I was too embarrassed to ask where that was. I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries, but still my geography lacks. Which is why I suppose I appreciate travel so much. I wouldn’t be bothered to learn about far off places unless I was to go there and see for myself.
Preparing myself mentally for JT’s next fervent scheme that would send us off to some obscure, far-flung corner of the globe few people have ever heard of—and fewer still have ever visited for climbing, I forced a look of enthusiasm and said that, sure, I would go to Oman.
As usual, I agree to go to these places with JT before I actually know anything about them. Examples: Adrspach in Czech Republic (scary traditional chalk-less climbing on sandstone spires using only knotted cords for protection), Stolby near Krasnoyarsk, Siberia (free soloing en masse with locals 450 feet off the deck on greasy 5.9 slabs). Not your typical relaxing vacation, which I have to admit is exactly what I’m looking.
Once the plan is hatched, JT does all the research. He gets maps, makes local contacts and attempts to get some beta on the existing and/or potential new climbing. I do little but secure the financial support, figure out the airport code (
“So, where are you off to next?” Someone at the tradeshow will ask.
I answer with the only bit of information I have memorized, “
Beyond knowing the name of the landmass, I find out that the country is Muslim, which means I’ll need to pack long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, scarves, no shorts, and a 1.75 liter jug of tequila.
Only once we are on the plane, do I attempt to educate myself by pulling out the Lonely Planet guide or scan through JT’s stack of notes and topos. First things first: I find
JT has all the climbing info sussed out, which frees me to focus on other important facets of our trip, primarily the shopping. Each time we travel to an international destination I figure out what commodities the country is known for, so I know what to buy as soon as I get there.
Then I read up on lifestyle. “Within the living memory of most middle-aged people outside of
Because I’m fascinated by religion, I always study this. I learn that 75% of Omanis follow the Ibadi sect of Islam, an austere form of Islam that eschews decadence of any kind. Oh, boy. I stress that they will hate Americans, who generally embody the term decadence. I contemplate what climbing is—decadent or merely frivolous? This thought, and 3 mg of Lunesta, carries me to sleep. I wake up eight hours later, the Lonely Planet book still in my lap, the flight attendants scurrying down the aisles serving breakfast.
No matter how often I travel overseas, I always feel anxious as I look out the window at the landscape of where we will soon land. It’s dawn and our 16-hour flight from
“Cool! A sunrise over
This is the first of a three part series on my travel this past February to
The next installment will be “Goat for a Rope at the Hibshe Oasis”