A Busy Birding, Birthday and Bledisloe Brunch Weekend

November 1, 2008

For my third last weekend here in Dubai, it was fun-filled.  On Friday morning, up early to meet up with a fellow KM birdwatcher, Neill Allan, who was over working for a couple of days from the UK.  We headed off to Masafi Wadi, then the Dibba Dairy Farm, up to the north coast to see the northern beaches but the tide was too high (meaning that the birds were way out on the spit 800 metres away), and then back through Ras Al Khor.  Highlights were White Storks at the dairy farm (my first wild storks!), lots of snipe, heaps of waders, and of course the wonderful conversation with Neill while driving around.  It was great to travel with someone!

After dropping Neill off at the airport, headed down to Mirdif to catch up with Jude, a friend of Nerida.  A nice quiet hour spent at their place.  Then off to Raymi’s 50th birthday party at the Montgomery Golf Academy.  He arrived by camel which was wonderful to see.  I needed to buy a black bow tie for the occasion!  Beautiful weather now. 

Camel at the Golf Academy

Camel at the Golf Academy

Then today was up for the Bledisloe Brunch at the Westin, organised by Kiwis.  Some great stories by two fantastic sportsmen, Dick Taylor (winner of 1974 Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres), and Colin Meads (one of NZ’s best ever rugby players).  Lots of really good jokes and anecdotes.  The game in Hong Kong was marred by the slipping surface but entertaining and close.  Typical result with the All Blacks lucky to win and Australian not finding a way home in the second half.  At least, I had a great time singing the national anthem before the game with Tracey and Francoise – lots of emotion there!

Bledisloe Brunch

Bledisloe Brunch

Masafi Wadi for a “Bush”walk

October 26, 2008

Last Friday morning, I decided to get out of Dubai and go for a hike. The weather is a little cooler now and Peter joined me. Got up early just on dawn after quite a late night.

We went up into the hills – the Hajar Mountains – that lie between Dubai and the East Coast.  There are not too many places that you can go without a 4WD that offer reasonably decent walking, views and scenery.  After about 90 minutes of driving, we arrived at Masafi Wadi, identified earlier through a birdwatcher’s website.

We started walking about 8 am.  The sun was warm and clear and not much breeze.  As we climbed up the valley, we walked either along the plains or in the wadi itself.  The wadi is the creekbed except there is no water unless it rains and then the water can scream down these creekbeds and gouge out the rocks from the floodplain.  Walking along the creekbed was lovely in the morning shielded from the sun by the high sides.  There was not much bush to speak of, a few plants in the floodplain itself and the odd shrubs in the valley.  We arrived back at the car after about 3 and a half hours and headed into Fujairah to the Hilton for lunch beside the ocean and the rolling waves.

Highights of the walk included a large gecko, someone’s farm at the top of the valley with palm trees and an irrigated garden, a few ruins of old hut foundations at the top, and a few birds, particularly lots of Long-billed Pipits on the sides of the valley.

High cliffs in Masafi Wadi

High cliffs in Masafi Wadi

A blurry gecko

A blurry gecko

Grasses in the creek bed near the top

Grasses in the creek bed near the top

Foundations of an old hut at the top of the wadi

Foundations of an old hut at the top of the wadi

Farmed creek valley in a sheltered spot - palm trees and irrigated crops

Farmed creek valley in a sheltered spot - palm trees and irrigated crops

It’s a Sign!

October 23, 2008

One of the things I believe in is looking out for signs.  Not those things on the side of the road (well I do look out for them as well to help me where I am going) but those signals which may help you in pointing to a particular direction in life.  It comes down to synchronicity – those meaningful coincidences that pop up unexpectedly. 

When I was first looking to come out to Dubai and in contract discussions, I was hungry at work and while walking back from a meeting popped in to Dimmeys as they often had cheap foodstuffs.  I spied a packet of biscuits and thought, yep, that will do nicely for an afternoon snack.  Later at work, I looked on the back of the packet of Date Biscuits and discovered they were made in the United Arab Emirates.  The first time I had ever seen imported food from the UAE (there is not much made locally here either!).  I took that as an important sign that I was meant to come over to Dubai.

Other people I have spoken to over here have made similar comments.  They looked out the window and saw an Emirates Airlines sign that they had not noticed before.  Things similar to that.

And so, I laughed when I saw this article in The Age today.  What was Colonial Stadium and then Telstra Dome will now be Etihad Stadium.  Etihad is the airline for Abu Dhabi and this may be a sign pointing in that direction. They will soon be offering direct flights to Melbourne – a bit late for me.  Or it may be a sign that I needed to tell someone else about (you know who it is!).

The Sun Still Does Not Hit the Water!

October 22, 2008

One of the things that I like is watching the sun set to signify the end of the day.  Here in Dubai it is quite noticeable that the days are getting shorter and the weather is now much cooler.  There have been many occasions over the past few months when I have gone down to the beach near here at the Marina and watch the sunset. 

With the clearer skies of late and less humidity, I thought that maybe the sun might actually get to touch the water as it sets over the Gulf of Arabia.  But alas, it still fades from view rather than dissolve into the water like back in Australia.  Here as the sun gets close to the horizon, it slowly loses shine and then fades completely into the dust layer.  What you are left with is this glow above the horizon where the sun used to be as the daytime ends.

And you can see how busy this open beach (not owned by a hotel) becomes on the weekend with so may people enjoying the balmy weather.

Barnesy – An Australian Experience in Dubai

October 20, 2008

Along with hundreds of fellow Aussies, I ventured out on Saturday night to the Intercontinental Hotel at Dubai Festival City to see Jimmy Barnes and his band. Or should I say to see Jimmy sweat, scream, sing, sweat, scream more, more sweat and even more singing/screaming.

I was a fan of Cold Chisel in the early 80’s, particularly following the release of their East album. But I had never seen them live and of course, due to their self-imposed boycott, did not get to see them on Countdown either while growing up.

The audience was typically Australian – raucous, loud (especially in singing the old Cold Chisel ballads like Khe Sanh, Choir Girl, Whent the War is Over or screaming along with the rock songs like Star Hotel and You Got Nothing I Want), beer-swilling, and fun-loving. Highlights included the guys with the mullet wigs and the blow up kangaroos (one of which ended up on stage with a stage pass around its neck), the 75 year old bald guy dancing away (or was he staggering), the Aussie humour of embellished stories (no, the bass player is not the guy who sang Spaghetti Bolognese to kids in the 1980s – Peter Combe), irreverent and fun-loving.

I am amazed that my eardrums felt OK when I left the building with no ringing – perhaps that is a sign of increased deafness and reduced sensitivity as I age! And also I am pleasantly surprised that my voice is not too husky after a bit of yelling and singing (or was that screaming like Barnesy) last night.   A wonderful night for the princely sum of only 150 Dh a ticket (about A$50).

Barnesy is in the middle with the black shirt with the guitar - bit hard with all that backlighting!

Barnesy is in the middle with the black shirt with the guitar - bit hard with all that backlighting

Of course, some Aussies brought the ubiquitous blow up kangaroo!

Of course, some Aussies brought the ubiquitous blow up kangaroo!


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