Sunday, September 23, 2007

That's sandy

Last weekend saw Middle East 4x4 Club's first formal meeting of the new season. The September Shakedown was a camp-out in the desert between Shwaib and Al Hayer. Although roasting hot, getting away from the coast meant a welcome escape from the evening humidity.

We all met at Nad Al Sheba and were split up into small groups of four or so vehicles and briefed on the location of the camp site. "Here are some GPS co-ordinates. See you there." At first I agreed to 'sweep'; that is to bring up the rear, collect any bumpers that might have fallen off and advise the leader to slow or stop if anyone got stuck or needed a second run at a tricky bit.

Having turned off Route 66, (not that one; the Al Ain Road) I was asked if I'd lead the convoy, which comprised the Goatmobile (a Prado), a Pajero, a Wrangler and a Land Rover Discovery. I apologised in advance that I was horribly out of practice because I'd not driven in the desert since the end of May, and would likely get stuck plenty of times. Actually, I only got stuck once. Having picked a line between a couple of small dunes that turned into a nasty powdery gully, I had to manoeuvre the Goatmobile in an awkward spot at a crazy angle. Not only was the gully at right angles to my route, it was right on the edge of an enormous slip face. Too slow and I'd get stuck in a bowl, whereas too fast would result in one of those groundskygroundskygroundsky moments. As it happened, I erred slightly on the side of caution, was not quite quick enough, and ended up perched on a tuft of camel grass on the edge of the bowl. Discovery and tow-ropes to the rescue. The desert bumpers paid off. With loads of ground clearance I didn't knock the corners or lose any hardware.

At least I had realised my original error as I'd driven in, so was able to radio the rest of the convoy not to follow me lemming-like into the same predicament. Everybody else stood on a nearby vantage point and took photos and the mick.

We had another minor stuck; the Pajero ended up bogged to its axles in talcum powder. We pushed it out. The car body was boiling hot. Memo to self: gardening gloves. A little later, I went over a sharp ridge and was surprised by a bush on the far side. I radioed to the convoy to follow me but slightly to my left, and the Pajero for some throttle-related reason came over the ridge airborne. There was a horrendous bang as the car landed on its nose, but by some miracle the damage was limited to a slightly bent bracket under the front bumper - something that we pulled straight in a few seconds. There is a minimum speed to get over dune crests successfully, but it's very close to the maximum speed.

Excitement over, we arrived at the campsite. Everyone had been asked to bring firewood, so I hauled a 1cwt log out of the back of the Goatmobile and added it to the store for the pyromaniacs' entertainment later on. After setting up camp, it was more or less sunset, so out came the Food and Bev and also the music system and a CD of Wrinklies' Wrock. Then the barbecue was lit and we all set about having a social evening. I chose not to pitch my tent. The weather was warm enough(!) and there was no wind nor chance of rain. I've not slept under the stars for years. I still regard the pneumatic mattress as an excellent investment, as is the 12V low-pressure inflator that fills or empties it in under two minutes.

Chatting about car mods, tyres and interesting stucks, I happened to notice an enormous cut in the sidewall of one of my front tyres. Air was staying in only by faith. For this reason I bailed out first thing on Saturday morning. I didn't wish to stress the tyre and risk a blow-out in an inconvenient spot, so made my way to the UAE/Oman border fence and thence to Shwaib for petrol and tyre inflation. ADNOC, incidentally, does not charge a 1.65% credit card surcharge.

It being Ramadan, of course Tyre Express was shut when I got back to Dubai, so I got myself a new set of Cooper Discoverers from Renaissance Tyres because the latter was open. If they last as long as the previous Yokohama Geolandars, 66000km and 900 days, I shall not be displeased. Especially because the Coopers were cheaper! I've previously had Discoverer H/T tyres on a Discovery to successful effect. I'd wanted some slightly more aggressive A/T or ATR but these are apparently not coming in Dubai. Leastways, not for 17-inch rims.


EyeOnDubai said...

Good call on the Coopers. I've had them on my LX and just fitted another set to my Overland, and they suit the Jeep a lot better than the previous Michelin Synchrones. Air down A LOT and they float really nicely.


Grumpy Goat said...

Grrr! Tyres ten days old, and I've collected a puncture. Someone left a key lying in the road, and it got embedded in a tyre.

I wasted half the morning waiting for Tyre Express in Sharjah to show up at their workshop and fix it. The sign says 8am opening, confirmed by the petrol station staff. But no-one showed up to open the tyre shop until after 8.30 because of 'Ramadan timings.'

It might be nice to advertise the Ramadan hours, not that I was going anywhere...


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.