After chatting with our fellow racers for a bit, chugging water, recovering from a near certain death (on B and Kate’s part, thanks to the crazy wind), and packing up our stuff, Hassan drove us from the finish line in to the city and our hotel so that we could check in and get cleaned up before the awards ceremony. Since this hotel was one of the sponsors for the race and also where the evening reception would be, there was a ton of filthy cyclists all trying to check in at once. We had very little patience left at that point, but managed to get sorted without murdering anyone and made our way to our awesome little apartment where we’d be staying for the next three days… which included a pool-on balcony and views of the Red Sea. Zach helpfully provided a tour:
We all took amazing showers and got changed, and then fighting unconsciousness we dragged ourselves back out to the street to get a cab back to the previous resort to go to the awards ceremony and (hopefully) get a trophy.
Returning to the ceremony turned out to pose a bit of a problem. Seeing as how the resort isn’t even close to being open and, while the biggest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen, is kind of on the outskirts of town and not particularly well marked yet, not a single cab driver knew where we wanted to go. Several of them conferenced together to no avail, we tried to find a website or a map to no avail, and Zach’s usually excellent Arabic skills were slightly diminished by exhaustion. Luckily, we saw some other folks from the race come out of the hotel, and while they didn’t have enough room in their cars to give us a ride, they at least were able to tell us how to direct a cabbie to get there.
So, we get in a cab and start going, Zach in front and the three of us crammed in the back seat. We’re still not entirely sure where we are going, but this cab driver at least seemed to understand where we wanted to get to. As we were getting closer, we finally saw a sign for the resort, at an intersection. Zach was insistent that we turn around and go down that road, but the cab driver was quite insistent that it was not the right way to go. After some arguing (this is all happening in Arabic so we had no idea what was going on), the cab turned around once more and went further down the road, when we finally found the right place to turn and got dropped off with Zach apologizing profusely and paying the cabbie extra.
Turns out that the argument that they were having was that the road that Zach was insisting that we turn down was a private road that lead to one of the King’s palaces. This lead to the cab driver uttering the take home quote of the trip:
“My friend, I am trying to help you, but if we go that way, we will be shot.”
Good lookin out, cab driver. You earned that extra dinar.
The guards at the resort wouldn’t let our cab go any further than the entrance, and as you may remember from the race story it’s several km in to where the finish line and awards ceremony were. Thankfully a nice guard saw our exasperation and exhaustion and gave us a ride in so that we did not all just lay down and wail and gnash our teeth.
After several long, boring, agonizing minutes of them thanking sponsors and stuff, they finally started makin’ with the trophies… and our triumph was confirmed, we won our division!
After the awards ceremony, the same nice guard found us and drove us back out to the road, and then a nice mother and son who we had made friends with before the race when waiting in line for the bathroom gave us a ride back to the hotel. At this point it was still a few hours until dinner and we were all RAVENOUS, so we went to one of the bars in the hotel and got ourselves some melted cheese based snacks, including an Arab take on nachos that included cheesy Doritos for the chips (inno-fucking-vation, right there). We then did a little power napping and headed down to the banquet and reception.
When we first walked in we thought we’d kind of just hang in the back, but our competitors slash new friends from BAT were having none of it and invited us over to sit with them… and share their bottle of vodka. What we had initially thought would be a quick dinner and then back to our room to pass out turned in to a fun night of shooting the shit and reveling…. though not too much reveling, we were all pretty exhausted.
The next morning we arose to a beautiful, warm day and absolutely nothing at all to do… ahh, glorious. When we were in the planning phases of the trip and deciding how long we’d stay in various places, Zach “warned” us that pretty much all there was do to in Aqaba was “the beach and cheap booze”… to which Branden and I replied “perfect!”. It was nice to have a few days in the same place and some downtime.. I mean, this is vacation after all.
After some breakfast, Kate headed out to make an attempt at scuba while B and I headed immediately to the private beach (lord-a-mercy) at our hotel. We spent the late morning and early afternoon taking dips in the sea, basking, drinking fruity drinks, picking up shells, basking in a different area, swimming some more, petting resort cats.. ya know, beachy shit.
We eventually got hungry as evening started to roll in, so we ordered some snacks to our room and enjoyed the balcony and the warm night air. Man, I love warm night air.
Our biking friends had given us a 50% off coupon for the swanky rooftop restaurant at the Doubletree in Aqaba, so for dinner that night we swanked it up there. It was your standard overpriced faux fancy hotel fare, but I got to eat a whole fish and gross B out by eating the eyes, the views were awesome and it was a really nice night to sit out and enjoy some nargile before dinner.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and pretty quickly called it a night since we had another long day of beachy shit planned for the next day.