“Steep” doesn’t begin to describe the road I had to drive down to return to the main coast road running between Sur and Muscat in Oman, from the Salma plateau where we’d been camped for a couple of nights to escape the high temperatures. “Very steep” and “very tight” would be more accurate, especially given TTT’s length, weight and large turning circle. A turning circle which, I discovered, could however be minimised – provided you were facing straight down a mountain and the rear axle, now with less weight on it, could slide gracefully round the corner after losing its grip on the concrete surface. Now I’m a big fan of Guns ‘n Roses, so as far as I’m concerned, Axl Rose is a good thing. Axle rose (and slid round)…..less so. Not so much Mr. Brownstone, more Mr. brown trouser.
From a physicist’s point of view this novel approach to swinging the back end of TTT round a corner whilst facing the drop off the edge of a mountain, was probably very exciting. From the driver’s point of view, I can assure you it was also a very unpleasant experience. But you can judge for yourself in the video below – the first of several ‘axle slides’ starts at around 9:30 but don’t just jump there – if you watch the earlier clips you’ll have a better idea of the altitude from which I’m descending, just how narrow the road was in places, and how much quicker a Land Cruiser pick-up, four tonnes lighter than TTT and driven by a guy who probably navigates that road several times a week, can descend the same path.
We agreed before setting off that my friends Streaky and Manuel should go on ahead of me, because we all knew how slowly I’d have to negotiate the road, and that I’d consequently hold them up. That turned out to be wise move when you consider that it took me more than an hour to drive the steepest part of the route – a journey of, I think, less than five kilometres. (I wish I could be more accurate but forgive me, I was concentrating on the driving, not the odometer!). All I know is that G.O.I.N.G S.L.O.W.L.Y. was the order of the day.
Should you wish to drive down the same road, (presumably because you have some sort of mental imbalance which requires you to do daft things even though you’ve seen the video!), you’ll have to negotiate your way to the following GPS coordinate: N 22.871113, E 59.177051. Good luck with that. Take a change of underwear.
Since the whole idea of a blog is to keep my readers / viewers updated as to the extent of my travels, I thought I’d better put together a good video covering my recent trip to Oman. My last, text only post was deliberately brief, since when I posted it I was well on my way toward finishing the video you’ll see below and since parts of the drive through Oman had been through incredible scenery, I felt a video would do them more justice.
However I definitely need to work on my video production skills – it’s taken me countless hours over almost a week to put this one together, and though I’m broadly happy with the result, clearly when I’m on the road full time I’ll struggle to spend as many hours creating every video so…..
In future I’ll try to shoot fewer clips, record more narrative when I’m driving, and not be quite so pedantic when editing the clips together.
In a day or two’s time there should be another video ready, one which specifically covers the rather hair raising drive down from the top of Al Hajar Ash Sharqi – a true test of TTT’s mechanical prowess and my own determination to make it to the bottom unscathed in a vehicle twice the length of that for which the road was intended!
Having finally got to the bottom of the core problems behind my vehicle’s underlying juddering within the transmission – and solved them – I headed out with two friends, David “Streaky” Chambers and Manuel Schmidt in their Y61 Patrol LWB and Defender SWB respectively, for an eight day tour of Oman during Ramadan. Though the temperatures were already in the mid Forties, our plan was to camp at altitude whenever possible, and when on Masirah Island, stay on what we hoped would be the cooler beach. I of course could enjoy the benefits of the air conditioning I’d had installed in my KrugXP cabin but with Streaky and Manuel sleeping in roof tents, they were determined to find cooler air!
Things didn’t work out quite that way on Masirah though; the winds were howling at 20 to 30kmh – which played havoc with my top speed when driving into wind – so we found a secluded wadi to camp in instead. Where I promptly slipped and stumbled down a 20 foot rock face and very nearly did myself a very nasty injury. But don’t panic – I saved my Canon 5D III camera and 24-70 L lens from certain death by landing on my elbow instead. And people say I don’t know my elbow from my…… This, just two days after setting fire to my brake pads driving down Jebel Shams. And yet, we all got through it unscathed, for which we thank our lucky stars…
Here’s a few more photos for now, look out soon for a couple of videos recalling our adventures.