In the space of just a few hours bumping across the Persian Gulf, I went from Iranian gritty to Dubai glitzy as the dramatic skyline of the United Arab Emirates revealed itself amid a haze of heat and pollution. Inside the catamaran, the sickbags were being handed out – and filled – but I managed to squeeze out onto a small front deck where the warm ocean wind warmed my face, settled my stomach and lifted my spirits. I was on my way again and had made it to the Arabian Peninsula.
I’d not been to Dubai in nearly 15 years and boy has it changed since then. For sure, back at the turn of the century it had already transformed itself from a desert outpost to a tourism hotspot and major transport hub but I was amazed at how much new stuff had popped up and reached even higher into the crowded skyline. You can’t fail to be impressed by buildings like the Burj Khalifa (still the world’s tallest building) or the ‘7 star’ Burj Al Arab hotel, but it was the plethora of Supercars that caught my eye — a lot of people are making a lot of money over here.
There’s definitely a problem with obesity though because no-one seems to walk anywhere — the city just isn’t geared up for it. Every square metre of undeveloped space is being filled with skyscraping architectural masterpieces, bolted together by hordes of blue boiler-suited Indian construction workers, working all the hours possible to send money back home to their families. Look above the street level and you’ll see them in their thousands like swarming ants, running up and down ladders, hanging off scaffolding, mixing concrete and lugging heavy materials about in the scorching heat. The well-heeled tourists hardly notice them as the are taxied about to attractions like the biggest shopping mall in the world that also houses huge aquariums and indoor ski slopes — complete with real snow!
I could have soaked up Dubai for a lot longer than I did, but I had to get the bike prepared for India. Having put nearly 9,000 kilometres on it in just three weeks, it was time for an oil change, new air filter and brake fluid. Metti and the boys at AGMC Motorrad did me proud and also made the big GS look like new again (they washed away the remains of a few Iranian sandstorms that had battered me and the bike for several hours in the barren south-east of the country).
This dealership has a great community and I spoke to several riders about my trip and what their motorcycling dreams are. How I would have loved to join their invitations to ride out in the desert, where they let rip on their big BeeMers, but my bike was already being crated up and delivered to Emirates Sky Cargo for the journey to Delhi.
In another way though, I was happy not to ride for a few days, out of sympathy for my host Martin Ashfield. This top bloke took me in for a few days, despite hobbling around on crutches, having smashed himself up after a desert blast on a dirt-bike went horribly wrong and a 100 km/h high-side left him with a broken hip.
At 56 he should know better, but we’ve all been there and I was only too happy to make him cups of tea, crack open a few tins of lager with him and talk for hours about bikes, cars, films and ‘back home’. It was a privilege to spend a few days in the company of an experienced construction professional who has played a big part in the development of the infrastructure of this crazy city that truly does ‘have it all’, for those that can afford it.
So, with the bike crated, it is time to move on. India beckons, even though there’s a heatwave over there and temperatures are nudging 40 degrees. I’m kinda nervous about this place, and also strangely looking forwards to experiencing the chaos of Delhi. What a place to start the next adventure…