Dubai to Auckland via Melbourne Sunday 20 July – Monday 21 July

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Dubai to Auckland via Melbourne Sunday 20 July – Monday 21 July
Our birthday

An uneventful 16+ hours- in- the-plane trip home and no upgrades despite playing the birthday card! Missed about 12 hours of it – so think we may stay at 61 1/2 and 62 1/2.

Cold wet day in Auckland and laundry, laundry, laundry, catching up on mail, and bed as early as seems reasonable.

Glad to be home but great memories of a great adventure complete with the obligatory but not numerous stink moments.

Dubai Friday 18 July

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Glad to sleep in a bit before having a breakfast we rated 4 out of 10, and booking an afternoon bus tour.

We ventured out deciding to take a taxi and ignoring the advice that it would take only 10 minutes to walk to the old markets – actually it took 15 minutes in the taxi and there was absolutely no way we would have survived such a walk in the 40 degree heat. It was the hottest we have ever experienced and we had some difficulty finding the market, under cover but not air conditioned, rather like an Indian bazaar with shopkeepers accosting us and showing their silk pashminas which I suppose are what westerners usually buy. It was too hot to be out of air conditioning for long and our clothes were wet with sweat which dribbled down our faces. We retreated to a flash air conditioned shopping mall – sporting designer stores like Louis Vuitton where it was difficult to obtain food except to take away because of Ramadan and we were not allowed to eat it anywhere near the mall. So we went back to base and had a picnic in the hotel lobby!

It was too hot to sit on the open double decker bus which was the tour transport. We were fascinated, appalled, awestruck – you name it, about what we saw.

The tour took us along the waterfront where we passed mansion after mansion of medical clinics, the most common being expensive looking plastic surgical and dental clinics. Holiday mansions of the rulers had beachfront access to the beach – not sure if it is man made, but along with skiing and ice skating facilities we saw advertised, we presume it was created because they could! We stopped at a top of the range cross between a collection of boutiques and an exhibition – luxury items for Africa and then drove to The Palms – a man made island with acres and acres of new looking Truman Show type apartment blocks and luxury hotels – no expense spared and evidence of construction of many more.

The phallic symbol skyscrapers including the world’s tallest building clustered together in the centre of town, are spectacular, imaginatively designed and beautiful in their own way. The tour took us to a museum of the history of Dubai and the coolness inside lured me out of the bus for a mercifully short circuit – very nicely set out, but then everything is here!

The last stop was, the largest shopping mall in the world. There are plans to build a bigger one relegating this to be the second largest! It was more like 277 or St Lukes than the previous ones we have visited. But the most fascinating was the call to prayer that rang out at sunset, shortly after 7 pm and the unpausing of what had looked like a still scene – everything was happening as you would expect at dinner time – people were in queues, were consulting menus, bar people were poised, tills were ready to ring but as decreed for Ramadan, nobody was selling or eating food until after sunset. Then away they went as the call rang out! Rachel will be pleased, as we had a cinnamon roll from Canadian Tim Hortons.

A tasty Indian meal at the hotel restaurant capped the day of visual symphonies as we set the alarm for our departure from this oven early tomorrow morning.

Salzburg to Dubai Thursday 17 July

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We begin the journey home……boo hoo

The group met again for the last time with the exception of David from the North Shore who had an early plane. He is another chap who has retired – and on being asked what he planned to do when he returned home, he said “plan the next trip”and in between ‘do genealogy research”. Interesting! Hugs all round and we split.

Rex whom we met on our India trip is travelling with us. We caught a taxi to the airport and then a very rapid train to Vienna. The maximum speed we observed was 225 kph. We had already ridden though similar wonderful countryside and we wondered why we had put in such effort when the visual feast was available from the window of a fast train! Smooth, uneventful ride and Earl Grey tea available (our measure of civilisation – the Earl Grey index!) from a mobile trolley. My inability to decide what to pack and therefore packing everything, to cover all contingencies, has come home to roost as we manhandled the luggage at the station and airport. We had aspired to eat wiener schnitzel and apple strudel at the same meal and did so at an airport café. They did not disappoint.

On our way back to line up to check in, I spotted an apparently idle Emirates check-in desk designated for First Class passengers and somewhat cheekily approached and asked if we could check in there as the queue at the Economy class desk was long. They asked if we were first or business class which of course we were not and suggested we join the economy class queue which we did. As we neared the front of he queue I was asked for my passport, and were then all issued with Business Class boarding passes!!!!!! We were effusive in our gratitude and the chap I had talked to earlier said that because I had been so polite he had chosen us for an upgrade. Me, polite? I’ve never been credited with this before! We are still amused and enjoyed the VIP attention, the giveaways and the bliss of being able to stretch out. Pity it was only a 5 1/2 hour flight. Should we try similar tactics for the 13 + hour flight to Melbourne on Sunday?

It is HOT HOT HOT and humid. Fortunately the bus from the plane to the airport building, the taxi and the hotel rooms are air conditioned, and only briefly do we have to experience the wall of heat. Even the hotel swimming pool is hot.

We had little sleep on the plane despite being comfortable so snoozed a little after very welcome showers and had a snack. Don’t know when we will crash. We will venture out when we are next hungry – it seems every foray will be a major expedition. We can make tea in our room – hurray!

