Friday, November 9, 2012

Barracuda Resort - Van's Second Excursion

On Thursday, I rented a car. Why you may ask? I felt confined. Perhaps if I was only in the area for a week or two, I may not have rented it, but since I will be here for 1.5 months, at the two week mark, I decided to expand my horizons. My other colleagues who have traveled from distant lands to be here - as is the case with myself - suggested that I was crazy to try to drive in such a foreign place. To tell you the truth, this is way outside my comfort zone, especially excursions when I am out by myself, as is the case today. The traffic in the cities is a little hectic and the interchanges are not quite what I am used to, but if you pay attention and know where you are trying to get to, you should be fine. Watch the signs and take your exits. A word of warning, most back streets - between the blocks - are one-way and will sometimes take you in directions you don't want to go. Be patient, don't panic and you will be fine.

But, ask yourself, how foreign is it really. It has only been since 1971 since this land was British ruled. Much of the infrastructure stems from that period of time. UAE is growing by leaps and bounds every year and it's infrastructure and urban development reflects that. They drive on the right side of the road. The speed limit is in KPH, but so are the speedometers, so why worry about conversions. The lane markings are relatively the same and people do use blinkers to change lanes. Just keep in mind ... Some people like to drive fast, just get out of their way and you will be fine.

The UAE is very open to foreign investment, including money coming in from tourism. As such, they are surprisingly open to Americans and Europeans. I only needed my passport and my US drivers license to rent a car. No international drivers license required. I am told that even the bordering countries (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) are open to crossings by tourists. These countries include Oman, Qatar, Yemen, etc. I hear the coast of the Indian Ocean is quite beautiful. Perhaps a trip on another weekend.

Today, I have driven 45 minutes northeast of Sharjah to a resort named Barracuda. The interesting thing about this resort, besides being on the water and quite temperate with a nice sea breeze, is it has a liquor store. The resort is in the next emirate to the east from Sharjah and so does not observe the same conservative restrictions as Sharjah emirate - namely the sale of alcohol.

This place is hopping. A friend at the office put me on to this place. He said I could sit at the cafe on the water (an inlet off the Persian Gulf), order a beer and some food, and relax. Something I am taking advantage of at this writing. As far as alcohol purchases in the store are concerned, it is accepted that people will come here to buy alcohol and then carry it back to Sharjah - mainly tourists and ex-pats. They put the purchases in opaque-gray bags, so one can carry the purchases into their residences and hotels. Sharjah is strict about alcohol in public, but relaxed on the law of it being consumed behind closed doors.

Anyway, the land is very flat leading down to the gulf and the gulf does not have many waves. It is kinda reminiscent of my recent trip to Lake Ontario. Not very many waves ... Really a lot like a lake.

I guess I'll be driving back now. The sun is going down and I am not sure about driving at night yet. I am told it "could" be dangerous on a weekend since people usually spend the whole day out and are often tired driving home.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hatta Tour

12 Hour Extreme Hatta Safari - One of Van's weekends in the Middle East

10:00a - It was an adventure just getting started this morning to meet up with Butterfly Tours for this 12-hour Extreme Safari tour in the UAE. We left enough time to get to our meet up spot from our hotel in Sharjah, but our driver misunderstood where we actually needed to be. We were dropped off at a place that was 20 minutes or so from the correct location. Taxi drivers in this country, do not know addresses, they know landmarks. That being said, you might be hard-pressed to find an address as it is, so maybe it is good that the drivers go by landmarks. Anyway, we met up with the tour driver and are now en route to meet up with the rest of the tour in Hatta (I assume), 61km away at the time of this writing.

There is a lot of desert out here. Once you get south of the cities on the Persian Gulf - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, etc - there is not much development. None really, but lots and lots of sand. The roads are perfectly smooth with no potholes or unusual roughness. Occasionally, we see other people with recreational vehicles or recreational toys, dirt bikes, dune buggies, etc. This is the perfect area for that kind of play. It is doubtful there is much "private" property out here.

11:00a - First oasis stop - rest rooms, a little shop, some recreation (4x4 motor bikes and camel rides). There were also some falcons that were fun to photograph. I imagine these little oases are nice to have on long drives across the desert.

11:30a - On we go to the next stop. The driver has gathered our passports for the next stop. We are told that they will check our passports 5 times before this trip is over at various different borders.

11:38a - we have now crossed the first border into Oman. No pictures allowed at the border, unfortunately. The driver tells us that the road crosses the border a couple of different times on this trip. Checkpoints are at each one.

Omani mountains

11:48p - gas stop (Shell)

12:00p - past 2nd Omani checkpoint. Here are some hills south of that checkpoint.
12:37p - end of the paved road and a stop
1:00p - No more pavement from here. Woohoo! What they don't tell you is that the reason it's not paved from here on is that it is under construction. Oh well, it is still fun to drive on.
1:15p - Back on the paved road. :-( That didn't take long.
1:30p - Coming into Hatta

Hatta Dam - the dam has been here for 30 years, but for the past 4-5 years it has not rained enough to fill the reservoir.
2:00p - stopped for lunch at a service station. I like the way they spelled teriyaki.
3:00p - Back on the road
3:30p - after two more checkpoints, we are back in the UAE. Passports are back in our possession and in our pockets, so my assumption is that we will not be back in Oman anymore today.

