Once he got off the phone he became quite liberal with the use of the horn and headlights – using both many times despite heavy traffic ahead of us. Once we pulled into the gas station he kept with the horn even directed at the driver of the car ahead of us who was slow in fastening his gas cap. Not finding the pace he was looking for we swerved out to another gas stall and started honking for the attendant to serve us.
Then as we were driving along the highway – we came across a vehicle obeying the speed limit in a construction zone. He immediately claimed this was an Indian driver and that Indian drivers were the worst. This set him off and he started honking, flashing his lights and nearly hitting the bumper of the car in front of us. The driver in front of us clearly flashed us the middle finger. That didn’t settle well at all with my driver.
When the highway opened back up to two lanes he pulled alongside the other vehicle, rolled down his window and heated words were immediately exchanged. The driver was clearly not Indian. He rolled up his window to ward off the onslaught of words that were quickly spewing from our vehicle.
My driver then started writing the guy’s license plate number on a piece of paper and told me, if I wasn’t there (due to the time constraints of my tour) he would have called the police and by the time both left the police station, this other driver would have been kissing the back of his hand in respect (my driver kissed the back of his hand several times in front of me to clearly emphasize this point).
We reached the sand dunes without further problems, we promptly lowered the PSI in each tire to 15, drank some sweet tea and off we went dune bashing all the while rocking out to Brittany Spears and other teen pop icons.
There was sand as far as the eye could see – with some serious dune action. We went up and down, sliding somewhat sideways fast, zipping along the edges of tall dunes – and dropping over sand cliffs at a heart quickening rate at times. The waters of the Persian Gulf were to our left – sometimes in view, sometimes not. We reached the edge of one dune and we stopped. My driver showed me the border of Saudi Arabia – just across one of the inlets of the Persian Gulf at a place called Khor al-Udaid.
Lunch was relaxing, at a camp setup right alongside the water. Food was Nepalese – the cook sat around watching my reaction as I ate his food. He was dutifully pleased when I told him his food was excellent. After eating, I popped in the water for an invigorating swim.
It was surreal driving out of the sand dunes this evening – with natural gas wells throwing flames high into the sky in the distance and caravans of 4wd vehicles spread out for a great distance all driving the opposite direction – droves from the city of Doha coming out to start their weekend of dune bashing. No wonder there are all those tented camps scattered throughout the desert. Those from Doha use them as weekend “homes” – they are all equiped generators and satellite TV – in the middle of the dusty dunes.
An ethereal sky was overhead with rays of golden light shining through the glowing clouds.
As we drove back we reached the ‘chicken track’ and unusually long and wide flat section of packed desert soil surrounded by sand dunes. My driver informed me this is the site of a number of fatalities as opposing drivers race at high speeds towards each other; there are no lanes marked and often the younger drivers will stick in a straight line towards the oncoming vehicle until the last possible second. This is sort of a test of their manhood I guess but sometimes they don’t “blink” and there are terrible head on collisions.
As we reached the staging spot for the sand dunes we saw a number of ambulances parked – waiting for their first victims as well as a number of flat bed tow trucks. Knowing what the answer would be before I posed my question – I asked anyways, “are accidents common here?” He emphatically said yes.
We saw a number of very happy children driving dune buggies – and knowing how these ‘kids’ don’t often have a grasp of the slim boundary between recklessness and an “on the edge” thrill of driving that is part of the experience out here – I suspect many of the accident victims are the young (later confirmed by several people).
I wonder where their parents are in the decision to allow them to drive here?