January 11th - 19th: A week in Jakarta with my friends at the Hafar Group of Companies helping them with some ISO decisions in order to remain compliant with ISO 9001 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health & Safety Management System). Additionally, we started to raise awareness of two other standards: ISO 31000 (Risk Management Guidelines) and ISO 37001 (Anti-bribery Management System) within the company.
After two and a half years absence from the office I received a warm welcome from everyone but saddened that the company had lost personnel due to Covid-19.
My flight arrangements were with Qatar Airways with my arrival into Jakarta late on the Saturday night giving me Sunday to catch up on lost sleep before Monday morning. I stayed in the Mercure Gatot Subroto Hotel which is just a 5-minute walk from the office, across the road. I don't know if the hotel food is expensive, but motorcycle couriers are always out-front meeting guests with meals.
Images below show the airport facilities in Doha which are quite impressive but when I ordered a toasted sandwich an open sandwich arrived which wasn't as expected. The McLaren supercar was one of the regular raffle prizes which are a feature of most Middle East airports these days.
Flight time was 6.5hrs to Doha with a 4hr transit time and then on to Jakarta in about 8hrs. Immigration officials were impressed with my Bahasa Indonesia language skills, so I didn't have any problems getting into the country. I wish Qatar Airways would return to Cardiff.........
Extremely tired after the long flight I slept in for a while but catching up on sleep after a 20hr journey across 7 time zones is never easy. I went into one of the large shopping malls for a wander and for lunch and Porsche even had a showroom on the ground floor. I opted for tempura and sashimi for lunch but without sake, as pictured below. The final image is from my hotel room looking across at the blue-faced building, which is where the company offices are located, reached after I cross the bridge from my hotel.
Wednesday evening dinner with the Board of Directors following a visit to Pic Chinatown with my good friend and colleague Mrs Sisilia Kho. The final picture is with the President of the company with his wife Tess, whom I've know from many years ago when Emier and I both worked for Conoco Indonesia.
Friday, my last day in the office with my work completed. and a view of the Mercure Gatot Subroto taken from the 5-minute walk to/from the office.
Saturday, the long flight home with Qatar Airways via Doha into LHR T4 for the drive home to Cardiff. And it was a long flight home with 8.5hrs to Doha for a 4hr transit (and a shower) then 6.5hrs to LHR T4 for the 2.5hr drive home using the services of MET Executive Travel.
After take-off from Jakarta there were a couple of times when the crew were strapped in, but I didn't find the turbulence to be too severe. Service and food on both sectors were good but overall, I thought Qatar Airways were better pre-Covid, particularly because I could fly from Cardiff.
Food and drink wasted on me during the second sector as I was just too tired to enjoy the offerings, even the fabulous curry. I slept throughout the transfer back to Cardiff from LHR T4.
The final images below are from the airport in Jakarta (where the fire extinguishers are concealed behind interesting artwork!) and the flights home.
Earlier in the year I saw an advertisement from ECC Adventures (based in Fujairah, UAE) for UK Mountain Leaders to work for them over the winter months which is peak season in Fujairah for mountain activities. I contacted Chris Craver at ECC Adventures to see if he required any training support and he immediately expressed an interest in this.
Over the summer we discussed the possibility of delivering the following courses in Fujairah in November:
Chris worked very hard to facilitate the required approvals for me and it was agreed that my initial visit to Sharjah and Fujairah would be to deliver a REC L2 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah on November 5th/6th.
One of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah is an attractive and safe destination, rich in history and culture with friendly people and year-round sunshine. With a varied landscape, ranging from the majestic Hajar Mountains, sand dunes and pristine beaches, Sharjah is an attractive destination.
Many thanks to Rohan Designs Limited for providing some very appropriate clothing for this desert trip to the wilder and more remote parts of Sharjah.
On November 2nd my wife Yolande, and I left the UK for the UAE.
Having chosen Swiss Air for our flights from LHR T2 at 0850, it meant a very early start from home with a departure at 0315. With the ongoing round of rail strikes we'd booked a transfer with MET Executive Travel which proved to be very effective in a vehicle with plenty of luggage space as we had 4 large kitbags for the huge amount of training equipment required.
Our Swiss A320Neo departed late but the crew reassured us that the flight would still arrive on time for our B777-300ER flight to Dubai. Zurich was a new airport for us, but we found our way to E42 for the flight without any difficulties. The flight of just under 6 hours was comfortable with fairly average food and Yolande's GF/non-seafood catering request not fully complied with. The Swiss chocolates were excellent, however. Formalities after arrival in Dubai were without any problems and Chris and Karen were there to meet us and transfer us over to the Ibis Styles Hotel in Sharjah.
Room 1404 was very comfortable and spacious but after unpacking at around midnight we realised that the fridge wasn't working so it was a quick room reallocation down to 1104.
This morning, we drove over to the east coast.
The drive had been quite interesting as we left the sprawling west coast development to see camels in quite large numbers before, we crossed the Hajar Mountains and down to the coastal city of Fujairah. We'd lived in Dubai many years ago whilst employed by Dubai Petroleum Company and were amazed by development of all the main cities in the northern UAE.
