Monday, June 04, 2007

More Weather Woes

Despite having just survived "Operation Desert Storm", Elliot and I went off to the desert again on Saturday afternoon.

This time we set off in three vehicles with some of Elliot's friends and a few adults to go quadbiking, at our usual place -- about halfway to the point where we almost camped the other day. We got there in the late afternoon to avoid the midday heat but it was still 40c as we selected our ATVs and haggled over the price with the Bedouin "staff".

Just as the teens mounted their bikes and motored off towards the dunes a strong, hot wind blew up from the high dunes to the distant Southeast. Over the next sixty seconds it built enough strength to lift the sand off the ground and before I knew what was happening we were all lost in a fierce sandstorm. I tried to motor on in the direction the others had gone but that was sraight into a horizontal rain of sand. I was wearing wrap-around sunglasses but even they didn't protect my eyes enough to allow me to carry on. I turned the bike around, kicked it into Neutral and just sat there for several minutes with my back to the storm and my hands cupped around my face to keep the sand out.

This is the view with my back to the storm, so you can't see the sandstorm too well. Taking photos in any other direction was impossible.

Eventually I decided to try and make it back to the cars where the other adults were waiting and, no doubt, worrying. I couldn't see further than ten yards in front of me but set off in what I judged to be the right direction, and made it back to the road a few minutes later. I jumped off the bike and into the car for some protection and water.

"Reception", taken from the car

I had no idea where the other riders were, whether they were stopped or moving, together or separated. The only mobile number I had was Elliot's and knew he can't get a signal out here. Unable to do anything to find them all we could do was wait and hope that their own stinging eyes and gritty mouths brought them back too. Sure enough, about five minutes later we saw some faint headlights bobbing towards us through the "fog", and shortly after the cars were full of spluttering, thirsty teenagers and surrounded by abandoned quadbikes.

The quadbiking centre consists of around twenty tents like this, but in this weather this and the one above were the only ones I could see.

We sat there watching the storm for a while, wondering how much we'd have to pay the Bedouin if we decided to bail out. We had just decided to abandon the venture when the wind started to drop and visibility improved a little. Within two minutes more the wind had dropped to a light (but still hot) breeze and the skies were clear, so we jumped back on the bikes and made the most of the time remaining.

I jumped in the shower as soon as we got home, and by the time I got out the bottom of the bath had a layer of reddish-brown sand in it. Sudden weather changes like that are no uncommon here. If you have the protection of a vehicle it can be quite exciting to witness but I wouldn't fancy living out in tents in the desert like our friends at Rent-a-Quad.

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