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21 to 22 May: Leaving Dubai and arriving in NZ

The pick up from the hotel to the airport arrived on time and there was hardly any traffic so we got to the airport with plenty of time.

Unfortunately we struck a very unpleasant lady at check in. First she told us the bike boxes were over size and they couldn’t go on the plane! We tried to tell her they had come on Emirates from South Africa to here, but she wasn’t interested.

Finally she got her supervisor to come over, he was like “What’s the problem, they are fine”. Then despite me requesting at the start that she deal with our bookings separately, as I was going to NZ and Brett was stopping in Sydney, she ignored me and luckily we picked up that she had checked my bike to Sydney and Brett’s to NZ.

Then despite it being on the booking she refused to allow Brett his extra 12 kilos luggage allowance that he gets through being silver status with Qantas, which is a partner airline. So Brett had to pay for 12 kilos of excess baggage.

Lastly, despite asking for an aisle seat on the Sydney to Wellington flight, she allocated me a middle seat at the very back of the plane where the seats don’t recline. Thankfully the plane on that leg was not full so I was able to move to an aisle seat, and I had already booked and paid for an aisle seat on the Dubai to Sydney leg.

Usual horrors of long haul flying that seems endless, and instantly forgotten the moment you get off a plane.

As always the sadness of another holiday being over is mitigated by the joy of seeing family and friends.

Thanks to Rachel and Nic for the travel booking and the invaluable advice on the best place for a safari and other tips of where to visit.

Thanks to Ollie the bike mechanic for getting my bike into shape (and thanks in advance for the work now required).

Thanks for the comments on the blog and other messages of encouragement.

And last but not least, to my ever patient daughter and blog editor Kelly.

Until the next time.

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25 April: Rest day 1 in Windhoek

I enjoyed not having to get up at 5:30 am, and was also great to have a leisurely breakfast. There was a nice selection of cereals and yoghurt, plus whole grain bread to toast, and marmalade and butter. Plus, you could order a dish off the hot menu. I ordered crumpets with jam but these turned out to be pancakes with jam and covered in melting cream.  Not quite what I was expecting.

I wanted to get a SIM card for the phone but first I had to go back to urban retreat camp to get my passport, as every SIM card I have needed to show identification. The camp site is very hot and all the tents are jammed together and I am very pleased not to be staying there.

I went off to mall, it was very flash with good quality shops, certainly the flashest I have seen since I arrived in Africa.  I found the SIM card store, and got glasses, then went to the chemist to get sunscreen etc. I then went into a gift store to look for a birthday card for Fritz, and while I was there looked at some reading glasses as I am getting low.

We looked around a few more stores and went into a supermarket to get a few supplies. Then it was time for lunch.

I found to my horror, when sitting down at lunch, that I had taken a pair of glasses from the shop without paying for them, plus left a pair of mine in the glasses rack! After lunch, which was pasta with Tomato sauce and chilli, I went back to make the exchange. It turned out I didn’t have to tell the shop people what I had done, I just walked into the shop, took mine back out of the rack and then lined up and bought the pair I had accidentally shoplifted.

Then back to the hotel to catch up with emails and the blog etc.

For dinner we were going to go to the steak bar on site but it was full, so we ended up going to the rooftop bar and had an amazing meal. The menu up there is Tapas. We had fried and stuffed Jalapeños, a really nice  mushroom and truffle risotto, and really nice salad. Brett had pork belly which he enjoyed, and we shared a very nice bottle of Syrah and a yummy Crème brûlée with a shortbread biscuit. I was very full after the meal.  Yay another rest day tomorrow.

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Windhoek hotel bell tower

 

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Tour d’Afrique: Elephant Highway

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Victoria Falls marks the beginning of “The Elephant Highway,” perhaps the most popular section of the tour, and the first half of the classic Victoria Falls to Cape Town cycling route. After a quick spin to Kazungula, you cross the Zambezi River by ferry and enter the country of Botswana, whose mineral resources and democratic government have made it one of Africa’s biggest success stories. At our 1st campsite in Kasane, the Chobe River boat cruise – where you slowly coast up and down stream past herds of elephant, crocodiles, hippos and lots of other wildlife – is a must-do.

