Day 517: Salalalalalalalalalalalah!

01.06.10: OMAN: Last night I travelled through The Empty Quarter – the rather large swathe of the Arabian Peninsular that is, as the name suggests, emptier than Paris Hilton’s noggin.  I could try to remark about how unremarkable it was, but that would do it a disservice.  Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t driving the bus. This morning I arrived bright and early (7am on the DOT!) in the wonderful city of Salalalalalalalalalalah (to be henceforth sung like Trolololololololololo) in Oman.  I had myself a usual Hughesy mooch which involves marvelling that my compass watch actually works, then heading off in the cardinal direction that will validate my Lonely Planet map.  Soon enough I was touching the Indian Ocean for the first time since I arrived in Tanzania ALMOST SIX MONTHS AGO.  Damn – this Odyssey is taking a quite frankly rude amount of time.…

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Day 512: There’s Always An Irish Pub…

27.05.11: As if Qatar hadn’t done enough to upset me, today it well and truly rained on my parade.  I was planning to meet up with friends I had met in Kuwait tomorrow in Dubai, and when I rang the SAPTCO bus office they told me that the bus left at 6pm. Good stuff!  I packed up my things and headed into Doha city centre, there to meet Tracy who I should have been CouchSurfing with last night.  We grabbed some lunch in a Thai restaurant and nattered about living in Qatar.  Originally from Vancouver in Canada, Tracy’s been here for two years.  It seems that Qatar suffers from many of the same problems as Kuwait – spoilt, lazy rich kids, dangerous drivers and an almost unbelievably stratified society. But, you know, in the greater scheme of things these are minor quibbles.  The governments here really…

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Day 510: Singin’ In The Bahrain

25.05.10: Oh yes, I’m back ON THE ROAD!  After saying my final farewell to the delectable Kassie I bundled myself on the 9am bus to Bahrain via Dammam in Saudi Arabia.  Panicking over all the horror stories I’ve been told about Saudi customs, I wiped all the TV shows and Hollywood movies off my hard drives (lest they contain kisses, witchcraft or a picture of a cross) and made sure I didn’t have a single used videotape on me (remembering Iran and Congo). In the event, they didn’t even open my bag.  Hilarious. I had my photo taken and my fingerprints scanned and that was it.  Easy as pie.  I arrived in the wholly unremarkable town of Dammam in the early afternoon and it wasn’t long before I was excitedly crossing the MASSIVE causeway to Nation 156, Bahrain – the Las Vegas of the Middle East.…

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Day 509: The Last Lost

24.05.10: I could tell you I got up bright and early and rang the bus company only to discover that there was no bus to Bahrain today (there wasn’t), but to be honest, even if there had of been a bus, I would have missed it on purpose.  I had bigger fish to fry.  A fish called Lost. Last January, Mandy and I made a pact to watch the last episode of Lost together, just like we watched the first episode together back in January 2005.  She was planning to fly out to meet me in India or China or wherever I was.  Well my enforced sojourn in Kuwait threw that idea out of the window.  Plus there’s the fact that we haven’t got enough money left to fly Mandy to Bali, never mind Bahrain.  So we did what we always do and muddled through –…

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Days 494-500: No Dice

09.05.10-15.05.10: Well then, it should all be over, shouldn’t it?  First thing Sunday morning I hurried down to the copy place to pick up my shiny happy visa, only for the guy to pull it out of the drawer with a despondent look on his face. You need to get the visa in London. I took a deep breath, nodded, smiled, exited and screamed an obscenity to the sky that would have woken Rip Van Winkle. No visa.  No dice.  What now? I rang Eric who has become my unofficial Kuwaiti Yoda, he said he could get my passport DHLed back in the UK for just a fiver through his company.  Thus began my week of visa madness. On the Monday morning I was invited back to the British Embassy to see if they could musta some ‘wusta’, the word for influence around these parts (and…

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Days 487-493: Quiz Night

02.05.10-08.05.10: On Sunday morning came the news I was waiting for – my Saudi invitation was in the bag!  Within just a few days I’d be finally buzzing through to Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.  I headed like a bonanza bongo bang bang buckaroo over to the Saudi embassy.  Only I found myself stopping along the way in a copy shop to get the letter of invitation printed out.  But this wasn’t just any old copy shop – this was the copy shop that Eric was talking about the other night!  I could get the visa here!  Of all the copy shops in all the Kuwait Cities…  Awesome.  I printed out my letter of invitation (which was all in Arabic) but it was up to Captain Hugh back in the UK to rush back to his office in Liverpool and write me a letter of introduction…

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Days 480-486: Boiling Point

25.04.10–01.05.10: This week I’ve been staying with a guy from Austria called Martin.  His flat is spanking – it’s in a brand new apartment complex and the apartment is so neat and tidy just my mere presence is enough to destabilise the Xi.  It’s warming up here in Kuwait – the rains of last week are but a distant memory and it’s hard not to be enchanted by the thought of running from one air-conditioned building to another. There was still no sign of my Saudi Letter of Invitation coming through and so I cracked on with website updates.  On Friday I met with Ruban and we crashed a rooftop party held by a cool British guy called Wes.  There I met a ton of tip-top people.  First up, there was Kassie from Australia, who offered me a place to crash now that I was in…

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Days 466-472: A Dead End

11.04.10 - 17.04.10: So there’s always plan B, right? Well, it all seemed simple enough. According to the Lonely Planet I could get a transit visa for Saudi as long as I had a Bahraini visa and a valid ticket from the bus station. So first thing I was up and at ‘em heading over to the Bahrain embassy. The weekend here runs Friday and Saturday, so it was open and pretty soon I had my visa and was heading over to the Saudi visa agents to try and get that transit visa. I was a bit worried it would take a few days, but the awful truth was that it wouldn’t take any time at all – they only give out transit visas for residents. As I’m not a resident, I can’t get one. I had painted myself into a corner. The next day I…

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Day 461: The Forbidden Stan

06.04.10: Groggy and grumpy I awoke from my nightborn passage through Uzbekistan. Like Alexander The Great so many years before (and Michael Caine and Sean Connery more recently), I was in Samarkand – the legendary and (arguably) most famous city of Central Asia. Stumbling bleary-eyed out of the taxi I lost my phone and before I knew what the hell was going on I had slept-walked into another taxi and was hurling out of town. Sacrilege, I know. I’m sorry. I’ll tell you a little story: About eight years ago I was travelling through the Andes with an old flame of mine (she’d hate me saying that, but watchagonnado?) and I got increasingly ratty with what I saw as her lack of interest in the soaring grandeur of one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. I couldn’t believe somebody would come all this…

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Day 460: The Wizard of Uz

05.04.10: Today was yet another D-Day in terms of getting visas and getting going.  Within minutes of me wiping the sleep from my eyes I arrived at the Turkmenistan embassy to meet no other than Atabek, my friend from last week who had helped me out with the whole getting-my-Stanistan-visas shenanigans.  Again, the system for getting the visa required me to put my name down on a list and then wait my turn.  While Atabek held my place in the queue I darted over to the Afghan embassy to throw in my second passport for my second Afghan visa (another time-consuming trip to the bank required).  Upon my return, it looked like if I got my passport in this morning, I’d have the visa this afternoon.  Atabek and I waited for a good three hours, but finally – finally – they opened the gate and let…

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