img-46on the road again

Day 5 (11 December 2013)

We wake up slightly despondent, and make the call to start searching for different species.  I have a lagoon further down the coast on the brain.  We don’t have much to go by other than what we can see on Google Maps, but we take the chance, first stopping for supplies and Pepsi on the way.

For the next few days the picture-taking, along with the enthusiasm went a bit down hill- so apologies for the lack of imagery.

The problem here is human.  There isn’t a section of coast that commercials haven’t got to before you,  if there are cuttlefish they’ve been speared, if its calm there are nets, and if there is water there is plastic.  Nothing gets you down like going seriously off the beaten track to find square kilometres of pristine flat netted to death.  And thats exactly what happened.

The flats

The flats -not pictured are the buoys a few hundred meters out.img-45

We drove up and down this section of beach, looking for anything.  Im sure there would be some Milkfish here that have avoided the nets, but it just doesn’t have that fishy feeling.  The water is hot and green.

We decide to search for other lagoons down the same stretch of coast, with a similar result.  By early afternoon we decide against further exploring and head to south beach to set up camp.

On arrival the bait is around, so we throw a few flies before getting out the spin gear.  It looks good, but nothing bites.  Camp that night was windless, but wet.

Day 6 (12 December 2013)

I tie some flies while waiting for the tide, then we head out.  Theo goes right to the reef, I go left along the beach hoping for perms.  Its a seriously long beach, probably a good few kilometres.  I start by walking high up on the sand, but its not calm enough for long distance spotting, so I walk along the back of the second set of waves.

Half way down the beach I spot a small perm sitting in the backwash, but he spooks long before I get to him.  About 50m later another, but this one vanishes into the waves.

The surf has now created perfect little basins on the beach that look so fishy.  I continue along and then on the horizon I spot a really good looking one.  I get there and to my amazement there is a something big swimming around in it.  I can’t quite make it out, but it looks like what the aussies call a blue bastard (sweetlips).  On further inspection its pretty sick as seems to be struggling with oxygen, so I continue along.

sweetlips shot in some good looking surf

sweetlips shot in some good looking surf

img-51

At the end of the beach I find my Milkfish, a big one, but dead.

daed milkfish

dead milkfish

the reefs on south beach

Theo on the reefs on south beach

camp at south beach

camp at south beach

Day 7 (13 December 2013)

We’re a bit confused with where to next.  With various exploration missions not working out as planned we decide to start working the areas around our first few camp sites.  We dedicate today to inspecting the various options.  What we discover is not great.

The green water is around, and its everywhere.  Whether an algae bloom or some sort of bacteria, its pulling the oxygen out of the water.  Im starting to wonder if Im going to see another perm this trip.

location 1- no fish

location 1- no fish

location 2- no fish

location 2- no fish

location 3- no fish

location 3- no fish

Day 8 (14 December 2013)

All that matters right now is water clarity.  We’ve seen nothing but green waves for two days.  We attempt another trip South.  Ray has given us some pointers on a lagoon that is usually full of Milkfish.

Another few hundred kms and some dodgy dirt and sand roads and we find the spot.  The water clarity looks amazing, so we park the Nissan and set off around it on foot.  We find a familiar sight.  The nets that are subsidised by the government have been left around the lagoon, presumably after they hauled the last living thing out.

img-59

Trying to stay positive we walk to the surf without our rods (a lesson in that).  Standing on a small ridge created by the high tide we’re admiring the first bit of clear ocean we’ve seen.  Its rough, but at least blue.  Then I spot something.  Riding the shore break is a giant Trach Africanus.  Half its back is clear out the water.  It must be 30lbs+.  Our jaws are on the sand.  We watch it tail, roll, feed, dig, before eventually heading back to the car for our rods.

By the time we get back mister Africanus is gone.  We spend an eternity walking the beach looking for another, but nothing. I did find the biggest white mussels I’ve ever seen in my life on this beach.  One is almost the size of my hand and must weigh 500g.  Im pretty stoked with the find, must be getting desperate now.

On getting back to the car we call Ed down south.  The water temp is way down, he’s surprised we’ve even seen anything.  Shit, this isn’t looking good.  Then bad goes to worse.  The cars 4×4 system packs up while we’re driving out the sand.  The back diff is stuck in something below low, the front is locked.  Alarms and warning lights everywhere.

We limp out to the tar road, right now we don’t care about fish, we’re not even sure we’ll make the first town.  The Omani people are the friendliest you’ll find anywhere.  A car won’t drive past you if you pull over.  Ray reckons this is a throwback to a decade or so ago, where if you broke down, you died.  Theo has a good idea.

“Lets disconnect the battery, try and reset everything”

With an electrically controlled centre diff, its our only option.  After a serious of changes through L-H, Diff lock, traction control, N, P, etc I finally hear the rear diff click out of lock.  Relief.

But now what?  
Do we drive back to Muscat?

The 1500km round trip will cost us two days.  We make the call to try and test in and out of 4×4 a few times.  It works.  Its not a happy Nissan, but it seems to work.  Now nervous about the drivetrain under us, we decide we need a spot where we can park and do most of our work on foot, regardless of the length of hike.

We decide on camp close to the permit rocks, its within hiking distance from our various flats, and this is where we’ve seen the most fish, or the only fish for that matter.

Before we reach camp we see something interesting.  A convoy of vehicles, headed to our camp area.   One is stuck.  Theo and I channel our inner Omanis and run to assist.  We’re greeted defensively, and eventually ignored.  Ahh, the infamous South African ex pats we’ve heard about.  Justifying departure from this great land by spreading horror stories to foreigners everywhere.

Our camp is set in 5 mins.  Camp cots in the sand, braai out, table out, chairs out.  By midnight our friends are still at it.
-Dining area tent
-Sleeping tents
-Shower tent
-Countless mosquito nets (we’re yet to see a mosquito)
-Outhouse tent (as far as possible from them and as close as possible to us)
and then the kicker….A genset.

They start carrying and running the extension cord.  I look at Theo perplexed.  Now we’re in the real wild, there is nothing else within 20kms of us.  They have beach on the western side, a Wadi behind them.  Remarkably, they consider the best position for the Genset to be on our side, closer to our camp than theirs, courtesy of the 30m extension.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, why this side?”

Theo has a great suggestion.

“Every time they walk out the outhouse, start laughing”.

That night we slept to the fantastic sound of a Honda four stroke.  At least the phosphorous in the waves is putting on a show for us.

Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence