TREATS & TRICKS IN OMAN

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IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN LIKE THIS. THE YEAR IS 2003. Casablanca suffers terrorist attacks. Al Qaeda bombs Riyadh. GW Bush and British forces invade Iraq with the approval of pretty much no one. Saddam Hussein finds himself rolling downhill into some pretty-deep kimchi. Serena Williams beats Venus Williams in the Australian Open. Serena Williams beats Venus Williams at Wimbledon. The final “original-style” VW slips off the assembly line, in Mexico. Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes governor of California, drives a Hummer, smokes Cubanos. The world is having a bad-hair day.

You know how when something happens and seems so terrible, and then it turns into something wonderful. That’s the story of Duncan. It wasn’t the safest time in history to be traveling the world. And maybe even less secure for an American to travel in the Middle East. But when the travel angels land you somewhere, you go with the flow, and pray and watch your back and call yourself a Kiwi (nobody feels the need to kill a New Zealander).

My travel buddy, Lisa, and I decided to drive the Jeep from Abu Dhabi through the desert and over the mountains to the Omani coast. Lisa and I were not keen on planning our trips. We were the kind of travelers who might load a vehicle with whatever we “might” need and point the Jeep in the direction we figured we wanted to go, then discover where we might wash up. After recently reading how some travel bloggers plan their trips so thoroughly and professionally, I feel a bit guilty about admitting my paucity of planning skills, and worse, my lack of desire to plan. If I were going to write a book describing my travel methodology, it could easily be titled: “In Transit by the Seat of Your Pants.” Or, perhaps something like: “Pilgrimage Without A Clue.” But hey, for all you readers who admire and like to read travelers who plan well and maybe use technology to plan, I offer you this title: “Kiss My App.”

However, I reckon I’ll need to apologize to other travelers for extracting more than my fair share of miracles from the travel angels. I could not have traveled so extensively if it weren’t for those angels offering so many miracles along the way (which might leave fewer miracles available for other travelers?). You gotta wonder about stuff like this, and be grateful, and honor and thank those angels (in case they truly exist). The last thing you want is for any of them to see you out in the world in need of a miracle and thinking: “Badfish, again…that little ungrateful shit…screw him. Look, there’s Jeff and Sue and Alison, travelers who spend months planning, we’ll give them the miracles today.”

It was a dark night after Lisa and I finally crossed the desert and Hajar Mountains and arrived along the shores of Oman. Oman is a fairly desolate place in between towns and cities, with no streetlights illuminating the roads. If we could not find a hotel, Lisa and I were prepared to camp on the beach because we’d just spent a week camping along the ridge of the Hajar Mountains and viewing its highest peak, Jebel Shams, and the vast canyon of Wadi Nakhr. The rugged and rocky Hajar Mountains run from the south-eastern tip of Oman, north through the United Arab Emirates, then plunge into to the Arabian Gulf at the Musandam Peninsula, which interestingly enough, although separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE, belongs to Oman (you have to love the way the Brits divide up a desert… glass houses, throwing stones, and the Bushes aside). Jebel Shams is the highest peak on the Arabian Peninsula, at something like 3,000 meters, or almost 10,000 feet. Humans have lived in the Hajar Mountains for millennia. Flint tools dating back to over 125,000 years have been found here.

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Photo: Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism

But we didn’t want to camp. We were tired. We were gritty. We weren’t young and lithe and dumb. We wanted a bed, a shower, and someone else to cook us dinner. We wanted a room with a view and a sea breeze. Don’t get me wrong: camping is enjoyable, invigorating even, and it grounds your spirit. But at some point, enough is enough. We were right on the cusp of enough when we happened upon Sohar, a pleasant little town fairly north in Oman’s geography and lying on the shores of the Gulf of Oman which further on, narrows into a wicked dogleg then expands into the Arabian Gulf with Iran to the north. Rumors reveal that when it was just a tiny fishing village, Sohar was the home of Sinbad the Sailor (yeah, a real person, but with a semi-real biography).

