Saturday, October 07, 2006

On a dark desert highway

With the weather cooling to only 36C in the day - I was told it was time to get the 4x4's off the tarmac and into the desert. So today I took my maiden voyage of discovery in the H3 on a "newbie" trail to Fossil Rock - led by Chris.

Chris has been a member of the ME 4x4 club for a while and appeared to know the route through Fossil Rock like the back of his hand - having been a number of times. However the very best thing was that Chris was all about safety first. To this end he made me go out and buy/check a number of things before we went anywhere:

1. Shovel
2. Tow rope (I ended up with a snatch rope)
3. Tire pressure gauge
4. Gloves
5. Tools to open the shackles of my car
6. I knew how to get the spare wheel off
7. Bring a lot of water, a GPS and a mobile phone

In time I will get a nice max air compressor as well. Once we had reached the end of the tarmac we deflated the tires down to 14 PSI:



Once this was done Chris issued a number of instructions:

1. Keep our vehicles in the correct gear and 4x4 setting - (4 Wheel Hi for me)
2. Keep the person behind you in sight at all times - wait for them otherwise
3. No braking going down dunes - let the engine do it
4. If you need to stop - do so at angle - up or down
5. Leave a good gap from the vehicle in front - in case you need to rev hard for some go forward
6. Follow the leader!

With that we set off into the dunes. The trip to Fossil Rock is nicely graded for beginners - starting off with some gentle trails and bouncy roads which the Hummers suspension brushed aside with ease. After a little while we got into the desert proper and tried our hand at some gentle dunes which were fun. It is an odd sensation driving on sand - similar to snow but more fun...the best however is the dune descents. The sand bunches under the front wheels to act as a natural brake - but you have to be right on the steering to keep the vehicle on the straight and narrow.

Fossil Rock itself is a good looking natural monument:



and it provided a perfect spot to have a break and a chat with the rest of the convey about our experiences so far. Here we are at the top of Fossil Rock



Following this we had to make the descent down and it quite literally took my breath away...I got the instruction "for those in autos - lock yourself into first gear for the descent" and the next thing I knew I was on some crazy incline at the start of a very long descent with only engine breaking, a steering wheel and a muttered prayer to get me to the bottom. It was simply exhilarating (once I was down).

However this was not the most excitement I had in the day. This was on a dune where I did not give the car quite enough gas to reach the top of the dune. So I reversed it back down in order to give myself a little bit of a run up...and then gave it "full beans" and headed up and over with quite a thump. Once I had come to a rather abrupt halt the message came through.

"Wow Aaron - that was awesome - you were fully airborne" - from an American friend of mine. I had not realized what had happened and in my eagerness to get up and over I had taken off. I wondered why I was looking through the sun roof and at the sky at one point. Not ideal.

Having learnt my lesson I was too cautious coming up to another dune misjudged the crest and had the classic stuck.



Chris soon came to help with the HRV and dragged me clear with little problem. Shortly after this it was time to re-inflate and inspect my newly bent number plate:



It was a brilliant day out and made a really good change from the city. Overall 10/10 - I want to go again!

Quote of the day - edited for a family audience:

Chris - "Jesse where are you?"
Jesse - "I am stuck in the freakin' sand"
Chris - Laughter
Jesse - "Bring a freakin shovel"
All - Laughter

2 comments:

Watts said...

wow - you seem to be having loads of fun.

me want a go!

Anonymous said...

fun