The Duncan Adventures
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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Competition - Win with the Grand Hyatt Muscat!


Do you like dining under the stars? Succulent steak? Great drinks? Rooftop views? And not paying a single coin for all of this? If that is a big fat YES then you need to keep reading!

If you aren't already on my Facebook page 'The Duncan Adventures' then where the heck have you been?! Come and find me and say helloooo.



The VERY generous people at the Grand Hyatt Muscat have offered a fab prize exclusive to 'The Duncan Adventures' Facebook followers - An all inclusive dinner for two people at the Safari Rooftop Grill House.

Head over to the Facebook page for your chance to win.

Competition ends at 6pm on Sunday 21st September 2014 and winner will be chosen at random from the correct entries.



Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I-CARE Initiative, Register Now



Kind people of Muscat, this is your chance to get involved and spread a little love to the people who work tirelessly to make this city such an a beautiful place to live. 

To join in visit www.icareoman.org to register today.


All you have to bring is yourself, a cool box and a positive attitude. All water & ice will be provided.

I will be there, will you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Snake Canyon/Gorge - Wadi Bani Awf


If you love adventures in the great outdoors, throwing your body off massive rocks for an adrenalin rush and contorting your body into small spaces then 'Snake Canyon' may just be the place for you!

On impulse I signed myself up for a crazy expedition and persuaded a couple of friends that this was going to be a good idea. They really are trusting in my ideas!


As we left Muscat City in convoy even the Sat Nav had no idea where we were headed. We drove along "Route 13" for a couple of hours towards the Dakhiliyah Region and the Western Hajar mountains before heading off the main road and into the marvel that is Wadi Bani Awf.

Leaving the black top roads behind we drove towards the Canyon itself over the bumpy roads trailing clouds of dust billowing behind us. The natural, rugged landscape of Oman is always something that I find strikingly beautiful and Wadi Bani Awf is no exception.

The dust roads become narrower and more intimidating with less room to pass others vehicles as they hurtled past with sheer drops of cliff side just inches away. At this point I didn't mind giving into the sexist stereotype and moved over to let one of the guys drive my car. Don't attempt these roads in a saloon car, this is strictly 4x4 territory!





Reaching the rendezvous point we were issued and fitted our safety gear and briefed on what to expect.
Our tour guide, Justin, is a key figure in Oman's search and rescue squad and is all too familiar with these trips and the hazards involved. We couldn't be in safer hands with Justin guiding us. 

Suited and booted we headed off into the mouth of the canyon unaware of just what exciting adventures lay ahead.


As this was just the very beginning of the outdoors season (5th Sept) in Oman the water levels in some of the water pools were not favorable for us to safely make large jumps. Instead we abseiled down the rock face which brought a whole new set of challenges....And rope burns - Ouch!


From the very first pool of water we were treated to a diverse array of local wildlife from creepy crawlies, dragonflies, fish, hundreds of toads to the less appealing leeches and bats. And of course a trip to 'Snake Canyon' wouldn't be complete without a slithery friend also!


It really does get your heart pumping when jumping from even a couple of meters high when you don't know what is under the water - How deep will it be? Will there be rocks? Will I get a leech in my shoe? All real thoughts in my head.


Once you commit to entering the canyon there is literally no way back out of your own power - unless you are Spiderman - until you reach the end. That was the driving force pushing me on to complete the tasks and overcome the huge obstacles that I may have wimped out of otherwise.


During one narrow descent Justin was very adamant that we listen to his instructions clearly and failure to do so could easily result in broken hips - now that put the fear of God into me! I put every single toe exactly where he told me to.


I love this picture of me sliding down the rock!


On the course briefing we were advised to wear safe footwear like trainers/sneakers, I chose to wear lightweight, flexible Skechers shoes which would be comfortable to get wet - BIG mistake! My shoes didn't have enough grip and I found myself sliding down the algae covered rocks and struggling to regain footing. The flexible rubber was not upto the job of protecting from the spikes of tough mountain trees which resulted in a spike through the foot. Yelp! If you do this trip then please wear shoes with proper grip and a tough sole.


One by one the adventurers line up for their turn at throwing their bodies from a height. Reaching the edge and looking down every single one of them has a slight 'eeek' moment, it is actually a lot higher than first expected. As they splash into the water below and reemerge the smiles are beaming from their faces.



We are weathered and tired but not yet beaten as we pose for a photo before powering on to the end. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?!



For hours we swam, leaped, squeezed and crunched but eventually we reached the end point. Sweaty and exhausted we exited the canyon smiling at our massive accomplishment!


Exiting the Canyon with smiles on our faces

Muscles in my body that had lain dormant for a looong time still ache days later and my limbs are patched with bruises but my enthusiasm for Snake Canyon has not dwindled - I cannot wait to return and take on the challenge again. Next time I want to do it bigger, better and faster!

