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The last weeks have been busy. We have been very fortunate that we have been able  to give numerous presentations at schools, universities and companies, and hopefully, with our inspiration, these entities will now do more to care for the environment and reduce their plastic waste.

We now have an official departure date: 24th of April 2012. We went to see the ferry company in Sharjah, and the boat leaves late on the 24th to Bander Abbas, Iran. Today we picked up our Iranian visa – despite not having a UAE residency anymore, they kindly issued us a 10 day visa. Overall it was a very pleasant and friendly experience at the Iranian Consulate in Dubai.

Last week Al Tayer Motors, the official agent for Ford in Dubai and Northern Emirates, kindly allowed us to learn the basics of car mechanics at their workshop. Our expedition vehicle was due for its 130,000km service, the last before we head out, and so we had the opportunity to work on our own car. We learned to change brake pads, drain and reseal the differentials, change transmission mounts, how to check for faults and how to top up all the liquids. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.

We also finally received our Carnet de Passages, the ‘car passport’. It seemed at first an impossible venture, and we were extremely concerned that this bureaucratic hurdle would halt our expedition even before we had started, as the issuing body once again required a UAE residency. Thankfully, after many phone calls, lots of begging and intervention on a higher level, they very generously issued the Carnet (not without us paying a hefty security deposit though!).

As a final test we went on a three night camping trip to the most western peninsula in the UAE, a stone’s throw away from the Saudi Arabian border. We tested the car, the equipment and ourselves.  Everything and everyone behaved beautifully. More importantly, though, we passed through the UNESCO protected Merawah Marine Biosphere Reserve in the Emirate of Abu-Dhabi. It is the UAE’s only UNESCO protected reserve, and as we have signed a consultancy agreement with UNESCO Arab Region to visit as many reserves as possible on our trip, we had a look at a bay on the edge of Merawah. We had been two years ago, and really should have left it at that…the increase in habitat destruction and waste which had accumulated on the western periphery of the reserve was shocking.  Plastic bottles were far and away the prime pollutant. Please have a look at our previous blog on this.