A pair of determined friends on an epic cycling trip across the world had their spirits lifted by a stop-off in the UAE.
Dominick Fischer and Simon Helmecke quit their day jobs to get saddled up for the ride of their lives back in April, 2016, pedalling their way from their home in Cologne, Germany, to New Zealand.
Nearly three years, and more than 47,000 kilometres and 40 countries later, the dedicated duo have reached the UAE, the latest leg in an incredible journey which they expect to complete this Autumn.
The German globe-trotters have embraced new cultures and made plenty of friends along the way - as well as having the odd dice with disaster.
“We are both avid travellers and wanted to take a trip around the world by the time we were 30,” said Mr Fischer, who is now 30 and gave up his job in online marketing to fulfil his dreams
“The idea to do it on a bike came to us because it’s more flexible than taking a bus or train. We thought we would see more of the world doing it on a bike because when you’re travelling on a plane you don’t to get to see a lot.
“We were never into cycling before but we thought it was the best available option.
“We had been saving up for a few years to be able to afford to do this. Travelling on a bicycle is not a particularly expensive way to travel so it allowed us to stretch our money a bit further.”
Mr Fischer said that each country came with its own unique set of challenges – including the UAE.
The problems they encountered in the Emirates will strike a chord with those who live here.
“We never encountered traffic like it anywhere else.
“Dubai is a wonderful place but I think people only cycle for recreation here.”
After a trip which has spanned the continents, the intrepid cyclist found a world in one city in Dubai.
“It’s fascinating to see how so many different cultures here live together in peace.
“Everybody speaks English here unlike other countries we have been to. Being here actually feels like a holiday within a holiday – except for the traffic”
Their journey did not only take them to Dubai though. They have also cycled through Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah.
Their trips to other countries have not gone as smoothly, however.
“I was hit by a lorry as it was pulling out on to the road in India,” said Mr Helmecke, also 30.
“It destroyed my back wheel and I was terrified. Luckily I was not hurt too badly apart from a few bruises.”
However, their plight received short shrift from the local police.
“They were more concerned about the traffic jam that was caused by the accident,” said the former accountant.
While their journey has left them far away from home for years, it pales into insignificance compared to other global voyages.
Fellow German Heinz Stücke famously took 50 years to travel across 196 countries, having left his hometown of Hovelhof in 1962.
His rationale was that it was better than spending his days working in a factory.
“We met a Polish couple who had been cycling around the world for the past nine years,” said Mr Fischer.
“We cycled with them for a month and actually bumped into them three times in South East Asia, Central Asia and then again in Oman.”
Their journey seemed positively leisurely compared to Britain’s Mark Beaumont, who set a world record for cycling around the globe in 2017.
In 2017, he managed to travel around the world in a mere 79 days – beating the previous record by 44 days.
Another unexpected challenge that the Germans faced were finding ways to communicate with people in other countries.
“We’ve practically become experts at body language and miming. A lot of people didn’t speak English so we had to find other ways to communicate with each other,” said Mr Fischer
“That was especially the case when we were travelling through China. It was weird only speaking to each other and nobody else for a month. We had to mime actions when ordering food.”
Mr Fischer said that he has learned a lot from the trip, not least about what’s important in life.
“I have become much more laid back since starting this journey,” he said.
“Everything we absolutely needed was able to fit onto two bicycles.”
That was not to say they didn't miss some home comforts.
“When I was meeting my parents in Central Asia they asked if I wanted them to bring me birthday cake but I said I would rather have some German bread because I missed it so much,” he said.
“It has been hard in many ways, I have not really seen my parents properly in two years. Our tastes have also changed. You realise there is only so much tinned fish you can eat.”