shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Jebel Akhbar with Kat //Seifa Al Sheik - the Great Escape and recovery


Jebel Akhbar with Kat

A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
Jebel Akhdar with Kat

We enjoyed the company of Katleen on that last trip made to see the turtles at Raz Al Jinz. She also enjoyed our company.

The month of Ramadan would start on 22 Aug 09. That is the holy Muslim month of fasting where not a drop of water, or food , or ciggie smoke can pass the lips from dawn to dusk. While we are not Muslims, it would be most insensitive of us to eat or drink or smoke in public where it could be seen and taken as an affront to others.

A law is also in place that if you are caught, you will go into the slammer until Iftah, the prayers made at dusk and when the fast is broken.

With all those reasons, I thought a last trip for the year to my favourite picnic and chill out spot at Jebel Akhdar should be made on Friday 21 Aug 09. If temperature in Muscat be 40C, up at that 2000 meter high picnic ground would be 20C or so. That meant going up at winter when Muscat at 18C , Jebel Akhbar can be chilly.

We invited Kat to join us after she wowed over the mountains we crossed over to the turtle beach. Those mountains were puny when seen against J Akhbar.

She drove over to our place and took a ride with us.

In an hour or so, we were at the foot of the mountain. Although the road were tarmac, the distance and steepness of that road required all vehicles going up to be four wheel drive. There was a police check point at the foot to make sure that was done.

There were many other quaint villages up on that mountain mastiff. But after we found that delightful picnic area, with its all important shady trees, we did not go to those other villages. This time with Kat, I decided to show her some of those sights. We first stop at the rose village. We first went there in April this year when the roses were blooming as reported in

Reflections on Tinkerbell //Smelling roses on mountains // Attack on my wife

The roses finished their blooming long time ago when we went there.

The kids of that village remembered us from that last time. I was happy to entertain them to do recall flights with Riamfada with them lined alongside and on their balconies looking down on us. That for a change instead of tourist gawking at them, they can gawk at us.


A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
Jebel Akhdar with Kat

I then drove to another vantage point. I was first brought here when I gave a local a ride up in the days before my wife joined me. This will show a stunning view of the terraced hanging gardens and canyons of Jebel Akhdar.

The car park was next to a steep slope. Obviously a driver thought the car park extended further than was the case and his car landed at the bottom of the slope.



Since Kat was with us and launch pad for Riam, my wife could take some interesting shots of Riam flying to me with that in the backdrop, shots she could not take before.





A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
Jebel Akhdar with Kat

We then went on to our favourite picnic area.

To find other families there already. This was the last day before their fasting month. And they also want to enjoy themselves. They were enchanted with Riamfada. And I know Riam love kids. That Riam flew to me was magical to them. They came around us. I gave them sunflower seeds so they can have the pleasure of giving that to Riam.


I also did some very long flights with Riamfada. The picnic area had too many trees so I walked across the road with my wife to do those flights.

Rocks were all over between me and my wife. I gave recall and Riam flew over. A few times, the line was caught by the rocks. Riam powered her way to me. I reeled in the line. I tugged very hard but the line was caught fast. My wife went to the snag to lift that line for me to reel in.

This was very telling. Which was to cause me a lot emotionally and financially the next weekend.

Ramadan also meant much shorter working hours for me.

During the weekdays, we still went on our neighbourhood walks. Katie and Dommie got used to this ritual. The cats might disappear the entire day, but around 530pm, they would come home for the neighbourhood walk as you can see in the flickr folder. Even though I was home by 2pm, I still prefer to wait to evening time when it was cooler to walk.

Seifa Al Sheik - the Great Escape and recovery

A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
The great Seifa escape

I came back from Amsterdam with even more Lithops and associated cactuses. You recalled my cactus died in that last heat wave when it hit 55C.

I also read more of their needs. That cactus need cactus mix which the nursery did not sell. I read cactus mix required 2/3 coarse sand preferably with limestone in it and 1/3 potting mix.

I knew of the ideal place where I could find coarse gravel with lots of broken coral. That was at Seifa Al Sheikh.

So it was on 27 Aug, Thursday that we drove there. We brought with us picnic lunch as we knew of hidden coves where we could risk eating discretely without being found and tossed into jail.

The beach had those coarse gravelly coral bits and I took 4 bags of it to make cactus mix so my cacti and lithops can be happy.

Then I flew Riam. The first flight was a short 10 meter flight on the beach to warm her up. We did a couple of that.

Then I decided on a longer flight. I step back laying out the line and about 50 meters from Riam and my wife down the beach .

I told my wife to take sequential shots of this flight. I never imagined how fateful this flight turned out to be and fully recorded and documented.

Go into that flickr folder to see the entire sequence

A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
The great Seifa escape


Riamfada took off and came towards me.


I reeled in the line at the same time as I normally do.

I felt a slight tug, and to my horror, no more familiar back pressure from the reel.

All the time, Riam was powering her way to me. Almost at the same time, I think Riamfada realised the line parted. A Dyneema line, stronger then Kevlar, and used in making of bullet proof vest , parted.

Riam soared above me. I watched haplessly to see her winging her way in a huge circle above me. I called and called to her hoping that she break from that circle to head back to me. In the sequential shots, she was so distant that she was not visible but you can make her by following the way I turned to her.

