Geological research (and a vast amount of birding too … ) in the mountains of Oman, sometime around 1976.

Here is our campsite, two tents, the vehicle, and rock – rock everywhere – with the bare mountains all around.  I’m slouching in the shade of the vehicle on a camping stool, with my sweat-soaked hat on my knee after a long day’s work – and the photographer is my colleague Don.

It was extremely interesting exploring the interior of a country which was only just opening up to the outside world.  The interior was wild, I remember many apparently ancient sites lying open on the surface, but the going was tough.  The days were hot, I wore two pairs of socks inside stout boots to keep the heat away from my feet, and the vehicle’s bodywork was burning to the touch. Picking up a rock to examine it often involved juggling it around in the air to cool it down a bit.  There were no tarmac roads, and indeed very few roads of any size at all; we often found ourselves driving across country, or up into the many deep wadis that radiated out from the mountains’ flanks.

The Land Rover was rugged, tough, very basic and an absolutely wonderful vehicle for these conditions.   There is a jerry can visible in the roof rack: we carried most of our water and spare petrol up there above our heads – which in the case of the petrol was distinctly unnerving, but luckily we never turned the vehicle over.   The water was solely for cooking and drinking, washing being a luxury that had to wait until we got back to our base at Sohar, on the Batinah coast.

The terrain was mentally as well as physically taxing, since nearly the whole landscape was in shades or brown or maroon, so much so that the rare patches of greenery, near water, were often quite shocking, even strident, to the eye.  Flying home, the endless greens of England were a definite shock too.

Before going to Arabia, we had been trained to give and receive intravenous injections of serum that would counteract snake bites and scorpion stings.  I can’t recall seeing any snakes, but scorpions were common under stones, especially near water.  During our training, the sight of the large, intravenous needle, and then having to stick it either into myself or someone else, to extract a little blood from the vein before injecting the serum, always made me pass out.  I would feel my head getting tighter, and then wake up lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of laughing faces looking down at me.

And so the scenario was all too predictable – Don would be stung or bitten, and collapsed, flat out on the desert floor.  I would rush up with the large needle, push it in – and then there would be two of us flat out on the desert floor …  We were very careful, and this scenario never unfolded – the worst sting I had was from a hornet that landed on my neck.

The Looking at Cars series: looking back through the nine years of the FATman Photos archives (and some new images too), I’m posting pictures of cars in various contexts and styles.  Earlier Looking at Cars posts are here: 1 (with context); 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 .  Each post will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

Technique: Don took this, and looking at it I would guess he used his Olympus OM-1 with a 135mm Zuiko telephoto.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer - using mono, colour and combinations of the two - many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous, trying new ideas, working in multiple genres. And I've a weakness for Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Helen Cherry says:

    I absolutely love your Africa stories


  2. Love all these stories, Adrian. I imagine that over the course of history (and prehistory) a lot of things wouldn’t have gotten done but for the young people who up for it and just did it. Thanks for your part.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bluebrightly says:

    What wonderful memories, heat and all, and the photo really helps to tell the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Meanderer says:

    Yes – the landy; wonderful! My OH has craved one of those for years – much to my horror originally (I used to describe them as rusty crates – probably because of the awful examples pointed out to me) but they have grown on me!

    A really interesting image and accompanying description of your experience there. I have the same aversion to needles and am dreading the thought of the coronavirus vaccine, ha ha.

    In profile and posture, you remind me of the actor Richard Dreyfuss of ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘Jaws’ fame in one of his pensive moods! Great stuff, my friend 🙂


  5. I’ll definitely visit this blog again, thank you 🙂


  6. I adore these stories. As scary as it all was, I would have love to experience it. Were there any women that did similar adventures? I would not have done well with those needles either though. You friend captured the mood beautifully.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I don’t think it was scary at the time. We were young men used to geological work in rugged, wild areas and we just got on with it without contemplating many, if any, of the risks. Also, and I know this may sound strange, we were all birders and that diverted us; and we were all keen photographers too, another diversion – and I can remember our first OMG!!! reaction to some kind of larger arachnid / spider in our house – but as soon as I said “Let’s try to photograph it!” the mood changed completely and it became an object of curiosity and a challenge rather than a threat.

      Back in those days there were few women in geology overall, and none on this Oman project. We were often working alone, out of contact with one another, and a lone Western woman in those wilds might have been unsafe. A few years later, in Kenya, I can remember the murder while on safari of a lone woman: there was a cover up, her death was blamed on wild animals but, well, no more detail, but she was definitely murdered. The problem was, and still is, that many wild areas are just that, wild, and different norms can apply – with solitary males just as much at risk as solitary females.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. krikitarts says:

    It’s a bit hard to imagine scorpions being likely neighbors. I found one in Texas a long time ago by turning rocks over, but that’s the only one I’ve seen in the wild. Did one antivenom serum cover all or most likely scorpion species?


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Well, my friend, there were no helpful details like that, nor were we given any radios in case of emergencies. We were young and up for it and we just did it, but when I look back on it now, the risks involved, I shudder – we got through just by luck really.

      But Oman is of course a Muslim country, and we never had the slightest problems with security or theft. In fact quite the opposite. In harsh environments like that, everyone looks out for everyone else. I recall forgetting to bring matches to light our petrol stove – but a spark from the Rover’s battery set the stove alight and we did our cooking. We met another vehicle and paid them far over the top for matches >>> days later we met the same vehicle again, and they’d spent the money on more matches and were hoping to see us again so they could hand them over!

      Liked by 1 person

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