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Adventure Time, Expat Life, Family Life

Duncan Family Adventure – Anantara at Jabal Akhdar

March 31, 2017

‘Like ships that pass in the night’, this is exactly what me and my husband are like. We both have extremely busy schedules that rarely line up so recently we booked a family get away in the hope of spending some quality time together.

But where to go? Well, I have literally been bugging him for 4 years to come with me to Jabal Akhdar mountain, there is something about the mountains that just soothes my soul. However for him all he sees is just a pile of rocks but my persistence paid off, it may have helped when I mentioned that we didn’t have to camp and informed him that there was infact a swanky hotel on the mountain with a kids club. And that was it, he was sold.

We headed to the Anantara resort on Jabal Akhdar mountain, the highest 5 star resort in the Middle East. Come on, don’t judge me. If I’ve waited 4 whole years to go stay on the mountain with him we have to do it in style.

We arranged a villa with a private swimming pool to please the young man in our lives. Before the bags were set down he was already hunting for his swim shorts and ready to dive in.

After the fun of swimming I left the boys napping together as I headed off in search of what sets my soul on fire – adventures! An afternoon abseiling, climbing along the via ferrata and rock climbing were exactly what I need in my life – I can confirm that adrenaline was pumping as dangled my body from sheer rock faces and attempted to keep my footing as I peered over the ledge of the steep canyon.

Rushing back to the villa to share my adventure stories with the boys the place was still in silence apart from the odd snore and fidget, they were still sound asleep and everyone was enjoying their afternoon in their own way. Maximising the time on my own I wrote a quick note and headed off in search of the hotel spa. Adventures AND massage – If only days like this could happen every day!

With plenty of activities to chose from at the resort we decided upon a guided walk of the local villages for the second morning. Making our way along the falaj irrigation pathways and through the narrow village streets we learnt more about the local area, cultures and the famous Jabal Akhdar roses.

With spectacular mountain views, adrenaline pumping adventures and a kids club to keep the little one entertained this is by far my favourite hotel. And as the summer heat returns to scorch Muscat this shall be my perfect retreat as I head to the mountains in search of cooler climates. For once, I am actually looking forward to the summer.

Take a look at our family video from the mountain trip at Anantara;

Have a great day,

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Kayak Mission to Al Fahal Island

March 31, 2017

Staring out to see from Muscat city I had often daydreamed about reaching the large chunk of rock known as ‘Shark Island’
I just never imagined that I would get there one day under my own paddle power.

Kayak hire was arranged and I rallied a couple of friends together for the adventure… only problem I mistakingly told them it was an easy 2km paddle each way. It wasn’t until we were on the beach ready to begin that we found out it is actually 4.5km each way – oops.

Hopping into our Kayaks packed with water and snacks we left the shore and headed into open water in search of Al Fahal island.

The large island is massive chunk of rock protruding from the water. Reaching the island in the decent time of around 1 hour and 15 minutes we were in need of a quick rest and refuel.

The island is a nature reserve that requires permits to access so instead of climbing on the actual island we were able to rest in the shallow water and devour our much needed snacks before exploring the shallows looking for weird and wonderful creatures of the sea.

The marine life was beautiful and colourful, as always in Oman, with several scuba divers in the area searching the world below. The thought of the potential sharks in the area scared me a little so I was content to stay close to the shallower areas or the brief safety of my kayak for the most part.

Watch the full adventure video here;

Have a great day,

Heather x

PS – Kayak rental from Wave Summit 97471484

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Kilimanjaro – 8 Weeks To Go

May 3, 2016

There are only 8 weeks until myself and Sarah embark on our epic Kilimanjaro challenge and I feel like time is passing by a little too quickly. The climb will be here before we know it so it’s time to get focused with serious training and get these bootys mountain ready.

Physically we are both pretty fit and active but there are many things we have to improve on to give ourselves a better chance, we don’t want to go into this unprepared.
The main areas to improve will be leg & glute strength, cardiovascular endurance and stamina .

Outdoor training will be my priority for the next few weeks with tough hikes and walks before the summer heat here in Oman finally gets the better of me and I have to retreat to the air conditioned gym. The terrain I will be training on is uneven, loose, high step ups and on steep inclines. This is a great way to build up strength in your legs, ankles, improve balance and build endurance.

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All of this will be done wearing my back pack and hiking boots to break them both in.

My training plan for the next few weeks will be;
– Outdoor hike 2 times a week
– Strength training in the gym 2 times a week
– Kickboxing once a week
All of this combined with an active life and daily dog walks.

