Prelude to Europe - Escape from Abu Dhabi

The plan was pretty simple, take 3 weeks off and head to Europe for a break, take in 3 countries and their capital cities.

Eat Food.

Drink Beer.

Be tourists.

All was going along smoothly, our stuff was packed, our hiking packs’ tags and tabs lashed and cling wrapped to protect them from their only known predator - the airline baggage conveyor belt.

First aside (for this blog)

We’re hikers, so our packs are designed for “drive to a carpark, get out, walk for 5 days, throw now stinking packs back in the car, drive home”. To enable a person to strap 25-30 kilos to their backs aforementioned packs NEED to be tough, (they are) they also need to have about 4,000 straps hanging off them to enable a fair distribution of load. Therein lies the issue. Straps have an unfortunate habit of getting snagged in anything that could be considered a moving part. Baggage conveyors have moving parts. A lot of them. These moving parts can (regularly) turn your beloved pack from a $1000 piece of hiking art to an interesting canvas duffle bag , useful for storing sporting goods in the back of a cupboard.

All things were moving along swimmingly, I had managed to coerce my partner in crime to leave at a time that allowed at least some room to move should anything go wrong (Karma is a ‘just in time’ person - a trait that I have been unable to talk her out of, if she has to be ANYWHERE at specific time, and it takes 30 minutes to get to said ANYWHERE, she will leave exactly 29 minutes before expected time, with the view that she’ll make up time on the way, a plan that in the 19 years I’ve known her is yet to bear fruit) of course my longsuffering bride couldn’t leave it at that…

…”What could possibly go wrong?” she uttered after realising I had got my way regarding leaving time.

Something I am not a fan of is throwing rocks at the “what could go wrong” gods.

I mentioned my concern about the challenge to the deities, which at this stage was met with a stare so withering I decided to cut my losses and comfort myself in the short term win.

As it happens the only thing that could possibly cause us any stress was the return of our hire car to the company.. That just happened to have an office at the airport, thus eliminating the hassle of trying to find a cab at 11.30pm.

Conversation that took place twice in the preceding days:

“You’ve checked with the car company as to where EXACTLY the drop off office is at the airport, I’ve heard it can be a little hard to find if you haven’t been there before”

“Yup yup” was the reply from K, “all sorted out”

“So you know where it is then?”

“YES I know where it is”

“Okay, just checking and making sure that we aren’t late for check in is all…”

“Will you stop it, we’ll get there in plenty of time!” Was the end of both conversations.

Conversation in the car, at 10.45pm - 1 hour before check in opens. In front of our apartment block. 30 minutes drive from the airport.

“Right honey, we’re loaded, anything we don’t have we can buy, we’ve got time, ALL we need is to get to the drop off point and leave the little Volksy behind and we are DONE.”

“Yup” (sheepishly)

“You DO know where we are going, PLEASE tell me you know where we are going”

“Just drive to the airport, there should be signs…..” (more sheepishly)

“You didn’t email Mr. M at Eurostar…did you?”


“He mentioned that he could provide a map….”



“There’s supposed to be signs, how hard can it be..”

So in a cloud of slow burning fury I placed the car in drive and pointed it toward the Airport.

And into the Airport, driveway.

Where there was supposed to be signs.

There wasn’t.

I pulled over after the first lap of the drop off area of terminal 1, and quietly gripped the steering wheel, while Karma “The Compass” tried to divine direction from the spots of dust on the windscreen.

“Is it near terminal 1 or 2, honey” I said through gritted teeth.

“I believe….”

“NO… no disclaimers here… belief aint going to get us to the check in on time”

I felt a little mean - like I was re-enacting the scene from Pulp Fiction when Bruce Willis’ character is trying to ascertain whether or not his girlfriend had in fact picked up his watch from the dresser while packing, or whether it was still on the kangaroo under the lamp…

I looked to my left, and realised that all my railing would be for nought, and only servicing my own frustration. That and I think she was getting a little watery of eye…

“RIGHT” I said. Jamming the car back into drive and  rolling onto the looping road that services terminal, all the while trying to spot a ‘rental cars this-a-way’ sign, either real, imagined, or projected as some kind of hologram from a R2-D2 unit… none was forthcoming.

In a fit of pique I turned toward the long term parking, and terminal 2.

Then a voice beside me ventured:

“There was something about it being near the long term carpark….”

“Excellent, information that could have been produced before….”

“I thought there would be signs…”

“Yes …but… forget it….”

The fact that we were on our way to victory was the most important thing (I told myself, while counting quietly, and uttering any calming mantra I could)

I’d like at this point to note that the signage at the airport is right up on Abu Dhabi standards, in that… there isn’t much and what IS available is vague at best.

When it became apparent that one’s time buffer was being eroded, the drive from terminal 1 to terminal 2 seemed like a very VERY long way. It probably wasn’t, but when faced with poor signage and a sinking feeling that at each turn we might just find ourselves out on the highway again, it just appeared so.

At last we saw the fabulously appointed shed that houses about 10 car hire companies, complete with single sign that lists them all. We parked and entered the shed, half expecting to have to step over farm machinery and finalise our agreement while sitting on hay bales. Not a reflection of the car companies, simply the structure they work out of - I'm guessing that there is a better facility in the pipeline.

After a little to and fro’ing with car inspection and how much was owing etc, we strode toward the shuttle bus that was thankfully waiting right by the door - driven by a guy who was obviously a fan of braking hard, then accelerating like he was trying out for the 28 seater Bus F1.

Meh, not my bus, he can drive it like he stole it as far as I’m concerned, provided we got to the terminal on time…

…we did, strode inside, and walked right past a wrapping machine that could have resolved all the pack tag/strap problems, and would have looked far more professional, and …well… effective. By comparison ours looked like badly wrapped sandwiches.

Check in took no time, and in short order we were stuck in lounge limbo… waiting to board for our first leg - Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to

Thanks for visiting.