Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fun Drive - after

The Khaleej Times Desert Adventure has come and gone.

Several hundred cars turned out on the day, ranging from little soft-roaders to a full-blown Hummer, and everything in between. Driving abilities had a similarly enormous range. Bearing this in mind, the organisers had devised an easy route with just a couple of more difficult bits. I chatted with several participants during the day. Some had never been off road before, and were having a splendid time. At its most extreme, novice-ness was epitomised by:

"You have to lower your tyre pressures"
"How do I do that, then?"

The starting flag was waved 20 minutes behind schedule, in accordance with local custom and practice, and we headed off to the start of the sandy stuff. There were numerous opportunities to stop and take photos of the desert and its denizens, which is what a lot of people did.

Denizen: And offspring

There were three intermediate stops along the route, where free refreshments were provided. The chilled chocolate milk shakes were welcome, but I have to admit that a mango-flavoured ice lolly was akin to a sugar factory explosion in my mouth. Definitely not recommended for diabetics or dieters.

I arrived at the end point of the run quite early on. The Planet campsite had hot (well, warm) Middle-Eastern food, and cushions to sit on under canvas. Being in a bowl, the campsite was a sun trap. I imagine that at night with a campfire it would be a marvellous place to spend an evening. The same cannot be said about mid-afternoon because of the heat. And it's only March. The music was too loud and entirely tech-tech-techno, so minus points to the organisers there. I must be getting old as well as fat.

Campsite: The site is visible, but the appalling music isn't!

Other feedback after the event suggested that the route was too easy. This came to me from people who have driven in the desert before. Whilst I would normally have agreed with the comment, having spoken to some of the newbies it was apparent that a more challenging route might have been less enjoyable for them. I did suggest that if they liked this, more was available through ME4x4. I'm a member, so I'm biased.

A major source of disappointment for me came from some of the marshals. These people had failed to realise something fairly fundamental , and that is Leading By Example. At least part of a marshal's job is surely to be a leader, a guide, a nursemaid and a shepherd. Marshalling is under no circumstances a platform to show off. When leading part of a convoy of novices, traversing a slip face is less than clever. The expert might know what to do, but what of the inexperienced punters following faithfully in his wheel tracks?

Wearing seatbelts was another point. I reminded several participants, all of whom immediately strapped in. But it is very difficult for my credibility as a marshal if other marshals are driving unbelted. Quite apart from it being a legal requirement, the potential consequences of running into a dune or a hole, or rolling the vehicle are too nasty to contemplate.

My final gripe involves litter. Several hundred people applying self-adhesive stickers to their cars, drinking tea, milk shakes or Bouncy Bubble Beverage from disposable containers, and eating ice cream generates an enormous quantity of paper, plastic and aluminium waste. There was nowhere to dispose of the trash, and Take Your Litter Home appears to be illegal. I would like to think that the trash was picked up at the end of the day, but I suspect it was left in the desert to blow around.

Was the event a success? I personally had a fun day out and so did people I spoke to. The Khaleej Times thinks so, there will doubtless be another one next year. Could it have been better? I believe so, and have sent the organising team my suggestions.

Some photos of the event can be found here. Henk is another ME4x4 member.


Anonymous said...

is that yr car parked precariously close to the landrover? I was under the misguided impression that your offroad skills were better than that? pegs
PS you wanna try driving in fresh powder snow at midnight at 8000'. Humm lets try the brakes again gently and see if the ABS stilll works! (Interestingly I believe the ABS didnt work in reverse, was fun trying to establish that fact)

Grumpy Goat said...

Absolutely not!

Anyway, I've got a Prado, not a Fortuna. Any yes, my off-road skills are a LOT better than that! ;-)

I haven't driven in snow since about 1995, and then it was in an elderly Ford Crapee.


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