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December 19th 2010
Published: December 19th 2010
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Hi Everybody and a very Merry Christmas from the sunny desert island of Bahrain!

Another year done and dusted and before ya know it 2011 will be well underway, scarey scarey...

Here’s hoping 2010 delivered all you asked of it and that you’ll be getting some time off at Chrissy.

We’ve become masters of distraction to help the time pass on the small isle in the Persian Gulf which has been home for nearly 18 months, - where a road trip means turning around at 60km.

Along with Buddies Roger and Karen, Jude and I moved apartment from our beloved Burj Omran when our 12 months lease matured. The market had dropped majorly so we were able to a secure a brand new three (as opposed to 2) bedroom apartment at a much cheaper rate – too good to turn down really, the saving being a colossal 75 pints of beer a month.

Oh, and did I mention the Irish pub that’s 200m away from our new pad, which is on the other side of Adliya? Plus our fav cheapie Thai Restaurant the Banana Leaf, is downstairs!

Not as funky as the Burj, and sans a dishwasher, but with underground parking, pool top roof, excellent gym, good location and a third bedroom, which we converted in to a dining room/study – ideal for the Book Club nights, PLUS 150 Dinar cheaper per month, we are very happy.

We are now on the 9th floor, so we get a nice outlook over the city and see some stunning sunsets. Did I mention the Irish Pub?

Back to work after our NZ escape, and straight into Bahrain Bike Week. Being a Yamaha Dealer without a profile this gave us a great opp to put ourselves on the map, and that we did – setting up a cool trade display, bikes everywhere, giving away 200 T shirts, a 42” Plasma TV (LG is another division) and mixing it with the Biker fraternity. Overall a great success and most riders now know there is a Yamaha shop!

By a stunning coincidence, goodness knows how, a Kiwi Mate won the TV – no idea how that happened, no idea at all. Your shout Graham.

Then, one day, it Rained! I call it Bah-rain. Doesn’t happen very often at all – maybe twice a year. We had thunder and all. Drivers kept on driving crazily – granted they do put their hazard lights on - car cleaners and panel-beaters rubbed their palms and everything eventually dried out.

In November Mike came over for a look around and to join us on a planned trip to the UAE and Oman. It was great to have a Kiwi Mate (and Bro) to visit, - we had a ball. Mike got introduced to the Brit Club, JJ’s Irish Pub, the Dilmun Club, shwarmas, the camel farm, Amwaj (reclaimed) island, McGuires, JJ’s, Jim’s, the Souq, La Fontaine, the hidden bar upstairs across the road from McGuires - and JJ’s.

I believe he approved of all of the above – judging from the grin on his dial.

We watched some Kiwi Rugger with Rog, had a beer (or 2 in Hotel California, - he even brought a brilliant collectable pack of DB Export Gold with him. You may even go to heaven Mick.

After Jude and I rostered some “time off” (cough cough) to chaperone Mike around the locale, we hit the runway and flew to Dubai for some exploring. Following the critical Duty Free purchases, we grabbed a taxi for a roundabout ride to our modest digs – a 10 minute walk to the Dubai Creek.

Dubai was pretty action packed, with Jude being our Travel Agent extraordinaire and general organiser doing a brilliant job (and suitably rewarded by our company). First up a squizz round the local big-big mall, then on the uber cool Metro –cheap as chips, stations seemingly everywhere plus it's elevated so affording a birdseye (Geez remember Birds Eye Fish Fingers? Anyway…) view of Dubai.

That afternoon we were bookd on a Dune Bashing Adventure - Jude and I had done one last trip and it was brill, so definitely worth a revisit. Picked up around 3pm from our hotel in a big Chevy Tahoe 4wd, we were joined by a nice Aussie couple and a Sth Afican Guy who shar our vehicle.

Heading out in the desert, we stopped for a short time to watch a the filming of a stunt scene for the next Mission Impossible movie, with a collision between a motorcycle (CBR1000RR) and a truck. Tom Cruise was nowhere to be seen, but we must check out the movie to see how it worked out.

At the desert meeting point we met with maybe 20 other Chevys, took some picks, then did some amazing dune driving - our driver had talent - we had FUN! We stopped for more photo opp's, then again as the sun set over the beautiful dunes, before arriving at the well set up desert camp for camel rides - photo shots with an hooded falcon, belly dancing display, a sumptious buffet dinner, complimentary drinks, and music. Sheesha pipes were available too.

I kindly offered to take some pic's for the Aussie couple, with their camera, while they were riding a camel. I did get a couple of good snaps for them, but also made sure John had a good collection of camel bum shots to make up for his cheek!

These Guys are THE BEST organised touris operators I've ever encountered, and an excellent time was had by all.

Next day, a bit of a sleep in then shopping and a visit to the local Yamaha shop for a look see - great shop.

That night it was a stroll down to the creek to select a Dhow Cruise. We chose the same as last visit and enjoyed a nice buffet dinner (Too much), watched the plethora (word of the day) of other cruising boats all lit up, and of course Dubai City - old and new - on either side of the creek.

Dinner was followed by a display by the whirling Dervish dancers, always clever. Tip: Don’t get seated next to the PA next time!

