Saturday, April 14, 2012

Transports of delight? Nup.

Today started well, if you discount the 5am wake-up imposed by stubborn jetlag, with meeting my friend for (second) breakfast in central Abu Dhabi at Jones the Grocer, which it turns out there’s a branch of in Auckland. They make good porridge there (never let it be said that I won’t try local specialties). Tahira and I last saw each other in Adelaide, having met in Coober Pedy, and we’re looking forward to another exotic location next time, whenever that might be. She’s lived in Abu Dhabi for 6 years, and has some interesting stories to tell, the most flabbergasting being the ex-pat couple who met up in a cafĂ©, exchanged a chaste cheek-peck, were spotted by a 5 year-old, told on to her mother, reported to the police, arrested, imprisoned for a year, and then deported forever. Note to self: UAE + PDA = PNG.

Then there was another tiresome site inspection, followed by a trip to Ferrari World, an indoor theme park boasting the world’s fastest roller coaster: 0-240kmh in 5 seconds. The auto-photo afterwards showed us with G-force grins, teeth bared and gritted – it was a totally astonishing sensation, though it was only brief. After that it was a regular coaster, though that first climb was pretty good, and the tip over the top involved much shrieking; but then there were too many twists and turns for my delicate stomach, and even two minutes total was a smidge too long. Not being into cars, I skipped most of the rest of the park, but if you’re one who drools over shiny red and yellow fast cars that are eye-wateringly expensive, this would be the place for you.

Unfortunately, another car came next: Mohammed drove us altogether too enthusiastically into the desert for some dune-bashing and sideways sliding that all five of us in the car stopped enjoying pretty quickly, especially the German woman who was, eventually, pushed over the edge. “Does this happen often?” we asked Mohammed. “It’s normal,” he shrugged, clearly mystified. We spotted a gazelle, which was lovely to see as it paused on the skyline at the top of a dune; and some camels with enviably long thick eyelashes (though it was a shame about the four camel toes); and the sun setting, and the green flash; but there was far too much bucketing over the dunes. It was grim. Then, thankfully, we got to the camp, but next rode a camel that lurched along and reminded me that they’re called ‘ships of the desert’, which did my nausea no good at all. It didn’t help that the camel, its nose done up in some sort of crocheted snood, complained throughout, making a noise just like someone being sick.

We manfully fronted up to the barbecue afterwards, however, and did our best, though the little cat yowling around the table did pretty well on the left-overs (after which it disappeared abruptly, in the manner of its kind); and then we fought to retain what we’d swallowed on the way back again, even on the road, where Mohammed drove just as excitingly. We would have given our eye teeth for a quiet and motionless night in bed, but we had to check out at 11.30pm for a 2am flight to Paris. Just the seven hours. Sigh.

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