27 February 2005

Green Desert

Trips to Fossil Rock and Hatta Pools have become regular weekend features for us. But this week the desert was a quite different sight.

We have had a lot of rain this winter, much more than last year. Since Mark and Martina arrived it has rained three times, and when Naime and Thomas were here we faced the embarrassment of having to lend them jumpers since we had told them it was going to be warm and then turned out to be quite chilly.

As an introduction to the local countryside we took Mark and Martina to Fossil Rock, a short drive through the dunes from Al-Awir towards the mountains. But where normally there are just a few grey scrubs and some dead-looking branches sticking out of the ground this time the sand was covered in clumps of sharp green grasses, faint meadows of white and yellow flowers and bushes with red blooms. The camels were having a field day.


It was amazing to see how plants can grow in the fine sand as soon as there is some water. The leeside of dunes, where the shade keeps the rain water on the surface, were coloured a delicate pale green with soft growth. Digging just a few inches revealed the sand to be damp, soaked full with moisture.




Flowers in the Desert

Hatta, normally a forbidding reddish-grey mountain range, had taken on a faint blue-green shimmer in the crags and crevasses where the water collected. The normally rare pools on the wadi floor had spread, so that there were rivulets of water in most places, supporting frogs, dragon flies, spiders and fish in an inhospitable climate.




Desert Dwellers (frog and dragonfly © Mark Locker 2005)

17 February 2005


After Cairo I thought I'd got the hang of places with too much traffic and no road infrastructure. As it turned out India is so much more.

Stuart has been working with a company in Chennai (ex-Madras) on the East coast of India in Tamil Nadu. On this visit Anna and I were able to accompany him. It was a rush and we are now totally hooked on the India experience. Going back as soon as possible to this most colourful of countries. We were lucky that we had use of a driver and car for the whole five days to take us anywhere and show us the place. Even going out into the street can be forbidding to start with, as it's so mad-busy everywhere and footpaths are an optional extra on the roads. The mix of big trucks, cars, taxis, rickshaws, motor bikes and bicycles with the odd oxen cart and pedestrian thrown in, is a challenge to navigate.



Chennai traffic is interesting at any time...

More India Photos here

11 February 2005

Fossil Rock - again

It seems that for an overnight camping trip this is going to be our favourite haunt.

Fossil Rock, named after the marine fossils that can be found embedded into the craggy outcrops - is conveniently close to Dubai, it combines desert dunes for a fun drive with impressive scenery to watch the sunset. We stopped off in Al-Awir to get petrol and tomatoes. It's a one-camel kind of town (well, actually there are probably hundreds, but you know what I mean), dusty and empty, but it provides us with essentials and we bought our very serviceable kettle there on our first trip.

Then it's the usual routine: Get off the road, let some air out of the tyres and make sure everything is strapped down for the bumpy bits. Last time we lost two cups to a sudden drop in the track - keeps IKEA in business, at least. It was Marcus' first trip driving his lovely new Discovery, so we took it easy to start with. But by the big grin on his face we soon knew that he was ready for the bigger bumps. We only got stuck once, and helped out a stranger whose appetite for steep hills was bigger than his engine, otherwise the trip was trouble-free. We even saw a lizard, a rare occasion to see life here apart from camels and goats.


We are tonight camping by one of the rocks that were once underwater cliffs, the fire is toasty and the marshmallows are sticky and sweet. There's a million stars and a big silence, it's not too chilly: life couldn't be better.

10 February 2005

Guest Blogger/ Anna

Today's guest blogger Anna tells us of her run-in with local security.

"Anna liked to take a photo from her school - British Council

The policeman (dressed Green) said o.k., you can do it. He hopped on the wall to get a nice view because Anna can't jump on the wall. Anna took a picture of the policeman, too. He was very kindly.

Shock! The British Council police (dressed Blue) were shocked. No photo allowed - never! Now the police in blue and the police in green went like a march formation to the major of the British Council. He said that I could keep the photos with me.

Observe: Never mix blue and green, specially UK and Dubai."