The fitness plan is fully underway but something else that is very important is buying the all important kit to take with us. Living in the hot, humid Middle East I do not own any cold weather gear at all, flip flops and summer dresses aren’t going to cut it when the temperatures on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro can fall to minus 20.
Unfortunately there aren’t many options of second hand gear here in Oman so have to purchase most of our stuff new from the limited shops here, Dubai or order from the UK. We knew it would be pricey but it is staggering how quickly the money disappears when looking for decent gear, maybe something to think about if you plan to embark on a similar challenge.

001 Saal girls hike

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We are raising some money along the way for a great organisation, If you feel generous and wish to donate you can find our Go Fund Me page right here – Thank you!

In the coming weeks if you see me around town or in the supermarket wearing snazzy hiking boots and a rucksack don’t be concerned for my fashion choices, I’m in training 🙂

Have a great day,

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Jebel Sifah

April 20, 2016

We always say that we need a family weekend away but due to work and commitments we never seem to get round to actually doing it. When Jebel Sifah invited us for a weekend at their resort I jumped at the chance.

Bags packed and ready to rock we hopped onboard the water taxi at Marina Bandar Rowda – yes a shuttle taxi on the water, how cool! This was Spencer’s first time on a boat and he was so excited!!

Due to my need to over pack luggage every single time I had to tell Colin that he wasn’t invited to join us on the boat, he was instructed to drive with the bags and meet us there. Sorry! As soon as I was on the boat I started to regret that decision as I panicked about handling a hectic toddler on a boat on my own… Thankfully someone was watching out for me that day and the noise of the boat, and wearing a life jacket, terrified Spencer enough to snuggle into his Mama and sat perfectly for the whole 45 minute journey to reach Sifah.

001 Spencer on the boat

Approaching the resort from the water rather than road is a fun novelty and a beautiful way to enjoy the amazing scenery of the area. Oman really is the most beautiful place to explore!

We checked into our lovely 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the peaceful marina. Having grown up around boats I feel immediately calmed as soon as I’m by the water, it’s like my happy place.

001 Sifah marina

Other than the amazing location nestled between the mountains and the famous Sifah beach the charm of the resort is that they have created a little town with everything you would need to relax and spend time there including a coffee shop, convenience store, clothes shop and a dive centre.

001 Sifah beach

Most of the weekend was spent around the pool with our little water baby. Making friends, running around and splashing made him a very happy little guy.

001 Sifah family

Look at this sweet little nugget..

001 Spencer hiding

For adventure lovers like me there were plenty of water activities to partake in. Unfortunately for us Mother Nature didn’t want to cooperate with our thrill seeking plans on the water and the weather was too rough. We stuck to kayaking and jet skiis, with much hilarity it was still a great adventure.

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Thank you to Muriya and Jebel Sifah for a great weekend with family and friends!

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

The Secret Is Out – Kilimanjaro 2016

April 17, 2016

The secret is out! Thank goodness, secrets are not my strong point!

In only 11 weeks from now I shall attempt the biggest challenge of my life so far, to climb the 19,341 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

My partner in crime for this huge adventure is the lovely Sarah from ‘Sarah Chaplin personal training’ During our previous adventures we work well together so I’m excited to share this awesome journey with her.

Something I want to mention also is that every single thing in our trip is self funded – we are not asking for your donations to send us on a holiday. But… If you do feel generous to make a donation then we will ask that you make it towards the stray animals of Muscat. You can find our Go Fund Me page by clicking here.

The coming weeks are going to include intense physical training, long hikes to prepare and panicking about my cold weather gear. Living in Oman I haven’t seen snow since 2012, my body may be in for a shock. My husband has already threatened me with divorce if I mention “base layers” one more time.

Keep up to date with all our progress here on the blog, Facebook and Instagram also.

Thank you!

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Exploring Fanja – Part Two

April 17, 2016

When conjuring up adventure plans I often draw on old memories, blog posts or magazine articles for inspiration. Recently one of my friends requested a morning of photographic potential and exploration. Confidently I told her that I knew the perfect place that could deliver it all – Fanja!

You may remember last year I already Blogged about my first visit to the beautiful Fanja, click here to read, and now I’m back to guide another adventure addict.

(Also I like typing to word ‘Fanja’ a lot because it sounds funny when you say it, one of the main reasons I ever wanted to go there in the first place. So mature, I know..)

