A Friday...no Metro until 1pm so we hop a bus to station for bus to Abu Dhabi and onward to Liwa, desert oasis.
Staying in a hostel is great for meeting other travellers e.g. at Dubai hostel we met no less than 3 German travellers, 2 gals and a guy. One gal (19) was at the end of her 'break' year returning home with just 2 days in Dubai...she booked a tour of the city and went up The Tower, busy the entire time. The past 4 months she travelled all over Australia & when she returns she goes to school studying business. The other gal in her mid-20s is in Dubai applying for a job as nanny/house manager for a German couple with a 6 yr old boy. Apparently, the couple are moving to Palmiera (huge new development in the gulf in shape of a palm...) and they travel a lot - he's in financial business (presently in Italy), she is going to Lebenon in a month so evidently Mega bucks!
Finally, the guy, 19 on break year as well, has spent the past year in New Zealand, the last 6 months working on a 700 head dairy farm, milking cows in 2 / 4 hour shifts - they did not have a carrousel parlor until after he left which meant they had 5 milkers on 11 day rotations. Apparently, now they have a carrousel system and use one less milker. He really enjoyed the work but now going home has to decide what's next, maybe study to be a teacher. Fun talking with all of them, really get an insight into at least where the German future is heading perhaps?
We are going ahead with our Iran plans as if all is a go. Close timeline from 16th-18th during which time we have to have good internet access to take care of $$$ business, arrange accomodations in Dehli where we can get Amazon LP guidebooks shipped, get visas, and tie up loose ends because we probably will not be in contact with anyone from 19th until we arrive in Dehli on the 4th of June.
If anyone involved in making arrangements for Lorenzo in Missoula reads this, Bonnie wants to thank them and hopes all goes well with his visit there. If someone can report back on his visit it would be much appreciated. Lorenzo is a friend of Salva (our Spanish cyclist friend cycling around the world for past 6+ years) and he's been 'on-the-road' 14 years!
First, bus to Dubai station where buses to A. D. leave every 10 minutes as it turns out. Two hours later, in A.D. station we have managed to arrive just 20 min. before next bus to Liwa...fortunate, in that there was quite a crowd waiting and Bon left me with the bags so she could get ATM $$$. While she was away the line quickly formed, bus pulled up, and the crowd began to board! I could only put our bags on under the bus but I was last in line! Suddenly, the security guy watching us board, held up the line of men (usually, very few women travel on these buses) to allow a woman on board and then there's Bon getting on! I call out, "That's my wife" and sure enough, the security guy ushers me ahead on board! In UAE countries as well as other Muslem places, the first 2-3 seats on buses are reserved for only women and families. Don't think I didn't hear about THAT little favor, ha! As it turned out there were at least a dozen men left standing outside the bus when we left...next bus in 2 hours!
The bus driver made excellent time (I really think he was over tired, and the road is mostly straight, boring desert), so we arrived in a bit over 2 hours from Abu Dhabi. The driver was very nice and directed us in the right direction for Liwa Resthouse Hotel, LP recommended which he said was just 10 minutes down the road past the 2nd roundabout. We began out walk, it's hot, dry and not more than 100 meters down the boulevard a fellow stops and offers us a ride! He's a local, school teacher and drops us right at the Hotel front door where he says his friend is in charge - and yes it is just 10 minutes, BY CAR driving fast. The thermometer in his car read 46°C (115°F), we were VERY grateful to say the least! The hotel was not in the middle of town, but the price and accommodations were reasonable (slightly more than hostel but a huge room). The reason to come here was to experience the desert and now that we're here we face the perennial problem of transportation out and about! The desk fellow was quite helpful once we translated his 'English' into something intelligible and had him explain it half dozen times. Yes, we can just go down to the road/small roundabout and buses come by which take us to a small village on the way to Moreeb Hill, 300 meter high sand dune, highest in UAE and famous for the races held there. Of course, there are no buses to this hill/dune, he says, many people go there and maybe you can hitch a ride.
