Onwards to Arabia Around the world in 115 days

April 12th.

The last leg

So here we are somewhere cruising the Red Sea ( although actually I'm quite disappointed that it's not actually red at all ) and again it's very hot forcing me indoors to begin my latest recounting of this journey. The good thing is that it is calm and I'm happy to report that we have not suffered any pirates in the high risk sea corridor so all is well with me and Passepartou who currently sits on our balcony trying vainly to top up her tan.

Capturing the sun

According to P&O ,this is the last leg of this round the world voyage beginning a few days ago in Dubai when another great passenger swap occurred. This leg takes us into and out of the Persian gulf (more politically correctly now called the Arabian gulf), then around the corner to the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba before transiting Suez to the Mediterranean. After stops in Crete, Athens, Malta and finally Lisbon it'll be on the bus home.

Sri Lanka

Looking back though I should first recount the last port stop in Asia, that of Colombo in Sri Lanka a place we nearly visited five years ago. Unfortunately on that particular day I was really suffering from a deadly attack of " Man Flu", that well known and oft mocked by women ailment, so we did not get off the ship, much to you know whose chagrin.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we boarded our free shuttle bus from the ship to a downtown point in Colombo. As the bus left the secure port gate we noticed in hot pursuit a flock/fleet of Tuk Tuk's...a veritable swarm all around the bus. In the chaotic traffic these glorified mobile sewing machines weaved in and out in front of us and cruised along side with their Kamikazee drivers waving to offer us unsuspecting tourists their services.

Finally our bus arrived at the drop off point and the doors opened revealing a gigantic fleet of yet more TukTuks.

Busy streets of Colombo

At that point pandemonium ensued because some of the Tuk Tuk drivers boarded the bus in their eagerness to bag customers. We had not taken the earliest shuttle, preferring a more leisurely start to the day, which meant that a lot of our fellow passengers of course were already at the bus stop. Some of those "early birds" also boarded our bus with expressions of fear on their faces, they'd had enough of being mobbed, it's just not like this in Barnsley or Brighton, they simply wanted to return to the safety of our Ship our own little maritime care home.

Eventually bravely we stepped from the bus to be surrounded by yet more TukTuk drivers, such that we could hardly move.....then we saw it.....our escape....Macdonalds...they could not follow us in there could they?

Most of the great TukTuk onslaught survivors were in Macdonalds making their coffee last, hoping that the great Tukorama outside would dissipate at sometime allowing them also to return ship wards.

As you can see . TukTuks have little passenger protection. Definitely not for us

.We found a table at the rear of this restaurant along with the couple we'd planned to explore with while we collected our nerves and drank cappuccinos. Soon we became the target for a taxi hustler offering trips around town. By this time though we'd become a tad emboldened (probably the caffeine), so following hard negotiations we hired a taxi for three hours.

The taxi itself was not exactly new but it did start and apart from a couple of bald tyres was relatively sound, a bonus was air conditioning that worked and even though the driver spoke little English provided us a pleasant experience.

Taxi with F1 Sliks for tyres..for fast U turns

I did realise after an hour into the trip that Passepartou's eyesight is not all as it might be, as when driving past a park she exclaimed "there's an Elephant in there". With that our driver asked if we wanted to visit that park instead of the scheduled stop at a government building, we agreed and with that the taxi immediately performed a U turn through six lanes of traffic, a somewhat heart stopping/brown trousers moment for us.

This Elephant had seen better days and it was at a temple Museum

The park visited is called Ape Gama and is a cultural centre, comprising replica old villages, old craft demonstrations etc etc. After entering the park we went on an elephant hunt only to discover that the perceived Elephant was in fact a wooden tableau of a farmer with a Water Buffalo. There wasn't an Elephant anywhere to be seen.

Passepartou .. She should have gone to Specsavers!

Getting to know the natives has always been one of my talents, but this guy didn't say much

A school visit to the park. After a while the kids were more interested in us than the exhibits. They wanted to shake hands and know our names. They didn't believe I was David Beckham though.

He asked me if I wanted it around my neck. You gotta be joking

Didn't go much on this one either!

There's no fool like...

Leaving Colombo behind, Arcadia complete with anti pirate equipment on board sailed for Dubai arriving on April 6th, which entailed four relaxing sea days to do as much or as little as possible. The ships entertainment team do provide various distractions for those interested but generally we don't partake of much. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the announcement on March 31st that Fred and Sheila Simpson were going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by performing a synchronised dive from the back of the ship the following lunchtime. I got my camera ready that morning and told Passepartou that I was going to photograph the event. Then she pointed out the date to me.