The trip in the airport bus from one side of the airport to the terminal took about half an hour which gives an indication of its size and there is a lot of construction activity going on. The terminal is ultra flash.

Everything in Dubai is the colour of sand, most of it newish looking. It is Ramadan so the streets were fairly empty – this may restrict our activities here – but who cares? All I want to do is sleep and stay cool!

We hear a Malaysian Airline passenger plane from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur has been shot down near the Ukraine / Russian border, attributed to Russian supported Ukrainian rebels. 1 NZer, lots of Dutch, some Australians on board – could have been us as we have travelled in the same vicinity and with Malaysian Airlines when we went to Viet Nam as they were the cheapest – they’ll be even cheaper now or non existent after this second incident in 6 months – the other plane is still missing.

Visited Ramadan Night Market in the swept up Trade Centre complex with thousands of local, all hungry because of Ramadan restrictions to eat only after sunset and before sunrise. We note the huge numbers of Filipinos and Indians and we saw more foreigners than Arabic families. We nibbled at freshly cooked samosas and momos and taxied back to base looking forward to a decent sleep.

Gmunden to Salzburg Wednesday 16 July

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It’s a 100 km ride today and I have planned get-off-the-bike-and-ride-in-the-van plans for some of it.

Spectacular lake and mountain scenery as we rode nearly all the way around Lake Traunsee on cycle paths, then wended our not yet weary way following the river inland and past more lakes. Europeans are on holiday and we discovered some of them in very well appointed camping grounds on the lake shore with the usual beach paraphernalia we are so accustomed to. At a picturesque spot …….well everything is picturesque here where you have the combination of mountains and lakes and colourful Austrian steep sloped two storeyed flower bedecked houses, we had a picnic lunch.

In the heat of the day – 30 ‘ish? with a couple if tough hills promised, I travelled the next 13 km in the van before joining the group as we descended wonderfully into Salzburg, riding on bike lanes/paths the whole way except for a few brief forays on to the road itself. There are lots of cyclists around, but we create quite a spectacle with many of us in our yellow Pedaltours shirts ( a host of golden daffodils…..) – about 88 km for me today. Crossed the city to our hotel on a very busy central city road before our last dinner together as a group with certificates of completion and tips for the guides being presented.
My total km pedalled 542, the full distance 625.

The meals together have been a wonderful part of this tour and we all got on well as a group – 3 guides/driver, Richard Oddy the founder of the company, 10 NZ’ers, 4 Americans, 2 Australian blokes, 4 Canadians – most have done Pedaltours before which is an affirmation for the company. For some, including us at times, the brevity of our stay in these spectacular towns and superior accommodation, is a negative, but at least I did not get the opportunity to thrash the cash card which in some towns I would have loved.

Steyr to Gmunden Tuesday 15 July

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Today’s ride took us mostly on cycle paths which abound in this part if Austria along riverbanks, through woodlands and picturesque small villages with mountains starting to loom large and picture book Austrian houses. Did 67 km while most of the group did 100 – I was extremely glad to have flagged away a hilly 30 km in the middle, which ensured the day remained enjoyable and no sign of a migraine so the wide decisions about not overdoing it are paying off. Usually we have lunch at a cafe or restaurant but today’s lunch was a picnic which everybody loved…picnics are so common to us but not so to others in the group.

This town of Gmunden is very similar to Queenstown and our room in the historical Hotel Schwan overlooks Lake Traunsee which is surrounded by mountains. Beeootiful. Skyped Rachel – that was good too as we haven’t talked to her for some weeks.

Then it was dinner, briefing on tomorrow’s long ride, and bed. We feel we are doing some of these amazing places once over lightly but that is the nature of cycle touring.

Freistadt to Steyr Monday 14 July

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Today’s ride promised to be a long one, but we were assured that apart from some challenging hills at the beginning, the rest was flat or down hill and so it proved to be – a really really long downhill through forests and then along mostly cycle paths initially alongside the Danube and in case we felt a song coming on, it wasn’t blue! Rode 88 km. But it was pretty hot and I’m not hopeful despite hydrating myself and keeping my caffeine levels up, I may not get away without a migraine. Lunch was in Enns with its town square and cafes/restaurants under umbrellas. Very civilised.

Steyr is at the confluence of the Enns annd Steyr Rivers and our room overlooks the weirs which slow the rivers down. Again it is a beautiful historic town with its own schloss which we explored. Could have been a shoppers’ paradise, but alas no time.

Cesky- Krumlov to Freistadt, Austria, Sunday 13 July

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Today I liked being a cyclist!

It was an excellent ride of about 52 kms following the river via a town XXX where we had lunch and then through rolling country. Weather was perfect and the terrain benign as we crossed the border.

I was hoping to be frisked at the border but there was nobody there, no checkpoint charlie and just a couple of low key signs = photo opportunties that we were crossing into German speaking Austria. The colourful green and yellow paddocks were large and the 2 storey houses with the clichéd window boxes were larger and the whole scene seemed very orderly and affluent. I just love the German language – it also is orderly and neat.

Explored the walled town with moat before dinner with the third appel strudel we have had, all different. Will attempt the whole 82 km ride tomorrow.