3:40p - reached a big sandy hill ear Lahbab in the UAE. We are stopped right now to deflate the tires a little for sandy driving.

These pics don't do the "dune bashing" experience much justice, but ... Pay attention to the horizon, it will provide evidence to how tilted the truck was on these dunes.
4:30p - Arrived at Tazeem Al Sahara - a tourist destination where we will be served dinner, belly dancing and more importantly, a drink. We have been dry since we arrived in Sharjah.
Waiting for the crowds to arrive.
Finally found a place to get a beer $7 for a beer imported from Mexico. I look a little dazed because I don't know where to look when my picture is being taken with my iPad.
7:00p - dancing started

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Yesterday, Van, Vernon, Joyce, my mom and I went sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. I had bought a Google Offer for a 2 hour sailing "lesson" out of Deale, MD from the Sailing Academy. It was a gorgeous day with light winds, enough for sailing, but not enough to make it rough. It was about 62 degrees so again just about perfect for not being too hot or too cold. We had an excellent and fun captain, Angie, and I learned a few things. We all got a chance to steer the boat and to help with the lines. Van did any of the "hard" sailing stuff with Angie. Afterwards we went for an early dinner on the other side of the marina where everyone except me had seafood - crabs either in the shell or as a cake. I have a video if I can figure out how to upload it to the blog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shooting Sunflowers

Pam and I went shooting sunflowers today in Hess, Maryland.  Hess is way out Jarrettsville Pike, out past Loch Raven Reservoir and 5 corners.  We got a tip about this place from a friend of Pam's, who had planned to go out herself to take pictures with some models, but could not get any lined up in time.  So, Pam and I decided to go out anyway.  It was a gamble.  There was a 60% chance of rain and we drove through a doozie of a thunderstorm in Baltimore to get out there.  However, it was not raining when we got out to Hess.  It unfortunately rained on and off after we got out of the car and were snapping a few pictures.  The sunflower field is a private farm across from a Royal Farms store. There was some parking off the side of the road and it attracted quite a few people for picture snapping.  Below are some of my pictures.  More pictures can be seen at my photostream on Flickr.  Pam will be uploading some her own pictures soon.  You can see her pictures on her photostream.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kayaking at Big Pool

Pam and I went kayaking Saturday for the 2nd time in our new kayaks. We went up to Fort Frederick State Park in an area called Big Pool, Maryland - obviously named after the water body we were in, named "Big Pool". It is a long narrow lake between the C&O canal and the Potomac River. We were out for 4 hours.

We explored a side creek and found a flock of geese way back in the woods. No pictures .... Sorry. We've decided that these were the mythical "Forest Geese", so perhaps we wouldn't have been able to get their picture anyway. We chased them all the way up the creek until they ran out of water, at which point they scrambled up the bank and disappeared into the underbrush.

On the side of the lake I found these blue dragonflies hanging out near to the surface of the water. I wasn't able to see their wings with my eyes, but the camera was able to stop the action just fine.

There were LOTS of turtles. Unfortunately, we did not get very good pictures. We had the waterproof camera with us and it is not the best at zooming in, especially on small subjects from a moving base. They were quite skittish and slipped into the water whenever we got close. However, Pam did manage to catch a little one - she just floated up next to him and grabbed him with her bare hands. Perhaps he was too young to know any better. Pam really wanted to bring him home with us, but we had no way of getting him there. He was VERY cute.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Don't worry. Nothing bad happened. I just stumbled across this little tidbit on the Internet today and thought it worthy of sharing in the blog.

Have you ever wondered where the term vandalism comes from?

Around 439 AD, there was an East Germanic tribe called the Vandals, who under king Genseric formed a kingdom in North Africa, around the area that is now Tunisia. Part of this kingdom included an area that was claimed by Rome - the Roman Africa province. In 455, the Vandals sacked the city of Rome, leaving a great deal of destruction in their wake. The north Africa Vandal kingdom was only held for about 100 years at which point, in the Vandalic War (533-4), Justinian I re-siezed control for the Eastern Roman Empire.

Early Pro-Roman historians classified the Vandals, as, I suppose, any culture that was not Roman, barbarians for their sacking and looting of Rome. While the Vandals destruction of Roman antiquities was likely no more destructive than other invaders of the time, the Vandals were often blamed for Rome's downfall.

So, the Vandals got a bad rep and a bad rap. But it wasn't until much later (1794) that the term "vandalisme" was coined by Henri Grégoire to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution. The term quickly swept into public use across Europe and - as we well know - is still used to this day to describe wanton or useless destruction of property.

Information gathered from Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge)


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


From a Chipotle bag:

"Recycling turns things into other things. Which is like Magic."