Dubai and Mumbai
After spending the three months from Istanbul largely camping in the wilderness and then crossing the Arabian gulf on an ancient ferry, watching the pinnacle of the worlds tallest building the Burj Kalifa appear over the horizon was just weird. In fact the whole of my time in Dubai was a little surreal. I was staying with Nadia and Tanny (friends from university) and on my first day in Dubai joined Nadia's family for Christmas lunch at her Dad's "club". Embarrassingly the whole thing proved just a little bit too "weird" for my digestive system. I'll spare you the details. On boxing day Nadia and Tanny flew off for a holiday in Sri Lanka leaving me alone in their apartment, but I wasn't alone for long – Ginny arrived on a flight from the UK later that same day and we had a terrific week relaxing in the sunshine. I can reliably inform readers of this blog that the Emirates know how to do a water park – I don't think i've been to a water park since I was about 15 but, following an afternoon at the "wild wadi water park" i'm wondering why. To be frank Dubai is not a great place for cycling – Wolfi's bike shop provided me with a good service and some new parts for the bike, and there are a few other bike shops and cycling clubs in the city, but information about cycling in Dubai was surprisingly hard to track down. The Dubai government have committed to providing 900km of cycling routes in the city but it's not clear where these routes will be or when they will be built. The city would be ripe for a popular and profitable "bike blog" of the kind that there are any number of in London, as a source of information both for passing cyclists and for folks living in the city. Spending a few days sitting on Nadia and Tanny's sofa watching DVDs and putting some weight back on was nice, but my plan was to try and hitch a ride on a boat to India so I duly tramped off down to the docks to try and arrange a lift. In two days I managed to track down two boats that were heading across the Arabian sea, but neither of them had any interest in having me aboard, even when I made it clear that i'd be happy to pay for their services; in two afternoons making a spectacle of myself i didn't even get a sniff that getting on a boat would be a possibility. The language barrier was the biggest problem, it was difficult to explain why I would want to spend six days in an open top boat crossing a stretch of water, in storm season, with the threat of Somalian pirates to the south* rather than jump on an aeroplane for two hours. The default assumption was clearly that I was up to something illegal and so without being able to convey the reasons behind not wanting to get a flight I was ultimately too big a risk for these captains to take on for any price. On New Years Eve, at a friend of a friends party I met Richard, a radio presenter on the local "Dubaieye" radio station and who invited me onto his program to talk about my trip. I took the opportunity to appeal to anyone who could think of a way of getting across the water by boat, but even that came to no avail. Added to this I never managed to work out how I would get an exit stamp on my passport, if that would have been a problem when I tried to enter India, or indeed if I would be able to enter India through a sea port on a tourist visa... So, after all this it was with a heavy heart that I logged on and within half an hour had booked a flight at a fraction of the cost, and which would take a fraction of the time it would have taken to cross the Arabian sea by boat. After some careful reviewing of airlines excess baggage policies, some even more careful packing, and strategic use of hand luggage for heavy items I even managed not to pay any excess baggage charges for the flight, so the cost of getting across to Mumbai was really quite minimal but I had forgotten how miserable flying is. Ginny has flown out to see me four times now and i'm not sure which is the greater challenge – spending all those hours on aeroplanes or cycling 9000km. So here I am in Mumbai, i've identified a small coast road south from here to Goa and after that I'll see what happens. Tourist in Dubai The Burj Kalifa Sunset from Nadia and Tanny's apartment Hello India. *This was more a threat in my mind, in fact the majority of the captains I talked to were headed for Somalia so the threat of piracy can't be that bad.