What was one of my biggest fears in venturing off-road by ourselves through the wadis, beaches and deserts of Oman? Scorpions and camel spiders! I didn’t want to become a part of the food chain in a foreign country.
Rather than tenting on the ground, Spice and I rented a Land Cruiser tricked out with a rooftop tent. After all, spiders can’t climb ladders, can they?
All you require is a level place to park and within minutes, your sleeping quarters are ready. And once you’re tucked away in a rooftop tent, it’s easy to feel safe, protected from the elements and cradled in comfort.
Our plan was to leave early in the morning from Muscat, skirt north of the Hajar Mountains and then tackle an ascent through Wadi Bani Awf. It is considered the most memorable, nerve-jangling four-wheel drive in the country.
While I was in the hotel parking lot loading the Land Cruiser with three days of supplies, a local guide approached me and asked where we were going. “Didn’t you hear? Last night’s rain wiped out the Wadi Bani Awf. It won’t be re-opened for at least three days—it may take that long just to get the bulldozers in there.” So instead, we drove on highways around the south of Hajar to the picturesque village of Misfat al Abryeen.
Misfat is a centuries-old mountain village that is lush with bougainvillea, banana palms and dates irrigated by falaj, a system of narrow, mud-walled water channels. It would be a beautiful place to spend the night, and our guidebook indicated camping was available. But we learned from a local gentleman that the campsite had closed years ago. Instead, he recommended that we drive a kilometre down the mountain to the new village, turn right at the public toilets and drive for about 10 minutes up the road and camp anywhere we pleased.
The new road didn’t appear on any of our maps. It had been built to service a village high up in the mountains, a village that until recently could only be reached by foot. We set up camp away from the road on a small plateau that overlooked the massifs of Jebel Akhdar to the east, Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman to the west and the lights of Al Hamra far below us.
Setup was easy and quick. We embraced a new love—backcountry camping on the roof of a four-wheel drive. Depending on your locale, it’s referred to as wild camping, freedom camping or primitive camping. It’s sort of like backpacking but with immediate access to kilograms of food and equipment—expedition bling!
During a week of wild camping in Oman we met a few scorpions and camel spiders but none of them climbed our ladder. After three weeks of freedom camping in an RV on the south island of New Zealand, we were fully hooked.
So we bought an old 2008 Land Rover and rooftop tent (collectively, Rove-Inn). We tested Rove-Inn at primitive campsites in the South Chilcotins of BC. Now we have dreams of overland travel to unspoiled wilderness in Western Canada and the USA that’s inaccessible to vehicles with less clearance. Can bears climb ladders? How about the western diamondback rattlesnake?
We booked our Land Cruiser, camping equipment and support services through SafariDrive. Following our trip to Oman, we advised SafariDrive on improvements they could make to their itinerary, equipment and disclosure to enhance the adventure for future clients, and have received compensation for that advice.