(Written September 2012) When we first arrived in Kuwait, I was delighted to see long stretches of beautifully paved walkways along the Gulf. I could picture us on a jaunty stroll on a weekend morning, or taking a brisk walk with the stroller and my floppy sunhat. Then, when we had to move and were suddenly within half a block of the Gulf, I was thrilled! Moving into the apartment in July meant I had to wait until the temperatures dropped a bit before venturing out. But last weekend, seeing that temps had fallen into the 90s in the early evening, I convinced my husband to go do some reconnaissance with me and see just how walkable this area is. End result? You really have to want this in order to make it happen.
The primary problem (and there are several) is getting out of our apartment building, which is not handicapped accessible, meaning not stroller-accessible either. But I’ve had experience with this when we go shopping, and either I remove the baby and carry her while bumping the stroller down the stairs, or I get lucky and one of the guards comes to my rescue and helps me.
Once you make it outside, the gauntlet changes and now, in order to reach Gulf Road, you have broken or craggy or even missing sidewalks to navigate over and around, which often places you in the road which adds the difficulty of dodging traffic as well. There are multiple curbs to clamber over, but finally you find yourself at a stop light with a cross walk. And here you wait.
I’m not quite sure why there’s even a crosswalk, because, a) there’s no button to press indicating you’d like to actually cross, and b) they’ve timed the lights so cleverly that it’s impossible to cross the street in one motion. I did finally figure out, on my third outing, that if I take the long way around, meaning go through three crosswalks versus just one, I can do it without actually running for my life.
So after our evening recon outing (family time in Kuwait), we determined that crossing the street and turning right took us through the marina where we could see lots of pretty pretty yachts, but the “walking” part was less even with lots of curbs and it appeared to come to a dead end at one point. So this past week, following the baby’s morning nap, she and I prepped ourselves and headed out to explore going left.
After discussing my exploratory intentions with my husband, he suggested I go without the stroller and just use the carrier. He felt I could better dodge traffic this way, and he was right (note, this was before I figured out using the three-crosswalk-method). So I got the baby suited up with her sunhat, sunglasses, and pacifier on a leash. I donned my own wide-brimmed sunhat (far less cute than her’s, I might add) and sunglasses, strapped on my pedometer, and stuck a small bottle of water in my pocket.
We walked for an hour, covering 2.5 miles, and discovered several things. First that going left is far preferable in terms of walk-ability. However, just because you manage to cross the street, doesn’t mean the gauntlet ends. You still have a handful of curbs to bump up and down, plus you’re right next to the Gulf Road, which is basically equivalent to a 6-8 lane highway, so the noise and speed are disconcerting. But once you get passed that, there’s a sidewalk that leads away from the cars to the beach and the water, and from there you can walk far more peacefully.
During our first outing, I had slightly underestimated what an hour walk in 108 degrees while carrying the equivalent of three bags of sugar strapped to my chest would feel like. Halfway through, we stopped in the shade of a pergola out on a jetty and shared my bottle of water before heading back. I vowed our next outing would involve the stroller and lots more water.
Two days later, we tried it again. This time we walked for almost 90 minutes and clocked over 3.5 miles. We also consumed 32 ounces of water between the two of us. I have to say that I’ve heard of some parents who have trouble getting their child to switch from the bottle to the sippy cup. I’ve found that bringing on the beginning stages of mild dehydration sharpens their concentration immensely and they catch on quickly. My daughter’s quite delighted with her Pooh cup now. (No, not my best mommy moment, but I’m trying to see the sippy cup half full here.)
I did wake up in the middle of the night with radiating pain up and down my arms. Realizing it wasn’t just from the sun I got (I was far more concerned with keeping the baby protected, and as a result I neglected to protect myself and have the pink arms to prove it), but apparently the “stress” of steering a stroller over, around and through a gauntlet for 90 minutes results in some protesting muscles. We’ll work on building those up for next time.
So bottom line, there are snippets of Kuwait that are walkable, you just really have to want to find them. We’ll continue our walks, especially once the temps leave triple digits. My goal is to walk to the Kuwait Towers one day, which we can see in the far distance. I’m not sure we can walk that far, but we can at least go until the sidewalk ends.