Sunday, September 14, 2008

O Fortuner (Goddess of Fortune)

Four cars met at Dragon Mart EPPCO early last Saturday morning for an impromptu bimble. The Yellow Box Of Doom, resplendent in its new Cooper STT boots, and with co-pilot was one team. Team Tumnus, comprising the Goat and his co-driver Madame Cyn were in the Goatmobile. The Glabrous Driver and his sister Lindsey and brother-in-law Sean were in a rally-prepared Fortuner with the rear bumper held on with luminous yellow gaffer tape. Dimitri and Ruth turned up in a stock Prado. Four cars in, all based on the same engine and chassis, and - eventually - four cars out.

We deflated at Big Red and headed off in a southerly direction. My plan was to travel roughly parallel to the Maha Desert Resort fence line so that there would be a reasonably easy bailout if everything got too hot. We would gradually get closer to the fence until at 11am or noon we'd hit the track and drive easily out to the Al Ain road.

Bearing in mind the relative inexperience of the party I deliberately avoided the high dunes, and instead wove the caravan of Toyotas among the low dunes. Everyone remembered what I'd managed on a previous ME4x4 outing and I was very keen not to repeat this, or worse.

And then came the first stuck. The Glabrous Driver tackled a small bowl not quite quickly enough. The Fortuner was trapped and going nowhere. Wisely, the driver called it quits there and then, instead of spinning the wheels and digging the car down to its floor pan. This made the recovery much easier.

Attaching a strap between the Fortuner and the YBOD, the latter's vigorous tyre treads got excellent grip on the hard sand outside the bowl and in 4WD (Low Ratio) the Fortuner crawled out.

Sean then took over in the Fortuner's driving seat. He and Lindsey are in Dubai on holiday, and Sean was itching to have a go. I bore in mind his likely inexperience and tempered the route accordingly. There were a couple of inevitable minor crestings, easily handled through careful application of recovery kit.

GOLDEN SHOWER: Of sand, of course

For demonstration purposes only (yeah, right...) the Yellow Box stopped on a flat crest of soft sand and proceeded to use its extra-knobbly tyres to dig itself to an immediate and embarrassing standstill.

MIRED: For demonstration purposes only...

I towed the Yellow Box out, and was then treated to Dimitri impersonating Аэрофлот Российские авиалинии. Regrettably I wasn't quick enough with a camera as the Prado sailed across my bows over a metre clear of the nearest grain of sand.

Then, with the Maha Resort fence mere metres away the Fortuner underwent complete electrical failure.

JUMP START: The Yellow Box of Doom helps out

Out came the jump leads. No effect. The battery was as dead as flared corduroy trousers. The Glabrous One protested loudly that it couldn't possibly be a dead battery because it had been replaced with a new AC Delco only six weeks previously. I disagreed, citing in evidence something about a witch's tit. We'd have to tow the car out. For those not in the know, it is nigh on impossible to tow a dead car through even small dunes without a balloon-tyred Unimog (or similar approved). The boys all crowded around the dead engine bay while the girls retired to air conditioned comfort. Not that the Goatmobile had any effective airconditioning, but more of this anon.

Someone had the brainwave of swapping some batteries around to try to get the Fortuner at least on to the track. The Yellow Box was selected as the donor vehicle from a host of applicant, so was duly parked on the track, and the batteries were swapped. It was possible to drive the Fortuner straight out, and eventually to get the YBOD to go, even with a duff battery. Huzzah for big jump leads. The Hatta road was closer than the Al Ain road, so we headed north along the fence line, even stopping near the northern end to have a look at some oryx. Lindsey had wanted to see camels, but in my opinion (I'm biased 'cos I live 'ere) oryx trumps camels any day of the week.

ORYX: Or in Arabic: al maha

As we reinflated our tyres, YBOD reported that the allegedly new battery, still in his FJ, was definitely suspect. We all headed back to town, interrupted only by having to stop a couple of times to apply more gaffer tape to the Fortuner's increasingly moribund back bumper, before restoring both batteries to their original vehicles. I would have said, "Home for tea and medals", but as it was by then an early afternoon in Ramadan, I can't.

Later that day and purely by chance, I ran into the Glabrous One in Yellow Hat. They had immediately swapped the offending battery, declared it dead, apologised profusely and agreed to provide a replacement under warranty.

As for the Goatmobile's air conditioning, this works fine at highway speeds but is useless when stationary or at dune-bashing speeds. The car's booked into the workshop. It's likely to be expensive, and is regrettably most certainly not under warranty.



Mme Cyn said...

And a Good Time was had by All.

Ruth said...

Thanks for the great day out you calling a halt when you did meant that the Fortuner was not in the middle of the above mentioned large dunes

shaggy66 said...

Linz and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for a great day it was very memorable even though my driving was a little below average (must try harder) we look forward to seeing you all again soon!!!

Mme Cyn said...

That's all right shaggy66 -- not many sand dunes where you live!


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