The next week features the longest and flattest cycling days on the tour including six centuries (100 miles) in seven days of riding. Fortunately, you will also be riding through one of the most impressive wildlife habitats on the planet. Botswana is home to some 110,000 elephants that roam through the Kalahari and Chobe National Parks. Don’t be surprised if you have to stop on a highway to allow a family of elephants or a solitary male Bull Elephant to cross at a safe distance!

After camping near the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve you arrive at northern Botswana’s largest town, Maun, for a rest day when you can take a dugout canoe or a small plane ride into the Okavango, the world’s largest inland river delta. The cycling then continues along the Trans-Kalahari Highway, including “the Longest day” at 208 km, towards the border of Namibia, a country whose stunning arid landscapes are one of the world’s best kept secrets.

This section ends in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, a modern, cosmopolitan city that lies in the middle of the country. Here riders can enjoy fabulous beer, great restaurants, a blend of southern African and German cultures, and some amazing shopping.

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16 March: Rest day three in Arusha

I made the most of the last day of rest before the next stage, which is a 7 day stretch of 932 km riding, lots of climbing, and there are going to be some rocky and gravely roads.

Relaxed morning, after breakfast we went into town to get some more insect spray, sunscreen, and money. I am having to apply insect repellent all over to avoid being bitten. Any spot I have missed has a bite mark. Brett has yet to be bitten.

As soon as we hit the town we were once again joined by touts. We went to the pharmacy to get sunscreen – the best option was 20 SPF but better than nothing. I got two tins of insect repellent. Then back to the hotel – success no bracelets or paintings purchased.

At the hotel we got our bags sorted into daily and permanent. The permanent we only get on rest days. Daily bag is very full, not much in the permanent apart from refills of medication.

After packing, I had a nice swim in the pool, followed by a beef wrap for lunch.
Then back to the Masai camp in the late afternoon to set up the tents and get ready to ride tomorrow.

We were booked into the hotel tonight but with the logistics of getting to camp by 5:30 am tomorrow, and relying on transport turning up we thought it would be easiest to get back to camp tonight.

We packed up and caught a taxi back and arrived back at the Masai camp around 4:30 so had plenty of time to put up our tents and get ready for the next day.

After setting up the tents and sorting out the gear for the next day we went over to the camp restaurant and joined Shirley and Dan for a beer. They advised us to order dinner right away if we wanted it before 7pm, and only to order stuff cooked on site. Apparently the pizza is made at the lodge up the road and Dan ordered one at 4pm the day he arrived and went to bed without it having arrived at 7:30.

So we ordered chapatti and vegetarian spaghetti, thinking that shouldn’t take too long. They wouldn’t let you pay when you ordered and didn’t give you a number or anything. We ordered at 5pm, our order arrived at 6:45 and our table got the 2nd lot of food out of the kitchen. I have no idea what they were doing. as they appeared to be working all the time. It certainly wasn’t chopping up vegetables. The spaghetti was boiled spaghetti pasta, no seasoning, and apart from two scraps of carrot there were no vegetables. The chapatti arrived a few minutes later.

A couple of riders at the table went up to pay and left. We stayed on chatting to Shirley and Dan for a while about their safari to the crater. They saw lots of animals and enjoyed it. Then the bill for the whole table arrived, including those who had paid. We paid ours and refused each time we were asked to pay for the riders who had left and already paid.

When we got to camp I hadn’t noticed that one of the big trucks wasn’t TDA, it was Overland Safari tours. Well the Overland tour group were up partying loudly in the restaurant, with accompanying loud music and laughter until after 2 am. They then spent the next 30 minutes staggering drunkenly past our tents, discussing how we were biking, which seemed to them to be terribly amusing and accompanied by much laughter. To add to the background were motorbikes in a seeming constant stream going past.

I had bought Bose series 35 sound cancelling head phones which were about $500, but I didn’t test them stupidly before leaving home, and they are reducing not cancelling, so you can still hear the music through them. My iPod is not working – I have got it plugged into the recharging cell and nothing is happening.

It’s really hot and sticky, and whilst tossing and turning I am trying not to stress about the 170 km ride with lots of climbing with a 5:30 am start.

