Five years is a fairly long time for any traveller to reach Oman from Germany. But such is the life of an intrepid German traveller who has been on the road since January 2008, and believes it could be another year before he takes a turn back towards his home.
Ralf Kurner has crisscrossed 35 countries and covered around 120,000km in his 25 year old Mercedes-Benz 310 4x4 before reaching Oman and is delighted to be here.
“I had heard so much about the sultanate from fellow travellers and friends. After being in the country for two weeks, I have realised what they meant. The hospitality of its people is amazing and there is so much calm and peace in addition to breathtaking natural beauty,” he said while basking in the sun at the Al Hail beach.
Kurner had always dreamed of taking a long travel break and had initially thought to go overland from Germany to Africa for only a year.
“Once on the road, plans changed and the journey is still on,” he smiled.
Not the one to be bogged by personal challenges, Kurner has been on the arduous journey even though he is dependent on crutches since 2000 when he injured his spine in an accident.
Starting from Germany, Kurner travelled through Europe to Morocco  and has covered almost all of Africa. After travelling across the African west coast, he reached South Africa where he took a break and worked for one and a half years. He left Cape Town in October 2011 to travel through Sudan, Jordan , Saudi Arabia , UAE  and reach Oman.
Kurner said that his wife, who works in the Netherlands, joins him once in a while. She came over to be with him for Christmas and the New Year. Both of them camped along the Batinah coast and hiked in Jebel Shams before reaching Muscat.
“The hike to Jebel Shams through narrow, winding roads was beautiful but the temperature there was freezing. So we straight away headed for the warmth of Muscat,” he said.
A wood engineer by profession, Kurner did the interiors of his truck himself. It was used as a fire engine in Switzerland before he bought it at an auction in 2007. Fitted with all the necessities of a camper, his 1987 truck has served him well.
Showing the interiors of his constant companion for the last five years, Kurner said that it has a fully-equipped kitchen with a gas stove, a fridge, a gas heater and a double bed.
“On its top are two 80W solar panels which provide all the power needed,” he said. Talking of the challenges, he said that while travelling through Africa, there were bureaucratic hurdles, like the one he faced in Congo. “I had already covered Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Congo and needed a visa to enter Angola. I was refused an entry visa and getting it became a nightmare.
“But after a lot persistence, which meant sitting at the embassy for hours daily for about ten days, I finally got a five-day transit visa.” After about a month in Oman, Kurner will take a ferry to Iran from UAE and head towards central Asia. “The budget is limited now, so the plan is to go through Central Asia and then, back to Europe.”
Are you envious of their journey? Would you ever consider taking such a long time away from home?