One of the worst travel hassles, for me, is arriving in a new town at night and not having a place to stay. I don’t mind it during the day, I actually welcome it when there’s time to search for a room in daylight, but at night when you’re tired and it’s dark and nobody speaks English and you’re almost out of gas—not my favorite top-ten choice of experiences (Yeah, I hear you: “try making a plan, doofus”). So, we were endlessly overjoyed, and grateful, when the road happened at that moment to lead us to the Sohar Beach Hotel (thank you, thank you travel angels).

The Sohar Beach Hotel is no five-star hotel. But you could smell the ocean, and it was exactly what we needed. The best thing about the Sohar Beach Hotel was its match boxes. The worst part about the Sohar Beach Hotel was they allowed smoking in the rooms. The hotel had match boxes sitting in numerous ashtrays inside the rooms. The motto written on the matchbox says: “Sohar, so good.” The matchbox displays lush plants, waves, a beach, and a long-tailed tropicbird. You can’t stay upset too long about cigarette odor with a motto like that staring you in the face, and it being true just outside the window. Like they say, take the good with the bad when traveling.

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We spent a few days traveling along Oman’s east coast on Highway 1. We traveled north to Fujairah in the UAE, stopping to snorkel. We traveled south, a ways past Muscat, visiting the ancient Mutrah souq, one of the oldest souqs in the Arab world where we purchased frankincense and myrrh. Our last morning, we walked along the beach collecting sea shells, just east of Wadi Jizi, where a small fresh-water creek, with its source in the Hajars, empties into the Gulf of Oman. Seeing this creek reminds me of something I read regarding “sand,” I believe written by Annie Dillard maybe. She (or whoever it was) suggests that the ocean creates no sand, that all the sand in the world is made and washed down from mountains in creeks like this or in rivers like the Amazon, Nile or Mississippi, then dumped into the ocean and washed ashore nearby, or thousands of miles away.

Cheap advice du jour: don’t believe everything you read somewhere, especially if it’s a clownfish wearing sunglasses, a goatee, and a tattoo on his fin who can’t quite remember for sure where he read it.

Lisa and I had collected quite a few shells, actually two good-sized plastic bags full. Even though we “thought” we’d end up at the beach and scavenge for shells, we had not brought the plastic bags with us as part of our super-efficient travel plan. We found the bags on the beach (thank you, angels). We triple-bagged them for strength. Sea shells are surprisingly heavy. Perhaps one of the best things about Omani beaches is what you can find there, like near-new plastic bags. Lisa also found an ancient hand-carved Omani door with rusted hardware, a bit beat up, but so authentic and artistic, she decided to drag it home to hang on her wall. You can also find some fairly-colorful shells along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. At one particular time of year, nautilus shells wash up and litter the sand. If you swim a ways into the water, you may encounter some of the most venomous sea snakes in the world. If you’re out surfing, you may get ripped off your board by a shark (it has happened in this part of the world).

After a quick lunch of goat meat shawarmas from a roadside vendor, we headed toward Nizwa, a desert oasis in Oman renowned for its souq, its fort, and Mid-east antiques: swords, Bedouin silver jewelry, unglazed clay water jars. I have to admit here that I’m a little disappointed at this moment while writing because all my photographs of this trip, and any taken before 2006, are in 35mm slides, and I haven’t found a good photo lab in the UAE that transfers slides to digital.

Lisa was driving the Jeep (Lisa always drove…you gotta love a woman with control issues). But OK, to be fair, I may not be the least-aggressive driver for you to ride along with. Sometimes, it’s just better to ride shotgun and make your woman happy. So, we’re heading west back toward Abu Dhabi. It’s quite a ways through some fairly

bleak terrain, maybe eight hours on the road if you stop to eat and photograph forts and souqs and sand dunes and water jars and sidewinders.

We’ve got some Bob Seger on the stereo: “Against the Wind,” “Roll Me Away,” “Like A Rock.” Good driving music. We’re cruising at an easy 140 kph (like, 85 mph…normal for this part of the world; however, Oman recently lowered its maximum speed limit to 120, or 75mph).

