A few blogs back I mentioned that I’ve been super busy lately – and here’s the reason why! Not only have I been driving all over the place; with the help of some friends I’ve been putting together a new Al Ain based offroading club!
Back in the spring my local garage owner asked if I would be interested in running trips for him, teaching rookie expats how to drive safely in the sand. As I was currently a marshal for another club (UAEoffroaders) I declined, as we also faced the possibility of a move back to the UK in the autumn. Circumstances changed however, and here I am now, one of the marshals of Oasis Offroad, which is sponsored by Mehran’s Garage.
There are many great offroad clubs scattered throughout the UAE, but we believe ours is the first one to be aimed specifically at western expats in Al Ain, with regular drives through the lovely dunes of Al Saad, Sweihan, Zakher and the airport area. You don’t have to live in Al Ain to drive with us, the club is open to all UAE based drivers with a suitable 4×4 who speak fluent english and who are willing to join our locally based desert outings.
We have a great team of marshals with a wealth of experience behind them, waiting to introduce rookies to the art of sand dune driving. The photo above was taken at the pre-trip briefing before our first trip on Friday 9th November. Marshals are in burnt orange coloured t-shirts (specially chosen to blend in with the oxide rich sand of Al Ain) and from left to right are Vince, Marina, Wallie. The club’s fourth marshal, Neil, was out of the country that weekend.
As well as our marshals, we also have a great team of experienced drivers who support and assist on our trips. You know who you are, thank you!
We’d set up a facebook page until our forum website was up and running, and it’s been so successful we’ll continue with it.
We’ve also set up a webpage, for people who are curious about our club and our activities, but don’t want to sign up for our full forum.
Finally and most importantly we have set up Oasis Offroad Forum where trips will be listed, queries can be answered, and the Oasis Offroad community can interact.
|Happy people at the end of Oasis Offroad’s first EIO trip!|
Our club want to do things a bit differently. Many clubs run rookie trips with lots of cars, and I’ve done this myself in the past with my old club, but for Oasis Offroad’s new members’ first outing on the sand we are offering Easy Introduction to Offroading trips which last no more than 90 minutes.
Ideally there will be 2 rookies on each, certainly no more than 3, with 2 marshals who will teach them the basics of offroading in a safe and structured way. We ask that the driver come on their own, without their family, so that they can concentrate 100% on the driving.
Once they have mastered inclines, declines and crests, then we take them for a 2 or 3km drive around the dunes so they can use their new skills straight away. These trips are not compulsory, though we recommend them to all rookies particularly for those with cars with low bumpers which can easily get damaged if crests and bowls aren’t tackled correctly.
Getting stuck from time to time can be fun and such situations are good learning experiences. However frequent stucks for a rookie can be demoralising if they don’t have the knowledge or confidence to change into the correct gear, drive up dunes at the right speed and the like. This is why we want to start our rookies off slowly, knowing that once they join our weekend trips their driving ability will increase very quickly and they will be able to come on longer and more adventurous trips with us.
I’m also a great believer in taking 10 minutes to talk someone through a self-recovery. Snatch straps and winches have their place but the best lesson we can give people is how to safely self recover if at all possible. (The photo above demonstrates that even experienced drivers make mistakes – I came over a dune too fast and it took me 5 minutes of shunting back and forth over sand that was as soft and dry as talcum powder, until I got properly aligned with the slipface)
Our prime club objective is for people to feel SAFE and also have FUN while they are out on our trips…
… whilst teaching them driving techniques which in time will get them to the top of the highest dunes alongside our most experienced drivers!
We also hope they will meet new like-minded friends who love the outdoors and prefer to spend their weekends away from the malls and the tourist attractions! A campfire is a great friendship facilitator!
So don’t leave me standing here on this dune all by myself.
f you’ve got a 4×4 suitable for dune bashing and live in Al Ain please:
*In December 2015 I moved 250kms (straight line!) to Madinat Zayed in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. Geography has dictated that I take a back seat with the club now, but I have left it in the most capable hands of Mike, Bernard, John and all the other great club members. I hope the foundations laid by myself, Wallie and Vince will continue to provide a base for our great club!
Thanks to Heidi, Jane and Wasif who expertly caught some great moments with their cameras!