July 9th, July 10th: the plane but not plain part of Alleykat’s Around The World Adventure. Dubai Airport.
My brain is currently functioning at a limited potential – I’d say it’s hovering somewhere around 60%.
Yesterday afternoon we were driven to the airport in a mini convoy built from Iian, Alana and David. The afternoon was a bit nuts, we could possibly have started packing three hours before we did but there just seemed to be too many other things to do beforehand. We wildly whacked foam and cardboard around our bikes, making sure that they fit as snugly as possible and hastily taping them up, despite looking a little hodge-podge, like the crazy-tape-people-of-stickyland had got to them, they’re pretty sturdy and not too heavy. Aesthetics don’t really come into it!
We lugged our stuff into the terminal at 4:16pm. 16 minutes after the recommended arrival time, but not too late to check in and still have people in the line after us. As the case is normally when travelling with bikes, one of us had to wait with the space-dominating shapes and the other had to line up, zigzagging their way along the cue at a snail’s pace.
Alex noticed that people’s carry on luggage was being weighed- you could tell from the look on his face that his heart had dropped and was aflame with worry. Our heavy carry-on was heavily resting upon his shoulders and mind and heart! Oh no! It’s funny when roles are reversed – I am usually the worrywart, the intense over-anslyst, the one who needs an level headed individual (or multiple) to calm me down. I came up with the idea of getting someone to mind our strategically extremely heavy carry on while we checked in, however, as Alex was waiting with the bikes, it was up to him. Needless to say we swapped spots and I endeavored to make fast firm friends with a lovely Serbian family who’s brother was in line just in front of Alex. The lovely three stayed with our unbelievably weighty bags while we book in our boxes. In retrospect we needn’t have worried – the guy who served us was extremely understanding and talkative and helpful. We booked everything into the ‘oversize’ department with ease. Phase one: compete.
Begin phase two: customs and immigration. We waltzed through the gates with a group and luckily the staff member checking and weighing carry on was completely distracted by a family of four with seven sizable suitcases. We shucked our liquids and metallic bits and bobs and wandered through the metal detectors. There were some stern comments about Alex’s luggage – ‘that’s really bloody heavy, mate’ but then, with the Universe on our side again, we got through and walked into duty free and stress free territory.
Right now we’re in Dubai, with two out of three legs completed we have four hours to kill. Upoal’disembarking the plane we were blasted in the face with a truly magnificent heat. It was 4 in the morning and easily 36 degrees and hot as hell. I must admit I was delighted with the magnitude of it. Given both Alex and I were wearing most of our clothing, we were rather warm. We made our way to the main terminal aboard a bus – it took us more than 10 minutes to arrive, Dubai is so enormous there is simply not enough room for all of the air traffic. Sitting here at terminal 225, my bum is numb from all of the sitting and I have a crick in my neck and left shoulder from turning to look at Humphrey. Who’s Humphrey, you inquire? Not Humphrey Bogart my friends, but a Singaporean gentleman we met on the first leg of our journey.
He was flying to meet one of his daughters who is the boss of the Centurion Club – the American Express club for only the most wealthy people (or to be politically correct, ‘individuals with a high net worth’ meaning they’re worth an easy $4.5million on average) Her job is to design adventures for these elite group to enjoy. She has qualifications as a statistician (highly relevant I’m sure) but ‘just knows how to talk’. Suitably impressive. I was a bit starstruck by the notion of this girl, it really had me thinking about wheree my big mouth could get me if I concentrated my verbose efforts. We learned that Humphrey’s wife is the head of Caterpillar in Australia, and they are based in Melbourne. Humphrey himself holds a number of titles – he has been a masseuse in Chinese Medicine, he is a life insurance salesman and has worked in mines all over the world from Iran to Western Australia. He shared truisms with us about life and parenthood, saying that you want for your children to do better than you. You want them to be more educated, have a better job and be free to enjoy their life as thoroughly as anyone. It reminded me of my Dad’s speech at my brother’s 21st Birthday. You have succeeded in life if your children have it better in life that you.
We three chatted about our respective lives and found out the little bits and pieces about one another that are only offered occasionally to strangers. Humphrey allowed the first four hours to fly by and then provided interesting stints of yawn-punctuated conversation. We arrived at Singapore and parted ways – us with Humphrey’s email address and he with our card. The second part of the journey saw us missing our companion – row 19 wasn’t the same without Humphrey.
July 12th, Delft
We have arrived in Delft and are staying with Alex’s mum’s cousin, the delightful Marian. The final stage of the journey was more of the same – not stressful in the least. We alighted on Dutch soil at 1:30, after a good 30 hours of flying and airporting. The baggage claim was relatively short and it was only a nailbitingly tense minute when my bike box came out at the ‘odd sized baggage’ claim completely opened at one end. I could hear the dull thud of our hearts dropping in unison. What had happened? Was everything in there? Was my bike ok?! As it turned out, everything was a-ok, totally fine and dandy, nothing damaged or lost. Alex’s big box came out fully closed and we made our way to a secluded nook underneath some escalators and had a quick bike build (Alex) and pannier re-pack (me). We were done by 2:30 and had decided to ride to Delft by 3ish. Still in our clothes from Monday, we were actually dressed perfectly for the 18 degrees provided for us by the Neeeederlands.
The Garmin (bike GPS) told us that it was about 40kms to get there – easy, we thought, no problem, we’ll get there in a couple of hours travelling at a leisurely pace. Nearly four hours and 63kms later we realised that the winding and head-windy bike paths of the Netherlands are a beautiful but around-about way to travel. There was about an hour of messing about stuffed into that four hours – lots of discovering that bike paths were being refurbished, waiting at crossings, roads blocked, twists and turns not marked on the maps and a missing bridge thrown in for good luck. The long way around was incredibly beautiful, we went through Leiden and saw astonishing architecture and all kinds of Dutch specialties.
The missing bridge was little more than just a way for the Universe to show that it was taking care of us – we’d turned around at the pile of iron pillars and wood, a little dismayed at the prospect of riding back 15kms to find the other turn-off when suddenly there popped up a little barge service, completely free and ready to take us on our merry way across the canal. How we’d missed on the way past was not important, what was great that it meant our journey to Delft was a mere 15kms, instead of 30 or more. I must stress here that Alex (nor I) are afraid of a bit of bike riding – we’d be thoroughly screwed if we were – it was just one of those days where you’ve only had one hour of sleep in the last 36 and getting where you want to go is all you really want to do.
Along the way we also saw and enormous barge with a version of our friend Chloe Likkel’s dog Kaiser Seven on board, this made my heart thump quite high in my chest for the remnants of the journey. We were welcomed warmly, fed and allowed to sneak off to bed by the lovely Marian within an hour of arriving at her lovely little flat in Delft.
Yesterday was my birthday – we spent it wandering about Delft, meeting Dutch Minka, eating delicious Dutch delicacies and, of course, riding bikes. Dinner was on my parents (who’s birthday gift was enough Euros and generosity for several lavish meals) at the most famous Pancake restaurant in Holland, probably in Europe and maybe the world – ‘t Sonnetje.
If you’re still with me, well done! Read on – I’m sure our future adventures will prove to be of the slightly more ‘on the knife’s edge’ variety, but for now we’re just getting our bearings and using our bearings (bike pun, sorry).