Friday, 9 May 2014

Blogger's Block

When we first came to the UAE I was keen to find out as much as I could about where we had moved to, so I decided to search out blogs by people who had done the same thing.

There are lots of them out there, it seems that many expats take up blogging when they come here, no doubt - like me- to keep family and friends updated. Indeed it seems to be more unusual not to blog.

One thing I did notice though is that in many cases the enthusiasm seems to disappear within a few weeks or months. Maybe people become too busy living their new lives so don't have time to write about it. Maybe they run out of things to write about. Maybe they get discouraged by not attracting new readers, after all, I'm sure most of us (at least secretly) want to feel that what we write about is interesting to a wider audience than just friends and family.

For me, like I suspect for many people, it is a combination of the above. I haven't blogged much in recent weeks, firstly because we had a few visitors so evenings were busy, then we got hooked on a couple of crime drama series on TV, which I had to concentrate on and we all know men can't multitask.

I still have lots of things I want to blog about, the exciting things we have done over the last few weeks, interesting things we are still learning about the UAE, and so on. Hopefully this short post will help me break through the "blogger's block" I am suffering from and I'll be back with a vengeance soon.

But before that, it's the weekend, so I'm off to enjoy myself.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Kayaking in the Abu Dhabi Mangroves

And relax. It's been a busy few weeks with various visitors either staying with us or in Abu Dhabi. It has been great seeing everyone, Jo in particular has enjoyed showing people round, and the kids have enjoyed playing with friends they remember from Bolton. But it is also nice to be able to get back to the normal routine we have established.

One of the activities we have done in between visitors is kayaking in the Eastern Mangroves of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi supports nearly 70% of the mangroves found in the UAE, some natural and some planted, including the Eastern Mangroves. The mangroves serve a number of purposes, acting as an excellent breeding ground for fish, attracting birds, and also providing some protection against wind and flood damage to the low lying areas they surround.

Various companies offer guided kayak tours around the mangroves. We went with Noukhada Adventure Company, mainly because we had Entertainer vouchers entitling us to two free places (never go for a tour without getting hold of some of these vouchers).

We turned up at the appointed time of 8:45am one Friday morning. It was a lovely sunny day, with the temperature already hitting 30 degrees at that early hour. Once we had slapped on our sun cream, had our safety briefing, and advice on paddling technique, it wasn't long before we were on our way.

We had three kayaks between us. Henry was on his own, Flossie started with Jo, and Archie with me. There were between ten and 15 kayaks in the group, including a couple of guides, one at the front and one at the back. We spent a happy, if hot, couple of hours paddling along, stopping at intervals to gather our breath and learn a little more about what we were seeing, including the plants, the fish and the crabs (LOTS of crabs!).

On the way back we stopped at a small beach area for a little while, where you could go for a swim to cool down. Archie, Flossie and I were very happy to take advantage of this. The only mishaps I recall were those of us in heavier kayaks running aground in the shallow water a couple of times, and Archie toppling out of Jo's kayak when she put in a sudden burst of acceleration (no harm was done).

All in all we had a fantastic time, Jo describing it as "the best thing we have done since coming to the UAE". We enjoyed it so much that we are now on the lookout for some cheap secondhand kayaks so we can get out there on our own.

For anyone living in Abu Dhabi I would very much recommend this as a "must do" activity. You don't need to be an expert kayaker, and you get plenty of breaks to gather your energy along the way. Remember your sun cream, some drinks (although the guides have plenty of water with them), your swimwear and your camera, and you'll have a great time.

You can find out more about the mangroves of Abu Dhabi here.

As always thanks for reading.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Back soon

Hello all. Sorry not to have posted for a while but we've had visitors, and work has been busy. I'll be back soon, but in the meantime I thought you may enjoy Archie and Flossie's latest homework!

Thanks to Henry for the video editing.


Monday, 24 March 2014

Six things to bear in mind if camping in the UAE

We've been back from camping for two days and have just about got rid of all the sand from various nooks and crannies. I thought I would report on the weekend in the form of some tips for anyone else who may be considering their first camping trip in the UAE, or is packing their life into a container about to move here, and wondering whether to use space for their camping gear.

