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Middle East » Bahrain » Manama
October 2nd 2010
Published: November 30th -0001
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Kia Ora!

........ from the Desert Island of Bahrain Folks, and profound, untold and immense apologies for the big gap in Blog episodes since Feb 2010!

Read on and you’ll see why time has flown for us, what we’ve been up to and why I’ve been so slack in maintaining the Blog (Did I say that out loud?)

Okay, after having a blast in Goa, - India’s beautiful and economical beach area, we settled back into island life - Jude going to work all day and me doing the House Hubby thing, - you know, lying by the pool, coffee mornings, playing cards, cycling the back streets on Myrtle, cooking dinner etc etc and suddenly the excitement and hoopla of the Formula One meeting descended on Bahrain.

In March, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) hosted the Bahrain Grand Prix and one of the Middle Eastern rounds of the International Formula One series. There was quite a buzz throughout the city, with visitors pouring in round around the globe, bolstering the numbers of Ferrari’s, Lamborgini’s, Aston Martins and other luxo cars on the road.

The Arabs certainly know how to pour on the hospitality, with meet and greet at the airport for all F1 Visitors, welcome packs, complimentary hotel transfers and 30 minutely (! Couldn’t resist) shuttles to the BIC, flags flying everywhere and untold night time parties for the visitors and locals alike.

Geez there were even F1 specials on beer at the local bottler, of which quite some advantage was taken.

We hosted (via www.couchsurfers.org ) a neat Guy from Dubai, who was visiting for the F1. John, a native of Kenya, who runs2 hotels in Dubai (Could be handy one day) is also ‘into’ motorbikes,- rides a CBR1100XX, - and enjoys a coldie, so we hit it off great, had many laughs. He was a pleasure to host.

The reason I mention this - hey, you were wondering where I was going with this, huh? - the reason I mention this is…John started talking about the forthcoming round of the MotoGP - for the uninitiated, that’s the F1 of bikes - does Valentino Rossi ring a bell? - anyway, WE weren’t even aware of the soon-to-held race meeting in nearby Doha, the capital of, funnily enough, nearby Qatar.

Qatar (pronounced Cutta) is only a 30 minute flight away, - tho one must note that one must check-in 2 hours early for such 30 minute flights, still, it was: a.) Close, and b.) Cheap.

So we went!

Before I leave the subject of the Formula 1, I must mention a major highlight for me motorcycling-wise which was a nice coincidence during the F1.

Through a series of personal and business connections, the Royal Prince , understood to be an excellent Guy and committed petrol-head who has fostered and sponsored the F1 meeting in Bahrain, invited British Trade Ambassador Lord Digby of Birmingham to the racing and said “Oh, and bring your Mate John Bloor with you. I’d like to meet him”.

John Bloor OBE, is the Owner and Chairman of Triumph motorcycles, having bought the intellectual rights to the then defunct company in the early 80’s. Since then he has brought it back to what is today a thriving brand, making some of the best bikes available. Lord Digby is on the Triumph board, as well as representing Jaguar and JCB. So, a long story short, I was invited to meet these Gents, along with a few local Bike Club Reps to talk about the bike market in Bahrain and the possibilities for Triumph. What a great couple of Guys they were too - and being motorcycle (in particular, but not limited to that) crazy, it was a real thrill to meet them.

Anyway, I digress, where were we?, Oh yeah, Qatar. Without the wish to repeat myself, myself, I’ll cut and paste below, - as designated by the dotty lines, an article I wrote for KiwiRider Mag, which gives a bit of coverage of the racing.

Jude and I booked a modest hotel room - accommodation isn’t cheap in Qatar, but a clean and well equipped, if not a bit spartan room, probably 3-4 star, cost us around $NZ130 a night from memory via a ‘best buy’ type website. Qatar is quite stunning with amazing architecture and incredible wealth everywhere - being, the richest country per capita on the Earth!

