Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 212 Ras al Khaimah

Uuuuh, such a relaxing place and such wonderful hosts ! Got up late and enjoyed the views from Kasia & Dareks apparent -one side to the sea, the other side to the mangrove in the creek of RAK. I had a stroll through the old town and visited the city museum. RAK is a much more down-to-earth place than Dubai. Even though there are some skyscrapers, you can still find some traditional Emirati life here. You have much better chances to actually meet Emiratis here -after all Emiratis make up less than 20% of the population of the UAE ! Some parts of the old town reminded me a lot of the Omani coast. The museum was very nice -not so much because of the exhibits but because of the building, a traditional house set around a courtyard. The rest of the day I just relaxed, chatted with my hosts, played guitar and was played with by the cats.

Day 211 Dubai - Ras al Khaimah

Autschn autschn autschn! The day after Marathon is never easy. Walking hurts and looks very funny. Mr. Yannik has left for Muscat early in the morning - from now on I will be travelling alone again. I slept long and only got out of the hotel after noon - heading straight to a hypermarket to feed on many rainbowcoloured donuts. Reasonably filled I took the metro to the Bus station and did not have to wait long for the next bus to Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost emirate. After a short taxi ride from the bus station in RAK I arrived at Kasia & Dareks place. I was greeted by Kasia, Sanaa and Dibba (the latter two being their cats). They live in a wonderful place: huge flat in the 14th floor, balcony with seaview,... After Darek came from work we went to an Arab restaurant - I think the first one since I've been on the peninsula ! Most of the places are run by Indians, which is very convenient for a vegetarian. But with Kasia also being vegetarian she knew exactly what to order in the Arab place. And it was delicious.
Kasia and Darek also gave me a parcel they had accepted for me. It contained bike parts, new underwear and some surprises: letters, christmas cookies and a true cyclists shirt. :o).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 210 Marathon day Dubai

I survived ! And I was not too slow: 3:55:36 - that's about 1 minute faster than my last Marathon. If I keep improving like that I will beat the world record in 100 years !
This time however it was not fast enough to get a portion of the 1.000.000$ price money. As in Dubai everything is extreme Dubai Marathon is the richest Marathon in the world (and started beside the highest building in the world and the biggest mall in the world, blablabla) !
Anyway, it was a good sightseeing tour - that is if you are into skyscrapers and stuff. Considering 2 weeks and 2 days of preparation I did quite well. Until km 36 or so I felt pretty good, only the last 6 km were tough: my legs were very hard, my left foot started to hurt, the pain went up to my knee, my shirt abrased somewhere under my armpits and I had to face the nightmare of every long distance runner (or at least those that never breastfed): I had lost the left of the two band-aids that were carefully placed over the nipples. Autschn ! But at this point I had already done most of the distance in a pretty good time, so I was simply too stubborn to give up. I have to say that I was very lucky with my shoes: I had bought them just 16 days ago and they did not give me any problems, amazing !
My last km coincided with the 3km Fun-run, which was no run at all - everybody, really everybody was just walking, promenading over the course. Fortunately the Marathon runners had their own lane, I could not have handled a traffic jam at this time. I was very happy when it was over and after a short rest I could only manage to meet up with Yannik who had done the 10km and get a taxi to the hotel - all this while walking very funny. In fact I still do. Nevertheless I managed to engaged in a Marathon wrap up phase, consisting of poisonously coloured donuts followed by an isotonic sportsdrink in a very shabby bar. For that beers we were joined by fellow cyclist Mr. Erick from South Korea. He will also go to Sri Lanka and India, so we might have another big cyclists party somewhere in India !

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 209 Muscat - Dubai

We started very early to get the 6am-bus to Dubai, because tomorrow is Marathon! Somewhen after noon we arrived, checked in at the hotel and went by metro to get our Marathon numbers close to Burj Khalifa. On the way we got to know that on Fridays the first metro is running at 1 pm! On the other hand the marathon organizers warn that there might be some traffic jams close to the start area, therefore people should not take their own cars. Awesome planning.
Anyway, we will take a taxi to the start, which is at 7am. Sounds a bit hard, but it is actually a reasonable time: close to noon it will get pretty warm here.
Cross your fingers for me between 4am and 8am German time !!!