We headed into Wadi Fanja the day after recent rainfall and found it to be full of life, color and activity with workers milling around, the fresh stream rushing by, dragon flies buzzing around and a gentle breeze brushing past.

001 Wadi Fanja Green

We headed to explore the forts scattered around the hillsides, Although these attractions are not listed in the tour guides and sign posted it’s really interesting to explore and every time you find something worth stopping for it’s like a real treasure.

001 Fanja hill side

001 Fanja above

I even found a part of Fanja that I hadn’t seen before amongst the abandoned buildings the canons on the hillsdie pointing outwards to protect the ancient town.

001 Fanja fort window

If you haven’t ticked Fanja off on the adventure list yet I would highly recommend a visit.

Where should I explore next?

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Kayak Adventures

March 22, 2016

It’s only mid March but already the temperature is gearing up for a blistering summer in Oman and restricting the choice of outdoor activities that are available. (Unless you like heatstroke and excessive perspiration?) Seeking new activities to keep me amused before the outdoor season is closed for summer I headed out on the water with my trusted adventure buddy, Lucy, to enjoy some kayaking.

I’ve only kayaked twice in my life before, the last time was not a success. Paddling in the open water further from shore than I was comfortable with and a squid jumped out from the water and onto the front of the kayak with a *thud*. Totally convinced that it was coming to get me I furiously paddled back to shore and vowed never again would I be in a kayak. That was a couple of years ago but these days I’m a little braver and more adventurous so I was ready to try again.

This beauty is bringing some glamour to the kayak world,

001 Lucy Kayak

We explored the bay and all the hidden alcoves in the rocks full of beautiful colourful fish swimming by and cheeky crabs clambering over the rocks to hide as we approached.

This kayaking is tiring, time for a quick siesta in the sunshine!

This was a great morning on the water with beautiful nature, marine life and a nice way to keep active. Thankfully I didn’t see any squid this time so it was a success 🙂

We rented these kayaks from the Oman Dive Centre (currently being rebranded as the ‘Muscat Hills Dive Centre’). It costs about 6 rials per kayak for 30 mins. This location has some amazing scenery and coast to explore but in terms of customer service I would not recommend.

Full photo credit to Lucy for this post, thank you, I turned up with a Go Pro and a flat battery.. Sigh.

Do you have any suggestions of different adventures and sports to try in Oman? I would love to hear them!

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Wadi Adventure Race

February 5, 2016

Incase you missed my article in this weeks Y Magazine, this is my experience of participating in the Wadi Adventure Race;

“Waist deep in mud, plunging into pools of icy water, scaling heights and scrambling back down with a real fear of breaking limbs – this is what I do for fun.

Last week, I travelled to Al Ain to take part in the Wadi Adventure Race. The idea behind the race is similar to other concepts like the Spartan, Tough Mudder and Ninja Warrior, pushing your body to its limits of strength and endurance while overcoming extreme obstacles. It doesn’t sound like much fun to some people, but I was in my element and loving every exhausting, sweaty minute.

Almost a year ago, a friend asked me to take part in a similar endurance competition with her. At the time, my fitness levels were embarrassing and I knew it wasn’t possible for me. From that moment on I made it my mission to get myself in shape and to stop being the person left behind longing to join in. After the initial sign up for the adventure race, I was not content at just entering and taking part – I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. This meant long, hard training sessions over the past few months, but where is the fun in dedicating yourself to a lonely training life with hours in the gym all by yourself? So I roped in my fittest friend, Sarah, for the journey as well.

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Training for an event such as this requires all-round fitness – you have to be able to run, crawl, jump, climb and swim. Most of our training took place at the gym under the watchful eye of Coach Yoka, who trained me especially to improve my upper body strength and be able to hold my own weight. I’m the type of girl who can’t usually run a bath, so running a race was daunting. Thankfully, the wonderful Muscat winter weather has been kind to us and we have been out hiking and running, which helped to build endurance and coordination. All our meals have been based around an eating plan made for us to be able to maximise strength and energy to get the best from our bodies.

Race day finally arrived and the nerves began to kick in, even more so when seeing the fit-looking contestants arriving to join the same category as us. I was scared about how I was going to keep up with the pack, but from the beginning, our survival plan was to just keep moving and finish the race in one piece. It didn’t matter how fast or slow we were as long as we did our best. As the countdown began and we stepped over the starting line, the competitive side of me clicked into action and it was full steam ahead. Bounding over hurdles and a tyre pit, it was on to the first real challenging obstacle – a 150m crawl through the mud on our stomachs to avoid the sharp barbed wire above. By this point, we had completed three obstacles out of 27; I was nervous for what was ahead, but my body was filled with adrenaline and it just kept powering through.