As well as the racing, which is covered below, we went exploring, as ya do, and noticed very quickly that what we read in travel Guides was in fact true, that locals driving past will flash their lights and toot (or honk or barp) to offer pedestrians a lift. Being the reserved Kiwi’s we are, we initially waved them on. I should point out that pedestrians in Qatar stick out like the proverbial canine testicles. Firstly, in the world’s richest country, who would walk anywhere?!! Secondly, it’s pretty ruddy hot outside, so strolling the pavements is a rare sight. The heat almost made the $NZ15 pints of beer beerable!

They have a great restored Souq (pronounced sook) there, and the elderly Gentlemen running, well ambling, about between shops and suppliers with their delivery wheelbarrows really tickled my fancy. Between errands the barrows made a great place to snooze. Other sights visited included an amazing mall complete with artificial ainted sky-ceiling, canal and gondalas punting boats along with visitors aboard!

Anyway back to the flashing of lights etc. Next time we went exploring, with a huge Mall being our targeted destination, we resolved to accept a pre described offer of a lift should one present itself. It did.
100 Metres from our hotel, a Lexus 570 pulled over, and the offer of a ride came from a thobed (robed) Arab Gent.

Turns out he owned the Hotel we were in. Rather than just take us to the Mall, he proceeded to conduct a 40 minute complimentary tour of the city! Included was a visit to the new Pearl Villa development, built as a ‘floating city’ with waterside villas sporting their own moorings with super yachts galore. Oh, and there was a Ferrari and a Bentley dealership in there as well!

KiwiRider article: -----------------------------------------------oOo------------------------------------------------
It has recently amused me that the aviation code for Doha International Airport, is DOH, - and how appropriate in booking flights from my Bahrain base. After leading a trail of destruction in the online booking sites, I got there. Fancy a race starting at 11pm, who’d have thought it, humph.

Doha, the capital of Qatar, probably the richest country in the world, is a beautiful city. You cannot help but be impressed with the expanse of green grass and gardens in what is essentially a desert.
The architecture, both old and new is also stunning with each new sky scraper outdoing the next one in its verve.
The Losail Racing Circuit is also something else - around 27 km further north up the coast from Doha, set in typical desert setting, it was built in under a year by 1000 workers at a cost of $US58 million.

I wonder if they would put a price in for Transmission Gully? Opening in 2004 and measuring 5.38 kilometres long, it is surrounded by artificial grass to reduce sand blowing on the track, - which would be interesting at 345 km/hr.

A few years later, the Prime Ministers suggested they light the track and all the run-off areas, to allow night racing - providing both a unique spectacle and avoiding the daytime temps of 38C + for competitors and spectators alike.
The 11pm start time also suits prime time Euro TV, so the dollar or should I say Euro, talks.

Getting to the track is another story with no bus or shuttle service, but taxis are quite cheap at $NZ24 each way.
Access to the stands is primarily by spiral driveways which could take a car - works real good.

Arriving at 4pm, the place was deserted, scuse the pun. By practice start time of 6pm, a few hundred had joined me. At 11pm, tens of thousands had joined us and I had the best seat in the house.

The 125’s were fun to watch with a swarm of 2 strokes chasing each other closely for a Spanish 1-2-3 finish to the delight of their many flag waving supporters.

Next the Moto2 Class debuted here, with Honda based 600 motors, a control tyre and a raft of frame suppliers. 45 starters on the grid made for an interesting first few corners. Just 32 bikes finished, a measure of the carnage. A popular Japan win, with Spain and France 2nd and 3rd respectively. Every Team had at least one gorgeous 'Umbrella Girl' decked out usually in a mini skirt in the team colours. They hold an ubrella over the Rider to shade them from the sun while waiting on the grid. I am SO pleased no one mentioned to them that it was a night race!

11pm and the Big Boys - the crowd is hyped. One wave from Rossi on the warm up lap and they went wild. Those bikes sound as horny as hell, loud, and rough. The race was spent on our feet, the atmosphere was crazy. There were no programmes available, but everyone knew these Guys. Then with Stoner out for a duck, - it was ‘game on’.

You couldn’t write a better race story with a Rossi (Yamaha), Lorenzo (Yamaha), and Dovizioso (Honda) podium. GP Rookie Spies coming 5th was impressive too.

