Setting out early, I was filling up with fuel at 07.00 and on my way to explore the coastline south of Abu Dhabi. Filling up is probably the easiest in any of the countries that I visit. Drivers simply sit in their vehicles, instructing servers (at each pump) when their turns come, without having to do anything more energetic than lower windows and reach for wallets. When the deed is done, payment made, windows rewound and expletive muttered because the driver waiting behind has wasted a milli-second because you have not managed a Grand Prix exit, then its off on your way – or to the shop to buy your coffee & snacks for the journey.
Queues can be long because there seems a dearth of filling stations, in Abu Dhabi at least, where the only choice is ADNOC – and why not? – Abu Dhabi makes the stuff after all. And all at prices that may, just may, be lower than bottled water. Apparently queues in the morning are shorter as drivers prefer to fill up after work to enjoy the pleasures of queuing longer .
Compare this with Kazakhstan – or anywhere in the CIS region – where queuing happens too although there are more filling stations (queuing is not patient polite straight line as we know it- rugby scrum queuing where three or more vehicles edge forward abreast to claim the next pump is the order of the day, regardless of when they arrive). Drivers are accustomed to this and are more likely to get out and chat pleasantly to the rogue who just pushed in rather than, as we would, tell him to move his ******* heap, go forth and multiply. Once you claim the pump, you then abandon the vehicle and queue to pay for your fuel before it is pumped. No paying afterwards here – levels of trust are not that high yet. You have to nominate the amount you want to spend – hopefully you know the size of the tank. Usually not a problem as most drivers fill only a small amount each time – they clearly like the experience. No chance of “fill ‘er up, mate!” here!
Usually, there is an attendant to pump for you with the registered prepaid volume set in the kiosk, except when the weather is cold and you have to do it yourself.
The cost is attractive too as Kazakhstan is a major oil producer too. However, refinery output has failed to keep up with demand and the lowest cost petrol/gas (A92) is often out of stock. The problem is so dire that during harvesting season, when farmers selfishly use more fuel in an attempt to feed the populace, that Kazakhstan imports fuel from Russia from time to time. Strange how the price remains the same though. Most cars are petrol/gas because of winter temperatures. Diesel vehicles have the usual problems with freezing diesel of course. More refinery capacity is required – or, as recently suggested, raise the price of fuel. As fuel is about 3 times lower than UK, there does seem to be some margin!
Anyway, back to the road trip, which I had planned to perfection using Google Maps and Google Earth. As I was under strict instructions to be back for lunch to meet the needs of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed – picking grandsprog from nursery, supermarket trips etc., I hightailed down the 4 lane highway – 2 lanes each way dual carriageway with a row of palm trees between the carriageways. This route was under widening re-construction and my first turn off was missed completely because trucks were not allowed in the outside lane and convoyed so tightly that I missed the sign – no advance signs, so you have to stay alert.
I caught the next turn to Al Dubiya, which was at the end of a long 2 lane road over very flat featureless desert.
I found a sheltered bay and at last had a breather, photographing birds on the beach. It was a good spot:
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
I think that’s enough for this post. I’ll continue with the rest of the jaunt later.