|Posted on April 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM|
Dubai airport Terminal 1, United Arab Emirates,April 12, 2012 21.48.
The prospect of passing through airports 25 times in the next 17 days gives me such a sense of agony that I am wondering more than ever why I chose this path for myself. It is true that this time I am going all out in the very final, the absolutely final, step in order to, evenfor one brief moment, feel what it means to be in the Top 10 of that damn MTP list (which is fictitious anyway, with dodgy criteria and even more dodgy places, but sadly the best we have for the moment, though if you are reading this, the new site www.thebesttravelled.com is already up and running,currently in the final testing stages – needless to say, your registration and support are highly appreciated).
Yes, there will be lots of waiting at (Russian) airports patiently the next weeks for a total of 24 flights from tonight until mid May (not to mention at least 6 of these being night flights), or at least that’s the plan unless I have a sudden change of heart and take the first aircraft to a place where the peoplesurrounding me are not strangers. I comfort myself by counting the minutes until this ultimate aim is achieved and I can then retire, letting others claimthe Top 10 spot, and put Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Colombia, Chileand Maliat the top of my travel list even if they don’t award me any points at all. Fornow, though, here I am at this dreadful airport of Dubai.For all its supposed glitz, the toilets stink and there is no working wifi, not even upon payment (I would be willing to pay after 36 hours without checking myemail). This is quite certainly the last time I will be in the United Arab Emirates unless I transit on an Etihad flight, that is a pleasure worth repeating, though I can’t see myself flying east for a long time to be honest. At least I flew here for free (claiming my Etihad miles) and spent a night at the Holiday Inn for free too (claiming my old loyalty to the group), which is an award nightvery well chosen given the horrendous prices of hotels in Dubai. The night at the luxury hotel reminded me of times long gone when I was a frequent guest ofthe Intercontinental chain in places as diverse as Libreville,Asmara, Tashkent and Atlanta.Those days are long gone, as I found myself rather at odds with the layout ofthe colossal room, now more accustomed to couchsurfing or, if in need, the cheapest hotel (hopefully with free wifi) that money can buy. At this Holiday Inn you are supposed to pay $200 and then wifi is charged extra. It begs the question, who can possibly be so daft as to go with such policies... Though Iam quite sure that occupancy in Dubai is very healthy. And it can stay healthy without me, thank you very much.
The money saved on the flight and the hotel was spent with a vengeance on a way overpriced personalised tour to the Musandam peninsula today, a tour that made me realise that a. I really cannot take hassles anymore b. I feel guilty as hell spending the equivalent of half a monthly wage in the Greeceof today for a total of 12 hours in a tiny piece of land c. I do get a kick from crossing a border by land even after all this time d. the sea is alwaysgreat to look at, and in this part of the world it seems to me to be a draw that is dreadfully underrated. Everyone appears to come to Dubai for the glitz or for the shopping, but just a brief drive away from here, cross that border and you will get absolutely stunning, glorious, abandoned sandy beaches and a tint of blue that will have you wanting to jump in instantly. Thumbs up then for swimming in the waters of that small exclave that forms the tip of the peninsula and, on a goodday, includes a view of Iranon the other side. Not today though, it was rather hazy and at times there wereeven sandstorms which made me rather queesy during the so-called ‘mountain safari’ at high altitudes on dirt roads with nothing but abyss below.
Other than the sea, there were some petroglyphs which looked as if they were designed by the 4-year old sister of my godson but are, apparently, really old and obviously of considerable value. There were also some fossils on rocks as this whole area was submerged some quarter of a billion years ago. I admit, that is quite awesome, seeing the imprint of a fish that swum there in an age with so many zeros back that the mind boggles.Khasab, the capital of this exclave, has a quaint little fort, recently restored into a museum, which is worth half an hour and makes for a couple ofpredictable but good looking photos. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this bit of land is that even the remotest villages up on top of the rugged mountains have electricity and that the Omani government, obviously keen toplease the population of its outpost, provides all for free for the luck ycitizens. If I lived there I would be swimming every day in glee and getting abetter tan would be my one and only ambition.
This strenuous tour appeared so demanding for the tour company (a day return from Dubai,plus activities in Musandam) that I ended up with three different drivers, one on the way there, one there, and one back. They were all from the Indian subcontinent with near incomprehensible English, which just increased my daydreaming tendencies as I gazed at the sea on the one side and the limestone mountains,occasionally hosting a few acacia trees, on the other. I hate to be unappreciative when so many people seem to consider me a sort of inspirational idol (fools are they) and find my way of life absolutely wonderful, but in almost every particle of my body and soul I am not physically in the places my itinerary takes me onthis trip. In fact, completing this trip up to April 29 is the most difficult thing I have ever done (and that includes those tough university entrance exams when I was 17) but the exactreasons for this remain my own, my dear few, select readers.
I have very few doubts that (if all goes of course) I am probably the first person in living history who will bein Musandam, Omanone day and Adygeya, Caucacus, Russia, 24 hours later. Not to mention Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean little more than 36 hours later. You maywonder what kind of clothing I have for the climate zone changes involved insuch insane itineraries. I just threw away a pair of jeans full of holes, if that is an indication. It all has to fit in the one tiny rucksack. Waiting forluggage 14 times is just not an option. As is not, at this advanced stage,giving up, even though, if I had it my way – in the sense of finally being freefrom this terrible obsession to conquer and compete with people who aregenerally two or three decades older than me - I would be on a flight heading toward an entirely different zone altogether.
But I will compensate you all with bits of aRussian travelogue, this one last time, I promise... After all, Krasnodar airport did compensate me with free wifi, so it from here that I post this about 20 hours after composing it, and yes, with Adygeya under my belt...