Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fun Drive

It's the Gulf News Fun Drive on 8th December. I got involved at a very late stage as one of the new marshals. My job on the day will be part of a Mobile Rescue Team (MRT) who will drive the route and help out with any stuck or broken-down vehicles that we may encounter.

So it's important that I know the route. Last Friday I went out with a group of around ten marshals to tape the route. This job has to be done several times, tying bits of 'Gulf News' plastic tape to bushes, rocks and bits of fence so that the participants know that they're on the correct route. Why several times? Well, a secondary purpose of the plastic tape appears to be to provide some variety in the diet of the local camels. Driving the route also enabled me to record it on my GPS so that on the day I wouldn't be referring solely to the tulip diagrams and the tape.

Although the route started off easy, there were several tricky climbs in the soft sand. I kept getting 'refusals' until I checked my tyres and found that the heat had elevated the pressures to 22psi. Dropping the pressure to 1 bar (or 15 psi in old money) solved the problem.

I had one extremely hairy moment involving my car stuck sideways on a slip face. Entirely my fault: having failed to approach the slope sufficiently fast, I attempted to 'moon-shot' and loop around to the bottom, but the soft sand had other ideas. About six well-built gentlemen stood on the right-hand side step to counterbalance the car while I drove out. I had the bent side-step repaired yesterday. There's nothing in the Prado manual that tells me the maximum number of fat bastards permitted on a side-step, so I could probably sue Toyota, were I living in the States. In any event, repairing the step was doubtless cheaper than a whole load of panel-beating.

The Saturday run-through commenced with the Marshals' Breakfast and issue of equipment. The rainy weather persuaded me to use a bin liner as a waterproof tabard, which made me look like a refugee from a punk rock costume party. Almost no-one had brought any waterproofs.

Wet sand is amazingly easy to drive on. I was able to do most of the route without engaging 4-lock. The Prado has full-time 4WD, so it's not possible to drive in 2WD. I looked for where I previously got stuck on the slip face, and drove past without even noticing it. The disadvantage of the hard sand is that it is much more resistant to being dented by bumpers, so the risk of bodywork damage increases. I tried to be ever so careful on downward slopes so as not to lose my rear bumper, with limited success.

Flat areas were muddy and like greasy Teflon to drive on. This is fun until you realise that the scrubby bushes are not going to get out of the way of a car going sideways. And the mud goes everywhere. It is said that if there's no mud on the roof, you're not having enough fun.

The mountain section of the Fun Drive route was very interesting. Rain had washed out several sections of the graded track, so 4WD low ratio was the order of the day. We were unable to complete the mountain section on Saturday because at one point the entire track had been washed away. Twenty-seven vehicles turned round on top of a precipice on a track barely wider than a single car, and drove back to asphalt roads, arriving at around dusk. I rather hope that the track will have been regraded in time for the Fun Drive. The climbs, drops and views are all spectacular.

This post was originally going to be about those hardy campers who bravely stuck it out all weekend despite the weather. I seem to have threadjacked myself with the GNFD. Nevertheless, to all those who courageously stayed under canvas all weekend, despite the sky being as black as a bad guy's hat, in the expectation that it would stop raining, I salute you. You're more tenacious that I would have been.


Anonymous said...

You get rain?

Any photos yet?

Grumpy Goat said...

How about these?

Mme Cyn said...

Your post almost makes me WANT to go out on the Fun Drive next week!


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