Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Paddling Adventures

Al Salaam paddle 009
The new Eastern Mangroves Resort and Spa
has kayaks ready to go.
I’ve been spending a couple of mornings a week paddling and exploring in the mangroves.

One morning, I decided to paddle along Al Salaam Street, the busy eastern corniche which leads to downtown Abu Dhabi in one direction, and the Zayed Bridge and the highway to Dubai in the other.

I have ridden my bike there a couple of times as well, but it’s not as nice a ride as the Zayed Grand Loop (as I now call it.) This route took me paddling past the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anatara, which was just getting ready to open. The residential portion of the development is still under construction.

I was paddling against an ebb tide, which I considered a good thing. Paddle upwind or upstream first and you will have an easy trip back home, inshallah.

Al Salaam paddle 013
The urban/mangrove interface.

What’s interesting about this route is that you are paddling the urban/mangrove interface. On one side, I observed water birds and fish, and on the other side I observed delivery trucks and workers on ladders changing bulbs in the lights. I couldn’t help but notice the road noise. Yet, I actually saw a greater variety of bird species there than in the more remote parts of the mangrove forest!
Al Salaam paddle 005
There are plenty of birds to observe.

Al Salaam paddle 039
Floating with the current.

I paddled for a little more than one hour, and turned around. On the way back, I was able to sit down and stretch out on my board, resting my feet, which tend to fall asleep while standing and balancing for a long time. I floated along with the current, paddling now and then.

This is the life!

Each of these routes is about easy five miles, round trip.


Paddle for Planet 010
That's me, standing on the left holding the paddle.
The next weekend was the ADCA party on Lulu Island. I left my inflated ULI SUP on the deck of Unwind that night, and was up early the next morning ready to “Paddle for the Planet.” I hadn’t heard of the event until Jen posted it on the UAE Stand Up Paddle Club Facebook page.

I still don’t know much about the P4P organization, although I am looking into it. According to their web site “Paddle for the Planet aims to raise awareness and financial support for marine conservation, specifically in ‘Marine Protected Areas’ and ‘no take zones’.”

Of course I support that, and any opportunity to get out and paddle with the group is all good to me, so I launched my board in Unwind’s slip in the marina and paddled around the corner to the beach next to Abu Dhabi’s Heritage Village.

Paddling the marina was a new adventure in itself, and as I approached the end of the rock wall, I saw that even though it was a calm morning, there was a bit of tidal surge but it was no big deal. I rounded the corner and there they were, just getting organized. People were on boards, kayaks, and even a dragon boat. Jen got everyone assembled for a photo, and then we all headed upwind, toward the Emirates Palace hotel in the distance. After a bit of a loop around toward the Corniche we headed back to the beach, where I got a chance to try paddling the dragon boat and I lent my board to a woman who wanted to try a SUP.

Here’s a quick 20-second video of the dragon boat. A still photo just wouldn’t give you the real picture
Paddle for Planet 005

We were on the beach in front of the Emirates Theatre.

It looked like everyone was going to be hanging out on the beach for a while longer, but I needed to head back to the marina and get going home. We had plans to meet Tom and Lucy at Ferrari World to help them celebrate their anniversary!

Lucy pics 004
No matter how much stuff you bring,
you're always missing something.

A couple of days later, I took Lucy on a paddle in the mangroves, both of us on one board. Lucy was thinking we were going to spend the morning hanging out on a beach, but my goal was to explore beyond where I had already been.

We made a big loop, and discovered the dredged channel out beyond the shoreline. We made a left turn at the concrete plant, entering the main channel that I am now familiar with, and stopped for a swim. As I paddled around, Lucy swan ahead so I collected her flip flops and bag and went to pick her up so we could head home.

And that’s when it happened. “Ouch!” Before I even saw it, I knew. When Lucy lifted her foot out of the water I thought: Now that’s a cut. Probably needs stitches. There are small, sharp rocks and shells scattered in the sand.

Lucy Al Noor stitches
Waiting for the stitches.
We were about an hour from the launch, and our vehicle. Fortunately, we both knew exactly where we were and we didn’t panic. Lucy held the cut closed while I paddled as quickly as I could back to our vehicle. Lucy even kept telling me she was fine, and I could take a rest! It wasn’t until we arrived at the beach that she shed a few tears, and only because a helpful man who was fishing expressed alarm, and suggested that we call emergency, which is 999 here, for an ambulance. No! We said. We are driving to Al Noor Hospital! And in an hour, Lucy’s foot had seven stitches and a bandage.
From now on, everyone wears shoes.

A few days later, I took another early morning solo paddle. This time, the tide was extra high which gave me the opportunity to explore some cuts that are not navigable when the tide is low. I paddled up the now very familiar main channel, exploring every cut I came across – except the ones with the signs. What a day! A two hour plan stretched into three and a half hours. The biggest thrill was when I paddled over to what I thought was a blue plastic bag floating in the water only to realize that it was a jellyfish! .

This video, with music by Loreena McKennitt, captures what is for me the essence of the Eastern Mangroves, as I know them today.

Thanks for reading and I hope your adventures, no matter how big or small, are challenging and rewarding.

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