Monthly Archives: March 2019

5 March: second day in Dubai – missed photos

Editor: I literally have about 150 emails from Mum and Brett at the moment, so trying to match up all the photos to the right blog is a mammoth task. I somehow missed these from the Dubai one before I hit Publish, so figured it’s easier to just chuck them in here by themselves.

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Dubai: City greenery

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Old town along the Creek. Towers for creating cooling drafts inside the homes.

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Loading trading dhows, which trade as far as India

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Capt. Kaye

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5 March: second day in Dubai – Part II

After spending the morning exploring Dubai, we went back to our hotel lobby to be picked up for an overnight tour to the desert

Azeeze from the Arabian Adventures Tour company arrived to pick us up. We are staying at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. This reserve started in 2000 to turn barren desert into a reserve with the dual purpose of
1. Reintroducing endangered species and disappearing desert habitats
2. Supporting Dubai tourism

A large area was fenced off and a number of laws changed to ensure the reserve would be protected. 70 descendants of Arabian Oryx were flown from America and let loose in the reserve. Plants were planted and all linked into the irrigation system. A number of bush areas for animal shelters were established.

The reserve now has numerous Oryx called Oryx Leucoryx, plus Arabian Gazelle and Lizards such as the Spiny Tailed Lizard. The animals are protected – any poachers face the death penalty. If you run over an animal and you are not an Emirati citizen, you are instantly deported.

As well as this there are a number of birds including an Arabian buzzard. The animals are all fed three times a day, and are happy to let you come right up to them in the car.

We are staying overnight but you can also have a tour to go sandboarding, or to watch the sunset, or have a sunset dinner in the desert. Once we got to the reserve we had about 45 min of 4 wheel driving over the dunes which I didn’t enjoy as I get quite bad motion sickness. Thankfully I didn’t need to use one of the vomit bags in the seats.

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Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve for Overnight Desert Safari

After the four wheel drive we had a sunset camel ride which was fun but getting on, and up, and then balancing while the camel sat back down was a bit scary.IMG_7199.jpgIMG_7195The riding was ok once you got the hang of it. About 20 min into the ride a funny looking bird (which I found out later was a buzzard) came racing across the sand and stayed with us all the way into camp. Apparently he does this every night and stays around until the tour leaves the next day. IMG_7221.jpg
The camp was beautifully set out, lovely raked sand and very nice individual tents, with a fire pit surrounded by cushions, an open eating area and open lounge.

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Desert overnight camp

The only drawback is there isn’t an en-suite in the tents. The showers are in a hut with cold water, and a shared shower space which certainly won’t be used by me.

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Overnight tent

There are 15 guests altogether, the other 13 are all from a cruise ship called the Constellation, but none of the couples knew each other before tonight. A pretty good bunch of people and everyone ended up talking to each other before too long about places they had been or were planning to go.

The dinner was served after dark and the only drawback was you couldn’t see what you were eating as the light was quite dim. There was plenty of food – beef and chicken kebab, grilled fish, salad, and humus etc.

After dinner everyone sat round the fire chatting and one of the other guides bought out two hookah (galyan) pipes with flavoured tobacco. He was really disappointed that no one was willing to give it go, so me and one of the other women said we would. The taste was strawberry and was fine so long as you just took it into your mouth.

 

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On the hookah pipe

After another hour or so it was time for bed. Fingers crossed I don’t have to get up more than once.

Strange to think by the time I go to sleep tomorrow night I will be in Nairobi Kenya.

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Bustard doesn’t mind the Persian Rug

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Out in the desert

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5 March: second day in Dubai, part 1

After 10 hours sleep I am feeling a lot better and ready to continue exploring Dubai. After breakfast, we headed back up to the big bus stop to finish the red route. Once again we went past all the malls and skyscrapers, then into the older part of Dubai. This is where you find the gold, spice, and fabric markets, plus the museum.

Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which was formed on 2 Dec 1971, and consists of Abu Dhabi (the capital and cultural center), Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. Ras Al Khaimah joined 10th of Feb 1972.

Each Emirate has a separate ruler and together form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the Emirates rulers is the president. The elections are every 5 years and there is no limit on the amount of terms a president can serve. There are 9.2 million people in UAE, of which 7.8 million are expatriates.

Even if you are born in UAE and work there all your life you are not entitled to permanent residency and have to leave there within one month of turning 60. You also have no entitlement to a pension. If you do not leave within a month you get fines which get increasingly expensive.
If you own property you have right of residency of 99 years but you have to be able to support yourself.

Dubai is not as oil rich as some of the other Emirates and has worked hard to reduce its dependency on oil. Oil now only makes up 7% of the GNP.

