Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday 13th Expedition
Yesterday we went in a six-car convoy to the Inland Sea. You can’t get there without four-wheel drive. We hadn’t been there before in our own car and we were a little bit worried about how the LR3 would perform in proper, deep sand.
I was determined to get over my nervousness about driving off-road so I forced myself to drive. We stopped at Sealine to let air out of the tyres for driving on sand, then off we went. The road to Inland sea is mostly hard-packed salt, but in many places the dunes have drifted across the track. Also, if you choose, you can take a route through the dunes themselves. Our tour leader took us by a route that was mainly on the track but detoured in a few places through some ‘gentle’ dunes.
I did great. I put the transmission into sand mode and let the car do the work. I followed Rob’s instructions. And I repeat – I did great. It was brilliant fun.
Then we realised that the last in our convoy, driving a Ford Explorer, was missing. Tour Leader had a phone call. They were stuck in deep sand a couple of kilometres behind. Three of our party went back to pull them out. Me and Rob, sans tow-rope, waited behind with the other group.
I had a certain amount of schadenfreude. The stuck car was the only other car driven by a woman. I was glad it wasn’t me.
Time passed. Another phone call informed us that all three were now stuck. More time passed. We contemplated setting up the BBQ right where we were. Another phone call: two cars were now free but the original stick-ee might have a mechanical problem. More time passed. Another phone call: they were all out, and on their way. They’d got free with the help of some young Qatari men in Land Cruisers. Phew. We regrouped and off we went again.
I handed the driving over to Rob for the next section. It was hard, fast packed salt. The iPod shuffled to Charlie Says by the Prodigy. I turned it up LOUD. We drove along laughing our stupid heads off. We decided that ‘Charlie says always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere’ was good advice for desert driving.
Another few Ks and we realised another car was missing. We stopped again. This time, it really was a mechanical problem. One of the cars had developed a radiator leak and had ground to a halt, overheated. This time, me and Rob went back with Tour Leader, because Rob is a mechanic. When we got there, the car was fucked. Not going anywhere. Water poured in to the radiator pissed straight out the bottom. Luckily, I had the number for the Raha recovery service in my phone. The driver of the broken-down car called them and arranged a recovery. Then we piled all the beach stuff and people (5!) from his car to ours and off we went again.
Eventually we reached the beach. It was worth it. The water was gorgeous – just cold enough to make it difficult to get in, but perfect for swimming once in. We swam, ate BBQ and chilled out. I knit some of my Pomatomus sock.
Meanwhile, back at the broken-down car, things weren’t going so well. The driver and Tour Leader both went to go meet the recovery vehicle at Sealine. As they drove back to the car, the recovery vehicle got stuck. So help had to be summoned from Sealine. Cash changed hands. Tour Leader didn’t get back to the beach til it was nearly time to leave. The broken car’s driver accompanied his vehicle back to Doha.
We really thought nothing else could go wrong. On the way back we had to stop again at Sealine to re-inflate the tyres. We joined the orderly queue at the little garage. Only the queue was not orderly. People kept crossing the sandy area in front of the garage to push in. Tempers began to get heated. It all came to a head when half of our group were actually at the air stations, and half were not. A woman in a black Pajero tried to push in. Events got a bit confused. A French woman stood in front of the Pajero to stop it pushing in. The driver kept going. The French woman called the police. We heard her saying ‘A woman is trying to kill me with her car. The number is...’ A large crowd gathered. There was shouting. I was kind of glad to get out of there.
So that was it. The rest of the journey back was uneventful. I was left with a good impression of the day, overall, because it was laugh. But I won’t do it on Friday 13th again.
Rob's Commentary –
Kirsty was really nervous and sweating heavily, she screamed every time we went over a bump and she nearly got the car stuck so many times I lost count! I’m not letting her drive in sand again!!!!
The above is not true. I did great.