1: Don't think twice about driving 200 miles for one night camping

It may seem a lot to drive 200 miles, spend an hour unpacking and putting your tent up, only to do it all in reverse less than 24 hours later, but it's worth it. You are in a new country and you need to see as much of it as possible so make the effort. I never imagined I would be camping on a beach close to the border of Saudi Arabia, and yes the landscape was desolate, but the beach was beautiful, and it was great to see another part of the UAE. Anyway the main roads here are always at least dual carriage way so quick progress can be made, indeed it was only a little after lunchtime when our convoy of six cars turned off the main road, drove round the camel track, and arrived at the beach.

Who wouldn't want to camp here?

2: Leave your gear behind, start again in the UAE

We brought most of our existing gear with us from the UK, taking up valuable room in our container. With the benefit of hindsight I wouldn't have bothered. You can pick up all the equipment you need for a night or two camping easily and cheaply here, particularly from places like Carrefour. Some of the gear you can get here is probably more suited to the desert or beaches. We discovered this with our tent, which was a pain to erect in the sea breeze that was blowing when we arrived at Al Sila'a, whereas our friends had their tent up and were ready to enjoy their first beer within 15 minutes of arriving.

Finally, a little lopsided, but somewhere to sleep

3: They make special pegs for the sand

It never even occurred to me that the "normal" pegs we bought from the UK would be completely unsuitable for sand, particularly when pitching a tent in windy conditions. I only realized there is such a thing as "sand pegs" when a fellow camper (the one who had already pitched his tent) asked whether we had any. I felt somewhat foolish when answering in the negative, but we battled onward and managed to get enough pegs to stay in the ground to get the tent up, albeit a little lopsided.

It wasn't to last though. Having been buffeted by the wind for 12 hours, at 2am on Saturday I awoke with a start having been clattered in the face by a collapsing tent pole. I quickly woke Jo and the kids and we had to make a bolt for the car where we spent the rest of the night, the kids sleeping in the boot (which they thought was great) and Jo and I on the reclined front seats (not getting much sleep).


This is the scene that greeted us at 6am. Needless to say we have now said goodbye to this tent, and will be visiting Carrefour before our next camping trip.

4: Take some friends, lubricate with a drink or two, add music, a roaring camp fire and marshmallows

Between getting our tent up and it blowing down in the early hours we had a lovely time. I'm still not quite sure how many kids were there, they never stood still long enough for me to count them, but I do know that they all had a great time running riot around the campsite and toasting marshmallows on the campfire. Meanwhile the adults took the opportunity to relax, sitting round the fire chatting, listening to music, and enjoying the food and drink we had taken with us (including a lovely Chilli, and Jo's slush punch). We finally turned in around midnight once the battery on the music player had run out, and the last of the punch had gone, but it was a great afternoon and evening.

5: Take it all in

In between everything that is going on take some time to enjoy what is going on around you. A couple of things I took some time to take in were the stunning sunrise on Saturday, and the locals exercising their camels on the race track next to our campsite. It has to be said that Jo was a little disappointed by the race track. She had been expecting something along the lines of Aintree I think, with huge grandstands and modern facilities. What we found was a huge oval track with railings that had seen better days (probably about 40 years ago), and ..... nothing else. Never mind.

Exercising the camels
Seen better days
A beautiful sunrise

6: Clean up after yourself

One thing that disappointed me was the litter on the beach when we arrived. I'm not sure whether it had been left by previous campers, or had been thrown overboard from passing boats and washed ashore. It doesn't really matter either way. I understand there can be similar issues if you visit many of the wadis here as well. Anyway, it goes without saying my final tip is to clean up after yourself, indeed why not make a point of taking away more rubbish than you create? Lecture over!

Happy campers

So there we go, my top tips for camping in the UAE. All in all, despite the collapse of our tent, we had a great time, and can't wait for our next trip.

If you have experience of camping in the UAE, what tips would you add to those above? Leave a comment to let me know.

As always thanks for reading.