from Wales. He was out of town today, but would be back tomorrow.
It was suggested I head up to the Oasis Club and get fact-finding from the locals. The Oasis Club is situated here in Salalah port and is the only bar in town that serves alcohol. In fact, I think it’s the only bar in town full stop.
The place was packed – the are two warships in port – one from Sweden and the other from Britain (HMS Chatham) as well as a group of pirate hunting mercenaries who I certainly wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Nobody could help me on my way, but I got the feeling that the owner, a South African fella, would be able to point me in the right direction. Unfortunately for me, he seemed rushed off his feet with all the Navy guys and I never got the chance.
Later in the day I met up with Valentyna from Ukraine who is my CouchSurf host here in Salalah. She joined me in the Oasis Club and we drank away the night swapping stories with the lads from the Chatham. One of them was from Knotty Ash – literally five minutes walk from my house. Small world eh? Let’s hope it’s small enough to get me safely to Eritrea.
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Option 3. Definitely. You probably won’t be kidnapped, and Yemen and Eritrea look really close on a map. You’ll find a way to get over there.