After a good nights sleep, Jude had us herded toward the Mall of the Emirates – the world’s largest Mall, where we had a Costa brekkie, looked down on the ice skating rink, then wandered along to the Al Khalifa Tower – the recently opened tallest structure in the world. How tall? Dunno, they weren’t saying – to keep competitors guessing. But 124 floors up in sub 60 seconds, so 2 floors a second in the lift.

Pretty amazing views that’s for sure – not a lot of green to be seen but. They had these binocular gizmos which, as well as zooming in on things, could also show you how it would look at night-time – and even how it looked 30 years ago!

Next stop was a rather POSH afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab – the iconic “sail” hotel on the water’s edge. The setting and foyer is stunning, with hardly any Datsun 1600’s parked outside. Fascinated by the shooting spurts of water in the foyer, we were ushered up to the top level for another stunning view, and to see how the other half live. Corr – nice tucker thanks. No sausage rolls but…

Then we hopped on the Metro – Gold Class this time (Nicer seats, plus wifi), and scooted home to put our feet up and partake in traditional post sightseeing drinks courtesy of Duty Free. I believe Mike started this tradition.

Bye bye Dubai – bring on Oman – via a Budget Rav-4, and efficient instructions from Mr Garmin, we made it to the border crossing at 11.05am, - then things went down hill. Perhaps we should have expected a delay being the religious holiday known as EID (The end of Ramadan), and we definitely should have obtained a visa before leaving Bahrain, but hindsight is a great thing, but heck I can’t even turn my head around far enough to see it.

Upon entering the immigration hall we were confronted with a hall full of queue’s totally filling the place. I estimated 700-800 people there. 99% of them had black hair. We quickly fell in line, and by 4.30pm we were at the counter after witnessing all kinds of skull duggery imaginable – Visa prices changing, money being put in Official’s pockets, “pay 4 x as much and slip thru this door to avoid the s l o w moving queue” etc etc.

Nevertheless we eventually made it with Mike and I holding front row forward positions in the queue, while Jude ferried bottles of water to us. The bonus was that Visas for Kiwi’s are free. Eventually we were off in the Rav, jetting toward Muskat, the capital of Oman. As many had told us, the roads are great – heck they even have hills and bends – would be awesome on a bike in the right weather (ie cool enough). Pretty rugged scenery though, lots and lots and lots of rocks!

Hitting Muscat and with a combined effort of navigation (night fall by this stage) we found our modest hotel in the heart of the local Souq on the outskirts of the capital. Rooms were OK, food was ok, but because of the religious ceremonies, the ruddy bar was closed until 6pm the next day, bugger, we were all looking for a coldie to smooth the day out – never mind!

The next day, bearing in mind it was a religiously significant time of their calendar, we find they are about to slaughter a goat out the front of the hotel. Nice. Infact, between the hotel door and our rental car, which was a distance of about 7 paces. Great. Not a good day for goats with many such ceremonies being repeated throughout the country. I think I had pizza that night – oh, AND BEER!

Following an inclusive buffet brekkie, we were in the car and Mr Garmin took us to the Central Souq, as accessed from the Muscat promenade. Muscat city itself is really beautiful - Jude and I were overawed by the beautiful gardens and lawns – so long since we had seen such greenery. The promenade was also really pretty. Unfortunately the Souq was closed, so we had a poke around the city and drove randomly – just like the locals, to have a look around. When Jude spotted a brand spanking new Ibis Hotel she blurted out one word - LUNCH - Great choice.

After clock watching from 4pm til 6, a pleasant evening was spent shooting pool with each other, and then local Omani’s in the downstairs pool bar below our hotel. Hard case seeing Guys in traditional dress enjoying a beer and shooting pool while their (multiple) wives stayed at home. I guess that happens the world over, but these Guys weren’t meant to drink, according to their belief’s! Didn’t matter, they were friendly and quite delightful to interact with.
We had many laughs, and from memory Mike cleaned up the pool. Jude being the only female there was a real curiosity to them, they were lining up for photo’s – and they were stunned when she played pool! LOL

With the Heinies making the balls smaller and the pockets bigger we played like demons, til we retired to the restaurant for some dinner (Not goat) and wine – an excellent evening.

We finally made it to the much talked about Souq the next morning, picked up a couple of poofs (Stuffed seats, great tip Cush) (We call them Hudson and Halls) and some trad Omani hats – love them – and Jude got some blingy stuff too.

It really is must see Souq. We then hit the road toward Sur. With time against us we didn’t actually make it that far. Accommodation is really sparse in Oman and we were scrambling to find somewhere between pre-booked nights. Eventually Jude managed to grab a couple of tents in a Desert Camp near Wahibi Sands, and it turned out to be a brilliant choice!.

Meeting the hosts at a tiny settlement in the middle of nowhere, we were joined by 10 or 11 other Couples, mostly in 4 wheel drives. Those in cars were ferried into the desert whereas we were able to drive in convoy. WOW that was FUN! A totally different (read better) desert to Bahrain – it is absolutely spectacular – nature at its best. The drive was fun with the car drifting sideways as we booted it straight, up hills and down, til maybe 10 kilometres into the desert, we arrived at our fenced off and set up desert camp.

