A week ago I left Sydney on my five month jaunt before heading home to Prince Edward Island. I am spending most of my time in Barcelona volunteering and I had budgeted accordingly knowing I wouldn’t have any income until I was back on PEI in May.
Day one and the budget was well and truly blown. Turns out Thai Airways and Oman Air don’t have any agreement regarding luggage and while I have travelled with my clubs since I started golfing, I have always paid $80-$100 for an additional bag of sporting equipment.
Not this day. I had two choices – leave my clubs or pay more for my clubs to come with me than I had paid for my own airline ticket.
I was going to golf – I couldn’t leave my clubs. I was sick to the stomach but had no choice except pay the $900 for them to accompany me.
What I do for golf!
I arrived in Abu Dhabi Thursday last week (very early – 3.30am) and was at my AirBNB accommodation by 5am. Well what I thought was my accommodation. Susanne had told me to phone and arrive regardless of the hour and I did exactly that, borrowing the cabbies phone. Mine said I had full service but this turned out not to be the case.
I lugged my suitcase, golf clubs and two carry on bags up to the 16th floor and knocked on the door. There was no answer and I thought perhaps Susanne had fallen asleep. I knocked a few more times, tried phoning every possible way, then sat waiting for a reasonable hour and napped in the foyer for a bit.
I then thought perhaps this is not the correct building and dragged all my things to the building next door which also has an apartment 1604. The children’s bikes at the front led me to believe this was also not the place. I left my big luggage right there and headed back to the street.
The building name didn’t quite match (clearly the cab driver didn’t care about a couple of letters) and I went to the next building which was a hotel. I showed the concierge the address I sought and he also had no idea. So we went outside and asked some gentlemen who were leaving the mosque.
Turns out I was three buildings off and while I went to get my clubs and suitcase, the concierge offered for me to leave my other two bags in his lobby. I gladly accepted, and it wasn’t until I was in the lift in the building next door I realized I only had my phone (which didn’t work) a credit card and my drivers licence on me – everything else of importance was with the concierge.
What is the worst that could happen?
Finally I had everything and made my way to the 16th floor of the correct building and there was Susanne quite worried. She had phoned the cab driver back who advised he was back at the airport and couldn’t say where I had gone. I had been an hour by this stage as it was now 6am.
Lucky Susanne usually gets up at 5am for her diving company so I hadn’t actually ruined her morning.
I showered and slept for a few hours before sorting out a sim card and phoning David. David is a fellow golf enthusiast I met on twitter and I had arranged to meet with him at the Corniche Sheraton for a golf chat. Five hours and a wonderful dinner later, David and I were still talking all things golf.
I woke early Friday to the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer and unpacked my golf clubs. I was golfing with David at Abu Dhabi City Golf Course but first I needed to go for a run.
After chatting to Susanne about running options nearby, I opted for running out the door and exploring. I was heading in the direction of Al Reem Island. I ran across a couple of bridges and headed down to the water. Three gentlemen were fishing and looked up startled as I ran down past and under the bridge. Under the bridge was a dead end so I backtracked to a small patch of grass I had spotted by the road that had a knee high marble bench near it.
I then got some very perplexed looks as I did push ups, sit ups, squats, lunges, tricep dips and burpees. I’m sure it was the burpees that confused people. I always like to have a nice long run after flying as my legs were quite swollen. I had thankles (that is thighs that run all the way to the ankles) and usually I have, knees, calves and ankles.
I grabbed my clubs and jumped a cab to the golf course.
I headed to the driving range for a couple of hours before teeing off and it was nice to swing freely after being cramped in a plane. I’d never played night golf before and Abu Dhabi City Golf Course is in the middle of a race track. Bizarre to me however this is not uncommon in the Middle East according to David. Makes sense really, utilizing space and sharing the water.
It was a fantastic experience. Usually the setting sun is my cue to leave the course. Not in Abu Dhabi. It was a little disconcerting under lights and took me a hole to get my eye in. I am always happy when more good than bad is coming off my club and I can’t believe David played 36 holes that day. He had been quite ill and three months ago could only play about 6 holes so 36 a day was no mean feat.
Saturday and I headed off to Dubai to catch up with Jacky, who I haven’t seen in sixteen years. It was wonderful to reconnect and I had an amazing couple of days as she showed me her sandcastle.
First stop was Mall of the Emirates where I was to meet Jac at Ski Dubai. A snow filled adventure park in the middle of the mall complete with a chairlift.
Nothing here is done by halves and Emiratis certainly know how to impress. Jac then took me on a tour of Dubai Mall before heading to the Burj Khalifa. I am not really a shopper as I prefer to buy things online but the three storey indoor waterfall and the aquarium were impressive. I must say sting rays just make me smile – how can you not smile when you see their cute little mouths.
The Burj Khalifa – phenomenal!!!!! It may well be my favourite building. We shot up to the 148th floor and looked out over the city of Dubai. You cannot believe how far you are in the sky – 555 metres on the observation deck and I was speechless (for a minute or two).
We then headed to the Souk Madinat for a spot of lunch – a delicious Persian feast.
The construction feats and engineering prowess in this part of the world is awe inspiring. I was impressed everywhere I looked – from the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, The Palm, to the Al Bahar towers and the computerized sunscreens that close when the sun hits the building. The innovation and energy savings – I just love it. I think you can tell I worked in construction. I might have been counting cranes and the project manager in me was fascinated by so much scaffolding in the city.
Monday was my 39th birthday and I was off early to enjoy another completely new golfing experience. This time at Al Ghazal Golf Club, playing sand golf. I met with Rory (the pro) and we had a wonderful morning talking all things golf while we navigated the sand and the browns. Sweeping the browns after putting was a little strange but I was happy to play fairly well with a couple of pars and only one complete blow out hole.
I enjoyed lunch with Rory before heading back to the Tourist Club Area which is where I was staying. I dropped off my clubs then popped into the Abu Dhabi Mall as I decided to buy myself a couple of birthday presents – some amazing black Swarovski crystal earrings and a set of freshwater pearl earrings – these don’t really add to my luggage weight.
Dinner and I was off with Susanne and Morgan (who is also staying where I am) to The Club. A private members leisure club, where Susanne is a member. Great birthday, great company and great food.
I ran to Al Reem Island again the following day and stopped at my little patch of grass. Following my usual exercises, I then did 39 birthday burpees (thanks Crossfit Charlotetown for making me feel like I had to). My legs were heavy running back to the apartment.
I had one more thing I wanted to see while in town – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
What a building! After donning an abaya, I spent hours there. First giving myself a tour and then joining an official one as I love learning things. I delighted in being barefoot on the marble and walking on the world’s largest hand knotted carpet.
The craftsmanship, the marble, the art, the designs and the overall construction – so much beauty everywhere you look.
I have loved every part of my visit to UAE, from catching up with old friends, making new friends and of course the unique golf experiences.
Tomorrow I am off again for an overnight stay in Jordan before my Barcelona volunteering adventures start.
I am staying with a host family and I look forward to being settled in the one place for three months. I already have some amazing golf at championship courses lined up. I also have two other things I would like from my Spanish adventures – to improve my Spanish language skills and to learn to salsa.