Lazy days 204 - 208 Muscat

I was very lazy for some days in Muscat - with very good reason though: I was waiting for the Indian visa and I entered in the last phase of Marathon preparation (doing nothing for a couple of days).
Nevertheless I managed to get some things done:
- Booked Flight Ticket with Sri Lanka Air. Sounds perfect for bike travellers. Muscat - Colombo - Trivandrum with a 3 weeks stopover in Colombo. One date change for the Colombo-Trivandrum leg is free. Standard allowed baggage is 40kg checked-in +7kg handluggage. An additional 10kg can be purchased beforehand for 2€/kg. Only if also this is exceeded it gets expensive: about 9€/kg. I was promised that I can just roll my bike to the check-in and pack it there. All that for 200€. I hope it all works out as promised.
- Booked Bus Ticket to Dubai.
- Booked Ferry Ticket from Khasab back to Muscat. I already wanted to take the ferry to Khasab, but it could not go because of bad weather. That is why I can visit Kasia&Darek in Ras al-Khaima only after the Marathon. I had met them in Yeghegnadzor/Armenia and they invited me to visit them in RAK. Furthermore they agreed to have some spare parts delivered to them - that is really a great help for me !
- I started the Indian Visa process. After 6 days however I had to collect my passport and still did not have a Visa. I have some more days in Muscat before flying to Sri Lanka, so hopefully they will manage to give me the visa then.
- After months of always being on the move I spent the last week very conservatively: always sleeping in the same bed and always eating the same dinner: Vegetarian Manchurian on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Marina, served by Madhav from Nepal.
- From that very terrace we saw many cruise ships, everyday a new one. One of them was Costa Concordias sister ship - after seeing this huge vessel I understand that it is not a very good idea to drive this thingy too close to an island.
- Backed up all my pictures.
- Sent home some winter clothes. The post office stuff was very helpful. Maybe I am wrong but they all seemed to be from the same tribe: very nice turbans and dresses in unusually fitting colours. I know that the Sultan got the tribes into the government by making some of their leaders ministers. That could be an explanation for that. Postage was reasonably priced: 0,30€ for a postcard to Germany, about 30€ for a 5kg-parcel to Germany.
- Meditated about career opportunities for when I am back.
- Got the great news that I will have a wonderful wonderful visitor in Sri Lanka :D

Monday, January 23, 2012

Statistics Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran

I have some time to kill (waiting for the Indian visa & rest phase of Marathon preparation) - so finally here are the statistics of Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Iran:


Days spent in country: 64
Cycling days: 44,5
Restdays:  19,5
Distance cycled: 3246,46 km
Average km/day: 50,73 
Money spent: 2230,12 €
Average €/day: 34,85
- Couchsurfing 7
- Hotel/Hostel 39
- Wild Camping 14
- Official Camping 3
- Airport 1
Things lost: 1 underwear in Antalya, 1 melon somewhere along the Marmara sea
Things lost & found: Joergs wallet, my mobile
Things regained: cycling socks (forgotten in Bulgaria, thank you Hanni !!!)
Things broke: 
- torquing support (Drehmomentstuetze): quick fix with zip ties, later repaired with angle grinder in Trabzon, 
- 1 Pannier (slash through the front): thank you Joerg for letting me use yours !
- 1 more underwear
Repairs done in Trabzon: replace chain, turn sprocket, replace bottom bracket, grind torquing support in shape


Days spent in country: 6
Cycling days: 5
Restdays:  1
Distance cycled:  312,46km
Average km/day: 52,08
Money spent: 133,39 €
Average €/day: 22,23
- Hotel/Hostel 5
- Wild Camping 1 
Things broke: front carrier, cycling gloves (during an ironing accident, still usable though)


Days spent in country: 15
Cycling days: 10
Restdays:  5
Distance cycled: 615,47 km
Average km/day: 41,03
Money spent: 402,91 €
Average €/day: 26,86
- Couchsurfing 1
- Hotel/Hostel 13
- Wild Camping 1
Things broke: front carrier (several times)


