Anyone who knows us will know that we’re not really planners. I’m a big believer in the ‘universe’ providing what you need and teaching you lessons. Now, there have been occasions where this philosophy has been challenged when I have been caught in unplanned situations with no obvious way out, but I maintain that if you believe, things will happen. And so it was with our philosophy firmly intact that we headed out for desert adventures with our little family and a new addition to our family in the form of one of my lovely, adventurous, long-suffering friends who I will refer to as Ms T. I say long-suffering as Ms T has been through thick and thin with me and she has been there at some of the low, low moments where the universe plan has been extremely murky. She always maintains a positive attitude however and has taught me a lot about resilience, strength and how to push yourself to the limits. Someone who loves a fun adventure and perfect to share our desert adventures with!
I am proud to say that at least this weekend adventure started with a hotel booking. We had somewhere to aim for and didn’t just wander into the desert. We even remembered to provide each member of the car with a water bottle for the trip. I’m feeling quite proud at this moment (I know some of you are shaking your heads in disbelief that a mother of two thinks this is a big achievement) as this is giant leap for me. I have to be honest though, I did forget the water bottle for the baby but, in pops the universe moment – what a great age to learn how to drink from a water bottle. And he embraced the challenge like the trooper he is….
So, we load up the car and head on out. We’ve been told it’s basically a big straight line from Dubai out to Liwa on the one road, however, having heard these types of generalised directions from long-term residents before, we opt to go for Julie, our perky little GPS to give us a hand. Thank goodness we did as the sign posting was at its usual standard of non-existent, and the roads we were expecting were not what we expected at all. This was one occasion where Julie proved her worth! And these are not roads you want to make a wrong turn on or have a moment of indecision. We are talking minimum of 120km/h speed limits, which as we know most residents take to mean you can comfortably go up to 20km/h over, trucks, trucks, buses, trucks, crazy 4wd drivers tailgating you and wrong turns that take you 40kms out of your way to get back on the right road.
However, this drive was virtually incident free. We even spotted some local attractions along the way… “look – a camel”; “oh wow, the sand is more red than white now”; “hey, I think there’s an oil smelter over there”; “oh yay, a green field up ahead – oh wait, hang on, it’s just a green fence”. Yes folks, not really a lot to see in the desert when you are driving at speed.
Eventually we stumble across our hotel perched on the hill. We carefully avoid speaking or thinking about the extremely large mobile phone tower moored in the ground immediately next to the hotel and what it might be doing to our brains as we check in to enjoy some desert oasis time. After some settling in time, it was off to find suitable activities to do in the desert.
This is one of the drawbacks of living like us. Apparently, everyone knows that your desert adventure must be planned in advance. As we ask around about tours for today or tomorrow, we are met with somewhat blank looks as people ask whether we have a booking. And then, the universe provides bang on queue – cha ching! There on the couch is the lovely Karim, almost waiting for us poorly planned Aussies to ask him for help. Although, being someone who rescues silly people when they get stuck in the sand dunes he’s no doubt used to silly people asking him for last minute favours. So we book in a desert safari for first thing in the morning and set off to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Morning comes and we’re up bright and early to head out. Karim is there with his trusty 4wd (bottles of water included) and off we head for the great Empty Quarter desert (Rub al Khali) to explore. Karim gives us some fabulous information about the area, the people and the traditions as we head to the first camel farm en route. Here, he jumps out to deflate the tyres in preparation for the soft dune driving and we get to have a camel moment up close (or as close as you dare to get to these guys and their babies). We hop back in the car and straight up the dune.
I like to think of myself as reasonably adventurous. I’ve done some crazy things in my time. But this, I was not quite ready for. The first 10 minutes or so was mummy sitting in the backseat with her eyes closed, praying for the lives of her children and hoping that Karim really does have 30 years experience sand duning! This immediate fear was not helped by hearing him start to mutter “uh oh, uh oh, uh oh” at one point before doing a swift turn with massive acceleration and landing at an angle on top of a dune and laughing away. He then proceeds to explain about the sand holes and how they can appear out of nowhere and you end up falling in them. This is not assisting my levels of alarm at this point and I’m about ready to say that I’ll walk down when he laughs again and tells me that he knows how to read the sand and not to worry.
Later on, he also explains that he was monitoring me carefully to see whether we needed to call a halt to proceedings as he’s had many incidences over the years of people vomiting, passing out, crying and actually having to walk down the dunes to get back. None of which I got remotely close to I might add, but it was comforting to hear that there are people out there far wussier than me!! After a while, I started to get used to the sensation of driving on the sand and could see a bit of the fun in it as we traversed another dune to a spot to get some sensational desert photos.
Another important thing to note here is that the rest of the car did not share my angst. The little chubs spent the whole time munching on dates and walnuts – I don’t even think he noticed we had left the hotel to be honest! And Miss Sparky was whooping it up in the back having a wow of a time with Ms T while lovely hubby in the front of course thought it was like your own personal rollercoaster. All clearly much more adventurous than me!
Karim showed us lots of things and taught us a lot in our short trip together. We learnt how to write our names in Arabic, some of the creatures that exist in the desert, some of the Bedouin traditions and he showed us the ‘desert rose’ which is essentially desert coral formed in the salt lakes, and very cool to look at and touch. He also clued us in a lot to the Emirati culture and why some things are the way they are, which was such valuable information for people like us who are totally new to the culture and way of life.
All this culture and scenery and when we arrive back, what do you think the response is from Miss Sparky when we asked what she thought – “can we go to the buffet now mum?” Clearly, some things are somewhat wasted on the young. Although I guarantee she learned something on this trip? maybe?
We spent the rest of the day at the buffet or in the pool relaxing. We got a bit of a shock when we got in the car to head back and saw the temperature outside was 37 degrees! Perhaps we really have acclimatised to this place? And as relaxed as you are when you leave, there’s still that 3 hour drive back with all the delights that the highways have to offer – we had some interesting opportunities to compare overtaking styles and who was an effective tailgater at least. But we made it home in one piece, a little sunburnt, a little chubbier but certainly much wiser and more humbled by the immense vastness of this land.
Next time you visit, you simply must enjoy an adventure with our friend Karim at www.liwa-adventures.com. We are planning to do some camping later in the year once Miss Sparky wraps her head around the concept of no shower for a night – who knew I raised such a princess?
Back to the reality of highrises and traffic now, but looking forward to more desert adventures!
Have a great week