To be honest you would probably see more of the race on TV, despite the big screen track coverage and replays, and in spite of being able to see the first 2 corners from my spot, but being there was worth every second of tension, WOW.
Strangely there were less a dozen spectator bikes there. I shared a cab back to town with 3 Filipino lads who were buzzing with Rossi’s win. I asked them what they rode.

“Us ride? We WISH!” What a great day and a great experience - worth every Riyal!
---------------------------------------------------------OoO--------------------------------------------------

Rightio, where was I? Just keep typing Pete and it’ll come back to ya - okay, okay…..As I have mentioned before in previous blogs, we are pretty spoilt here in that we have a great collection of Ex- Pat Mates - all really great people.

People I would add we would probably have never met in normal circumstances - we are all in the same boat, so let’s make the most of it and have some fun along the way!

One such example of this was a F-A-B Kiwiana Deluxe party held by two of the Kiwi Girls in our extended Whanau - we all had a ball with Billy T James, the Topp Twins and many other dress-alikes making an appearance. With Kiwi songs allocated to each group, ours absolutely crucified Alision Durban’s “Stand By Your Man”. A Kiwi general knowledge quiz brought many more laughs.

Having suffered withdrawl symptons from motorcycles for far too long, friends Wayne and Cushla and ourselves hired a pair of Harleys for the day. Despite a minor sandstorm, we had a great day out, riding, posing, lunching, posing, coffee and posing - well they were Harleys!

A real highlight of our first year here was the arrival of our first Kiwi Visitor, Raewyn, aka Chicky - Jude’s Sister from Nelson.

We had a ball.

While Jude was working, Raewyn would make the most of the amazing Bahrain sun, our nice pool, the famous “smuggled” sun lounger, and (impressively) our Gym.

When Jude was off work - Chicky’s visit coincided with some hols here, - the Girls either teamed up and hit the fabulous shopping malls, or we all did the Brit Club thing, the Dilmun Club thing, the JJ’s Irish Pub thing, went Go Karting at BIC - which was a real buzz, raced our model RC cars on the tiled apartment floors - a total scream watching the Girls trying to co-ordinate the remote controls after a few wines! Cocktails at the Ritz Carlton followed by a stunning dinner at La Fontaine was another brill day we enjoyed.

Another goodie was taking in a “traditional (for ex-pats!) "Brunch” . We threw out a general e-mail invite to our Mates, and 24 of them (!!) joined us at the Jazz Restaurant “Upstairs Downstairs”. BHD16 (16 dinar, or about $NZ58) gets you a beaut 3 course meal, free selected beverages for 3 hours- the weapon of choice for most was bubbly, - and some great live jazz. These Guys know how to partay!

After 3 hours of that, we were all in the mood for more, so off to nearby McGuires Irish Bar we trundled, singing our wee hearts out in the corner, til the remaining rabble came home with us around tea time for ordered-in Shwarmas and beer, and more music!

In August we both returned to NZ for the Bahrain Summer vacation, Jude for 6 weeks, me for 8. Travelling via Melbourne in any case, I was able to catch up with my Bro Mike and his 2 boys, Shuan and Brad and go to the Bledisloe Cup game. Great game, complete with complimentary pre game drinks with All Blacks past and present. We were bth really impressed with Melbourne and willreturn for longer sometime.

We LOVED catching up with family and friends and enjoying the, admittedly often rainy and cold, lush NZ greenery.

I took the opportunity to get some bike riding in, including an overnighter camping at the Cold Kiwi Rally in Waiouru. (www.coldkiwi.co.nz) This year was the 36th year that hardy/crazy bike enthusiasts congregated for fun, games and laughs in the midst of winter. I’ve been to about 8 I guess over the years, but this one was a doozie.

My poor old tent ripped apart in the wind after its erection in sunny but windy conditions. I devised a back-up plan of taping 2 survival blankets together for use in a worst case scenario. Just as well.

As I wandered outside the tent-bar around 11pm with some Mates, we discovered it was quietly snowing its little heart out. By this time the tent was trashed, but I still had a reasonably comfy night in my backup cocoon. You will see from the photo’s I didn’t need to worry about packing the tent upon leaving the next day.

