Monday June 16, 2014

This blog-entry is coming to you, believe it or not, from 36,000 feet up in the air above Northern Africa. We’re doing what the birds do – flying south, en route to Nairobi, Kenya. The Emirates aircrew (13 different nationalities) are busy serving drinks, and our Mad Midlife Kiwis are scattered around me, eating, reading, movie-watching, and snoring.

A few hours ago, we woke up in Dubai and watched the 5am-sun climb huge and orange above the horizon. Breakfast was first on the agenda (can’t start the day without food!). And then, plonking bags and bodies on a coach, we galloped off to the airport for this next leg on our wild adventure.

A lot seems to have happened already. While you slept under warm Saturday-night blankets, we flew backwards through the time-zones, landing here in the United Arab Emirates yesterday morning, just as the bone-dry desert landscape was warming up.

Thirty-seven degrees – that’s what it was by the time we exited the air-conditioned hotel. And our city-tour guide told us this was comparatively cool. Just two days ago it was 47 degrees, so we had nothing to complain about.

There’s no place quite like Dubai, with its modern palaces sprawled along the coast, its soaring glass-&-steel skyscrapers, its 700-plus Muslim minarets, its 12-lane motorways, its jungle of cranes, and its sparkling latest-model cars. Twenty-five years ago there was little here except boiling-hot sand and a few grumpy camels, but gushing new oil and some visionary sheiks changed all that. Dubai, on the Persian Gulf, is now a glittering Middle East showpiece, and home to some 8 million people – although barely 1.5 million are Emiratis (Arabs); the majority are foreigners, labourer and construction workers from countries like India, Philippines and Bangladesh … and ex-pat professionals from everywhere else.

If you want an international melting-pot, this takes the cake. In just 24 hours, Mrs Cooney and I have enjoyed lively conversations with our Sri Lankan rep (who met us at the airport) … our Indian guide (who showed us the city) … the Turkish and British receptionists at our hotel … our Philippino and Bangladeshi waiters at dinner last night … the beautiful, young, highly-educated Somali mum-with-baby we met in the lobby … and the Romanian flight-attendant who just served us our drinks.

Fascinating? You bet – and so enriching!

However, all that is now behind us on the distant Arabian Peninsula … and ahead of us are grassy wildlife parks, stretching as far as the eye can see, and crawling with stunning free-to-roam wildlife. Midlife Madness on Safari – that’s what we’re about to have. And you, dear reader-back-home, must be green with envy.



Two Mad Midlife honours – our much-sought-after quacky yellow ducks – were announced yesterday (amid much hooting, laughter and derision):

  • Sheryl received the ‘If The Shoe Fits’ Award … for a serious case of footwear-theft on the flight from Sydney to Dubai. Both she and the friend seated next to her removed their shoes soon after take-off. But when, several hours later, the friend went to put hers back on, she discovered that one was missing. Her search finally had her grovelling around on the floor – which was when she spied upon Sheryl’s feet two utterly different shoes. (You can work it out from there …)
  • Norman walked away with the ‘Flushed Without Success’ Award … for, well, let me explain … At Sydney airport, yesterday, Norman  took himself off to the men’s loo to put on his long black stockings (you know, the ones that protect your legs from DVT?). Entering a vacant cubicle, Norman sat himself down on the open toilet seat and was wrestling those tight socks up his hairy leg when the thing automatically flushed, giving Norman seriously wet pants. He emerged eventually and attempted to dry his wet backside by hovering over the hand-dryer. (But at this point the story gets too sordid, so I’ll leave it there …)


We wriggle into six 4WD safari vehicles and motor off to ‘Elephant-Central’ – Kenya’s famous Amboseli National Park. So don’t change channels, folks – this is about to get exciting!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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