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Surprisingly, my favourite parts of the race were running through the wadi terrain. I enjoyed this mostly because I was well practiced and my body felt strong and coordinated. All our running and sprint training in the mountains of Muscat had prepared us well for this as we lapped past people who previously had an early advantage on us. My least favourite and the only obstacle that I could not manage was the monkey bars. This has never been my strength. It’s mostly down to technique and I just couldn’t manage it as I plunged into the water pool below. Maybe next time.

Crossing the finishing line, I felt a mixture of emotions from relief to I have survived without serious injury and sadness that after all those months of training it was over so soon – I wanted to keep going!

001 WAR medal

I completed the 5km race and all 27 obstacles in a time of 56 minutes, ranking me right in the middle of the women in our category. Although it was a good place on the board, I know that I can do better than this next time.

All that training for so many months and it was all over in less than an hour! But the whole event was a wonderful experience and I already have my sights set on the next challenge. I’ll call this first event the warm-up round because now I have an idea of what to expect and I’m going to come back better and stronger for the next one.”

Heather x

Adventure Time, Blogosphere, Expat Life

Picture Perfect – The Outtakes

February 2, 2016

Escapism. Blogs can be interesting and informative platforms but many also use it as a form of escapism. They want to visualise a different world, learn from it and feel like they are with you in that exact moment doing what you are doing.

This is my motivation to think up fresh ideas to show you the world I live in through my eyes and my camera lens.

Recently on a trip to Wadi Qurai my adventure buddy, Lucy, commented on the extreme lengths I go to just to try and capture a photo worthy to be on the blog page. It amused me to see the photos Lucy took of me whilst I’m in my creative mood clambering around with my camera.

Hauling my ass up to the highest rocks for the best vantage point, teetering on the edge of a huge drop and lying belly down in the mud – all things I do just to try and get that great shot. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort but when I get that one great shot then I know it is worth it.

My photography is amateur at best and I’m learning but I can hold my head up high and tell everyone that my content is honest and raw. That is the most important thing for me. You won’t catch me copying photos from Google and passing them off as my own and I won’t churn out posts just for quick hits. I prefer to put the effort into my blog posts to make them genuine, fun things to read and visualise.

If I get more dirty from attempting to capture the perfect photo rather than the activity itself that is ok, I’m sticking to what I love and having fun in the process.

I hope to have more adventure pictures for you soon,

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Merry Christmas 2015

December 24, 2015

Snuggled under a blanket with the logs crackling on the fire, twinkling Christmas lights and the smell of a real pine tree and festive baking fills the air.

Just joking.

This is my reality- It’s Christmas Eve, 26 degrees and not a cloud in the sky so no chance of a white Christmas. I’m perched on the edge of a scratchy sofa as my horror child takes a five minute break from destroying everything in sight to watch Minions. Again. I’m taking the opportunity to sneak onto the laptop and get some stuff done and the only smell in the air is something unpleasant wafting from his diaper. I guess that is his Christmas gift to Mama.

By my own OCD Christmas standards I am so unprepared. There is not a single light, decoration or even a tree in the Duncan House. But this year, for us, I think that is ok. I’m a lot more relaxed about this than I ever thought I would be.

We weren’t sure if Colin would be here at all or if he would be called to work, that is still a possibility but for now he is here with us and we are thankful for that.
The reason for the lack of decorations – With two dogs, two cats and a whirlwind of a toddler a tree probably wouldn’t last long. Thankfully Spencer is still oblivious to the Christmas mania so we can get away with a quiet festive season for one last year and I promise I’ll do better next year when he is more aware of it.

I couldn’t let this lovely season pass without a couple of photos, decorating a palm tree and a sweet festive jumper.

001 Palm Christmas Tree

This Christmas Day we plan on a nice, low key day hopefully spent laughing and eating with friends enjoying their company rather than panicking about the ‘perfect’ day and everything that goes with it. The only thing I will insist on is a family photo, more for the sake of memories to look back on. I can hear Colin moaning already 🙂

001 Christmas Jumper 1

Being away from our loved ones and our own traditions is especially hard at this time of year. I wish we could snap our fingers and be with our families but sadly this year it just isn’t possible.

Wherever you are this festive season I wish you all the best,

Heather x

PS- Apologies for all the errors and rambling in this post, his attention span is wearing off and I have a toddler hanging over my shoulder.