Dubai April 2009

Text from the diary I kept of the trip to meet the Sand Yeti and the Desert Gang in their little playground.

Friday 17th April 09

Friday was always going to be the Desert day, that’s the day the gang always meet at the Ghaf tree, and the wind was blowing 25-30mph. We loaded Dave’s UDB and DB1 buggies onto the trailers along with Brig’s Razor Dune Buggy and headed off for the desert. The sand was gusting across the road, it was looking good, after half and hours drive we reached the Ghaf tree, Pete, Wendy and Bolts were already set up, not long after Angelo, Francesco and Giorgio arrived with his composite buggy the Shamal. I had brought with me the 4 and 6m Yak and a 8m Access1, but Pete thought 3.5m Rage would be the better option to start with.

These guy fly with 40m lines to keep the kite way above the dunes when they are in the troughs, the heat was around 44 degrees and I was melting just standing there, camel pack on the back of the buggies are a must, I launched my Rage sat in Dave’s Death Buggy so called as everyone who uses it, always gets injured…I shot off on the flat Sabka, this is the very rough and bumpy flat areas in between the dunes, I ran around the Sabka for about 20 minutes with the others, and I was daring myself to go into the dunes, the dunes around the Ghaf tree and quite mild ones around 10-40 feet high, but every time I approached them I chickened out and turn back onto the Sabka. After doing this for about 5-6 time I went for it and rode into the dunes, it was a very strange feeling as I have only ever flown on flat beaches etc. I moved my way through the dunes going further and further down wind, once in the dunes, after around 10 minutes I downed the kite, now this is bad news in the dunes with 40m lines as the kite goes over the ridge of the dune down wind, and makes it impossible to re launch, Bolts came to my rescue and held my kite up to re launch. I soon realised the 3.5 Rage was no where near big enough to pull me up the dune walls….in fact I was stuck in the gulley of the dunes with no power to get out….how embarrassing I thought to myself as Wendy stood on top of a dune taking photo’s of my plight, Pete, thank god came to my rescue this time and pushed my buggy out of the dunes by hand, how he found the strength in that heat to push a 50kg buggy up soft sand I will never know, I walked out of the dune with the kite high, and got back into the buggy once near the Sabka again, I buggied back to the Ghaf tree and rested, I was completely drained of all strength and completely exhausted, I was thinking to myself, that’s it, no more dunes for me, I just could not cope with the heat. Brig bless her gave me a salt drink and I drank about 3 litres of water, I started to recover and after an hour was ready to go again.
The wind had dropped and so I thought I would put the 8m Access up, a kite I love flying but haven’t flown for a long while, it felt good flying this kite again after using race kites for the last 18 months. Pete and Bolt suggested buggying out to the camel farm, I was well up for it, and soon we were off flying across the Sabka and into out first stretch of dunes, these dunes were a similar height to the ones near the Ghaf tree, but with more power now I felt more confident, during this run to the dune, I saw the Dhub Lizard, Gazelles, a few Camels and a Dung Beatle. In the dunes this time, I was easily getting to the ridges, the hard part is not going too fast and flying over the tops and OBEing, but I kept everything under control till we emerged from the other side onto the next Sabka, some of these Sabka’s can stretch 30km by 30km or more, we buggy for a few kms until we saw a herd of Camels slowly strolling across the Sabka towards us, it was a great site. We turned around and headed back. I felt great that I had actually done a run, Dave the Sand Yeti had gone off for miles in the other direction somewhere, but we all arrived back at the Ghaf at the same time…with this extra confidence I decided to put the 6m Yak up and after struggling with the 40m lines launched and was very impressed with the extra grunt this kite had, I went out for a blast in the Sabka with Bolts   and picked up a rear puncture, I had a go in the Shamal Giorgio’s Composite buggy, it was very well balanced and felt very rigid and considering it only weighs about 14kgs should be the perfect buggy for the dunes, Bolts came in and said I could use his buggy, so off I went again, Wendy had been taking photo’s during the day and asked me to go back in the dunes again to get some better photos this time, so off I went back in the dunes near the Ghaf tree, this time, with the added experience I had picked up and the bigger 6m Yak, I was hurtling around the dune and felt like a pro, Dave was also in these dunes with me and the others all stood on top of one watching, and waiting, I think they were waiting for my first OBE, but it didn’t happen, I was soo chuffed with how I had adapted, before I knew it Pete shouted you had better come out now its getting dark, and by the time we had loaded the last buggy onto the trailer it was pitch black….what a days kiting.

Denise (The Wife) had spent the day with Brig in the Dune Buggy and really enjoyed the experience, she hates anything kiting and anything that isn’t girlie, so I was happy she’s had a good time, by the time we had got back and unloaded everything it was 10pm, so we had a quick wash and we out for a Thai meal. What started off being a nightmare day in the dunes turned out being a brilliant one. How these guys go out in the desert in 50 degree heat, I will never no, they are all super human as far as I am concerned.

Saturday 18th April 09
We headed for the desert again and met Bolts and Pete there, Pete said ehh Carl is it your Birthday? Why?, well some are saying Happy Birthday on Flexi,( in fact it was our Birthday the next day, yes our Birthday, Denise’s is the same day, and we were trying to keep it quiet, as we didn’t want any fuss and Brig and Dave had already gone above and beyond the call of duty in looking after us) we all got rigged up with 4-5m kites, I was using the 4m Yak this time, and we headed off to what the Desert Gang call the “Buggy Drome” and would be my first experience of some monster dunes.