Being the last to book, we got the tents – which were “comfy as” with single beds etc – while the early ones got cool desert huts. The setting was truly beautiful, with a separate dining/lounging area, clean open air (no roof – no need) showers toilets etc

Some people went 4 wheel driving, others took camel rides and many like us just chilled out in the (relative) cool of the evening. Not long after dinner we sloped off to bed - it had been a long day.

After a scrumptious brekkie and a couple of “wake-me-up” coffees we paid our most gracious hosts – they really are lovely people –and headed off early, following one other 4 x 4. With 200 metres to go to reach the tarseal we discovered a flat right rear tyre, so Mike and I quickly changed it. Inspection revealed the flattie was absolutely stuffed –about 10 holes!

Oh well! We easily found an open tyre shop and bought a new one, had it fitted and were on our way within about 30 mins. A BIG drive day today , other than a quick stop at Nizwa – complete with beautiful fort and Souq, but with meagre dining options (KFC to the rescue!!) we pushed on through desolate rocky countryside to the border, crossed it without any holdup or fuss, and booked into our huge hotel in Al Barayni.

It was comfy, huge, and pretty empty, but with a good wee bar and an excellent Restaurant. We enjoyed a few coldies as we watched the local Thobes – including one Guy bargaining for a bottle of Johnnie Walker to polish off – then through to the restaurant for a brilliant tasty dinner. We were now in the UAE, so no worries on a Border Crossing, just drive straight through to Abu Dhabi to our pre booked Millinium Hotel – a bit of Luxury to finish the trip. We purposely did this to avoid a repeat of the shambles border crossing on the way in.

A pleasant drive on freeways all the way to Abu Dhabi, the contrast to Oman is quickly noticed, more money, more greenery, spectacularly funky buildings, real nice. Mr Garmin quickly had us at a Millinium Hotel and from there we easily got directions to OUR Millinium Hotel! (There were 2)

Wow, Nice Pad! We both had brilliant spacious luxurious rooms, Mike had a commanding view straight on to the Corniche, we looked out on to the city and inner city park. After Mike had his ironing sorted, we strolled til we found a pleasant enough outdoor eatery, had lunch then back to the hotel for some sun by the pool, catching up on our books, followed by sun downer drinks.

It was funny seeing the sun move around leaving us in shade, then feeling the sun come back (It was so warm) – and discovering the sun was being reflected around the corner by one of the many mirror finish sky scrapers!

After comparing notes over a coldie in Mikes room we elected to partake of the “Steak night” special on the Pool Terrace, which included “complimentary beverages”. The poor waiter was run off his feet, the steak was great, we enjoyed the company of some Aussies at the next tables and were entertained by their lovely Kids.

A quick drive on straight as expressways and we were back at Dubai airport for our short hop home via Duty Free. Abu Dhabi airport was pleasant enough, not worth a photo tho.

Mike amused himself during the following days, and we would either go for a pint after work, or dinner and before we knew it he was heading back to NZ, scratching his head about how other cultures live! It was great to have him visit – thanks for coming Mick, it was a big call!

Back to work with a bang, and looking forward to 5 or 6 days off late December for National Day and religious days, one of which is called Ashoora. This is when Bahraini males hit themselves with hands fists, sticks and swords in empathy for a long lost leader who was abandoned in the desert centuries ago. One workmate, Mohammad – a great Guy, came into work proudly proclaiming to me that he’d been beating himself all night, LOL.

Christmas is recognised to an extent here – many Indians are Catholics for example, and the commercial opportunity has not escaped businesses here with tinsel, Christmas trees, deco’s, Santa suits etc etc being readily advertised. Jude and I bought and decorated a Christmas tree so we weren’t missing out on too much – though at times like this it’s not natural to be so far away from Family and Mates!! 😞

We have a Chrissy Lunch (hic) planned with some Expat Mates on the 24th who are in the same boat, so there will be 2 Kiwi’s 4 Aussies, a Russian, a Taiwanese and 2 Poms sitting down together – a good time is assured. (What cricket? Dunno what you’re talking about)

I’ll be working Christmas Day (last one was spent in the dentists chair!), but we are looking forward to:

- A trip to Thailand in Feb, to hook up with Raewyn and Erez
- Kiwi Mates Kevin and Lois spending a week here in March
- A trip to Jordan and Egypt in April
- Cherie and Col visiting in June

And before ye know it, it’ll be July and we’ll be ‘outta hair like a bald man’ jetting to the USA where we pick up a nice big Honda to do some riding with Kiwi Mates Kev and Sue and Janice and Graham.

A very MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone – we look forward to catching up with you sometime in the 2nd half of 2012!

Please keep in touch with what you are up to by e-mail – the computer is like an answer-phone to us – the first thing we check when we get home!! peteconnolly@xtra.co.nz

CHEERS!

Pete and Jude




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19th December 2010

Brillo
As always an entertaining read - cheers guys :-)
20th December 2010

nice one
good blogging mate!
20th December 2010
Suite 1

suite 1
Would you like a seperate bathroom and shower with that.

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