This is our 4th big trip together. Big being a trip of more than a month. Our previous trips are our Africa Overland trip, the Indian sub-continent backpacking trip and the second Overland trip into Southern Africa.
For the first overland trip we kept a daily blog with all kinds of information on how far we drove and where we stayed. It was a lot of work so for the Indian trip we didn’t write anything down, which is unfortunate.
For this trip we’ve thus decided to give it a go again, but just sticking to a weekly blog with less detail, more like a highlight reel. Also, for previous blogs, I wrote in the third person, which was very weird to say the least. So, in this blog ‘I’ will refer to Hugo and we will refer to Hugo and Caro.
Our trip officially started on Saturday the 17th of August. We had an early domestic flight out of Cape Town to Johannesburg. Family friends of Caro picked us up at the airport and welcomed us to their home in Pretoria for four days.
On Monday we were tourists in our own country and met up with an American couple that we met in Vietnam in 2015. Together we went to the Cradle of Humankind and visited the Sterkfontein caves. It was Caro’s first time visiting it and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and to share it with our American friends.
The time to leave South African soil finally came on Tuesday night with an Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. For some reason I chose the ‘Bland’ meal option as I thought one had to choose something and that bland was the ‘default’ option, unlike vegetarian, Halal, Kosher, etc. To our dismay we however received a ‘special’ bland meal with no flavour at all (hence the name bland). We had to watch other passengers enjoy their flavoursome bobotie, chicken or beef.
We arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday morning at 06:00. We booked a free Etihad stopover for one night with a free 48-hour UAE transit visa. Getting through immigration was a smooth process.
To take the local bus into the city was a bit more confusing, however. When we found the bus, the driver told us we need to go back into the terminal to buy a bus ticket/card. So back we went running with all our bags as the bus could leave any moment. We found a bus card machine and proceeded to buy a card (10 AED) and load it with 10 AED. Back at the bus I tapped the card and then wanted to tap it again for Caro, but the bus driver said it is not possible, you need 1 card per person. Just as we turned to run back again, he said: “If you have an Etihad boarding pass you can take the bus for free; you just need to get the it stamped – in the terminal.” Caro thus ran back yet again for her free pass and I sat in the bus thinking why I paid R83 for a ‘free’ bus ride.
The free hotel we chose was the Le Meridien Abu Dhabi. We could check-in when we arrived at 08:00 in the morning and then had the free breakfast buffet as we left early the next morning. The room was massive and so was the buffet.
After breakfast we went to the beach in front of the hotel and swam in the Arabian Gulf. The water felt like bath water and even in the shade it was too hot to breathe properly. The swimming pool’s water was a bit cooler, but we still decided to rather go sleep in the aircon room for a few minutes before venturing out in the afternoon.
Later we took a taxi, went to another beach, but it was still too hot, so we took another taxi to the Marina Mall. We watched Dora at the movies, making it our 11th foreign cinema visit. The gigantic caramel popcorn we got, got the best of us and we couldn’t finish it.
For dinner we had Indian food at a small corner restaurant close to the hotel. Abu Dhabi felt much less shiny compared to Dubai and more like a place where ‘real’ people worked and lived.
We got up at 05:30 on Thursday morning and took a taxi to the airport. With the time difference we only got to the Phuket airport at 18:00 that evening, only getting one bland meal on the flight for the whole day.