family road trip
After weekends filled with training for our big Spartan Arabia race in a couple of weeks (well, an hour of training closely followed by hours of lying around complaining about sore muscles and eating enormous plates of pancakes and hash browns given our clearly fading glycogen stores), we decided to have a bit of an adventure this weekend and head off on a family road trip. It always sounds like such a good idea doesn’t it… just you, the new car and the vast open road. The unfortunate reality tends to be more like a car of screaming kids, empty food wrappers, whingeing and slightly odd smells coming from the back seat and the tune of “are we there yet” every few kilometres.
Anyway, we duly Google Dubai Road Trips and find some instructions on where to go, how to get there and a couple of things to tick off the to-do list. Armed with a car full of wafers and grapes, water bottles, a friend for miss Sparky and a couple of iPads, it was with high hopes that we thought we’d explore a bit more of the region and head up to one of the other Emirates.
And boom… we hit our first obstacle – petrol station.
Now I don’t know about anyone else out there, but my lovely hubby likes to play a little game with our cars called “how late can I possibly leave it to get petrol”. It’s a game he sometimes loses, like the day we were on our way to work back at home and the car slowly chugged to a stop in the middle of the road and he feigned shock that it was ‘already’ out of petrol… the car was virtually gagging and crying for some liquid after the little red petrol light glowed for days on end but he was sure he could get a couple more kilometres out of it…
So, we hop in the car to head off on our exciting trip when there it is – that little red petrol light starting at him, mocking him.. daring him to ignore it. The thing that has been hard for hubby to adjust to here is the fact that ignoring a petrol station can sometimes mean driving for 20km+ to find another one and these are roads you do not want to run out of petrol on!! This has seriously affected his game plan given that he used to run the car down to only having about 5km worth of petrol to go.
So we decide to fill up before going too much further. And here is my first mistake – I tried to use the GPS to find a petrol station. Before we know it, we’re trekking overpasses, underpasses, 8 lane highways and a choice of 4 sliplanes to try to get to the ‘nearest’ petrol station. At one point, the GPS said take the Ras al Khor exit E311 and, without a word of a lie, there are 4 lanes, all with the sign E311, none of them with the words Ras al Khor. Have I mentioned before that nothing is simple in Dubai?
So we finally find the station, give the thirsty little car its juice injection, stock up on coffee and cookies and off we go.
Exactly 10 minutes into the drive and the iPad battery gives out… approximately 5 minutes after that we hear the first “I’m bored” – sigh!!
I hear myself beginning to lecture them about how exciting it is to be in another country exploring and how grateful they should be to have this opportunity blah blah blah… I can almost hear the eyes rolling in the back seat. So we do what all good parents do and start a healthy competition of “spot the camel”. This helps us to limp along for another 20 minutes or so as we work through “spot the camel, spot the tent, spot the rubbish bin, spot the tree that’s alive, spot the goat” – I know, sounds pathetic right? But gimme a break. There’s really not a lot to spot in the desert you know!!
As we draw closer to our destination, we try to build the excitement about what we are going to see talking about beaches, parks and fun. We hit what looks like the main street, which is a 4 lane highway with the worlds biggest speed bumps placed at semi regular intervals. Abandoned shops, fast food places, mosques and the odd patch of flowers. Not quite what we were picturing.
We decide to head for the nearest resort, and duly plug into the GPS the Hilton. Next thing, we are being directed to turn into the back streets and alleyways off the main road. Lovely hubby is desperate to relieve himself by this stage and the enormous speed bumps are getting less and less amusing. The kids are starting reach fever pitch wanting to get out and go to the beach. We pull out of what feels like someones unpaved driveway and onto the corniche. Surrounded by run down old villas, rubbish and a coastline with no beach, we are getting more and more confused. “You have arrived at your destination” Julie our GPS proudly announces. We stop and look up at the crusty old villa with “Labour Camp” on the sign. Is it possible that the Hilton have let their standards drop this much?
So, we decide to head for the lovely big park that was mentioned in the Google search. Hubby is almost forming a kidney stone at this point, all the streets appear deserted with nothing open and we are all starting to get a little bit freaked out that zombies are about to walk out of the buildings and try to flag down our car to start eating our faces.
Then we see the park up ahead and all shout with glee. Only to quickly sigh disappointment – again. It looks like something that wanted to be an amusement park but no-one could be bothered finishing it off, and the people whose jobs it was to plant the trees decided to outsource their work to the amusement park builders who subsequently couldn’t be bothered finishing that off either! We see 2 maintenance workers inside the park and one family picnicking under the one almost dead tree and decide we must be in the Truman show and they’re about to queue the zombies to start chasing us. Surely at least this place will have to have a toilet? As the standard procedure in Dubai, we are directed 3 kms out of the way around the back of the park, through rubbish piles and abandoned tents to get to the car entrance where, strangely, there is a lone man with a table setup and a box of Maltesers to sell. He informs us that it will be DHS15 to enter and when drowning and desperate hubby questions if we at least get a toilet for that amount, he is told there are no toilets in the park.
With a squeal of screaming tyres, dust and sand we are reversing to the closest bare patch of dirt so hubby can relieve himself. As he walks to his spot behind the car I hear a mutter from the backseat “we are totally going to get arrested and die”. These girls have been listening a little too closely the adult conversations about some of the rules here clearly.
Suddenly smiling again and filled with a new sense of optimism, hubby hops back in the car and suggests heading towards the beach again in search of a less 3rd world resort to explore. As we drive back towards the road from the carpark entrance, we are happily chugging along when all of a sudden the lane we are in just ends…no warning… no signage… it just stops. Here we are now on the wrong side of the road, in a single lane facing the traffic with no-where to go. Fast thinking hubby shouts “WTF” as he does a quick burnout 180 to get the car back on the road without killing us all and is greeted with chimes of “ah ha! one Dirham in the swear jar please” from the backseat. I can almost see the steam escaping from his ears as I calmly explain to Miss Sparky that there are some situations in life where you really have to swear and he doesn’t owe a Dirham all the while, little chubs is yelling “c’mon eeema” (which is how he now refers to his mother) from the backseat and throwing grapes at my head. Isn’t this just such fun??
We ponder for a moment whether we should try and find the mountain road that was listed as being quite spectacular. Is it poor form to trek all this way and put the kids through all this just to head home having seen nothing but dirt and metal? I have a look at the directions I noted down off the websites that would take us to this place and am amused to be reminded of the directions Chevy Chase was given in Funny Farm to “take the fork in the road where the old barn used to be”. These directions refer to a landmark that doesn’t appear to exist and a ‘coffeepot’ roundabout which makes no sense with the mountains about another 12kms down the road. Almost in unison, we both say the words “nup.. I’m over it” and we give Julie the GPS one last chance to redeem herself and find us somewhere nice to hang out.
And what do you know… she delivers us to the front of a beautiful resort. I am in shock as we don’t get charged to park, enter or use the pool! They make up for it with the pricing on food but still, we’re feeling pretty good about our little discovery. An afternoon of running around in the sand, nibbling fries and hanging out in the sun is just the therapy we needed after a long day of adventures. And as we head back to Dubai, kids tuckered out and snuggled in the back seat, some tunes on the stereo and the amazing Dubai glittering skyline to greet us, we take a second to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to have these experiences together.
We even muse that we might go back for a weekend as it really was a lovely resort with a nice relaxing feel in some beautiful surroundings. I don’t know that we’d venture into town again though. We’re still not convinced that those zombies aren’t in there somewhere….
Looking forward to our next family adventure.
Have a good week!