The Emirate citizens are nearly all Muslim, and you hear the call to prayer 5 times a day. The % is 85% Sunni, 15% Shia and a small number of Shias and Ahmad. Religious tolerance is practiced and there is no friction. Both men and woman go to the Mosques to pray, but there are separate sections for men and woman.  On the street you see a number of men in white robes called throne and woman in black called abaya and covered heads is hijab. Everyone here speaks English so it is really easy to get around.

We got off the big bus at the stop where we had the Dhow ride. Was great going for an hours ride up the creek and back. We could see our hotel from the Dhow, plus a number of other Dhow, water taxi and some huge super yacht. One of the super yacht was made entirely from wood which was highly polished and must take a huge amount of up keep.

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Dhow boat ride

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Our hotel Radisson Blu

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Timber mega yacht

After the Dhow ride we walked along the creek front, back to the hotel. We past a number of Dhow being loaded up with goods to go to India and Pakistan. There were huge mounds of goods ranging from fridges, air conditioning units, to fabric. There are no cranes – all the goods are loaded by hand.

When we got back to the hotel we packed and got ready to be picked up for our overnight tour to the desert. We had lunch at the hotel pub, decided to try the burger and beer. Burger was ok beer choice was limited and I ended up with Heineken beer. How tastes change – I used to like Heineken beer.

Then to the hotel lobby to await the pickup (to be continued).

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Dubai Marina area

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Marina district

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Jaw dropping use of glass on the high rise facades

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Water taxi for crossing the Creek

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Millionaire’s boats

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4 March: First day in Dubai

The flight to Dubai was long but uneventful. I had paid extra to have a seat in the emergency aisle which was well worth the price, having that extra bit of leg room made a big difference. I even managed to doze on and off for a few hours – only about 10 minutes each time but a big improvement on other trips. I had a small child about 1 in the row next to me who didn’t cry the entire trip. He spent most of the time sleeping or smiling, and waving to anyone he could get to interact with him.

We arrived in Dubai at 530:am and were met by a rep from the Arabian Nights tour company. Once we got through customs we put our bike boxes in storage for two days and were then dropped off at our hotel. We are getting picked up tomorrow by the company to head off for the overnight stay in the desert. The temp is around 28 degrees, so not too hot but hotter than what I am used to. In summer the temp gets up to 50 plus degrees. Thankfully not now.

We are staying at the Raddison Blue hotel which is central and has a view of the creek with all the Dhow boats going up and down. Although it’s called a creek it’s actually wide and fast flowing, more like what I would call a river.

We decided to have a 2 hour quick nap and then head out to see the city.

We got tickets at the hotel for the big bus tour, which is a hop on hop off bus that gives access to 3 bus routes, a Dhow creek cruise, and a harbour cruise (unfortunately we didn’t have time for this one). The red route takes you around the city, the green route to the beach, and the blue route to the palms area (a new man made area with reclaimed land, shaped like a palm with all the building on each frond having beach front access). All three bus routes intersect with each other.

The big bus stop was a couple of blocks up from the hotel and the buses come past approx. every 20 minutes. We didn’t have to wait long.

Dubai is full of huge skyscrapers, amazing architecture, wide roads, and large shopping malls. Plus, Palm trees all over the place which I discovered later are not native, and the roads were surrounded by beautiful garden strips – each plant is hooked up to the irrigation system as there is no much rain here. The water supply is desalinated sea water.

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Most of the red route bus stops on the first half are at shopping malls. The malls are huge! One mall has an aquarium, another a zoo, and another a ski field complete with ski slopes and chair lifts and penguins. They all seem to have cinemas – one has 24 different screens. There are about 700 shops. Currently another mall is in progress which is going to be 7km long and is going to have over 1000 shops!

We stopped at the Emirates mall which has the ski field and had a look at this from the outside. We also went into the food hall, it was enormous. Every kind of take away you could imagine.

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We then swapped onto the green route and went out to the beach area. The beach was beautiful and white, and even though it was very windy lots of people were walking or swimming, but not many just sitting. There are some very opulent hotels, one has its own man made coral reef, and at another you can catch a submarine to get into the hotel’s underwater restaurant.

There was one mall that was Egyptian themed and had Egyptian statues outside. I didn’t go inside but I imagine the theme continued. Shopping and malls are not my idea of fun so sorry not much more detail to add about what type of shops etc.

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The green route also took us out past the marina area which 10 years ago was barren desert, now it has clusters of skyscrapers, a number of which are apartment buildings, restaurants, shops, and of course a large mall, plus a huge outlet mall.

There is construction everywhere you look but there is also great infrastructure with wide roads, over bridges, mono rail stations and buses.

We got off the green route and hopped onto the blue route which took us out to the Palms area. The houses are all along the fronds of the palm with beach front. Depending on which frond you are on depends how expensive your area is. Some of the houses are palatial, others are apartment blocks. There is an area of shops and restaurants plus of course a huge mall which boasts the usual hundreds of shops and cinemas, but also has a replica of the lost city of Atlantis. On the way back home I am stopping over here and staying in the Palms so will be interested to come and see this.