We hear a strange noise coming from the car. A rustling, jagged noise, behind us. Very unusual. Scary, actually, nothing you want to hear coming from your car in a desert in the middle of nowhere, who knows how far to the next oasis or service station. I turn around to see what it might be, and bust out laughing. Lisa turns to look, but she is not amused at all. She had been careful to glance inside each shell she picked up off the beach. She has a strict code of crustacean ethics. Apparently, I’m not that careful a shell scavenger. Lisa is not happy because exactly what she had been so careful to prevent happening… has happened and is sitting right there on the backseat of the Jeep. I admit, I feel a bit guilty about this. Lisa had been so careful, and I had been, well, a tad cavalier about ensuring we didn’t poach any live critters from their world and bring them home with us. So much for control.

Standing on top of a huge, and I mean thick and deep, plastic bag full of sea shells is a small hermit crab. He has clawed his way to the top of the pile of shells. He’s gnawed or clawed his way out of the triple-plastic bags. And is now sitting there on top of all those shells, like he was king of the mountain, or Supercrab or something. And even though crabs have no face, I get a vibe that he’s a bit pissed. I’m not much of a drinker, and especially not while traveling in the Mid-east, and at this particular time in history, so I wasn’t soused and hearing things. And I’m not psychologically challenged. And I don’t believe the movie Dr. Dolittle was “based on true events.” But I swear I heard that crab say something close to: “What the eff-ing shit is going on here?”

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I had to hold the crab in my hands while we drove because…well, where do you put a hermit crab capable of clawing his way out of triple-plastic bags. Not in your pocket. We didn’t know how far down the road we might travel, and then luckily, again (thank you travel angels), we happened upon a hotel, newly built alongside the road just this side of Nizwa, looking vaguely like an Arabian fort painted white, and seemingly right smack dab in the middle of nowhere in this desert. But apparently, someone had done their homework and realized a hotel right there in the middle of nowhere was a good place for a hotel — for day trippers driving from Muscat to Nizwa, or further on into the UAE. The best thing about the Falaj Daris Hotel was its bidet.

Question du jour: Where do you keep a hermit crab in your hotel room in a desert?

Answer: The bidet.

I don’t think he liked the bidet much, but at least he had fresh water to drink (and couldn’t climb the slippery porcelain). We dumped a handful of sand and some sea shells in there to keep him company. The next morning, we found a box from the hotel to carry him in. He survived the journey and the heat of the remaining five or six hours into Abu Dhabi.

I knew a guy who happened to be an internationally known expert on the fauna and flora in this part of the world, he’d written a well-received book on the topic. I asked him how I should care for a hermit crab, what to feed him. He said, “Oh, he’ll eat anything. But he’ll live only a few days, or so.” An article titled “7 Reasons You Should Never Buy a Hermit Crab” on the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals website states reason number three as this:

“3. Hermit crabs can live for more than 30 years in their natural habitats on tropical seashores, but after being purchased, most do not live for more than a few months…”

That was in 2003, almost 13 years ago. Duncan has lived with me ever since. My colleague told me you had to “dunk” the crab in water to keep his body wet. You don’t. You leave a bowl of salt water for him to bathe in. You leave a bowl of fresh water to drink. But the idea to dunk him stuck. So, his name is Duncan. He eats peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), dates and other dried fruit, pita bread, coconut, spirulina, wheat grass, alfalfa sprouts, seaweed. I give him full range of my spare bedroom, the master bedroom, which I’ve turned into my home office.

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The shell on the left is his original shell from Sohar Beach. You can see how much smaller the opening is than the one on the right, which he chose from a number of shells we offered him for just this purpose. Hermit crabs change into larger shells, so they can grow. Duncan is now in his third shell, which is fairly larger than his second one on the right. He holds his shell on with tiny legs and claws located along the sides and tip of his body. I’ve only stepped on him twice.

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Duncan climbs up and over these shells to get to his favorite spot at the window, where he sits and ganders at the view through the glass. He still tries to claw his way through the window, has dug up the rubber seal at the bottom pretty badly, trying to dig his way out. But he’s going nowhere. Don’t tell him that, though. If there ever was a crab with determination, a will to survive, and a quirky personality (if no knowledge on the physics of “glass”), it is Duncan. When I first brought him home and put him in the office, he realized he was in a big “box” (the room) and needed to climb up and out of it. He spent a few months climbing to the top of the bookcase (the tallest object in the room) trying to reach the top of the box he thought he was in. He never bothered to climb the desk, he never climbed the chair. He understood the concept of “height” and how to get where he wanted to go. After a while, he knew enough to give that up as futile. However, he still spends hours trying to walk through the window.

