To the desert with plenty of dessert

A big first day and we haven't even started walking yet!

Before we could leave Muscat and head for the desert we needed to collect all the camping gear we would need for the expedition, plus all the food and some safety equipment for the two off-road support vehicles.

Outside the HQ of Outward Bound Oman who generously supported the expedition with a loan of kit.

Outside the HQ of Outward Bound Oman who generously supported the expedition with a loan of kit.

Our first call was at the wonderful Outward Bound Oman who had kindly agreed to loan us assorted camping equipment including stoves, tents and sleeping bags for our expedition. It took us a while to work out how to get a camp for 12 into the back of a Land Cruiser. Our joy at fitting everything in - with room to spare - was short lived as we arrived at the supermarket to buy all the food we would need. We had drawn a small crowd of managers by the time our 5 trolleys worth of goods had passed over the scanner - resulting in the largest shopping bill (and the longest receipt) any of us had ever seen!

Delight at fitting everything in the back of one of our support vehicles....

Delight at fitting everything in the back of one of our support vehicles....

There was even room for half the team....including Steph (Cyprus) squeezed in the back!

There was even room for half the team....including Steph (Cyprus) squeezed in the back!

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[left] Misba (UK) knocking some sense into the shopping list for daily snack bags and nightly desserts [above]. Each trolley had supplies for a different part of the expedition menu.

[left] Misba (UK) knocking some sense into the shopping list for daily snack bags and nightly desserts [above]. Each trolley had supplies for a different part of the expedition menu.

The drive from Muscat to the Wahiba Sands, about 250km to the southwest, took us a wonderful 5 hours winding through the most magnificent and other-wordly scenery. At times it felt as if we had wandered onto the latest set of Star Wars as we crossed vistas of multi-coloured mountains and oddly stratified rock.

Camp on the first night with no sign of the dunes that were all around us.

Camp on the first night with no sign of the dunes that were all around us.

Wildlife watch

Wildlife watch

We were not allowed our first glimpse of sand quite yet, arriving at the northern fringes of the Wahiba Sands after dark. Stopping to deflate the tyres of the vehicles we drove along a sand track between unseen dunes before finding a route up the steep slopes and into what we thought was a perfect camp site....it was only as the tents were pitched and the cooking started that the local residents appeared. Our camp site turned out to be a hive of spider activity. So white they were almost see-thru, the spiders were extremely speedy and the size of a drinks coaster. Later on, more colourful, tarantula like spiders appeared with blue heads and black stripes. The midnight wildlife encounter wasn't appreciated by most of the team - especially as the spiders liked the circle of light thrown around each team members feet by their headtorch, making it appear that the spiders were chasing us as we moved!!

There was a rapid retreat into the tents for the night.