Wiki Info Moreeb Dune
We head out. Standing by the side of the road half a dozen trucks and a couple cars whizz by, people inside staring at us. Hmmm. Then a 4WD rover approaches and I decide to motion in the direction of the hill. He stops and offers us a ride! Long story short this Indian driver and Expat Brit companion take us the entire way there ( their destination as well), stopping for photos along the way as well as being there for sunset and beyond returning in the pitch darkness of desert! Could not plan this any better! Another serendipitous adventure we shall not forget. Expat fellow has lived/worked most of his life as an Expat all over the world. Never got his full story other than he would never go to Saudi Arabia - been there, horrible place - but as his friend the Indian said, the wounds are still open/fresh ones!
No real food available at rest house and we brought very few provisions with us so we'll head back to Abu Dhabi. The fellow and the desk told us buses come by so we head out to the roundabout, see none and begin to walk, full sun, lots of trucks/commercial vehicles going by. Finally, after 20 min. of walking a taxi stops and takes us to the bus station. A nice security fellow from Pakistan talks withus, he's been here 7 months, day work, good pay...no work in Pakistan, had to leave to support is family. Had been in UK for 6 years before returning to Pakistan but within a year all his savings were spent. We asked if there was a place nearby to get yogurt but he said nearest market was half mile away. He said "I will get for you" Next thing we knew he had a bag wth yogurts and flavored milk shakes and spoons! He refused any money even when pressed!
The bus driver back to A.D. was the same nice fellow who drove the bus her yesterday, from Sudan! Mad good time arriving about noon-thirty. It is amazing how green with trees and eve grass ii is all round Liwa, even lots of 'farms, 'forests, I even saw a corn field and a pivot irrigation system! Could not believe my eyes! But all just surrounded by desert. Lots of minions to do the work, no litter along the highways, buses go to every farm or town work area, must be 1000s of miles of irrigation pipe to maintain.
Went to bus stop to go to Jas Is. and Ferrari World waited 45 min during which time 3 other tourist types showed up, 2 from Australia and an architect from UK on business. Architect said business had been good until 2008 but now recently the government has halted many projects and those that remain have 15 bidders instead of the 5 there once were.
At Ferrari World everything is WAY over the top $$$-wise! Just to get in for the rides is $75 US...needlesstosay we only sttayed long enuf to buy a T-shirt then headed back to main bus terminal and on to Sharjah. Easy getting tickets, Sharjah Bus Transport, bus pulled up w/in 20 min. but it had been sitting in the wrong spot in the station so when it did pull up it was already half full. Got on but the only seats avail. had some heater vent spewing out heat at floor level. The AC didn't help much but we pulled out 10 min. later, the driver telling us it would cool after door was closed. NOT! After 15 min. of driving we pulled into a gas station and sat there for 15 min.(I thought it unusual because buses are fueled before picking up passengers). Another half hour and we're in a line up of trucks, semis, and commercial vehicles stopped! We're sitting here for at least a half hour and I go out to ask the driver why we aren't on the highway just 100 meters away where traffic is moving right along. He says he has no permit to drive on that highway! What? Now I'm questioning whether this company is real or a rip! The bus is full, lots of 'locals' so I ask how long before we get started again? Just 10 min. is his answer. I walk up the line of perhaps 10-12 trucks, trailers, other buses and see we are waiting at a gas pump! All these vehicles are lined up for GAS! He lied to me right to my face! Could not believe it. We are now 1 & 1/2 hours on the bus and less than a half hour out of Abu Dhabi! This trip which we thought would save us time is going to take 4-5 hours, the AC doesn't work so we're sweating profusely (it's 40° C = over 100° F in the bus), and I'm not taking it well at all! I think this ranks as one of the top 5 WORST bus trips I've ever taken anywhere!!
Not only that but the driver is lousy, he lies and steers the bus in a back and forth motion so the entire bus is constantly swaying back and forth giving me the feeling of being on a boat!! Almost seasick nausea!
Didn't get to Sharjah until 9+, and tried to get a taxi to Sharjah Heritage YH but none of the drivers knew what we were talking about! This a hostel within 5 minutes of bus station (according to internet page), and no taxi driver knew it existed! We were hot, frustrated, at the end of our patience so we decided to return to Dubai & hostel there even tho it is much more expensive ($30 vs $18 US).