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Some days he’ll walk right up to me and touch my foot with a claw as though saying “hey.” Other days, he shuns me, as though I were a worthless pariah. Other days, he sits under my chair looking up at me as I sit at my desk. Other days, he shrinks from me as though I were a dangerous predator. Other days, he stares at me from across the room, takes a step forward, then two back. I never quite know what he thinks, or what he’ll do or how he’ll react. Some days, he sits in the palm of my hand as though it were a comfortable chair. Other days, he rushes away from my palm as though fearful.

What is such a “treat” is not that I found him. Nor that he has lived so long, just shy of 13 years. Nor the fact that Lisa has also come to love him (we have a joint-custody agreement). Nor that he is so easy to care for. And cheap to feed…he is VERY small. His poop is miniscule, and always solid, easily vacuumed with a Dust Buster. What is such a treat is that I can so easily sneak in a line here about poop, with impunity. Sohar, so good.

You can find other entries in DP Photo Challenge here:     Treat

You can find other entries in Lucile’s Photo Rehab here:    Photo Rehab

198 comments

  1. BF, I think this is easily my favourite story you have ever told. Travel, adventure, discovery, companions.

    I think I am now smitten with little Duncan. I should not be surprised that you would have such an unusual pet. The image of him going to tap you on the foot is really cute.

    Unfortunately my computer is not playing nicely and I’m forced to read this on my phone, but from what I can see of his original shell, it’s beautiful.

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  2. The photo os the road reminds me of the southwest in the US. The way you describe the tourney and your experiences was riveting. There are road angels out there making such road trips so much more memorable. Duncan sounds like a perfect little companion.

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  3. What a great story BF, and I bet it’s true too! Who knew that a hermit crab could have a personality?

    I know that Alison and I plan our travels more than you do, but we also appreciate all the help we get from the travel angels, as well as the assistance we get from other realms of non-ordinary reality.

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    • HA! You can’t make this stuff up, Don…it is true. But there’s even more. Duncan is magical. I may write that story soon. And I’ve seen some of the ways travel angels assist you guys!

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  4. OMG this is so cute! Who would have thought of a crab as a pet! And how cool is his name… that’s my mom’s maiden surname. Great name 😉
    Wonderful post – thanks for sharing little Duncan with us 🙂

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  5. Once again you have out-done yourself Badfish! I enjoy your adventures so much that I keep a virtual survival kit handy, which includes lot of plastic bags. Love Duncan…indeed all creatures have a personality, that has been my experience anyway. I was going to save your post for later, but sat here and read it now! 🙂

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  6. You are probably the kid who SHOULD have broken his arm on the monkey bars but never did. It’s always the cautious little children with the in-control moms who fall, just as the careful travel planners find themselves derailed (at least psychologically) more than the ones who who journey with a come-what-may attitude. Loved the story and Duncan!

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    • Monkey bars ALWAYS scared me. They were so hard, and unforgiving if you fell. But you are right, I never fell. Too scared to hurt myself, I held on for dear life. Plus, I was fairly-well coordinated. And yeah…Duncan’s a blast. He’s also magical…but that’s a story for later. No really…magical.

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  7. What I love about this story, apart from the exotic setting and your humor, is the fact that you care for that crab as we would any pet, if we are animal-lovers. What it shows me is how much consciousness all animals have if we are just sensitive enough to identify it in all its forms, different for each species. I learn this every day with a parrot who can think and speak English and use it to convey her needs and thoughts. Imagine how hard that is for the rest of the animal kingdom who do not have the physical ability to speak. I love Duncan now too and am fonder of you and Lisa.

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    • Yikes!! A parrot that can THINK…really? How so very cool that is. Did you teach her to talk? What’s her name? Does she say something like: hey, doofus, change that stinky paper on the bottom of my cage, please. I’m amazed at how the internet has brought people from all over the world into our lives, and allowed them to know me more than people I’ve known in person for years. Thanks for being you.

