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A date with the sands

31 Jan 2021 By HUBERT VAZ

Oman’s young adventurer, Hamdoon Sultan, who has been travelling to different countries in the Middle East on his bicycle, as well as taking up daredevil adventures all by himself, recently chose to learn a new skill – dune bashing – to equip himself with nerves of steel and defy his own abilities.

“There are numerous sites on the internet which tell you how to get ready and prepare your vehicle for dune bashing but there are none that give you tips on  how best to do it – you’ve got to get out there and figure it out for yourself,” says Hamdoon who recently took up a dune bashing trip in the Empty Quarter in Sharqiyah. “Experience is the best teacher and unless you try dune bashing for yourself, no amount of theory or tips can actually teach you what to do, and when,” he added.

Hamdoon, who decided to stay in Oman because of the travel restrictions in other countries, said, “Due to the limitations in travel, I found it a great time to explore Oman and its hidden treasures. I was happy to join Yusuf al Balochi, a professional trainer for dune bashing in the Empty Quarter, for a great experience. I learnt that some adventures require a leader, to follow orders and decisions. This was unlike my previous adventures when I headed out without a leader or professional help.”

Dune Bashing is a form of off-roading done on sand dunes, usually in huge 4X4 vehicles that are built for such activity. Not every 4X4 is suitable for dune bashing which involves driving at varying speeds over sand dunes and manoeuvring the car in such a way as to maintain balance while going up the dune and coming down.

A highly thrilling and adrenaline-pumping activity, which calls for perseverance, endurance, as well as high safety precautions, the SUV’s that are used for this adventure sport, are usually fitted with protective gear, like roll cages, and the tyre pressure is significantly reduced to allow for maximum traction against the moving sand.


Prep your vehicle

The first thing you need to do for a dune bashing trip is procure a worthy vehicle. You need a 4X4 SUV with higher ground clearance and one needs to check the vehicle manual to confirm that it is suitable for this activity before embarking on it. 

The next step is to ensure that it is well serviced and the fuel tank is full. One must also carry an extra fuel can and store it safely in the vehicle, besides spare tyres and tools. One must also download a compass app on one’s phone which gives latitudes and longitudes to get the right coordinates for your location, in case you need emergency services to find you in any eventuality.

Prepping the tyres comes to the fore once there. Depending on the vehicle, the recommended pressure rating lies between 30 and 40 PSI for regular road surfaces. But if you go into the dunes with this, the tyres exhibit a tendency of get stuck in the sands than manoeuvring the dunes. The trick is to give them greater control by deflating the tyres to a certain pressure depending on the terrain. You can do this by using a simple air deflator. Typically, you should drop pressure down to 20 or 15 PSI, or even less, if needed.


What to wear

Dress comfortably because inevitably the sand gets into everything. A hat or a scarf to cover your hair, and long pants and a light shirt or t-shirt is fine. You may also wear sneakers and socks but sandals are just as fine. Those wearing contact lenses, must wear shades as grains of sand can very easily get into your eyes and cause much discomfort.

Wearing shades is a good idea because small grains of sand get into your eyes very easily when you are outside the vehicle. And, with no running water nearby, eye-drops alone won’t be helpful.

Teamwork is key

Hamdoon says that teamwork is the key to success on such an adventure which involves many challenges that one cannot handle single-handedly. However, by coordinating and cooperating with team mates no dune in unsurpassable. “On this trip, I was among many others, many of whom were there for the first time, like me. Teamwork, however, made work light for all. For instance, when one person got stuck in the sand, those before and after his vehicle jumped in to help him get out. Also, in the evenings, the leaders often sit down to discuss mistakes and make suggestions on how to tide over them,” he said.


Quick tips

  • Use a 4X4 SUV suitable for dune bashing
  • Vehicles with high ground clearance are best
  • Use radio communication between vehicles
  • Always carry extra fuel, water, and tools
  • Suitably deflating tyres is a must on sand
  • Maintain a good distance between vehicles
  • Carry a winch for towing when stuck
  • Carry an air compressor and puncture fixing kits
  • Always follow instructions of the team leader

What to eat before dune bashing

When taking up a dune bashing trip or a desert safari which includes a dune bashing stint remember what’s in your stomach does matter. Most tour operators give out guidelines but rarely talk about what one must eat or drink before dune bashing. 

Desert Safaris are similar to roller coaster rides and if you take it up soon after a good breakfast or lunch, you surely know what to expect to spoil your experience. Dune bashing involves riding up tall dunes and then rushing downwards on the other side, sharp and quick turns and quick manoeuvres that often leave your head spinning. So, it is bound to make you feel a bit sick, but it can get ugly if you throw up in the middle as your stomach is bound to get churned.

You know how your body behaves, so you are the best judge to decide what you should eat before going on such an adventure. However, don’t have a real feast before a desert safari, neither should you try to ride on an empty stomach. Eat at least an hour before your trip to allow time for your digestion.

Avoid hot (spicy) and fatty foods – eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables but don’t overeat. For drinks, water is the best bet as it will prevent dehydration. Avoid hot beverages or fizzy drinks that might caue your stomach to rumble during the ride

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