Yes, another early breakfast for us so that we would be ready for Tour Guide at 8am. Then, just as we headed for Reception, we got a call to say his car had broken down and we should be ready for 8.30! Doh!!!
He was early - and at 8.20 we zoomed off in a gleaming white Toyota Camry (one of 10 gazillion out here) in the direction of Nizwa and our fabulous forts excursion. It’s an all-day event, so we went well-equipped: water, water, water and a banana as the forecast is HOT - something like 38 degrees C is promised.
We’re quite into old architecture and were looking forward to seeing the Forts - some are over 900 years old, and it was going to be interesting to see what condition they were in. But before all that, something much more immediate captured our attention - the roads! Since we were last here five years ago, the roads have improved significantly.Gone are the single-carriageways punctuated with duals - now we have 3, 4 and even 5 lane carriageways cutting through the countryside - and where there was the inconvenience of a mountain, they just blew it up or went through it! Add to that, the straightness of them as well as the super-smoooooth road surfaces and we had the best of it all!
So, onwards to the Fort at Nizwa, where our driver insisted on testing his Toyota to the limit by driving at between 140 and 180 kph (the limit is 120 here) the whole way there (just over two hours!). This meant that our journey time shrunk as quickly as we both did into the back seats, as we rocketed towards our first destination. The place looked superb - wonderfully preserved, if a little bare. After some confusion about exactly which coffee shop we were meeting our Guide at, we eventually all met up and returned to the rocket-powered Toyota that now featured a oven-like interior. With the AC on full it reduced the speed of the car to 175kph, but it was worth it!!
With rockets primed, we took-off from Nizra and headed for Bahla, and the site of our next Fort. The entrance to this Castle wasn’t clearly marked, but it didn’t stop our driver, testing his car’s off-road capabilities (it didn’t have any!) as we approached an almost 1-in-1 hill to reach the car-park. We landed safely only to find that the Fort was closed for maintenance! It still looked impressive from outside though
With just one more Fort on the list - Jabreen Castle, our Guide took us to a nearby roadside restaurant for lunch. From the outside, it was one of those places that we would have easily missed, (but as it turned out, we’re glad we didn’t!). Menu-wise, it was the sort of place that offered every conceivable permutation of a cooked chicken... with chips... and salad... and rice... with naan bread! - all delicious and all for the sum of around £11.50 (three mains, ample sides and drinks!)
Suitably stuffed, we headed off in the direction of Jabreen Castle, but not before another ‘off-road’ experiment so we could see the view the Fort and local area
Well, in our view, they certainly left the best until last. This one had it all. Superbly restored interiors, beautiful views and plenty of interesting architecture!
It had been a great day, but by now, we were all ‘castled-out’ and so our sub-light-speed journey back to the hotel was much appreciated. By now though, the Toyota was starting to sound like it needed a pitstop. Anyway, just over one-and-a-half hours later we taxied into the parking area by the hotel. We said our goodbyes for what had been an excellent day all-round. The Toyota was knackered and so were we!
We looked for somewhere simple to eat tonight - the Italian restaurant on-site: The Capri Court. The food was good and although we had different dishes, we thought they were both a bit salty - but we were too tired to care!!!
A lazy day tomorrow with no plans at all!