Sunday, November 1, 2009

Desert Offroad: Series 1 2009

Yalla..yalla...yallaa I got an interesting story to tell here.

Remember that I just bought a new SUV in Honk...Honk..Vrromm..vroommm ? After about 2 weeks driving the Nitro I am quite happy with its handling in the city. I feel safer and superior on the road, and the ride is sure more comfortable than Toyota Yaris. But yesterday an opportunity came to test the Nitro off the tarmac road !!

I have been wanting to do offroad since I first saw Jeep cherokee in Malaysia. That was like more than 15 years ago. But buying and maintaining a four wheel car in Malaysia is not cheap. Hence all this while I could only dream about it.

Last week a friend invited me to join a group of Malaysians who planned a desert 4x4 excursion. It so happened that one of the organisers was my friend Farid Hussein, a Malaysian lawyer in Zaid Ibrahim & Co, Dubai. So without further ado I said yes to the invite and quickly packed my gears for the ride. Actually I didn't know what to bring except bottles of water, fruits and gas stove...hehe. Hey I was a newbie alright...

So on the day of event (Friday 30 Oct.) we gathered at Eppco petrol station, in front of Dragon Mart, sharp at 2.30pm. In the email only 7 cars signed up, but to our delight 10 cars turned up at the last minute, bravo! The cars were:

1) Hummer H3
2) Nissan Armada
3) Mitsubishi Pajero
4) Ssyangyong Rexton
5) Jeep Wrangler 2 doors
6) Jeep Wrangler 4 doors
7) Volvo XC60
8) Dodge Nitro (mine)
9) Toyota Land Cruiser
10) Honda CRV

After a briefing by our 'kapitan' we headed to Al Awir desert, which was apparently just 15 minutes from my house. We stopped briefly at the last groceries store to buy firewood. The shop charged us AED5 per log. My friends told me, in colder days, the price will go up to AED8 per log. Hhmm..nowadays even price of firewood fluctuates.

We passed through a small rural village before we arrive at the entry point of the desert route. Typical of my ignorance, I became the first car to get stuck in the sand. That was only after 5 minutes off the tarmac road. I was confused at first but quickly realised that I forgot to switch to 4wd mode. Haiyaaa bikin malu !

Ascending...well executed ! Good Nitro !

We charged into the desert area until we arrived at our first hilly area. This time we stopped again to deflate our tires. I was clueless on how to measure the deflation. Later I learned to use a deflator gauge to deflate the tires to a correct pressure. The ideal pressure is 15 - 20 psi. Next trip, I definitely will buy this gauge. The reason to deflate the tires was to get more tires surface touching the sand for better traction and to prevent the tires from sinking easily into the soft sand. Brilliant huh ..

Farid was giving me a tutorial on deflating tires

Anak bukit

When all tires were set, one by one, we revved up and ascended the first hill. This was when I started to feel proud of my Nitro, which managed to execute it very smoothly. The tip was just to accelerate without hesitation and never apply a sudden brake, as it will sink the car into sand. However we got delayed for about 1 hour when Volvo XC60 and Honda CRV got stuck in the sand several times. One thing I quickly realised about desert offroad, we could hardly rescue a car using a rope as most of the time, there was no hard surface area for the rescuer car to base on. When a car got stuck we have to push it up and rev up the engine until it gets out. The Honda CRV finally gave up as the driver felt his car was not suitable for the route. So I offered him and his family a lift in my car, as I was driving alone. But to save any embarrassment I reminded him that I was also a first timer.

Tires stuck in the sand

Men giving direction to a struggling Honda CRV

The next 1 and a half hours ride was exciting and fun. I could not follow the Jeep Wrangler 2 doors bashing the silky smooth dunes though, as I got 2 toddlers in my car. But at least I got to explore the Nitro's capability in ascending and descending the steep hills. Nitro definitely shares the similar specification and capabilities of Jeep and Hummer. I felt worth every fils of my purchase price for the Nitro. Had I not been carrying passengers in my car, I would have talked and praised the Nitro everytime we passed a hill.

Is that car going into a hole?

Nitro was taking a breath

Finally we arrived at our camp side. After a maghrib prayer, we lit up our firewood and set up barbecue pits. The rest of the events were nothing but talking, grilling, eating, laughing, drinking and eating again. The ladies were busy with their stories and news, the kids were singing and running around the silky dunes and the men were occupied with their fire and barbecue. It was another great chance for me to know more Malaysians in Dubai. Most of them have been around for more than 3 years. One guy has been in Dubai for 13 years. Where was I 13 years ago?

Praying in a desert reminded me the life of prophet

The "kapitan"'s Hummer H3

Goodbye sun

The ride back was short using a shortcut to the nearest tarmac road. When we got on the tarmac road, we stopped again to inflate our tires. This time we use air compressor which was charged from the car's battery. This another gadget I should buy next time. After saying goodbye and exchanging telephone numbers, everybody departed to their own destinations.

Air compressor inflating a tire

Jeep Wrangler 2 doors..the champ that day

It was my first introduction to a desert offroad excursion. I am excited to do it again, now that I have the right vehicle to do it. One of the must-go destinations which they told me, was a place called Fossil Rock. It was named as such because the area is full of fossil of pre-historic sea creatures as the area was under the sea billion of years ago.

Fossilised taik unta?

"Sunshine all the time makes a desert"

Arab proverb


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