Then she was out over the bay. She was heading as if she wanted to go over that distant headland at the edge of this huge bay.


A fear gripped my heart that she would fly out to sea and drown. She then turned back, seemingly to my direction as you can see in photo below.


I called hoping that she break off and fly to me.

She did not.

So many times she would do perfect recalls with me with military precision. At the time I really needed it, she did not.

She flew high overhead. I kept my eyes on her like a hawk to see her flying into the valley behind us. I started running to keep her in sight and shouted to my wife to drive the SUV to follow me.

I jogged on keeping her in sight as best as I could. This valley was hemmed in by 200 meters high cliffs. I stopped praying that she fly back to me. My prayers changed to please please please do not fly over those cliffs.

A kilometer later , as if above heard my begging prayers, she flew lower, swung around, and landed on the top of a scree slope. She was too far that time, and with her not in motion, I lost sight of her exact landing spot. By the time I ran to that foot, the bearings as to where she landed became more confused. I hoped that she was up there, on a 45 degree scree slope with lots of stones and rocks.

I hoped my sight was what I really seen and not what I hoped to see. She might have flown up up and over the top. In my run here, I had to take my eyes away from time to time from where I thought she landed. Had she flown again during those times I was not watching?


I got my breath back. I looked at the rod/reel still in my hand. I looked at the end of the Dyneema line. That end was very badly frayed. And I thought back to the flights at Jebel Akhbar and the times it was caught on the rocks. In my pulling , the line might be caught by a sharp edge of a rock. While it could not be biten through, a sharp knife or scissors can cut it easily. So can the edge of a sharp rock.

I got ambushed by Murphy again.

My ball of grey was somewhere up that huge slope of sand and grey color rocks. And I could not see her, if she was still there. I walked slowly, calling for her. I hoped she would fly to me or move at least so she could be located.

There was this hamlet nearby about 200 meters away. Someone heard my shouting and came over. He was Yahya. I told him of my lost parrot. Showed him photos of her and gave my namecards telling him I will give 100 Omani Rials (US$ 275) if he found her and could call me to return her. He told me he wanted 200 OR. I immediately agreed, and would have agreed even to 1000 OR. A CAG can be bought for 260 OR here.

I called and called for her as I walked on the edge of that slope.

That was a slope of loose rocks and I was in sandals.

I then decided I had to get up that slope. I did that very slowly as you can imagined.

I went up and called. I watched. I listened. My senses were at supranormal level. In what I thought was absolute silence, I started to make out chirpings of other birds. What I thought to be barren was not barren. A flicker of wings, a bird call, came my way. But not the one that I wanted.

I thought about that falcon transponder that I was going to drive to Dubai to buy there.

I went on slowly upwards on this 45 degree slope. Feeling the rocks moved occasionally and I slipping before I regained my footing.

More people came from the hamlet.

Then I heard a familiar sound. I then knew she was there. But in that slope, I could not figure out where she was.

Two boys came up the slope walking up as if they were goat footed.

One of them had eyes like an eagle. He was also up on a different angle from me. He called out and pointed. It was with relief to know he saw Riamfada even if I did not understand a word he said. I traversed 40 meters to where he was and still could not see Riam. My eyes followed where he pointed and then I saw her. On a little rock and not moving at all, almost frozen there.

A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
The great Seifa escape


I clawed my way towards her. Her line was not tangled as I feared. I caught hold of one end. She was 5 meters above me. I called her but she would not fly to me. I was not going to drag her to me. I moved higher to 2 meters away and called her to fly to me. She did not budge. I moved to her, reached my hand to do a step up. She then did her step up and I transfered her to my shoulder wrapping the line round and round my hand. And I slowly made my way down.


I later found that boy was Mahar.


Even though he did not capture Riamfada and returned her to me, you can imagine the gratitude in my heart. I gave Mahar 100 OR and a photo of Riamfada as a momento.

I cut off most of the line on Riamfada and spliced it to the line on the rod/reel.

Yahya who asked for 200 OR and stayed on the road asked what about him. I smiled at him and gave him 10 OR as he did not help at all other than telling all others and my wife that he would get 200 OR while I and the other two were up there on the slope. He was very happy with the 10 OR I gave.

Riam and me with Yahya

We then drove on.

We saw Mahar in his house with his sisters and brothers and we got out.

To entertain him and his family. Riamfada flew to me with military precision now.

A lot more photos in Flickr photoset
The great Seifa escape



above with Mahar's father

I told them we will be coming to see them all the next weekend, and with hard copy of the photos we taken of them.

We then drove to the hidden cove.

My appetite came back and we had our lunch and chilled out there before going home.


Riam getting a drink of juice from me


and headrubs

In retrospect

I knew where I was wrong.

I told you folks many times to double check and be paranoid. I forgot to apply that to myself in my belief that Dyneema was invulnerable.

I will not make this mistake again.

I came back home to unroll the line left on the reel and pulled test the line around my villa to make doubly sure.

That line could easily be tested before I flew Riamfada. Since then, we always do a pull test. Before I give the cue, my wife would hold the swivel joint firmly and I give a hard tug and pull on the line.

The line on the reel is much shorter now. I am in no hurry to change that to a longer line.

Nothing is ever 100 percent safe. We all learn along the way.

And be mindful of Murphy and his army.


If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.

or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

hit counter code
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.