TravellingMarc

Friday, October 27, 2006

Camping

OK... We have finished the Holy month of Ramadan. With the shortened school day, you think it's easy living, but it's not. Since Muslims are suppose to fast from sun-up to sun-down, it's illegal to eat or drink I public (removing temptation.) Its hard on the older kids, and adults who are expected to fast. Virtually nothing gets done during Ramadan. The day is compressed, so it's high paced, and energy draining. Our school was ordered by the Ministry to re-segregate classes, and abandon the coed system we had just adopted. It was frustrating. Thank goodness it's over. And to help ease our suffering, Ramadan is followed by Eid, a nice little holiday (1 week for schools and many offices.)
Many people take advantage of Eid and go travelling. I planned to stay because a friend was suppose to visit me from Korea. Unfortunately, Eunji couldn't make it, and I was left with no plans, which was basically pretty good.
What did I do... well I relaxed. Went for a picnic in town. Went camping to 3 days. Even went skinny-dipping in Oman. (And updated my blog...lol)
Eleven of us, in three vehicles, ventured to Hatta, which is part of the UAE which borders and crosses into Oman. It's a mountainous area that has little rivers, watis (naturally vegetated areas, unlike Oases which grow up around springs) and pools.
We camped for one night near one of the Hatta Pools. We did a little exploring, a little drinking, and a lot of lounging in the water. It was relaxing.



At night, because Eid is a celebration, people were setting off fireworks, and shooting pistols (not to comforting.) The most spectacular fireworks were the shooting stars that we falling all night. There is no light pollution in Hatta, and the sky as crystal clear. The sight of the cosmos made the trip worth it on it's own.
Most of us were up fairly early in the morning. It was amazing how long the days lasted. It was nice and cool, so we decided to walk down to the pool. Well, lot's of people had the same idea, so we opted to go to our more secluded, small pool. We decided it was too hot to stay there and to really explore the area and thought how nice it would be to take a shower, so we'd moved on the the beach, which was a few hour drive away.

The beach we went to was on the East coast of the UAE, near Fugirah. With no facilities on the public beach, we opted to spend the remainder of the day at a hotel beach, use the facilities, and then camp on the public beach next door. The little hotel was about 50 Dhr. each to go to ($15) but to go to the Le Meridian on the other side, would have been 300 Dhr (about $75). So we didn't use a 5 star resort, we had it as our backdrop the whole night. We also had firework shows, stunt drivers (not really, just people getting their cars/SUVs stuck in the soft sand) and the ocean to sit and watch. The wind died just before bed time, so the sleep was again, not very comfortable. Still to early in the year for camping I was told... uhmm yup. We weren't that comfortable in Fugirah. We woke up to a car full of drunk teenagers getting stuck 5 meters where we were camping. Some of us decided to get going. We rode the highways back. It hadn't been a bad day, just not as good as the first. Happy to be home, I relaxed the rest of the day away.
I'm hoping to go back to Hatta on my bike when it's a little cooler, and explore the heritage village, a few more of the pools, a waterfall and a few other sights It's quite something.

My New Home

OK, I haven't really done any really good posts in the last, oh... uhm... yeaer or so. I was lazy and complacent so not much got done on the blog front. Thanks to you, my loyal reader(s)... I'm not really sure how many of you read this anymore.

So, y'all know that I know live in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I'm about 140km from our larger, more famous, but poorer Emirate, Dubai. I'm much happier here, knowing that Dubai has some of the slowest traffic in the world due to a growth rathe that has exceeded Calgary's, and a infrastructure plan that has matched it. The roads just can't deal with the 1.2 million inhabitants.

I live in a building we call Pioneer. As a name, Pioneer is only known to the AISA staff, because it was the first building they used to house teachers. What the real street address is, not many people know. How do we get here. IF you're in a taxi, just tell them "Mermaid building, back-side." Even though the mermaid building was torn down several years ago, we still go to it's "back-side" (cabbies don't understand "behind.") Dirrections for drivers is even sketchier... "uhm... drive down to Electra... which is 7th, or Zayed the First street, then, turn right at the Sheraton Khalidiya... turn right again... then take a left past the Mermaid Pharmacy... drive down the street, and take the 2nd last left... If you see Ghwwar Coffee, that's the building..." Seriously, that's pretty much how we have to describe it to anyone who wants to come here. Did that with the exterminator... he accidentally went to the Fahwar building a block up.
For purists, the easiest most accurate way I can tell you is, I live at N24degrees, 28.250 minutes, E054 degrees, 20.800minutes ... plug those numbers into your GPS and see how far away I am.

I work out at Abu Dhabi Health and Fitness... I've been a member for a week. Its nice , but still under construction. Apparently it was originally built to be a Royal Palace, but it was then decided that it would be better as a fitness club. It's pretty nice. Hopefully it'll help me get back in shape. I like working out there, and it's on the way home from school, so hopefully I'll use it a lot. I have goals in regard to my weight, so I'm expecting the facility to help me out.

Bike's here... not registered yet, so that's why you haven't seen any bike trip pictures. It was Ramadan, and is now Eid... I'll explain more about that later.
Cheers,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekend getaway...

So..this weekend a bunch of us went on a little getaway to Jebel
Dhanna resort. It's a 5 star beach resort, and we got a group rate.
Normally I wouldn't have arranged something like this for myself, but
as it was being done, and most of my new friends were going, it seemed
like a good time to go.
The resort was beautiful. There was a pool, beach, sheesha tents,
volleyball court, a gym and so on... oh ya, also stunning staff....
;-)
As it is the holy month of Ramadan, the pool-side bar was closed. It's
actually illegal to eat and drink in public this month. Resorts like
this are an exception.
We arrived later in the evening on Thursday after school let out.
Farhang (my flatmate), Kevin and I caught a ride with our director
Walter, so we left after most people. As navigator I have to take
credit for a lack of a turn that set us back about 20 minutes. I take
credit even though the instructions weren't great.
We arrived, and had a nice mellow evening.
The next day was pool/beach day. The pool is a little cooler than the
ocean, so a little more relaxing to lounge in. Several of us rented
snorkeling gear and swam out to a reef. It's great seeing fish in real
life that you would normally only see in a fish tank. It was quite the
swim, and a few people gave up when we couldn't find the reef. We were
later directed to the reef by some staff who were towing water skiers.
This time I was not navigating, so completely innocent of directional
disfunction.
After seeing the fish, we played a little volleyball, and full contact
keep-away in the pool. It's a little more complicated than keep away,
and somehow I ended up with a twisted ankle, elbow in the throat, and
really sore quads (lots of jumping, and the soreness only appeared 2
days later.) It was great.
The next day we went deep sea fishing in search of Hamour, King Fish,
and Queen fish. We caught several Queen fish, one Hamour and several
bate fish which I wound up keeping and cooking at home.
The fishing was fun, but it was 5star fishing, where we were allowed
to real in the fish, not hook it ourselves. I did manage to hook one
myself, the smallest fish of the day (smaller than my palm), and
5starred the largest catch of the day, a big queen fish. It was still
fun.
All in all, I got way too much sun over the weekend, but it was a
great time any which way.
Hope all are well. ]
Cheers,
Marc