Dune Bashing ..
Dubai is indeed a unique place. A lively bustling center of commerce with malls, Super malls and Hyper malls selling everything from a pin to a tank. It is a consumer’s paradise. It is a city of high commercial stakes and yet it nurtures a truly traditional core. That is one thing which has not changed about Dubai over the years. The skyline reinvents itself; more glitzy automobiles cruise the road than perhaps any other city of the world and yet it has an old world conservative charm. A city of contradictions – an amazing amalgam of futuristic architecture, steel and concrete giants jostling with centuries old beautiful mosques. A fast –paced city with modern gad gets , gizmos and infrastructure and yet a street corner when you can put your feet up and enjoy the “Hookah” , some sizzling kebabs and sweet tea!
Some years ago, on a trip, we were advised, a trip to Dubai was incomplete without experiencing the thrilling “Dune Bashing”. We decided to bash dunes and enlisted ourselves with the leading tour operators. Haroon, our driver turned up in a sleek Toyota Land Cruiser and we were set. He turned out to be an amiable, friendly, chatty and ultra-confident gent from Pakistan. We picked up another American couple and a young Dutch en route and we were off on the highway. Haroon pointed out the sights and sounds of Dubai as he steadfastly chewed his chewing –gum. It was a lovely afternoon, the company was good, the driver , a seasoned professional –it was going to be a pleasant drive into the deserts , I remarked to my wife; nothing to go overboard about . We made excellent time driving out about sixty kilometers on the Hatta road. We made a detour and moved onto the fringes of the desert sands. We formed up a convoy of ten such Cruisers with six in each vehicle. Haroon proceeded to deflate the tires to get a better grip on the sands and to negotiate the dunes better, he informed us.
Then, suddenly, we were off into the majestic desert. The sand looked amazingly pink because of the mineral content. Miles of sand all around us and one could see in the distance, some majestic dunes, almost as high as a multi-storey building. The Toyotas drove in sequence, maintaining constant distance. At times, the climb up the dunes was too steep and the vehicle fell back compelling the following vehicle to stop abruptly. It then took off on what seemed like a very thin edge of sand to the summit before plummeting to the bottom. Very often, the visibility was nil with sand blown onto the windshields by the strong winds. At times, the tires seemed to cling onto a thin rim of sand a very precarious angle, defying all rational laws of gravity- it was a surprise we were upright. Dune after dune was conquered and we saw the vehicle immediately in front of us turn turtle and then become upright again and continue as if nothing had happened. It was like a giant roller-coaster –only one thing –neither we nor Haroon knew what exactly was coming next –the sands change contours every day! We had our hearts in our mouths and my wife was too petrified to be motion –sick as were mid air for nearly forty seconds before landing on ground. A truly magnificent effort from man and machine coming together as one.
We reached the top of the highest dune and paused for a while to catch our breath and get the adrenaline levels to some semblance of normalcy. We stared in awe, watching the amazing spectacle of the sun setting in the majestic desert. I remarked to Haroon , “ Terrific driving .You must be so used to all this . Driving across the dunes day in and day out”. I spluttered on my Coke when he nonchalantly replied with a bit of a sheepish grin, “Actually, this is my first independent drive.”
We had bashed dunes successfully and been Haroon – Bashed as well!!