We visited Fujairah Fort and the Fujairah Adventure Park where there are numerous hiking trails and mountain bike activities.
The 16th Century fort is part of a complex with several old houses and a mosque. It is guarded by three round watchtowers and a square watchtower. The watchtowers and main building are connected by the walls, and there is a central hall surrounded by these towers and wall. The irregular shape of the castle is due to the uneven surface of the rock it sits on. The building is built of local materials, mostly rocks, gravels, mud, hay and plasters. Radiocarbon dating has identified the date of the construction as around 1500–1550. It was then renovated during 1650–1700. The British Navy destroyed three of the towers in 1925 during an action enforcing British anti-slavery policy. The bombardment was by HMIS Lawrence, resulting in the recovery of a fine of 1,500 rupees from the Sheikh. HMIS Lawrence (L83) was a sloop, commissioned in 1919 into the Royal Indian Marine (RIM). The fort was restored by the Fujairah Administration of Antiquity and Heritage during 1997/2000 using the same materials with which it was built.
After visiting Fujairah Fort, we looked at the Fujairah Adventure Park before enjoying lunch at a Lebanese Restaurant and then returned to our hotel in Sharjah.
Chris picked us up just before 1100 and we drove to the Mleiha Archaeological Centre which is operated by Shurooq which is a Sharjah government run centre and which would be the venue for the REC Outdoor First Aid Course over the weekend. A senior manager from Shurooq showed us the small conference room and the outdoor training area which was exclusively for our course. The outside area was spacious with a large Arabic tent for us to use and perfect for our needs.
We discussed potential training for our March proposed visit and this will be held over on the east coast of Sharjah at Kalba where a new environmental centre is being constructed. After looking around the facilities we visited the Wadi Caves site for a quick look at the area before returning to Sharjah.
Mleiha is about an hour inland from Sharjah and contains a rich collection of archaeological sites with burial mounds and the structural remnants of ancient settlements where recent discoveries of 125,000-year-old stone hand axes provide an insight into ancient lifestyles in this area. The centre is worth a visit and Yolande enjoyed a VIP tour of the museum whilst Chris and I were inspecting the training venue.
REC L5 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah with 12 participants - Day 1. Following on from the inspection visit on Friday, it was agreed that the entire two day course would be outdoor based in the arabic tent and surrounding area. The tent was duly equipped with a very large tv for some theoretical elements of the course which are delivered using Powerpoint.
Yolande and I later enjoyed dinner at Jones the Butcher Restaurant on Flag Island in Sharjah Lagoon.
REC L5 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah with 12 participants - Day 2. Day 1 had worked very well with 12 participants from 8 nationalities. The course feedback was very satisfying to read:
What did you like best about your experience?
Team work - The learning, lovely group, great instructor - The variety of materials and equipment - The way Alan teaches - The actual training! - Learned new things, variety of new skills - The course was really engaging (and fun!) for all participants - It’s been years since my last first aid certification and I learned a lot of new things! - Course dynamic, lots of practical sessions and application on the theories in place after each theory makes practice session more streamline and efficient - The scenario and the analogies - New learnings that can be applied anywhere to anyone to provide help and scenarios that made us show what we have learned - The practical outdoor part was very good and skillful - The way they demo the practical things
What did you like least about your experience?
Bit of a long drive (not really a problem) and the heat sometimes (again, not really a problem) - Maybe a little bit more focused in mountains - The actual task - Heat the first day - The brevity in handling serious illnesses (only due to the amount of course time) - Toilet is a bit far. It gets hot sometimes while handling the indoor session (it felt a bit harder to focus) - Wish there will be more theory books
Other comments, suggestions, areas of improvement, etc.
Best of luck to all! - Not really - Actually going on a hike to see real hazards - Develop the course in Arabic - Provide detailed information for those interested (maybe in video format?) - Location, less sandy classroom would be better for next time - Great energy and enjoy/appreciate the patience - Indeed a very meaningful event! - Change location, more practical - Everything is nice. Enjoyed a lot
Mleiha Archaeological Centre was an excellent venue for the course and many thanks to the staff there for being so friendly and helpful.
Yolande and I again enjoyed dinner at Jones the Butcher Restaurant on Flag Island in Sharjah Lagoon for a second night.
After some post-course administration and sorting/packing equipment Yolande and I enjoyed a long (and hot) walk on the Sharjah Corniche with lunch at the Ushna Indian Restaurant on the Al Majaz Waterfront which was very good.
Chris and Karen picked us up late afternoon and we enjoyed a local meal at the Al Khayama Heritage Restaurant after which, we toured the souk before being dropped off at the airport.
Our Swiss B777-300ER took off on time I think for the 6 hour flight to Zurich where we transferred to the flight to LHR T2 where Martin from MET Executive Travel was there to meet us and drive us home.
Only on one out of four flight sectors did Swiss catter properly in respect of catering for Yolande's GF and non-seafood allergies.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.