 

 

 

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10 March: back to Nairobi, and site seeing

Sadly, we are leaving today. I would love to come back again, especially during the Wildebeest migration which takes place between July and November each year. 1.5 million Wildebeest, along with half that number of Zebra and Gazelle, come from Tanzania Serengeti National Park to the fresh grasslands of the Kenya Maasai Mara Reserve. The zebra and the gazelle come first to trim the grass to half height and the wildebeest come next and turn the areas they pass into stubble.

Ok ignore that previous comment, having spoken to Denise one of the other guides I would not like to come back and watch the migration. Whilst it would be great to watch the herds I would not like watching the killing frenzy that accompanies it. Crocodiles snatch the zebras and wildebeest as they cross the rivers and the big cats peel off the young, sick and weak. I am aware that this keeps the herds strong but don’t want to see it.

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Last breakfast @ Karen Blixen Camp

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Hippo with young one opposite camp

We left the camp at 11 and headed to the airstrip. Along the way we saw giraffe, gazelle, tobi and zebra. The plane is an 8 seater and full but despite the warning that it may be a bumpy ride it was fine and we arrived back in Nairobi on schedule. To get your luggage you were directed to the outside of the airport where you sat on a bench and waited under the watchful eye of a security guard.

Walter from Albatross tours arrived to pick us up along with Rafael. Walter is not going on the day site seeing trip so we set off with Rafael.

The first stop was the Karen Blixen Coffee garden which I was expecting to be like a cafe but was actually a pretty upmarket restaurant. As it was Sunday there were lots of families enjoying the sunshine.

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Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens

We had a very nice relaxed lunch and then we headed off to the Karen Blixen Museum. This is the second house that Karen lived in when she was in Africa from 1917 to 1931. After Karen left Africa, having become bankrupt, she never returned. Karen’s legacy lives on with a number of schools and trusts named after her.

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Karen Blixen home and museum

One of Karen’s major achievements was her care of the Maasai who she assisted with medical care and before she left Kenya she had secured a tract of land for them to live on. In the house there are a number of articles used in the film “Out of Africa” such as clothing and furnishings.

After this we headed to the Giraffe Centre founded by Betty and Jock Melvin in 1979, the visitor center opened in 1983. The Giraffe Center breeds Rothschild giraffes to release into the wild as breeding pairs. The Rothschild giraffe is endangered and when the program started there were just over 100 left, now there are over 600.

The giraffe as an adult male can weigh up to 1.5 tonne. They ward off predators by kicking and running but are vulnerable to attack when drinking as they have to splay their front legs to drink. They can see for approx. 2 kilometres so usually can check that the area is predator free before drinking. Warthog tend to live in proximity of giraffe as they have poor eye sight and use the tracks that giraffes create for getting around. Warthogs have a brain the size of a walnut and a memory span of 45 seconds!

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After this we went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is an orphan elephant and rhino center. So far 244 orphan elephants have been rescued. The center was started by Daphne Sheldrick in the memory of her husband David and all the work they had done to save wildlife.

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The aim is to reintroduce the elephants into the wild, which starts from about 4 years old and can take up to 5 years. An elephant has to makes friends in a herd before they will be accepted into the herd and this can take years.

Baby elephants until the age of 3 need to be fed milk every 3 hours. They spend from 6am until 5pm in the Nairobi National Park. They come back for a rest mid-day before going back out again. At 5pm they come in and go into their individual stalls for the night.

In each stall, a handler sleeps with them to feed them during the night and keep them company as elephants are very social animals. A significant amount of the funding comes from elephant adoption where you pay a few to adopt an elephant each year. You get a monthly update on the progress.

We adopted Larro who was found in January 2019 separated from her herd. To see more about baby Larro, including a video about her rescue, click here.

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Baby Larro

At the center are also two rhinos – Max who 13 and blind so will not be able to be re-introduced to the wild, and Maarifa who is 4 months old. Maarifa was stuck in mud and her mother had been trying for hours to get her out. Unfortunately, when she was rescued by locals the mother then refused to have anything to do with her.

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Rhino baby Maarifa

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Max the blind rhino

As well as looking after orphans, the center has
1. anti-pocket planes* and helicopters keeping an eye on the animals (*Editor’s note: I am assuming Kaye means anti-poaching planes?)
2. Tracker dogs that can sniff out wild animal meats, horns and products leading to arrest
3. A water program to assist wildlife in drought affected areas, they have boreholes plus temp emergency water supplies.

