Er we’ve now left Iran and arrived in a new dimension of time and space. Well that’s what it feels like. If Star Trek’s “Enterprise” had landed in Dubai Spock’s eyebrows would have gone into apoplexy. Having spent nearly 2 months sleeping on the floors of farm houses, camping in the desert and pulling the doorknobs off crumbly hotels we now find ourselves in the lofty heights of skyscrapers with talking lifts. You can a find a diamond studded gold rolex here but most of the taxi drivers don’t seem to know the way round the next corner, most of them having arrived about five minutes ago looking for top dollar. Where as the restaurants in Iran had two items on the menu -kebabs and rice, on our first night in the Emirates we went to a restaurant that had 132 different dishes, half of them vegetarian. Jen, who’s been doggedly veggie despite no carrots in sight for 3 months, almost ate the menu she was so excited.
To be honest it’s been a bit overwhelming and we have been so lucky to find a sterling host in Rachel, a friend of a friend, who has been putting us up in her appartment in nearby Sharjah.
Without Rachel’s welcoming hospitality and homecooked dinners we’d have been entirely alienated by the garguantuan cityscape and wayward taxidrivers. Full marks to Rachel! (And also to Marianne and Alistair who have let us use their Dubai pad in the city over new year. Look at us we’re like jetsetters, well on bikes, but anyway…) We also got to buy a beer for the legendary “Team South” , Freddie and Guy, who have been cycling about two weeks ahead of us for the past two months, and giving us top tips for the road by email. They saved us a lot of wrong turns and made it all seem doable.
So how did we get here? Well right now it feels we were teleported but if we cast our minds back it was another week of riding south from Shiraz in Iran to the Southern port of Bandar Abbas. We were determined to cover the remaining 690 km in 6 days to make the ferry departure to the United Arab Emirates and really pushed the old legs to do 115 km a day. The landscape and people became more “Arabic” in flavour, with more desert oasis, date palms and women with colourful cloaks and headdresses. We camped in a pomegranate orchard and stayed in a cafe cellar and a poor village and a couple of Basil Fawlty hotels before arriving, covered in a thin layer of sand and truck guff, in the port of Bandar Abbas. This, it seemed was where every truck that had ever passed us in Iran had been heading, all funneling down the same coastal road, four abreast to hoot us off into democracy.
It was a shame that whilst waiting in a traffic queue in the city, a kid on a motobike barged past Jen, who, being absolutely exhausted, couldn’t maintain the balance of her fully loaded bike and toppled over in the road, her first accident on the bike. Also a shame that this happened after 6 weeks of almost unwavering Iranian kindness- the kid just ploughed on, not even looking behind him as Jet screamed in his ear. The guy in the mechanic shop beside us was cool though and offered Jen a cup of Cay.
The next day after the usual bureaucratic shenangans we made it onto the ferry (which left four and half hours after its scheduled departure time) and finally bobbed into the Persian gulf with some very big bags under our eyes and a lot of good memories of Iran. It was a frustrating place at times but also fascinating and a bit of a lost gem on the tourist highway as it’s that bit harder to get to. Whatever is going on elsewhere in the establishment the common people of the country show an openess of spirit unmatched anywhere in Western Europe.
So here we are in Dubai then having cycled about 7500 km and wondering what to do with our tiny tired souls. Well we’ll be here for Xmas and thanks to Rachel it’ll be a homely one we’re sure (we’ve already had our first slices of nut roast and fruitcake ). We’re due to pick up our India visa tomorrow and please please let it be for 3 months and not for 1 month as we were told at one point. We hope to arrange a boat trip to do the final leg to India but that’s all a bit up in the air or rather lost at sea at the moment-so watch this space! The final frontier.
xx j n j
xx b n b