Contributors: Beasts on the Road and in the Bush

<< Back to Robb Report, May 2007

    Senior correspondent Paul Dean was shocked to see just how much Dubai had changed since he last visited the Middle Eastern emirate 15 years ago. "At one point [during his previous trip there], I was driving through town in a ’76 Cadillac convertible. I came to a stop at a traffic light and looked up to see we had pulled up next to a man riding a camel. Now," he says with a laugh, "I’m in a Maybach pulling up next to someone driving a Ferrari F430."

    Dean writes about the new Maybach 62 S ("A More Special Maybach") in a sidebar to his feature on Mercedes-Benz’s McLaren SLR 722 ("Desert Storm"). Like Dubai, the special-edition 722 also surprised Dean. He thought that it would be a kinder, gentler McLaren. "It remains a little rough around the edges for me," says Dean of the 650 hp, $480,000 supercar. "I had high hopes for the McLaren that it would be a little more of a daily driver, a little more civilized." It is not, and therein lies its appeal.

    If not more civilized, Dubai certainly has become more cosmopolitan in the last 15 years. "This is an intriguing place with probably more questions than answers," Dean says. "But it’s somebody’s dream, somebody’s vision, and it is definitely somebody’s brave attempt to create an economy and create a culture and a society." Then the British expat, who now lives in Arizona, adds, "So long as there’s a Britain—where you freeze for eight months of the year—there will always be a Dubai."

    Extreme fly-fishing sounded like an oxymoron to associate editor Mike Nolan. "I never enjoyed fishing, even as a child, because I found it boring," he says. "After many decades, I discovered that was still the case." It was, until he went on an angling adventure with the tour company Nomads of the Seas, which employs its 150-foot expedition yacht as a lodge and base of operations in the most remote parts of Patagonia. Nolan describes his trip in ("Nomads in No-Man’s-Land"). "The thing that made even the fishing interesting was the places where you were doing it," he says.

    Nolan’s weeklong journey along the Chilean coast took place in early February, meaning he spent a certain Sunday fly-fishing instead of football-watching. "We didn’t find out who won the Super Bowl until Wednesday," he says. "For three days, I think I saw one human being aside from the people on board the ship. So you do get the feeling of being in a remote area, because you are."

    "Danger is my middle name," jokes senior correspondent Jack Smith, who writes about his close encounters with hippos, chimps, and tree-climbing lions in Uganda in ("Blessing in Disguise"). "There’s nothing sugarcoated about Uganda," he says. "Part of the appeal of it is that it’s really as pristine a place as there is in Africa. It is untouched. But Uganda is a risk-manager’s nightmare. In a way, that sounds overwrought and exaggerated, but it really isn’t."

    The locals, however, appeared unfazed by many of the risks, including sharing the same neighborhood as the king of beasts. "It just amazed me that the people and the lions seem to coexist," Smith says. "That was sort of surreal."

    South of uganda, across Lake Victoria, is Tanzania, where contributing editor Jill Newman toured a tanzanite mine and visited with officials from the mining company TanzaniteOne for the feature ("Singing the Blues"). "There’s still a lot of confusion," she says, regarding the rarity of exceptional examples of tanzanite and the relatively low prices affixed to them. But she also believes that the value of tanzanite will increase dramatically in the near future. "People want to express their individuality, so I think people continue to look for something that’s not common," she says. "Designers want alternatives; they want to make something beautiful, and I think they’ll stop looking at the name of the stone and instead will focus on the beauty of it."

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