Sunday, November 11, 2007

Expedition Dune, Dubai uncovered. Part 1/2

Last Tuesday, I received a call about this adventure to be on the weekend and I was only invited to join if I was willing to share the expenses, which I surely agreed to (not that I always prefer free ride). The idea seems very exciting to me since I have been barely involved in anything entertaining since I am here in Dubai. It was to explore the desert and go for Dune bashing, an activity I had never tried earlier.

Thursday night a received a reassuring call to get ready by 4:30 A.M. as we planned to beat the traffic, be there at time when sun is not too hot and not many people would be around as well. All the arrangements were made by Mr. A. and his friends, which left me with no other choice than to offer my consorting services. It was late on Thursday and a weekend, a very nice movie was on T.V but I wanted to make sure I get a bit of sleep so the trip wouldn’t be ruined by yawning away all the enjoyment (which I really tend to, if I don’t get enough sleep). I was lucky to get an extra hour of sleep as he came to pick me up an hour late :).

The journey begins.

The journey started at 6 P.M and we headed towards our first meeting point where other car was waiting for us. Obviously we were late and instead of Good morning gestures, he got to listen some bitter rhythms very early in the morning which wasn’t very pleasant indeed. It was a petrol station for obvious reasons and they were already waiting for us over there and sudden idea to fill up the tank by A. added to the agony of others.

A. went to ATM.

Making sure he fills up properly :P

From this point we landed towards Oman-Hatta highway where the last meeting point was to be established. It was again a petrol station where we wanted to assure our supplies of snacks and enough water for the first leg of the journey. Everybody wanted to have something for breakfast and I seriously don’t know where the idea of hot dogs floated in but suddenly it was popular demand except me. Only two of us went inside the store since didn’t want to overload the small place and in case the cashier raises the alarms, wouldn’t have helped the day’s plan at all. Fortunately* the oven was not ready yet hence the poor guys were deprived of their choice of food and the option was limited to cakes, croissant and biscuits. I went for a cappuccino and chocolate croissant, where as adding to my surprise few people went even for a Pepsi..

The fog cloud.

Finally, our motorcade of three SUVs were on highway heading towards the selected dune not very far away from the city boundaries. Unlike the daily chaos on Dubai roads; this outskirt road was soothingly peaceful. The quietness on the road and early morning breeze added towards the overall amusing experience. The weather was pleasantly cold, around 14C at that time which made us think if we should have been wearing just the T-shirts this morning. This was the time we were hit by a thick cloud of fog on the road, turning the drivers almost road blinded. The hazards were turned on and slowly we kept moving forward as nothing could have kept us away from the mission ahead.

It is still early, 7:18 and fog is there.

This was the time we were finally at the spot, which I wouldn’t forget as A. took very foolish U-turn daring a lorry on the opposite side racing towards us. This was the first scary moment of the day making me think if I was sitting with the right person for this kind of potentially dangerous dune bashing or not. We all stopped to deflate the tyres, the activity required to increase the surface area in touch with the ground, increasing the traction control on the fine grains of the sand dunes. We had two pressure monitoring gauges with us and a funny situation aroused when we found out that both of them were giving different readings for the same tyre. Fortunately the difference was minor still nobody wanted to risk too low pressure which might forces the tyre to trip off the rim during the sharp turn.

All packed up.

A . posing for no reason.The gang and me in the shadow:P

Finally we started off last in the caravan, following the existing tracks left by other adventurers in the sand. Only on the first tricky hill, A. managed to get the car stuck in the sand but eventually we made it out without even leaving the car. We kept on moving till the tracks were there but they were diminishing with every yard we moved ahead. On the left of this track there was a huge sandy hill and that was the actual destination we just decided to reach. As the tracks were fading, after taking several routes, we were not fortunate enough to find any path heading towards the hill.

Just as we started.
Our first stop and Mr. A is proud of his toy.

The camel(s)!

We stopped and regrouped only to find out nobody knew where to go. A local camel drover reached us lighting up our hopes to get some local knowledge of ways around but only to find out that he came asking for money and not to help. With this we again started to the follow old tracks but soon the time came, when all the options were exhausted. It was way too risky to go any forward as if we get stuck, it would be real hard for someone to help us out in middle of nowhere.

We, with the useless Camel guy.

Here we stuck again.
The confused All.

We decided to rush back, thinking it was all good for the first time experience. It was only when we came back to the place we started, it was huge hill on our left and some of the enthusiast did make it to the top of it. Obviously after not so satisfying experience, we wanted to experiment something more. In the first attempt, the first car even couldn’t climb 25% of the hill and got himself stuck in nasty thin sand. It was time to get out of the car and get our hands dirty. We dug the sand out beneath the car but it didn’t help, so finally tied it with the tow rope and pulled with the other powerful machine we had. This is also a delicate procedure as over-stretching may have caused the permanent damage to the chassis of the car.

The retreat.

Well we being the hyper adventurists, decide to keep up the terrain and carry on with the attempts. Four of our attempts failed, and it was the time I decided to take on the wheel. I came back all the way down the hill and I decided to follow the other track on extreme left of the hill. This was my first ever experience of driving a 4x4 in thin sand. It was tricky and different. A loose grip on wheel keeps you moving straight, unlike the case on the road and sudden steering means nothing on this unkind stretch of the land. I kept moving forward with almost full throttle. The 3.5L 6 cylinder engine was finally coming into action but only helped me to climb 90% of the track and then it went quite. There was not enough room to turn the vehicle back, so I decided to put it on a reverse gear. This was harder than I thought and required the ultimate skills to handle and to not-being-ditched but thankfully we made it.

Click the pic. and see the size of cars behind.

After coming down the hill, I wanted to have one more go and A. agreed with me, this time selecting a slighter better path managed to reach further few yards but not the top again. As not being a professional and very inexperienced off-road driver, I settled on what I got and decided to hand the car back to A. He tried his luck as well but only got the point where I stood in the first attempt. The other two cars were in wait for us to come back and head towards the second leg of our journey or one can say the next fun part.

We traveled atleast 2 K.M before could find any petrol station to inflate the tyres again as you have to be extremely careful and slow on low pressure tyres. To our surprise, there was already 3 cars waiting to pump up their tyres infront of us, putting extra 30 minutes to our time.

The tiring tyre filling process.

The next part is to be posted later.