This adventure is not for the faint hearted! I would highly recommend that you take a guide or at least someone who is very familiar with the area. The potential for sprains and breaks in here is high. Adventurers, you should always ensure that you have a decent level of fitness, be able to swim fully clothed and check the weather forecast before setting off.



For this adventure and others search "Oman Adventure" on Facebook to find the tour group or visit www.holiday-in-oman.com

Happy adventuring! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Photography Class With Salim Al Harthy

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that the picture quality has improved of late. My sloppy photography attempts are smoother and a little more polished than before. As a beginner there is still huge room for improvement but for now I am pleased with my own progress.

Recently I made an extravagant purchase of swanky DSLR camera. The camera itself was amazing and the picture quality fantastic but I lacked one very important thing - the ability to use it well.

Whilst searching online for a teacher I stumbled across the amazing work of Salim Al Harthy. Immediately I was hooked! The subjects, the angles, the colors, the movement all combined to make something spectacular.
I NEEDED to learn how to do this.

Photo Credit: Salim Al-Harthy


You can read about my experience in full by clicking here for my article in Y Magazine.

No longer am I intimidated by the complexity of a DSLR camera and I feel more confident in my abilities. I would definitely recommend this class to others who also wanted to do the same.




"Your first 10,000 pictures will be your worst" Salim maintains, Well that means I only have another 9,000 crappy ones until I start really improving... I can't wait!





If you are interested in Salim's classes you can find out more by visiting his website, click here! You can also follow him on Instagram at "salimphotography"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Muttrah Trek - C38

The month of September is upon us and as far as I am concerned the outdoors season has commenced! Cue the whoops and cheers from me! After enduring a long, sweaty summer I am ready to get back outside and get active. There were weeks on end of pounding the mall with the pram just to get out of the house and now I am in desperate need of a change of scenery!

Bring on the BBQ's, Boat trips, Picnics, Hikes and anything that doesn't include walking round and round a mall.

Perhaps the weather hasn't quite got the memo that it is indeed September and the mercury should be on the decline, it is still up around 40 degrees every day. Hopefully soon the temperature will decrease and the summer heat will die out. Insh'Allah.

Back in September 2013 I blogged about a trekking route from Riyam Park up into the hills above Muttrah - you can read the original post with information on the hike by clicking here - and for the past couple of weeks I have returned to this hike again and again for both fitness and to get back into an outdoors way of life.

After posting pictures of my outings on 'The Duncan Adventures' Facebook page many people have requested more info. So here we are. I hope that this helps some of you to get out and explore!

This trek is great as it will only take you around 2 hours, it is still in the city so no need to travel too far or have a 4x4, it is completely free and the views of Muscat are great. What more could you want?!

We started from the car park of Riyam Park in Muttrah and headed up into the hills from there following the old diesel pipeline as it snakes up the steep mountain side. A small note, to locate the start of the hike look for a yellow house at the foot of the hillside. Go round the back of this property to see the steep steps heading up to mark the start of the trail, it is not very well signposted at the start.

The initial hike up the steep steps is tough going which requires walkers to have moderate fitness levels. You travel high up very fast but the good news is that the first part to the hike is the worst part. Phew! 

Once you reach the higher points you can stop for some 'selfies' with the monument incense burner in the background like me and Melissa did..

Me & Melissa - Always time for a picture!

Climbing and gaining height you follow the flags painted on the rocks to show you the way. Some of the flags are a little old and worn so keep a good eye on where to go.



There are great views of the Sultans yacht in the Port

After this you will then start to descend into the Wadi floor. The rock here can be very loose underfoot so shoes with good grip is recommended. I even put my items into my rucksack so I could use both hands to help guide me down. This walk is listed as "easy" on the Ministry of Tourism website, I would disagree and list it as a walk for moderate abilities. 

Eventually down on the wadi floor you will follow the flags and take a turn to the right and into the valley. Depending on the time of day you may find some shade in here to rest and have a well deserved break for water and a snack.



Recently I purchased a "selfie stick". Everyone who see's the stick laughs at how ridiculous it looks but they are soon amazed at how handy it is, especially on these kinds of adventures! 

Stopping for a 'selfie' - Me, Svetlana, Melissa and Menbre

If visiting this trek or any other Wadi/Valley remember to use caution in times it is likely to rain heavily as these areas can flood very quickly. At this time of year (September) there is hardly any water in this wadi making it easier to navigate.

Take plenty of stops to drink water if you need to. The Omani sunshine can be harsh and this combined with your energy output is likely to dehydrate you quickly.

After huffing and puffing your way up and down hills and through the wadi floor the final hurdle is in sight. There will be a T-Junction of sorts where you can only choose left or right - take the left. Look up high to see the flag signaling where to go.
Here you will have a steep scramble up loose rocks and one final haul of your body up a last large obstacle - thankfully this last push only takes literally three minutes - until you can see over the hill into the grave yard below.


Staying hydrated is important in the sunshine!