Meanwhile, back in the Persian Gulf…..
What I must now inform you of, is quite a disturbing subject, and one I am still coming to terms with myself. I certainly don’t want to cause you, the Blog Reader any distress, but it must be confronted. So I think I’ll just blurt it out. Ready? Here goes.

I got a JOB. Phew, I feel better already unloading that one!

Obtaining work here, as previously described, is a real long shot, very often it’s not what you know but who you know. So I am now a Sales Manager with AJM Kooheji Group, selling Yamaha Motorcycles and Jet Skis! And yes I do get a company bike, a YZF1000R1 Yamaha, just like, but not quite the same as, Valentino Rossi!

As satisfying as it is having something so powerful between ones legs, it has until now, been blardy hot riding, but with “winter” (but not as Kiwi’s know a winter) approaching, it shouldn’t feel quite so much like riding head-on into a hair dryer as it has been.

6 days a week and Arabian hours of 8am - noon, 4pm -8pm make it a bit of a shock to the system, but I do relish the challenge, and love working with bikes. Some great people too.

Okay, phew, we've nearly caught you up with all our happenings!

Coming up next weekend is a shift of apartments. We love where we are, but the rental market has shifted significantly in the favour of Tenants, so we are moving in to a brand new apartment for a worthwhile reduction in rent. Our neighbours and Buddies Rog and Karen are moving to the same building, so Jude and Roger can still car share. We’ll save something like $NZ720 a month which goes straight to the bottom line 😊

We do sacrifice a dishwasher and balcony, but gain a 3rd bedroom, move up to the 8th floor (on the 4th in our present digs), still with 2 bathrooms and 3 loos, underground parking = great for a cool and less dusty car, a roof top pool = better sun versus our current 2nd level one.

There is a great gym and what d’ya know, 100 metres along the road is JJ’s Irish Pub, plus our fave cheap Thai restuarant is below us! We are still in the expat ridden, cosmopolitan Al Adliya area, just moving from one side to the other. Some pics of the new pad are included herewith.

Well that’s about all Folks - thanks for hanging in there - and as always, please accept the Blog as written personally for YOU - so let us know what you Guys are up to back in NZ, and keep in touch either via the blog comments or peteconnolly@xtra.co.nz .

“Any time you’re thirsty, so are we”

Cheers

Pete and Jude 




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2nd October 2010

choice
well done blog Pete..makes me want to go to Doha!
4th October 2010

Yah
Hey guys, it was great reading your latest blog and seeing all the pics!! Love the baby camel. You guys are on quite an adventure and I can't wait to see you next year in actual Bahrain!!!!! Wahooooo!!! Hang in there Jude, miss you guys xxoo
9th October 2010

Enjoy more adventures
Thanks Pete, can't wait until the next installment of fun in the sun...with bike stuff included!
11th October 2010

OOOps!
Sorry Guys, hadn't noticed you had been "dead" for so long as I don't get near the Computer very often. Liz and her elder sister Pru are planning a trip thru Italy following the POW camps Pop was in there after his ship was torpedoed. Naturally they are moving on to Greece and France as well and Pru will stay on another 2 weeks to "do" England. Consequently Liz is now a member of Hertz GOLD club, among many other freebeez chucked at her over the Net. We are STILL in the dark ages of dial-up, mainly due to a offer that Clear made 4 years ago for $3.90 a month. They are all SOOOO sweet there, Jason, Malcolm, etc and also appear to have missed removing us after the initial 3 month offer expired. Consequently it takes a while for photos to appear but it is my birthday today and Liz is busy on a Chocolate cake and counting 62 candles, so, hey, lets go for it! Thrilled you are having so much fun and happy that Pete has got a job doing stuff he LUVES. How good is that. Just heard curses from kitchen, guessing we only have 60 candles. Cheers for now Bev
13th November 2010

great adventure
Great keeping up with your adventures it looks so exciting, I also loved the baby camel, I wonder if we will see one in Eygpt next year. We are planning a trip to Poland where my family is from, and hopefully to see the pyarmids as well. We are now great grandparents, so exciting but we are far to young!!!. so take care and we will catch your next blog. Love Brenda and Lance

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