Days spent in country: 55
Cycling days: 35
Restdays:  20
Distance cycled: 2802,57 km
Average km/day: 50,96
Money spent: 1065 €
Average €/day: 19,36
- Couchsurfing 5
- Hotel/Hostel 41
- Wild Camping 8
Things broke: front carrier (again and again, broke less often after fixing it with some door hinges)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 203 Muscat: Marathon training

Today I did what some wannabe-hip jogging magazines would call sightrunning.
It was the last big test run and I did the 30km fairly well - I will definitely survive the Marathon, though I might not make it below 4 hours this time.
There really are not any must-see sights in Muscat, but the eastward coast road towards old Muscat is very nice, winding through some pretty high and barren mountains. After seeing so much beauty in Oman I was a bit disappointed by the Sultans palace - its just a bit too playful for my taste. After Old Muscat the road continues through some fishing villages, yacht clubs and finally really rural areas (with goats and cows and stuff) - this was a bit surprising for me as in the west the modern suburbs spread for something like 40km. Eventually I run inland towards modern Ruwi, got back to the coast close to the hotel and did another small round through parks filled with mostly Indian families on their weekend picnic. After the run I very much appreciated the fact that our hotel room has a bathtub.

Day 202 Muscat: Indian Visa Hunt

We got up relatively early and cycled all the way (14km) to the Indian embassy in the modern suburbs - where we found out that the Visa processing is handled by a company with its office very close to our hotel, grmpf!
As we were in the suburbs already we checked out a very good bicycle store: http://www.omanbicycle.com - they are very good, but they are also very busy. We decided to have our bikes maintained there once we get back from Dubai Marathon.
We cycled back to the Indian Visa Processing Company in Ruwi - it looked quite chaotic, but people were knowledgeable and friendly. We got to know that:
- they will have to get clearance from the Indian embassies in Germany/Switzerland
- therefore processing will take about 5 workdays
- we can get our passports back to travel to the Emirates while they wait for the clearance
- once they have clearance we can get the Visa within 3 days
- we applied for 6 month tourist visa (which is automatically multi-entry).

The application for us both took about 2 hours and we had to pay 28 Omani Rials each. We will collect our passports on Saturday (in 2 days) and move on and bring them back for getting the Visa once we are back from the Emirates.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 201 Ziyan - Muscat

We did it! 150km! Longest ride ever! All the way to Muscat! We got up before sunrise, were on the bikes at 8.30 and already had made 87km at lunch. Massive tailwind, yeah!
Once we had found a hotel we went to hunt for food and beer. Only then we realized that thus, was some kind of end. Until now we always had relatively clear plans where to go - we just had to decide which road to take to get there. In Muscat all roads stop for us - we know that we will fly to India (Yannik) / Sri Lanka (me) in a few weeks. Before that we will go back to Dubai for the Marathon. But nevertheless we don't have any real cycle-plan for the days inbetween. After always knowing what to do the next day for more than 6 months that is a very strange situation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 200 Khawr Siyabi - Ziyan

Wonderful day 200. I fell in love with Oman!
I started the day very early: before sunrise I was already jogging on the beach. It is a wonderful place here - fishing villages are lining the  coast, everything looks very castle-like as all houses have crenellated roofs (even the plastic water tanks have), the mosques are plentiful, modest in size and quantity of minarets but very playful in appearance. During my run I was greeted by many Omani men in their traditional dress (colourful compared to the white Emirati dress and with a special cap) and looked at but not greeted by Omani women in very colourful dresses. After returning to our perfect campsite under palm trees we had big sportsmen breakfast and before going on the road I had a bath in the ocean and made use of free showers I had found during the run.
During the ride we always tried to stay away from the main highway and close to the ocean as the ride through the fishing villages was just so so nice. Really really amazing! We both totally envy the people living in such a nice place. Once again tailwind helped a lot, so we will try to reach Musqat in one long day tomorrow. Tonight we sleep under palm trees again, this time a bit farer away from the sea but still a very decent place.