General observations of Dubai is that it is very wealthy, very clean, and beautifully laid out. There are no beggars and no graffiti and almost zero crime rate. There is zero unemployment and the workers’ pay no tax apart from a vat (5%) gst tax introduced in 2018. Petrol costs the equivalent of 30 cents a litre. There is no gambling and as the country is mainly Muslim there not much drinking. There are hotels that sell no alcohol at all. The hotels and restaurants that cater to the tourist trade sell alcohol. If you are a resident and you want to drink you have to have an alcohol license that you need to have renewed every year. If you are caught drink driving you go to jail and pay a hefty fine. If you are not a citizen (Arabic or have permanent residency) then you are also deported.

We got back onto the green line to take us back to the mall which you have to go through to get to the world’s tallest building the Berj Khalifa. There is a building under construction already in Dubai that is going to be bigger.

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The Berj Khalifa has 168 stories and as well as being the tallest, it is also the tallest free standing structure. We had got tickets to go up to the 148 floor viewing platform at 6pm to watch the sun set. This is the highest viewing platform. The lift up takes 75 seconds! to the 125 floor, where you have to change lifts to go up to 148.

We watched the sun set and then watched the lights coming on below and then went back down.

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We only had to go through two gift shop corridors on the way out!  We should have stopped to see the spectacular outside fountain at the mall but tiredness had set in time and it was time to get back to the hotel.

The big bus had stopped running so we went to get a taxi. We found out that you can’t just go out to where the taxis are outside the mall, you have to go through the mall to the waiting place where you queue. Thankfully it wasn’t busy, however the traffic was and it took a while to get back to the hotel.

The hotel has a number of restaurants so we decided to try the Persian one. I had fish stew which was very bland and Brett had lamb ribs which were quite nice. This was accompanied by a huge plate of salad to share, topped by a mound of fresh mint. The salad consisted of lots of chopped lettuce and 2 pieces of tomato.

We were going to get a bottle of wine but the wine here is very expensive. There was a bottle of Villa Maria on the menu which would cost at most $23 in NZ, but would have cost NZ equivalent $160 here. We had beer instead. Have to say I am not a fan of the beer here; it is fizzy but pretty tasteless – clearly I have been spoilt by all the NZ craft beer.

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School buses

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Main street downtown

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Dubai streetscape

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Dubai highrise

Categories: Tour d'Afrique | 9 Comments

From Wellington to Dubai

So off again, this time riding from Kenya to Cape Town.

Very crazy last week at work, I was at work way too many hours and still didn’t manage to get everything I wanted done. Sorry Belinda and Jane who now have to pick it up.

Thankfully I had taken the Friday off to get organised. A nice change not flying the next day (or as with the last trip, working until mid-afternoon). Thanks to Delwyn for taking over the on-call from Friday. Hopefully the strike action that has consumed the past few months will settle down and will be just a memory when I return.

Once again I have not trained enough, and weigh too much, so will suffer the first few weeks  😬 but nothing new in this space. (Editor’s addition: Though this time Kaye is joining a group part way through, so everyone will have been riding since January 17th).

Nasty shock at the airport with excess baggage and savage charging, but I can say hand on heart I have not packed a single thing that I won’t need.

Flight from Wellington to Sydney was uneventful, but I lost a container of cream and masking tape at the Sydney security check. Even though my container was 100ml, it was confiscated because it didn’t say what it was (watch out for those travel packs you see in the chemist). Plus the masking tape, even though it is not on the list of things you can’t take in your carry on – apparently you may use it to tie up cabin crew, as opposed to the numerous iPhone and iPad cables! Hopefully they won’t open the bike box in Dubai.

I am now waiting to board the horrid 15 hour flight get to Dubai. Thankfully this time I am stopping over for 2 days. Get to Dubai at 5 am and then picked up the following day at 4 pm for a night in the desert.
⛺️ 🐪

Dubai has the tallest building in the world, plus a mall that is huge and boasts a sky field.

 

 

 

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The Tour d’Afrique

TOur D Afrique

Kaye will be joining this tour part way through, in Kenya on the 12th of March, and cycling to the end in South Africa on the 12th of May.

This is the ride that started it all, when Kaye read an article in the Saturday newspaper about a kiwi guy who had done the African ride. She originally wanted to do it too but her kids talked her out of it – to be fair, Mum had done hardly any travelling at that point, and if you read some of her original blogs about her travel to/around Russia, you can see why we were worried about her jetting off to Africa on her own! Instead, Kaye did the Trans-Europa one in 2012.

Finally, after 8 years, we feel she’s well traveled enough to let her go to Africa – at least she’s only doing part of it, and avoiding some of the more dangerous parts of the north.

You can read more about the trip here – it’s pretty different to Kaye’s last trip, this time they’ll be sleeping in tents 97% of the time!

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