Reaching the grave yard signals that the hike is over and from there on out it will be a nice lesuirely stroll back onto the Muttrah Corniche and back to the car in Riyam Park.

This is what the grave yard looks like

After exiting the grave yard gates you can either continue staright on or take a right up the concrete steps. We like to go up the concrete steps where there is a small grocery store and purchase a lovely cold bottle of water. By this point I have drank everything I carried.

From there the stroll is easy peasy! Continue straight towards the sea, once you reach the main road with the Port on front of you take a right and continue walking along the Corniche until you reach Riyam Park again. So simple!

Total distance - 4.9km/3 miles
Time taken- Around 1.5 - 2 hours
Calories burnt- Hundreds!

What I packed in my rucksack:
- Fully charged phone
- Selfie stick, I love this thing!
- A few rials to buy more water at the end
- A full bottle of cool water
- Banana for a high energy snack
- Factor 30 sun block
- A small towel to wipe sweat from my face whilst walking
- Wet wipes to clean my hands

Things to remember:
- This hike is not suitable for small children due to the loose gravel underfoot
- Wear sensible footwear, sneakers/trainers are best to get a good grip on the rock
- Remember to bring plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Always wear sun protection cream, no matter the time of year the Omani sunshine can be harsh
- Tell someone where you are going incase of emergency



Once we reached Muttrah again I spied this graffiti/art on the wall.
I don't know what it means or who did it but I love the design and the colors!

Visit the Oman Tourism website for more details and other trekking ideas by clicking here and then here for further info.

Have you tried this hike in Muttrah for yourself?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge & Swim Time


If you haven't heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge then you must be living under a rock. All across the globe people are throwing buckets of iced water over themselves in the name of charity. 

This week I had been feeling quite smug to avoid any nominations so far - perhaps everyone assumed that I had already completed it - then the videos calling out my name arrived thick and fast from both Scotland and here in Oman. No escaping it. Dammit.

As I put my thinking cap on to conjure up a fun way to complete the challenge I noticed the Shangri La's Facebook status. They were planning a group ice bucket challenge that afternoon and anyone who joined would be allowed to use the facilities for the rest of the afternoon. How could I turn that down?!

A large crowd turned up and everyone was in good spirits ready for the challenge! I can confirm that there was no scrimping on the ice in buckets, they full to the brim! Brrrrr!



On the group attempt it isn't easy to spot us in the crowd of buckets and shivering bodies. There was only one thing for it - a repeat performance. Thankfully the second attempt was filmed and there was no need for a third bucket!

Sadly my video won't upload here to Blogger but head over to my Facebook page 'The Duncan Adventures' to watch the video.

     

After our double dousing of iced water we headed to the pool area for some much needed heat. 



The pool here is fabulous! It is super clean, not too crowded and plenty of room to throw a lively baby around.

Spencer quickly got bored of his inflatable pool seat and wanted to be thrown high in the air as he shrieked and giggled.



As the evening sun set at the Shangri La we packed into the car and headed for home. Before we even reached the main gates there were faint snores coming from the back seat - a sure sign that a fun afternoon was had!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Friday Brunching


If you have spent anytime at all in the Gulf - especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi -you will know that Friday Brunching is a BIG deal! It the place to be seen and a chance to spoil yourself after a long week.

The past weekend we brunched the day away to celebrate the 30th birthday of a friend. The chosen venue was the ever popular, Grand Hyatt Muscat.

We arrived with our troop of hungry bellies ready to feast!

Bang on 2pm the fizzy juice - wink, wink - was poured into expectant glasses for those who were choosing to indulge in a few bubbles.



This handsome, smiley chap was my main date for the day. 



As the Bambino was along for the meal I didn't snap as many pictures of the beautiful decor of the Mokha Cafe as I would have liked.

For me, the best thing about brunching is variety of different foods to sample and being able to indulge in the seafood delights. I dined on huge prawns, smoked salmon, crab and oysters. These are things that I would rarely eat at home so I like to make the most of it when dining out.

See if any of this gets your taste buds going!






Between courses the boys had a 'time out' and orchestrated a plan of who would keep them in a constant supply of finger foods...

George won the award for most bread actually eaten and swallowed and Spencer trumped him with the most slobbery bread sticks on the floor.


Then it was on to the deserts...

There were fruits, puddings, cakes, pies, ice cream cones with sprinkles and even a huge flowing chocolate fountain. I couldn't resist but have a few chocolate covered strawberries.

Bang went that diet. Oh well.





With a belly full of bread sticks and cucumber slices it was all too much for the little Dude.


After copious amounts of delicious food, a few bubbles and lots of laughs we headed home for a well deserved rest. This brunching malarkey is hard work! 

Prices-
  • Non alcohol - 22 rials per head, includes water, soft drinks and juices
  • Alcohol- 25 rials per head 

For more info contact the Grand Hyatt or visit their website.