Dune Bashing with the Dutch

The Dutch guy in my program is on an Abu Dhabi Dutch Embassy distribution list that periodically lets him know about events that they put on for Dutch people living in and around Abu Dhabi.  He came up to us with the bright idea to go on this Dune Bashing trip with some other Dutch people. Apparently it’s their biggest event of the year.  What’s different about this trip than your typical desert safari is that everyone brings their own car and drives it through the dunes.  We figured it shouldn’t be a big deal to drive a bit through the desert. We’d rent a car and just follow the leader.  How tough could it really be?

So myself, the Dutch guy (Jasper), our token German (Fabian), and a Pennsylvanian (Josh) go out and rent a Toyota Rav4.  Don’t worry we paid for the insurance (though we were slightly dismayed a few hours later to read in it that it specifically says we are not covered for damage done in the desert). Little did we know that our Rav4 was hardly enough car to handle the beating that the desert would provide. When we showed up everyone else had jacked up Land Rovers and other SUV’s with desert tires and body kits. Our dinky little Toyota didn’t stand a chance.

What ensued can only be described as one of the most exciting/frightening/life threatening/potentially financially burdensome events of my life. I’ll let the pictures describe our day.

We have to let some of the air out of the tires of the cars before entering the desert for better traction and to avoid sinking into the sand, just like driving on the beach.

Fabian, Jasper, Josh and the Rav4 (clockwise from left). Team Masdar.

Moments after the first test of our car (and our manlihood) we noticed that we left an important item in our wake...our license plate. Josh was happy to fetch it.

Inevitably problems occur. In this case one of our fellow drivers knocked the tire off its rim. Fortunately the Dutch come prepared.

The Dutch, prepared for anything, come equipped with wrenches, jacks, tire irons, air pumps, and shovels. However, notice the man with the shovel has only one arm, thereafter titled just the OAM by us (One Armed Man).

Not long after the flat tire, another car got stuck on the apex of a sand dune. With the wheels spinning out in the soft sand, there was no choice but to tow them out.

Despite the risks, it was well worth it. Awesome views (notice the one armed man, decidedly the best driver of the group, no joke)

Ultimately, we figured we were going to have a tough time returning the car in the condition it was provided to us...

Don’t worry, we were able to take the car back to the shop for some quick repairs before returning it.  We actually were having such a tough time driving it that we left it in the desert and each hopped in some of the other people’s cars so that we wouldn’t continue to hold them up. We returned later in the day to retrieve the car.  Not surprisingly, it was the OAM who was given the reigns and drove our beast back to the road where it was again safe.

To give you an idea of the risks, we heard later that day that a family in another groups was having trouble getting over some of the dunes with their brand new land cruiser because the driver hesitated before clearing the higher dunes.  Finally, convinced by the other drivers in his group and apparently brimming with confidence we gunned it over a pretty big dune.  He ended up going fully airborne with his wife and kids in the car, landed a few meters over the dune on a flat part of the desert.  The impact was such that his radiator split in half and the airbags went off. They had to leave their car there and no one knows how they intended to retrieve it the next day.

The day concluded with an awesome bbq, some beers, and an evening by the pool. No complaints from anyone, least of all Avis Rent-a-Car.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alan & Shelley Sandler on March 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Hi Brian. It was fun to catch up with your blog. Sounds like the desert convoy was awsome. I was great to meet you at your folks’ home several months back. Hope you enjoyed your time on the east coast. It sounds like you are enjoying a very worthwhile experience. Continued good luck. Alan & Shelley.


  2. Posted by Mom on March 28, 2010 at 12:34 am

    All I can say, amazing but crazy stuff – who would ever believe and how did OAM sustain such a loss – your hero of course! And the adventures continue for AbuDhabiBri!!!

    love you,


  3. Posted by Jodi on September 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Brian, I am still laughing. Wow–thanks for sharing. What an experience! And, you are an awesome writer!! Eric and Andrew have got to read this!! xoxoxo


  4. Hi there! I just noticed your website: Dune Bashing with the Dutch | Brian’s Blog from Abu Dhabi when I was browsing stumbleupon.com. It looks as though someone liked your site so much they decided to bookmark it. I’ll definitely be coming back here
    more often.


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