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  8. Badfish I love this post. Of course I laughed out loud at being included as one of the planners and yes please don’t be using up all the travel angel hours on yourself. Actually we have been well cared for ourselves so no complaints.
    I think it is remarkable that Duncan has survived all these years. Clearly he is happy where he has landed. Frankly he was likely so overjoyed to be out of the bidet that he is still celebrating more than a decade later.
    This is an incredibly entertaining post and I felt as though I was along for the ride, albeit an unplanned one.

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    • How could you not be included in a post on planning (or not planning)! Maybe I could hire you to plan my next trip…let’s say, OK, Bhutan in April. And I don’t quite know how or why Duncan has survived. I hope he’s happy. He’s certainly not in any danger of hungry hawks swooping down and snatching him out of the sand for dinner. Or sharks…if sharks eat crabs.

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  9. Duncan is great! From the moment he entered your life. As much as I’m a believer in not taking anything living from ocean or sand, I have to say I’m glad you kept him. Such interesting house mates. Just when I had the thought, wow he isn’t going to mention Duncan’s poop, you did. Hahaha. This is a great story, BF. It made me smile a lot. Thanks.
    Mary

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    • Me, too! So happy to be able to keep him. He’s such a joy now. I’m glad you smiled. And right…you gotta mention poop when you can these days. There’s so much of it in the world.

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  10. What a great story! Hello Duncan! 13 years! Woah! Did you take him home on the plane?

    I love your cavalier planning methods. I am definitely the planner of the bunch so we would make a good pair! You are not alone there are a lot of you out there. My brothers and my husband are non-planners. So they let me pretty much do whatever I want and are happy to go anywhere. They are the “implementers” as they put it.

    Great story! You put him in the bidet. Ha!

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  11. Badfish–you are such a riot–what a cool story! I like to think some of the angels look at you and one says to the other, “Here, hold my wings. It’s gonna be one helluva flight!” And you’re sure it should be Duncan and not Shelley, right? 😀

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    • Hahahaha!! I’m sure that’s exactly what some of those angels have said…hold my wings…is right! Ooooh….Shelley would have been a cool name! Maybe if I get him a buddy (or buddette) we’ll name him/her Shelley! Good one.

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  12. Not just “a fish wearing sunglasses and a goatee,” but, more to the point, a Clownfish wearing sunglasses and a goatee, with an Irish, free-range, plastic bag eating hermit crab he found on a beach just east of Wadi Jizi as a pet.
    (Fun story, though).

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  13. I read this this morning and I’m just commenting now. I don’t remember it all. I remember that I laughed out loud. More than once. And that Don and I laughed together. I remember thinking that I’d like to do that road trip – the same one you did with Lisa. And I remember thinking that your photos of Duncan are exquisite.
    Hugs and grace, Alison

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    • It’s funny, because these are not even close to my best shots of Duncan, just the only ones I could find—-I do not have a good filing system for my photos. OK, I don’t have a filing system at all. But I’m glad you had a good laugh. If you ever do decide to plan a trip, the same trip, I still have my camping gear…perhaps we could do it together, or in a caravan!! If…one, I’m still here, and two, I can get off work. That trip, I did not keep good notes. I saw things and places that I have no names for, and the photos are in slides, so going back might be necessary…dang the luck, eh?

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    • I know. I laugh every time I think of hearing him and turning around to see him sitting there the first time on that huge bag of shells! Too funny. Not to mention the bidet.

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    • Hey…finally have time to get around to answering comments (it’s been weeks). Yeah, Duncan is a good buddy! He’s a lot like me: hard shell on the outside, soft and vulnerable on the inside. You nailed it.

