Day 11 – Yerevan

2 Apr

Yerevan, Armenia, and in the background, Turkey’s Mount Ararat.

I came to Armenia because of course it’s on the list of countries I haven’t been to yet and because the ticket from Dubai was dirt cheap. After experiencing the shittest travel experience ever, I now know why “Fly Dubai” fares are so low. They should pay you.

Still, you can’t beat patriotic statues, Stalinist architecture, post-Communist decay, and Soviet military hardware used as public art, to revive the travel spirit.

Here are some of Yerevan’s more desirable hillside residences:

The washing is out to dry so someone does actually live here:

Day 10 – Dubai

1 Apr

Regular sized skyscrapers look like toytown from the 148th floor… Could be a photo taken from an airplane, not a building.

No idea why there’s a moss covered Land Rover in the middle of the historic district

Day 9 – Dubai

31 Mar

Obnoxious traffic cops who think they’re dealing with a first-timer (Ha! Fools!), incompetent baggage handlers, screaming children, and delayed flights were only capable of spoiling my day until I finally arrived at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina, albeit a lot later than planned.

Country number 93 achieved, my free (on points) room gets upgraded to a club suite and I get access to the really very nice Club Intercontinental lounge for canapes and cocktails.

A plate of gyoza and a dry martini later and the hassles of today are forgotten and a view of the marina beckons. Not sure I’ve got time or energy left after today to see it tonight, but tomorrow is just a few complimentary martinis away. It’s good to have some luxury to enjoy when everywhere you look there are 20 year old Arabs driving Ferraris or 30 year old Europeans in Bentleys….

Oh yeah. Last night I camped (as in slept in the car) on top of Jebel Shams when I discovered what it was like up there and after being disappointed with the hotel.

And what a place! Windy and a bit spooky after dark but with a “tucked up in bed while there’s a storm outside” feeling. Sadly my visit coincided with a full moon but if you stayed here another time you’d have a sky full of stars, and if you came with camping gear you’d have a whale of a time, assuming you don’t break your ankle or fall off the cliff when you leave your tent/car on the rocky cliff edge in the dark to take a piss. Its surprisinhly popular so you to get a prime spot you have to stake your claim early.

Dubai at night is a lot better lit than Jebel Shams.

Day 8 – Jebel Shams

30 Mar

Yesterday was 4×4 heaven. Today there were times I would have given my kingdom for a motorcycle:

Tonight’s camping spot on top of the mountain:

Spot the car:

No sleepwalking here!

Day 7 – Jebel Shams

29 Mar

Another day, another mountain. The photos don’t show how steep and difficult some of this was. Low-range 4WD for long, rough, and narrow climbs and descents twisting through the mountain on slippery sandy trails with no room for error, often over crests so sharp as you go up all you can see is sky, and until the front drops again on the other side you have no idea what’s there.It’s hard to photograph the steepest bits because you’re too busy trying not to drive off a cliff and if you did stop you might not get moving again, even if your car didn’t roll away and fall into the chasm while you were holding a camera. It’s hard to trust a handbrake when you can barely stand up without holding on…These photos are all the tamest bits where there was space to stop and get out and without a slope so severe you dare not try. These photos look like the M1 compared to the tight and steep bits.

And then, in the middle of nowhere, an hour’s tricky drive in a 4×4 to get anywhere, this appears:Next a quick hike to a lunch break in Snake Canyon. Spot the people, for a sense of scale.Eventually, another room with a view.