On the last day of October in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan thermometer showed 29 degrees Celsius and everybody agreed, that is must be weather anomaly, because at this time of year it already usually slightly snows , what the hell, going around still in short pants. And I still was, maybe not short pants, but those up to my knees. Two days later from 29 it dropped to 15 but then to even 5 degrees and that finally made me think hard on already multiple times postponed decision - , where next?? Where now?
Most of the Central Asian "overlanders travelling on the Silk Road probably would NOT ask themselves this question - they'd simply push forward because they are not afraid of cold, snow and turmoil. But I do not like to bother myself too much and get tired, I do not like to risk too much neither. Travel should be a pleasure. That's what I think. How boring! And nothing, to tell your grandchildren.
And what was in front of me? Yes kilometers, perhaps a thousand kilometers on the steppe where nothing is around, just strong wind blowing in your face because here most westerly winds dominate and I cycle westwards. such a breeze, even the pedals can hardly move, total "breeze". Cities located at a distance of several dozen, or even hundreds of kilometers away from each other.
I have already given up the idea of crossing Turkmenistan, because first of all - I wouldn't'be entertained to cycle 600 km in 5 day because my maxim is, after all, "not for speed" that is to go slowly and enjoy. Second, the only possible type of visa to try to get for Turkmenistan, for which you can apply when cycling individually (is the transit one that is for 5 days) and it is also extremely difficult. to get. Obtaning a Turkmenistan visa became a lottery and many friends of mine in recent times had no luck, Instead of pedalling 120 km per day (to do the 600 km in 5 days) at the last minute they had to change plans, pack their bikes and stuff and seat on the plane flying somewhere. This is quite stressful and expensive process.
Stress and haste as you know Im not fond of. I prefer comfortable temperatures too, preferably in the range of 20-25 degrees, perfect to stay warm or and not to get to cold neither – I did not fancy me therefore pedaling through northern Iran in December, because of probable snow and rain there.
Therefore I settled for 3 weeks in the city of Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan pondering what to do with so nice already started trip that lasted about 4 months already,. With maniacal stubborness I've been following charts and tables of temperatures in recent years in different places of the globe, reading travel blogs, I asked questions on forums, I got acquainted with the conditions of carriage of luggage and bicycle on different airlines sites. You can go gray on the job, I'm serious.
On the other hand - after all, you can call it prudent and thoughtful planning a trip, isn't it?
Nepal? Malaysia? Maybe South India? or United Arab Emirates and Oman, about which I've heard so much good ? Let it be the UAE and Oman. It will make me avoid flying in two directions, and Ill stay on the Silk Road at the same time.
In the second half of November I left Kazakhstan on board the Kazakh Air Astana (which take the bike for 50 USD with no limit to the size and weight 32 kg, as of November 2017 – highy recommended) I moved my 4 ass and belongings to a completely different dimension.
The dimension is called Dubai and it is is not the capital of the United Arab Emirates but its main city. However, this is certainly one of the strangest places in the world. Huge creation mostly of concrete, glass and steel which emerges in the middle of the desert at the seafront in the Persian Gulf that emerged there just in a few, maximum 10 years. Place, at which is easier to meet working in the services sector Indian people, Pakistani and Filipinos or expatriates enjoying a zero tax on their earnings (form Januraty 1st it is already massive 5%) than native Emirati men (scale 80% to 20% more or less).
With the guidance of Chris, my host from Warmshowers, who agreed to take me in his villa surrounded by palm trees and green freshly watered grass, landing in this oasis of luxury was kindda soft.
A little of bad luck was that, Chris lived some 40 km from the airport. After landing I packed my russian bags and belongings together with a box with the bike to a super comfy airport limousine (let me tell you that at the airport in Dubai there are absolutely fantastic roomy cabs that can fit your bike easily, and my bike box is 1,5 meters long 1,5 without a problem) I sat next to the driver watched anxiously counting meter.
Excuse me, how much it cost till Marina? I asked the Lebanese driver, who reminded me with his posture of the Polish athlete Przemyslaw Saleta.
What’s your problem, madam? You answered releasing the driver if he wanted to stay on the side of the road and talk to me seriously. As I understand the question of money are not welcome threre as everyone is assumed to have a lot , I stayed shut and askedno more questions until the end of the course. Luckily, however, I didnt spend fortune taking into account the distance and place, the ride cost like 25 USD/ 80 PLN - 2 USD.
Chris greeted me very warmly and offered dinner: in addition to grills and salads I was offered also beer and after a few days I realized, as the latter was unusual element of the menu. alcohol – beer, wine and liquors are not on sale in United Arab Emirates and Oman. It's a Muslim country, prohibition. Well, I know - in contrast to Iran even drinks can be purchased at authorized to sell the few shops or hotels for a multiple of the nominal price and the presentation of a special card (issued only to residents of the country). Therefore, it was my last sip of beer for the next 4,5 months and somehow this was not bad.
The temperature in the evening to my surprise required putting on a sweatshirt. It cooled down only in the last week, said Chris. Throughout 8 months of the year you cannot normally live here without air conditioning.
It's nice, I will not need it now, ideal temperature, excellent logisticst move Eva! I thought to myself waving my body in a hammock on the terrace. Over the next days, I acclimatized in Dubai and rougly planned my route in Oman. Also I changed a place to stay, Chris had other guests coming, but fortunately I was welcomed graciously by Italian Georgio on 20 floor of his apartment in the center. Have I told you how much I was lucky to have great hosts on the Arabian peninsula? The hotel prices were to hight for me . In my defense, I might add, that for the last 2 years I almost never took advantege of the hospitality of the Warmshowers hosts , and the famous Coachsurfing somehow I do not use at all..
