UAE

After spending the morning continuing my ride through the Saudi desert, in the early afternoon I approached the border with the UAE. A storm gathered behind me, and grew closer. I could hear the thunder as I raced to reach the border before the storm caught me. There was a little rain, but I managed to outpace the worst of it.

The border crossing went smoothly. The man at Saudi customs took my passport, but soon brought it back with a couple bottles of water and a piece of paper. This paper I took to immigration, who scanned my passport, gave me three more bottles of water and said I was free to go. I asked for an exit stamp – I had an entry one so I figured it’d be good to get an exit stamp too, just in case.

The UAE side was pretty straightforward. I had an eye scan at immigration, then was stamped in after only a brief bit of confusion about vehicle papers. Customs didn’t even look at my bike, and I was free to go.

There were some shops just past the border. I managed to change my remaining Saudi Riyals, and bought some snacks. There was also a car workshop who kindly let me use some grease. My bike’s headset had been needing it for a while. I’d been using chain lube as a temporary solution, but it needed to be redone frequently.

I rode on for another hour or two before setting up camp. The roadside was simply flat, sandy ground so I wasn’t really hidden. The wind made setting up the tent awkward, especially since the soft sand didn’t do well at holding the pegs. I used some rocks to hold them in place and managed to get the tent up in the end.

After dying off during the night, the wind gradually picked up again in the morning. I realized just how strong the tailwind was when I changed direction to go to a supermarket in a town a couple kilometres off the road. I had to work hard to move ludicrously slowly.

The town, Al Dhannah, was quite nice. It was built in the 70s, mostly for workers at the nearby oil works. It has bike paths!

I went to the supermarket at the mall there, picked up a sim card, and got back to cycling. The wind continued to increase and soon a cloud of sand was flying across the road. This worsened to the point of being a sandstorm.

Quite apart from the discomfort of sand in my eyes, the reduced visibility made cycling feel unsafe. I stopped and sheltered behind a mobile phone tower. After a few hours the sandstorm showed little sign of abating so I set up camp there.

My shelter spot (photo taken the next morning)

By morning everything was back to normal and I set off cycling again, in (as was becoming typical) a growing tailwind.

The day was a pretty uneventful one, pretty much just following the highway all day. I stopped occasionally at petrol stations to fill up my water at their attached mosques. In the evening, I walked a short distance from the road and set up camp behind some bushes.

I’d not been cycling long the next day when I began to approach Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s capital sits on an island, but the urban sprawl extends well inland. There were a couple hours of very busy traffic and a big concrete jungle of overpasses and bridges.

After a few hours of quiet, I began to approach another city: Dubai. Once I got near the city the motorway began to feel unsafely busy, but I was able to follow a slightly quieter route to a hostel.

My hostel was on the 5th floor of a 34-storey building. I felt very out of place – I’d not showered in a week but everybody else in the building seemed quite wealthy in their fancy suits.

I set off before dawn to try and beat the traffic out of the city, which was broadly successful. I had a flight booked from Dubai, but it wasn’t due to depart for another few days. In the meantime I planned to head out into the desert to cycle a mountain bike route I’d found online.

On a bike route! Briefly

I made it to the edge of Dubai, which borders another Emirate, Sharjah. The Sharjah Mosque on the far side of the road was quite an impressive building.

My headset was making some noise and I stopped to adjust it. I found that one of the bearings cages had unfortunately snapped. I swapped the cages around so the broken one would be bearing less of the load. Even so, I decided it would be better not to ride several hundred kilometres of sand and gravel like this. I decided to return to Dubai, and have the headset sorted when I got back to Australia.

I returned to Dubai, making my habitual pilgrimage to Decathlon on the way. I picked up a solar panel there, as I figure I’ll be spending less time in hostels/hotels in the next few rich (expensive) countries.

The next day an Emirati friend of mine, Mohammed, very kindly arranged for me to stay in a hotel run by his family. I made my way over there and settled in.

We went out for dinner a couple times while I was there. The evening before my flight, he brought over a bike box and then gave me a lift to the airport the next day.

It took me 3 flights to get from Dubai to Perth, stopping at Chennai and Singapore along the way. My bike and I made all these transfers successfully and, about 20 hours after first taking off, I landed in Australia. It was dark when I arrived. After putting the bike back together I cycled for a few kilometres then set up camp behind some trees.

Slightly different scenery!

Mar 20: 117 km

Mar 21: 112km

Mar 22: 166km

Mar 23: 140 km

Mar 24: 99 km

4 thoughts on “UAE

  1. Hi Sam, I am floored by the distance that you cycle every day. Thanks for keeping me in the picture about your exploits. Any concerns about a snake or spider making it into your tent in Aussie land? Jorg

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