Two Centre Summer Holiday (Part Two: Mizairah)

After settling into our newly decorated room in our favourite hotel in the area – the Liwa Hotel – we spent another afternoon chilling by the pool.  Chilling being the operative word as it rained heavily and those drops were cold!  Do you know I was the only one swimming in the pool during the rainshower?  We were really pleased as heavy rain meant that the dunes in the crescent should be wet the next day!
Liwa hotel after the rain

 

Day 4: Dunes and Sabkhas in the Liwa “crescent”
We didn’t quite have the best start the next day as the hotel were short of food for Suhour.  Instead we had to make do with an ADNOC breakfast of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers (fab Scottish biscuit) and coffee.  We headed to Tal Mireeb, deflated, then waited 10 minutes for first light.  The key to offroading in summer is to hit the sand at first light and get as far as you can before the mercury hits 40C about 10am!
Arabian Sunrise 6am
Our next challenge was to get over to the first sabkha  – the rainshower hadn’t reached this area and the sand was as soft and tricky as you could imagine. I nearly got stuck in the bowl pictured below but once we had dropped the tyres from 12 down to 9.5psi, with a whole lot of shunting back/forwards and turning, trying not to get a popout and with lots of encouragement from Neil I got free.

My situation: note, not a stuck as didn’t need to be snatched or winched!
First slipface of the day – the little dot at the top left is me!!

Why do we want to undertake driving that even locals consider “risky”?  It’s partly the challenge and to keep our skills at their best and it’s also a great feeling to be out in the early morning light knowing that the spectacular views are all yours.  We are better navigators/trip planners because we test our skills in this way; you see it’s not all about driving.

The beautiful dunes of the Liwa Crescent
sand changing colour as the sun rises
Unusual event : the FJ casting a long shadow to the west
Extremely rare event: Xazu casting a long shadow to the west

We hit the blacktop just after 8.30am, and were back in the hotel in time for our breakfast…

…followed by a day chilling by the pool – in 45C heat!

Day 5: Long and interesting way home

I wrote in my blog Planning for Autumn and Winter in Liwa about the route which takes you parallel to the Saudi border then northwards to Al Ain via Al Wagan.  We went this way and have an update on the state of the gatch section.  The gatch has seen little or no maintenance since we last drove that route 9 months ago.

There is a gatch track under this lot!

There are four short almost impassable sections, of no more than 500 metres each, but if you approach from the Al Ain side and can’t get through then you will have to backtrack and make a 250km detour to reach Himeem.  I would suggest that the first time you drive this you approach from the Himeem side, that way if it’s too bad then you only have to backtrack about 40kms.

I’m captivated by the red sand
and also by the shadows cast by clouds

It’s worth doing this drive just for the beautiful red dunes – the windblown sand that settles in nooks and crannies is much redder than the Al Ain sand.

Click on this one to enlarge – at the right hand side you will see two roads/fences in the distance, the furthest away one is the Saudi border
 this is not a mirage, there really is a blacktop which starts in the “middle of nowhere”

Once we hit the blacktop we had an easy run back up to Al Ain; the roads were almost deserted since it was the first day of Eid.

Our favourite drive of the 5 days was the “yellow tanker” drive, as it’s not a difficult drive though it has some lovely huge dunes and some tricky places so you need to keep on your toes.  It’s also sand driving with no sabkah, until 15kms from the end when it’s gatch all the way though there’s nothing stopping you driving on the dunes alongside, as we did whenever possible.

The best driving achievement of the week was the drive in the crescent; we worked as a team to find a good route which was challenging but still well within the capabilities of our cars.

As a footnote, the abandoned yellow tanker has intrigued me since I first saw it back in January.  I’ve contacted a US truck expert and he tells me it’s an Oshkosh R series from the late 1960s/early 1970s, and he is interested in more photos of Oshkosh trucks in the UAE.

I’m sure there must be more of them permanently parked in the desert, so who’s up  for a scouting trip?

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