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  14. Hello Badfish, I have a question first. Don’t worry, I’ll comment if your post too. Priorities first.
    Do you have a crab-sitter? I’m just wondering what you do with Duncan when you go poopcoffee drinking in Bali or monsoon hunting in India, etc, etc.
    Do you pay economy or cargo class when he travels with you?
    Well, I think these are appropriate questions. Your narrative is faultless, priceless, entertaining, witty, enticing, as always, buuuut….it was also revealing the authentic side of the funny and sarcastic Badfish who knows it all about geckos, coffee, and so much more.
    A man who bothers to care for a crab, finding him a oasis in a hotel bidet and bringing him all the way to Abu Dhabi, researching about it, and caring for him for 13 years as a pet….can only be a super generous, compassionate, fantastic human being.
    Baddie, I know you hate me deeply, and I’m afraid I hate you even more now! 💗

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    • CRAB SITTER!!! Now see, that’s what I like about you. You have thought about this. And yes, when I go away for a few weeks or for the summer, I have someone (my maid these days, a family with two kids who loved Duncan previously) come every other day to the house to add water to his bowls.
      And this: a super generous, compassionate, fantastic human being. HA! you may be the only one to think that, deary!

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  15. This post made me weepy Mr Badfish. You know I am a huge fan of Duncan but I never knew his backstory. And what a great story it is. ‘Cuddly’ probably is not the right term to describe him, but it was the first word that came to mind when I saw the amazing pictures of him in this post.

    PS – nice job finding a way once again to speak of poo 💩

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    • Thank you for making me laugh, Badfish. Again. and smile. Love the first paragraph, its my favourite because it just gets you roped in from the start. it also sets a very good sense of time. Lots of other great writings too. I also have some questions, but I am afraid Lucille has beat me to it. I wanted to ask thus: Does Duncan need a visa when you travel? Have you actually been able to arrange for a passport for him, and if not, does that mean you must stay living right where you are for the rest of his natural life? ( which according to the 7 Reasons… could be at least another 17 years).

      I sympathise with Duncan. If I could see the sea from my window I’d be trying every which way to get outa there and get to the beach too.

      .

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    • Yeah…no….cuddly is not the word. It’s the only thing I miss about him. A cat cuddles. A dog cuddles. A crab…not so much. I keep thinking of your hermit crab with red legs, and think maybe I’ll dye Duncan’s!! Or…get him a mate with red legs. Wonder if they’ll speak the same language?

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  16. I must split the screen and do the comments as I read or I’ll never remember them all:

    1. Please explain to me where is Cascina. Your tracker of visitors to your blog puts me there and I have never been there.
    2. “call yourself a Kiwi”: smart, but borderline planning!
    3. “Kiss my App”: first loud chuckle that startles dog
    4. “which might leave fewer miracles available for other travelers?”: nah, I don’t believe that, we all make it, you go and keep pouncing on them – or they pounce on you?
    5. “One of the worst travel hassles, for me, is arriving in a new town at night and not having a place to stay.” Oh, I kept reading a bit further and saw that you’d realised it yourself. About planning.

    🙂 And then I read it till the end without further comments.

    Originally experienced and beautifully written.

    Who’s the hermit now?

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    • 1. Cascina…never heard of it.
      2. Kiwi…I know. But not planning, just survival
      3. !!!
      4. I think you’re right, miracles manufacture themselves out of thin air
      5. right…!
      and right…I am a hermit, too!!!
      just a wonderful comment, “M”

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  17. I can’t remember when I last so enjoyed a story about a hermit crab coming for a walk with me! That WAS what the story was about, wasn’t it? Or just me being egotistical. 🙂 You’re a kind soul under all that bluff, aren’t you?
    If Lisa tires of that door, I might be able to find it a home. No, not the crab. I’m really not a responsible person. 🙂

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    • Once in the Musandam peninsual in Oman, a guy thought we “wanted” to eat chicken, so he told us his goat meat shawarmas were chicken. We actually wanted goat! Salesmen are salesmen everywhere…

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  18. HAHAHA, This is great. I’ve been waiting to read it until I had time to sit down and enjoy and it was worth the wait. I love that you put him in a bidet. What is a better travel companion? A cat or hermit crab?

    Thanks for the shoutout. All that planning and reading keeps me sane when I’m at work!

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    • Right…a bidet. Isn’t that Greek for “hermit crab house.” My cat traveled exceptionally well. But Duncan…you can put him in your pocket.
      I wish I had a job where I could peruse guidebooks. Get this: Lonely Planet just had a sale. I bought ten (right, 10) e-guidebooks!!! Are you proud of me?

