Mr. Stupid Goes For a Walk

I have been posting a bit about walking, recently, what with my frustration at being unable to do a great deal of it after my foot operation.

Foolishly, I made reference to the following episode in a reply to someone on one of the ‘walking’ posts, and admitted I might write about it sometime. Well, take this as a Warning From Someone Who Learned The Hard Way.

Thirty years ago I lived and worked in Oman. I was a seismologist, working on seismic data for an oil exploration company – but before you all shout at me, my conscience is clear. I don’t think I was particularly good at it, and I don’t think my efforts contributed to anyone finding any oil.


I do worry that as a result of this post, though, someone will now contact me and say ‘Hello, Mick. I was a geophysicist in Muscat when you were there, and I remember that one of the projects you worked on found absolutely stonking amounts of oil!’ But I doubt it.

Anyway, let me set the scene.

I lived near Muscat, the capital, which lies on the north coast of Oman. Behind me, towards the interior, ran a line of high hills

It is a massive simplification, but just at this point the hills run east to west, parallel with the coast, and consist of a series of ridges (jebels) and valleys (wadis). So to cross them from north to south (or in the opposite direction) the traveller has to continually climb up and down for the entire journey.


I bet you can already see where this is going.

When I had a few free hours, I would often walk out of my house, and up into the hills to just wander around and explore. As a result of this, I knew the first couple of wadis and jebels pretty well. There was a high, prominent jebel to the south, though, which was the final ridge before the land fell away to a wide stony plain, and I had never gone that far on foot up till then. This ridge was easy to spot, however, as there was a large microwave (radio) transmitter on top, and I knew it was the final ridge as we would often drive past it on the south side.

I had a day off.

I don’t know exactly what time of year it was, but it must have been in the ‘cooler’ season, because even I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to try when it was really hot.


I didn’t even have a proper rucksack, I had a small roll-bag, which I slung uncomfortably over my shoulder. Inside, I had a single bottle of water, and a dozen small packaged juice drinks. I had a compass, but no map. I had a hat, I had a camera.

So, well-equipped and well-prepared, I set off.

The first couple of hours went well. I crossed two or three ridges and felt fine. I guess I should say at this point, that I was pretty fit. The project probably wasn’t an unreasonable one, by any means.

Certainly not for someone with the right equipment and supplies.


I was probably just beginning to feel a bit hot and tired when I crested what I thought would be the penultimate ridge, only to find I was looking down on another two smaller ridges that I still had to cross before reaching the final large one.

And the large one was looking very large indeed!

I can be ridiculously, unreasonably, stubborn, at times. I remember that on the final ascent I had to force my legs to bend and stretch, to take each step, but the top was getting nearer and nearer and I wasn’t going to give in.

I made it.


I enjoyed the view and the moment. It was, admittedly, very impressive and I knew I’d done pretty well to get there.

And really, all I needed to do then was to carry on down the south side of the ridge, walk another kilometre or two to the road I mentioned earlier, and hitch a lift back to Muscat.


Have I mentioned I can be unreasonably stubborn?

I turned around and started heading down the north side towards home.

I could draw this out into a long dramatic story of my walk, but I’ll give you the abbreviated version.

I found I was in difficulty as soon as I had to go up the next hill. especially as I had finished all my drinks by then.

It took me several hours and more energy than I realised I had at one point, just to get to the final ridge. But at that point, I knew I no longer had the energy or strength for that last climb. I could not do it. Fortunately for me, I knew I could follow the valley for a mile or two east, where it would come out to the coast plain. So I turned and stumbled that way. By now, I was desperate to find some sort of shade, just for a moment, but there was nothing.

But I staggered along, and as the hills either side dropped down, I came to a cluster of buildings. I don’t know what exactly they were, but I staggered in through a doorway and an Indian working there took one look at me, sat me down and brought me water.

‘Slowly!’ I remember him saying, as I poured it down my throat. ‘Not good to drink too quick!’

I didn’t care. I drank it like a camel on steroids given twenty seconds to fill up. I got through an awful lot of water, but he made me sit and rest for a while before I went off again. I think he offered me food, which I refused, and I think he offered to find someone to drive me, but I don’t really remember too much from that point on. I did walk home eventually, though. I just hope I thanked him sufficiently.

It was not one of my more intelligent adventures.

34 thoughts on “Mr. Stupid Goes For a Walk

  1. Funny you should say that, as I once set out for the Spar shop in the neighbouring Cotswold village, similarly ill-prepared, with no mobile phone or emergency supplies, not even a Swiss Army knife upon my person. For almost three miles I traipsed alone along rugged, undulating Oxfordshire country lanes, only to arrive exhausted and in a state of panic tempered by relief, it being a Sunday and with them closing at four. I tell you, my fearless days of expedition are over, Mick. Never again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this story, Mick! Maybe because I could relate to it and see myself in that exact same situation. Sometimes being stubborn is a virtue, but when we combine stubbornness with a lack of preparation and an adequate amount of common sense, then we can get into trouble. I’m glad you found your “guardian angel” to help. But darn, I think I would have done the same thing!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No need for shame… you told me to hike with the minimum. You didn’t tell me to head off on a hot day without adequate water! (So if I fall off a mountain side, I PROMISE you the first thing I say to my rescuers is, “Mick told me to do it!”)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Stubborn, maybe. Stupid, nah. These are the kind of walks that “build character” aren’t they? The ones that we realize about 3/4 of the way through that we can’t finish on our own.
    Glad you didn’t get stranded in Oman Mick, AND that you didn’t stick oil 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Firstly that’s a great story – makes everyone remember who daft we can be at times.
    Although I think we would all do that and often our stroll without water ends up being a marathon without fluid
    But interestingly, for the lovely Indian man felt your pain and wanted to help. Surely that restores faith in human nature. You burst into his home and he welcomed you and wanted to help
    That is just as interesting in your story

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jackie. Yes, I’m sure there would be others as stupid as me, But this time, it was me. And yes, it would restore your help in human nature. He was very kind and concerned, and my worry is that I might not have seemed sufficiently grateful.


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  7. I think Donna hit the nail on the head: “Intelligence” and “adventure” are often opposing concepts ~ and it is always good to do some foolish things because hopefully there is a learning experience to be remembered 🙂 Great photos, and I think it must be very nice to reflect back on those times. Also, good to know you are (or were) a part of Big Oil… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Big Oil. Yes, I’m not proud of that, but it gave me great travel opportunities.

      And the foolish things are good – unless they kill you – because that’s how you learn, of course.. Oman is certainly a country I look back on fondly; I enjoyed my time there hugely, and saw some fantastic places.


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