Jun 26, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond

Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved traveling. Generally, that meant air travel. However, I have had my fair share of road trips. Sometimes, you are fascinated by the destination, sometimes by the aura of the very road- and that is enough to get you started.

My idea of the perfect road trip has changed over time. As a kid, the twelve hour bus journey to my grandparents' place five hundred kilometers away gave me the thrills. As I grew up, my first trip to Manali made me believe there was no destination more perfect than the snow clad peaks of Himachal Pradesh. However, ever since my trip to the UAE last year, I believe your life would be incomplete if you do not experience the road trip I am about to describe.

The Origin- Abu Dhabi:

Capital Gate (also known as the Leaning tower of Abu Dhabi), Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Skyline, Etihad Towers
Within the Arabian desert, this city changed my view of the Arabian world. Abu Dhabi houses the world's largest mosque, the fastest roller coaster and is perhaps one of the greenest cities in the middle of such vast nothingness. If you appreciate modern architecture, this is the city of your dreams- after the destination.

The Destination- Dubai:

The Burj Al Arab, the pride of Dubai
Dubai's economy hasn't been the same every since the last drop of oil in those scattered deposits was extracted and it depends solely on the tourism industry to sustain itself since the global recession five years ago. That being said, the desires of visiting the likes of the tallest building- Burj Khalifa, the costliest hotel- the Burj Al Arab, the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk and the Silk Souk are too much to resist! The trip was simple- go from the second best tourist destination to the very best one.

The Navigators:

The Engineer, The Artist and The Geological Programmer
Shaumik | The Geological Programmer
That's me. Although it is a fantastic tourist destination, the geology of the pristine sands is a paradise!

Sankar | The Engineer
My dad. A Mechanical Engineer by profession, his experience in Abu Dhabi working in the Oil & Gas sector helps the group get an insight on the area.

Debamita | The Artist
My Mamma. Her philosophical insight usually helps us see the broader variety of things.

The Doctor, The Kid and The Architect
Paramita | The Doctor and Planner
My aunt(mashi). The person responsible to make sure everybody makes it safe through the foreign lands and no germ dare attack her group. Also the one who chalks out the trips to make sure we enjoy every little thing in the shortest of time frames.

Pinaki | The Architect
My uncle(mesho). The buildings ranging from the shape of footballs to alien crafts, who else would provide an expert comment on their structures?

Ryan | The Kid
My cousin brother, six years younger. Provides the much needed funny quote in tense situations, and is the one with the information (after his mother of course!)

Fiery Eyes
Fiery Eyes | The Pilot
Dune bashing was his forte! The way he single handedly worked his way past the sand dunes of the desert- everyone was awed! 

The Car- Porsche Cayenne:

The beast!
With the route we had in mind, what other SUV do we turn to except the very best among its category? The $50000 Porsche Cayenne is a beast on the road- and off it too! An important part of the trip was to go off the road into the desert sand and enjoy some of the dune bashing.

Porsche Cayenne is equipped with over 3500cc, six cylinders engine that pumps out a power of 300 hp and 400 Nm of torque with the help of a six speed manual gearbox. The monster can cover the 0-100 kmph mark in just over seven seconds and accelerate upto 160 kmph in nineteen seconds.

The Cayenne, perhaps the greatest piece of art by Porsche, is a sleek beast. Its narrowed headlights provide a sense of it's sheer power. It offers the joys of driving a Porsche, the feeling of a sports vehicle coupled with a prowess that makes even the greatest of the SUVs shy.

Let the journey begin!

The Route: Abu Dhabi - Al Ain - Dubai
The Journey Begins!
The usual direct way from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is about a hundred and fifty kilometers, which takes just over an hour in those beautifully maintained expressways. But what is so exciting about a straight high class roadway, right? We wanted more. A detour through the green oasis city of Al Ain within the Abu Dhabi emirate is just what the doctor ordered!

Sand Dunes, outskirts of Abu Dhabi city
The drive from the main city of Abu Dhabi to Al Ain takes usually over an hour, with huge crescent shaped sand dunes on either side of the well maintained road. You get the feeling of Al Ain as the sandy landscape gradually turns into a rocky landmass.

Entering Al Ain
As I have mentioned over and over again, if you were visiting the UAE for the first time, you would be surprised by the desert. Or shall I say the greenery? The highways are bordered by trees on both sides, beyond which there is a stretch of unending desert sands.

The reason why we chose Al Ain are many. It is the old city of Abu Dhabi and has been sheltered from the modern changes. You can still find old buildings from the mid twentieth century here. Al Ain has an underground oasis (or a string of oases) which provides water for irrigation. Known as falaj, this has been done for centuries. Al Ain is also very close to the Oman border. There are three important tourist destinations- the Al Ain Zoo, the Guinness world record holder paradise garden and the hot springs on the outskirts of the city.

The almost extinct White Lion at the Al Ain Zoo
The Al Ain zoo, although hosting a variety of animals, is particularly famous for the almost extinct white lion. There are just about two hundred of them left in this world, and I counted three in the zoo itself.

The female White Lion
The two-horned Rhino
Being from Assam, which is famous for the one-horned Rhino, this was the first time I encountered a two-horned Rhino.

Nice to see humans and animals socializing- Facebook would be obsolete soon!
Paradise Garden- Guinness World Record for most number of hanging flower baskets
The Al Ain Paradise Garden has the Guinness world record for the most hanging flower baskets in the world. Being in the middle of the desert, you should know how tough it is to maintain over ten million flowers at the same place!

There was one last place to visit- the hot springs on the outskirts of the city. They are said to have exceptional medicinal properties. I prefer to stay dry though.

Jebel Hafreet, Al Ain (Emirate of Abu Dhabi)
The Jebel Hafreet mountain road has been called the greatest driving road in the world! Stretching over 11 km and climbing to over a thousand meters, it cuts into the highest peaks of the emirate, which are in close proximity of the Omani border. A mix of fast straights and sweeping curves, it provides a thrilling driving experience! Its safety barriers bear scuff marks of cars, capturing the drivers who got it all wrong, telling you the story about how life doesn't provide a 'Restart from the last checkpoint' option! Driving through the road, you can see the vibrant landscape of the hot springs on one side and the date palm trees on the other.

Standing at the top of the tallest peak in the UAE, the Jebel Hafreet gives you a feeling of superiority. At 1220 meters, it provides one rare sight in the desert.

After a great time in Al Ain, it was time to move on to our actual destination. Dubai is about an hour away from Al Ain, which is again characterized by good quality highways and endless sand on either side.

Just before we entered Dubai, we had one more thing to do! The dune bashing. We took a nearby exit from the highway and entered the sands.

Do note that before you start your stunts in the sands, you need to take some air out of the tires to adapt the car to the sand so that the journey is smooth and comfortable.

Dune Bashing in the Cayenne
As the sun sets, the rocks and sands of the desert take on an orange hue that provides a breathtaking view.

Another interesting part of the trip was the mirage. It involves bending of light rays as they travel through the layers of the atmosphere with different density, ultimately producing a snapshot of the sky in front of you, which appears to be water at a distance. The mirage appears to move as you do too, appearing to run away from you!

Now you see me, now you don't!
Finally, the entry into Dubai is characterized by noticing the super tall Burj Khalifa at a distance, where the other buildings appear to be puny little bygones.

The outskirts of Dubai
And so we arrive at the best tourist destination in the whole wide world.

This post is written for "The Perfect Road Trip" contest organised by IndiBlogger and AmbiPur Car. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

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