We rendezvous with an RFA ship en route in Pirate territory

The following day I joined the "learn Arabic in four days " course. Although according to our daily ships event planner they did state that one could join the course on any day even if it had already started, this did not prove to be the case. I joined on day three so when the teacher began by saying "yesterday we learnt how to count from one to fifty in Arabic, today we will learn fifty one to one hundred " Instantly I knew I was in trouble. I thought, there I could be in the souk and the minimum number of Pashminas or Rolexs I could barter for would be 51! It could be worse still if I met a camel trader!

I sneaked out of that class.

Dubai

Docked at the cruise terminal in Dubai

Our main objective for this years visit to Dubai was the ascent of the worlds tallest building the Burje Khalaifa, which at last we did but unfortunately our particular booking only took us to the lowest viewpoint, it seems to go higher costs more as one needs a VIP ticket. We obviously were not VIP's.

It said we were going to the top!

The glass model was good though

One of group 14..,at the top

A lot of building sand here

Is there anyone in those offices?

Think I need to lose weight

It's quite tall...currently the tallest...but we only got to floor 124

To my mind Dubai is a strange place, really it's just a modern city in a desert, many gleaming skyscrapers, modern offices ,hotels and more shopping malls that you could shake a camel at. But...what's it for?...who works in those offices and what do they do? It seems to me all a bit make believe but at least it's easy to get around and it's very civilised.

The Metro station at the old town

Following our mornings tour, we decided to take the local Metro to the old town, which at least is authentic. A place where we could visit the old souk and stroll along the creek watching the little ferries carrying people hither and thither across that river. It's a bit touristy, but does have some charm and it's relatively easy to fend off the vendors of Rolex watches who persuasively encourage the unsuspecting to part with cash for toot. The silk scarves though can be a bargain.

Wandering along the creek and through the old souk

Finding a restaurant overlooking the creek we figured we'd have time for dinner as we did not have to be back onboard until 10:30.....plus we are getting a tad fed up with the ships catering such is the hardship endured on a world cruise.

Dinner by the creek.....flies optional

We had enough Dirhams, so could afford a main course and a drink. All cooked to order, eventually it arrived.....unfortunately so did the flies. It does seem that as well as rain, flies too have featured regularly on this trip. It wasn't really that bad and we had plenty of time which was just as well because we were taking turns eating and fly swatting, kind of fun really.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi or ABBY DABBY as we know it , the capital of United Arab Emirates like Dubai gleams with Skyscrapers etc ( that's of course sandstorms permitting) ,at this point though I'll just let some photos do the talking as this was just for us another day at the office.

Due to pollution this early form of transport has been abandoned

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

An impressive building with no expense spared it seems.

Those chandeliers a bit too big for our house

Messing about in the lobby of The Emirates palace hotel

A bit grander than the last Holiday Inn we stayed in

More steps to the Grand foyer

Last stop in UAE

The morning of Saturday April 8th , Passepartou threw open our curtains to reveal our last port of call in UAE, Khor Al Fakkan. It looked OK, there was a beach opposite and we had it planned to find a friendly hotel that would allow use of their private beach. There is a very nice public beach, but it would not be for us due to strict local Islamic dress codes in force and I thought my Mankini could get me into trouble.

As they say " the best made schemes..." it all began by going a bit pear shaped, as the free shuttle bus headed straight out of the port and away from those beaches. None of us had any idea where we were headed as the bus headed seemingly across a desert landscape bypassing a couple of small towns.....were we being abducted....was the driver lost?

Eventually we were by the coast again with the delicate scent of crude oils permeating the air as we passed a city of oil storage tanks, this is going to be nice we thought.

Our destination was in fact a shopping mall ( surprise, surprise!) on the outskirts of the town of Fujairah.

First coffee

Then the ancient sites...well actually the restored fort at Fujairah

The positive thing for us however, was the nice restaurant with a comfortable terrace and after our regular caffeine fix and some exceedingly nice macaroons six of us in two taxis were able to explore the area.

Up to the Palace Fort at Wadi Al Hayl

Onwards to Jordan

So now we are heading towards Aqaba where all being well ( symptoms of man flu currently lurking), we will be taking a trip to Petra ( not the Blue Peter dog, but the Ancient lost City of Petra). For us this will be a highlight of our entire journey, we just hope that the other 788 people traveling in our convoy of 22 coaches does not make it too crowded for fun. But more of this in the next blog.

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