After nearly a week, armed with knowledge from the guides I finally decided to leave Dubai.
Well, easy to say!
The city is, meant as refuge for rich people and it is assumed no getting around it by other means of transport than the car. For the middle group two lines of subway were created, for cyclists there is basically nothing. But, oh! After all, there are bike paths on the seaside promenade, or recently created another one along artificial canal called the Creek or the Al Qudra outside the city.. ok, there are a few places, where you can bike for an evening walk, but it is simply impossible to get there by bicycle, not to mention the use of bicycles as a means of locomotion. Six-lane highways in both directions, winding wharfs. you want to cycle? making in your pants out of fear guaranteed.
When packing the bike I discovered, that I lost my expanders (rubber fixing) for luggage. Thus I figured out where the nearest bicycle shop is, which turned out to be on the 20 floor of a skyscraper, under which you could not park your bike. This is a very common ailment Dubai- everything around is so manicured, new shiny and beautiful, dirty or even superclean bike doesnt simply doeasnt fit there. you cannot park there, sorry .
And could I take my bike to the lift?No, neither? How can I use the bike shop then sir? I asked the Indian parking guard .
He could not answer me. I think, that question is more to be asked to the owners of so thoughtlessly located store. Finally I managed to do my shopping in the next, normally located bike shop, whereupon 15 kilometers 20 and trestles further I found myself finally more or less outside the city.
I got to the bike path Al Qudra - basically it is a system of 3 of cycle loops of different length (from a dozen to ca.. 90 km distance) going through the desert sands. On smooth pavement path I was being passed by local expats cyclists on ultralight carbon bicycles. The path. Al Qudra, however, has the advantage, that the terminal is located at its starting point – a building with changing rooms and showers, hairdryers, shampoo, hair conditioner, and toilet paper supplied.
Meanwhile. at the terminal a car parked with a couple of young people inside. A girl entered the ladies section, Local Muslim woman in a black abaya and hejab covering her face and hair . After 20 minutes I saw young woman in jeans trousers, skimpy T-shirt and dissolved freshly washed hair. I recognized her just from the smile she sent. I wondered, after the party, they undoubtedly were to attend, would they come again and change into a more acceptable by the family and the local community clothes?.
I took a shower and decided to try my luck for the night on lying nearby (excuse me, lying everywhere around ) desert. The dunes present themselves very picturesque in the reality and one the pictures, live bait in cycling trip is not as sweet. Please show me a cyclist, which would happily drag his/her bike over the soft sand?
I did a good job on finiding a good spot for the night, where I could somehow roll my bike. The sky above me was dotted with stars and birds were singing .. go back! ...! Nothing was singing! I mean, maybe it was, but I could not hear it. Until like 2 o'clock in the morning the sand dunes were rolled on by driving enthusiasts , of 4x4 vehicles×4, Let them rest in peace on day... Undoubtedly, in this country, however, the amount of outdoor entertainments due to the prevailing circumstances of the monotonous nature is quite limited and running over sand dunes is one of those most popular ones. I woke up therefore around 7 in the morning and crawled out of the tent barely alive. The amount of sand in each corner of my tent and the body was definitely too big, therefore I returned to the Al Qudra terminal to take the next shower . You never know, when it will again be such an opportunity!
After having reached the next and last terminal of Al Qudra path I had something to eat, made use of the shower again, and as the sunset was close I had decided to pedal to the located nearby attraction that is the artificial lakes of Chris told me about.
The Lakes are complex dug in the desert lakes formed after this, entertain bored in their spare time Dubai workers so they can escape the city and listen to nature.. Go back!! Listen to their radio transistors and eat barbecue drinking accessible only to them alcohol.
I'll never understand why, in a place like this, where you can listen to nature, in this case birds brought in thousands here, but nevertheless real and alive birds, people prefer to tune their equipment playing the full.. In one night I changed three times place I put my tent on, the last time at 23 when it turned out, that at this time a group of English-speaking expats wanted to make a fire and start partying 100 meters from my tent hidden in the bush. With tears in my eyes in disbelief and I dragged my tent through the sand as far as possible from the road. So the first two nights in the Emirati outdoor I consider to be little successful.
And then it was back to normal. Normal, that is, red-orange sand dunes around and camels strolling here and there or even a white antelopes to be spotted. Until to the border with Oman I rolled on weaving secondary roads yet 2 days. Gentlemen policemen at the police station in one of the cities I visited just before dusk in the hope of help with finding accommodation shook their heads in lack of understanding. They were not able to do anything about. Too dangerous to put up a tent madam here! ! I heard. Around here, only Pakistanis living.
On the police station premises as a solo woman I had no chance to stay (my heart will always remain with you Thailand, where all the police stations had their doors always open to travellers in need), but fortunately I found a tiny place to stay 1,5 x 2 long for a night and made myslef comfortable there.
On the horizon finally the mountains showed up . Al Hajar mountain range, whose small part lies on the United Arab Emirates territory and the biggert one in Oman gave the landscape more of a character.
Before I crossed the borderat crossing at Hatta ! met with Christine from Ireland with her Hindu boyfriend.
Oman! I love this country! Christine was emotional. We go there whenever we can, although recently they increased four times the cost of a visa. I"ll write you mmediately what to see and where to go, although it really is interesting everywhere.
With big sheet of A4 paper with Christina's personal Omani itinerary I travelled around this beautiful country for the next 2 months 2 months spent in Oman. And what it was and how it was iIll tell you in my next post!