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        • It may have been a mistake. They’re eBooks, and I don’t have a reader. Only an iPad, and I don’t use it. But may have to learn how to read these books. It just isn’t the same without paper, I like flipping pages, not smudging a screen. I do like the lack of weight, though.
          Hermit crabs in the Pacific Ocean have red legs…I think the boy would like that!

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  19. Best story ever. You have such a way with telling a story Badfish. I love this. And what I thought was a very entertaining travel story turned into a very sentimental story about best friends – you and Duncan. He’s amazing, so clever and resilient. Excellent!!

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  20. I absolutely loved this story! So well written and entertaining. You had me hanging on every word, wondering where your adventure would take you. You’re definitely brave to travel in a foreign country with no set plans, I love doing that here in the U.S. but that is because this is home and AAA is never too far away with roadside assitance. I would love to try it someplace I don’t know, that is what real adventure is, and I agree that when you just let the road guide you, you discover the most amazing things, far more memorable and better than the most expertly planned trip. Btw, Duncan is about the coolest pet I’ve ever heard of, I’m not a fan of cats and dogs but that Hermit Crab sounds perfect, low maintenance and if your story is any indication, full personality!

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    • Karina, thanks so much!! The verdict, for me, is still out on “to plan” or “not to plan.” I see people planning and doing just fine. I just don’t do things that way. So hopefully, travel works out, and good things happen. Like Duncan! And yeah, he is a cool pet…with personality and a huge dollop of tenacity and resilience.

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  21. That story was a pure pleasure to read. I agree with bethbyrnes up there about the consciousness of animals…you have described the many “moods” of a hermit crab! HA!! If I read into this story correctly, Duncan is a comfort for you to have around, and while Duncan may be fighting to get out of the window, you are a comfort to him as well. Now, about the sand…the sand that comes from rivers and streams can be made up of quartz that is broken up over looonnngg periods of time, this sand is mostly continental and of course can be moved by ocean currents as waves comes up on the beach. However, a lot of sand that surrounds islands such as Hawaii is calcium carbonate…which comes from shells and the skeletons of marine organisms such as coral that are in the ocean and break up over time…There are also black and green sand beaches on the big island that comes from the breakdown of volcanic glass… sand in deserts I have no idea!

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    • keli…thanks so much! And thanks for the lesson on sand. I guess you really can’t trust everything you read in books, even from people like Annie Dillard! It did seem a little off center that all sand came from streams! Are you a geologist?

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      • no, I’m a wildlife biologist, but I did some beach surveys (why they were disappearing, etc.) with a geologist a couple of years ago and learned a lot!! Good to hear from you, was getting a bit worried as with the world events and your travel!!

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          • Yes because it is an atoll surrounded by coral reefs. Besides coral there are small microscopic animals that live in the ocean as well and their calcium carbonate shells make up some of the sand too. The fish(especially parrot fish) that eat coral and yes, poop it out in fine particles, help in the formation of coral sand…there, now it’s official, I have entered into the “poop” conversation!

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          • Well get on with your badfish self! Wish I could join you on that Maldive adventure!! Morning there huh? Just finished an early dinner and getting ready to settle in for the evening here!

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  22. Hey bf! Came back when I had time to read and so glad I did – I did not know u had a pet crab and so the element of surprise was here – and 13 years??? Some crab!
    I also enjoyed the bad hair day in the summary of 2003 – I love when u do this for a year – the details bring me back and ur descriptions are succinct and so good – make that sohar so good – ha

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  23. What a story! Long live Duncan! You really made me laugh with this one, right from the first sentences 🙂 I can totally relate to the lack of planning, and the great thing is about it is that you leave more room for Surprises .. Such as meeting this crabby friend of yours.
    A story I wont read to my kids though .. Far too inspiring!

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    • HA! So not a story for your kids, eh?! Can’t say I blame you. But glad you liked it, and got a laugh out of it. You made my day. And right, lack of planning equals more surprises! I think that’s what some travelers/planners don’t want to deal with!!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Here I am discovering your blog for the first time after you left a comment on mine (thanks!) and I’m in awe, this is an amazing story. I was happily enjoying road tripping with you in an area of the world I don’t know at all and loving your attitude to spontaneity (I used to travel like that pre-children a long time ago!) when the focus changes to Duncan and his life in your apartment! I laughed out loud at his tale!