I really enjoyed seeing the 30 elephants ranging from 11 months to 4 returning from the reserve in the evening.

One last stop at the supermarket for supplies for the ride before returning to the Wildebeest Eco Camp. The supermarket was comparable with the supermarkets at home in size and range of products.

Once back at the camp we got our bikes and bags out of storage and took them to the room then went and caught up with Shirley and Dan. I have done 2 previous rides with Shirley and Dan: the 2015 South America ride and the 2018 Pub Ride. Great to see them again. Shirley and Dan started 2 months ago in Cairo.

We also met some of the TDA staff and fellow riders. There are 43 riders including the 6 of us joining here. The tour leader, two assistant tour leaders, chef, lunch truck preparer and driver and medic Jan from Scotland, mechanic, two drivers ,communications/ photographer.

We had dinner at camp which was a Kenyan meal with salad, beef stew, baked potato and fresh fruit salad.

Having been riding for two months already the other riders all look very fit!

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Johnathon our safari driver and guide

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Rubin our waiter/barman

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8 March: second day on Safari

Today we have two Safari. The first we are leaving at 630am. We get a wakeup call at 6am, which as there are no phones in the room consists of a knock on the door and tea on a tray.

We head off – the first animal is the same lone bull elephant devouring another tree. Then the zebra, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles, and Topi.IMG_7343
This morning we also see 4 lions in the distance. First it was one peering out of the bush then walking into the clearing, then followed by another three. Then we drove to where a young male and female were sleeping in the sun a metre from our car, completely unperturbed by our presence.IMG_7376
We sat by a hyena den for about 20 minutes first watching the adults then after a few minutes, babies came tumbling out of the den. They were very curious and came very close to the car, sniffing the air around us. The adults paid us no attention at all. The hyenas live in packs headed by a dominant female, unlike most other packs or herds that have a dominant male heading the group.IMG_7356IMG_7361On the way back to camp we saw some mongoose and another family of baboons.

At camp I was amazed how much the river level had risen over night because of the rain.IMG_7383

For breakfast I had yoghurt and fruit plus eggs, tomatoes and a sausage, then had nothing to do until lunch. I had a nap and caught up with messages from family and friends. Lunch was three courses again – soup, chicken or stir-fry beef followed by dessert. I had chicken accompanied by white wine.

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Hippo and crocodile on the other side of river from our camp

After lunch I had a massage booked to hopefully help my very sore neck. What a work out, with over an hour of being pummeled and kneaded.

Then off again on safari. Once again we saw all the animals we had seen already, checked in on the lion couple they were still asleep with another male lying close by.

Jonathan told us that lions can sleep up to 21 hours a day. Lions live in packs headed by a dominant male. When the other males are about 2-3years old they have to leave the pack unless they are litter brothers. Litter brothers will live together happily throughout their life. Having two or more litter brothers as head of a pack means they are unlikely to be challenged for dominance by another male.IMG_7408

IMG_7411We saw the huge herd of buffalo again; Buffalo will kill lion cubs if they get the chance, to ensure they don’t get the chance to grow up to hunt them. They don’t kill hyena, leopard or cheetah babies. When lions, leopard, hyena or cheetah try to hunt an animal in the herd the buffalo group together and rush the animal to drive it away.

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Buffalo and zebra

We saw a huge group of baboons, about 70 at least in the trees and on the ground with lots of little ones riding on the mother’s backs.

We stopped at sunset up on a ridge watching the sunset with a nice cold glass of rose that had been provided in a chilli bin for the occasion.

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Sunset drinks. Evening thunderstorm getting close

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With guides Johnathon and Wilson

IMG_7428Once again rain is threatening with thunder and lightning so we head back to camp. Tonight we get there just before the rain starts and managed a quick shower before dinner.

Once again a nice warm fire were we sat and had a gin and tonic followed by a Kenyan meal. A very nice combination of chicken and vegetables and beef stew that had was spicy, with oven warm rolls and butter with a nice glass of red, yum. Once again Reuben was our waiter.

Back to the tent with rolled back covers and hot water bottles waiting. I could get used to this. Perhaps I should add having hot water bottles put into our sleeping bags into the next TDA feedback survey.

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Early morning safari drive

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Karen Blixen Camp

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Our tent at Karen Blixen Camp

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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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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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