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    • Phoebe, thanks for visiting and commenting. And glad you got a laugh out of Duncan’s tale and the trip. Duncan is a trip, too. And magical…I’ll tell that story another time, though. But really, magical.

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    • Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. But now you’ve got me wondering just where you thought this story was headed? I would guess you didn’t foresee a bidet in the thing?

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  25. Yeah, I’m back, thinking about Duncan and what you feed him. I thought they were scavengers and ate flesh too, rotting flesh. I know the character is a cephalopod but for some reason, those moments when Duncan avoids you and sits with silent accusing stares I imagine a Dr. Zoidberg voice, “What, couldn’t you cough up a nice piece of haddock ? Ahhh what I couldn’t do with a nice piece of old cod.”

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    • dunelight…you are right, scavengers. And flesh. I am mostly vegetarian, but when I have meat, I offer him some. Sometimes he eats it, sometimes not. Don’t know why that is?? Maybe peanut butter is easier to eat, or tastier??

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  26. Love the humor! It was very impressive. Your planning skills, not so much. I’m just glad that hotel decided to turn up when it did. (By the way, I always keep my hermit crab in the bidet.)

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  27. I love this story, I chuckled all the way through and I can so emphasise with Lisa doing the driving and know that feeling of being in control after 37000 kms around Australia in a small Toyota Hi-ace, affectionately called Matilda, with my navigator firmly ensconced in the passenger seat. I’ve fallen in love with Duncan and can I put my hand up to house sit him next time you go randomly travelling?

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  28. What an awesome story! I was really wondering how the crab photo was related to the story when I read the intro and was definitely surprised. Feel like I can see him on top of those plastic bags looking at you:) How awesome that you know have a hermit crab as a pet!

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    • Inger: That’s interesting. When I put his photo there, I imagined the story about him. But yeah, others when beginning to read might wonder just what’s going on with that photo there! I still laugh when I think of him sitting there on top of that bag in the car, so funny, really!

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  29. What a fantastic travel story filled with humor and adventurous details. And, Duncan is one of many happy outcomes. Thanks for sharing your wit (I really laughed at “Kiss My App”) and priceless stories, Badfish.

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  30. Ya wanna know what I can’t believe? How in the hell could you wait 13 years to post this? I was in Dubai/Abu Dhabi last year. I could have met Duncan. Obviously you have a cruel streak—not towards Duncan, but towards his numerous followers.
    And of course, you’d leave him in a bidet overnight on the way out of Oman. That’s not cruel—just clever.

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  31. I enjoyed this story so much. We visited Oman in 2010 and went to many of the places you mention so it brought back wonderful memories. Then I got to Duncan! I’m very pleased to hear he is alive and well and enjoying the views from the window sill.

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  32. Bwahaha! I really laughed out loud reading your fantastic travel tale. You’re the first person I’ve heard of who has named a Hermit Crab, let alone having one as a pet for 13 years. The photo of Duncan’s indignant expression shows that he’s no ordinary crab. I think you deserve one another and I’m so happy that you’ve only stepped on him twice. You really must be more careful where you walk in your study. I guess he won’t live for ever, and I can just imagine that he’ll get a proper funeral and fitting memorial when he passes on to Hermit Crab Heaven. Thanks for the belly laughs this morning. 😆

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed this trip. And it’s funny because Duncan just tried to climb up the window in the apartment, something he’s never done before. He got a foothold into the rubber seal on the window, I couldn’t pry him off. I can’t quite figure out how all those legs work to create that kind of solid hold on things. He amazes me daily. I don’t think about crab heaven, but I do wonder if I’ll be able to get him through customs when I take him back home with me!!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. I am laughing so hard, typing a comment about this story is getting to be impossible. From the many times he attempts to escape through your window, I am not convinced that Duncan is a happy camper at your place. My guess is, he’s determined to live until the day he can successfully escape. Until then he is sussing out exactly what kind of a prison guard you are. Good luck Duncan.

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