We set off across the Sabka, followed by Brig and Denise in the Dune buggy, Brig carries the spare kites, water, lines etc for these longer runs, the other thing about Brig is, she is the most important member of the team bar none, if a kite goes down and land the other side of the following ridge, Brig is the one who gets the kite airborne again by getting to it on the 800cc Razor dune buggy, it also helps that Brig is an expert   and very experienced off roader. No sooner were we in the middle of the first set of dunes when Pete harness snapped and the safety all got trashed….his day was over unfortunately and Brig towed him back to the Ghaf tree. That left Bolts, Dave and I to carry on, Brig would catch us up at the Buggy Drome. Bolts had done this run with Dave only once before and he was shitting himself the first time, he was also very concerned for me, being so inexperienced in these big dunes, so much so that he had words with Dave about not taking me in there. Dave decided to leave the decision to me, and although I was very exhausted from the first 2 hours buggying I thought, well I may never be able to come here again so lets do it….Now these dunes were something I had never seen before…monsters, and they take all your skill and strength just to reach the ridges of these dunes, and if you think that is the hard part forget it, that’s the easy part, the hard part is not knowing what’s on the other side of the ridges, these dunes were maybe 50 feet high, with very steep slopes on the other sides, the trick is to go down them diagonally, and when you feel the buggy tipping steer straight down, all the time trying to control your kite and keep it in a position to stop it from ripping you out of the buggy, then it’s a case meandering around other dunes until the next big one and so on. Once we were in the middle of the Buggy Drome Dave said Ok you are doing very well lets head to the SNTTA, another batch of big dunes. It was extremely tiring for me, a race kite like the Yak is in my opinion not ideal for the dunes, if they were Dave would be using them for sure and he always uses his Flexi foil Blades. On the way back, I found myself in front of everyone, we were really moving across the Sabka, and it was the first time in my life I was using my GPS to find the way back to the Ghaf tree, I just followed my arrow and before I knew it the Ghaf tree was in sight.
The Dunes were steep and quite scary once you look down the other side, but after travelling 22 miles and hitting 32.7mph, it was my best buggying day ever, and on top of everything I had survived the Death Buggy, The only marks on my body were on the insides of both biceps deep red bruising from using my arms to hold myself in the buggy….I call that a good result.

Monday 20th April 09

Our last day in Dubai and we decided to spend it once again in the desert, although this last week had flown by, we had crammed so much into it we feel this trip has lasted much longer at the same time. Once in the desert Dave suggested doing the Dragon Run, a new run he had pioneered just a few months ago, the wind was quite strong and so I borrowed Dave’s 4m Tattoo, but as soon as I hit the Sabka the wind dropped and I used his new 5m Blurr, I didn’t fancy taking the Yaks into the desert again, they are quite unstable when negotiating dunes slowly, especially on this more challenging run, Dave had his trusted 4.9 Blade up and off we went, previously on the Buggy Drome Run it was a case of 3 mile of Sabka, 1 mile of Dunes, Sabka, Dunes etc, the Dragon Run is quite different, in the respect of it being Sabka, the a huge expanse of dunes, miles and miles of it, in other words no rest, only continual hard work in the draining heat.

The Dragon Run also consisted of these huge monster dunes, some 70-80 feet high, twice the height of a large house, with almost vertical drops on the other sides, you climb up the dune by zig zagging your way to the top, the worst part being no knowing what was waiting for you on the other side of the sharp ridge. Remember the exhausting heat too 38-44 degrees, I was continually drinking water via the camel pack. You get to the top and beach the buggy on the ridge look down and shit yourself, it’s a hell of a long way down there, all the time watching your line don’t catch the ridge of the next dune, and when going down controlling your buggy speed and direction of the kite, but I seemed to be doing well, on a couple of occasions I dropped the kite over a ridge and Brig cam to the rescue, I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without Brig’s vital support, just getting out of the buggy, to put tension back in the lines to launch again nearly kills you. At one point I held my hands up, and admit I nearly gave in and just wanted to die, but Brig was straight there with water and encouragement, after 20 minutes or so you are ready to give it another bash. Brig is quite superb in the Dune Buggy and should get the glory you see in Sand Yeti video’s, if it wasn’t for her and her support, the video’s and all of the long desert runs wouldn’t be possible, Dave is extremely lucky to have a woman like her beside him.
The wind picked up, Dave was sat at the top of a ridge ready for the decent when I went flying up the dune and over the ridge at speed, I passed Dave and hurtled down the near vertical drop, as I was going down diagonally my rear highest wheel lifted almost directly above my head and I travelled about 40-50m on two wheels down the dune, all the time keeping the kite under control, Dave, Brig and Denise were amazed that I didn’t OBE, to say I was relieved to get to the bottom in one piece was an understatement, after what seemed like an endless supply of one monster dune after another,   after about 3-4 hours we finally met a Sabka, and had to tack 8.5km in each direction, the wind was dropping and Dave changed to a 6.5m Blade, I used his 4.9, although we were on the flat Sabka the wind continued to drop and time was running out, with only 1.5km to go I just wasn’t moving, and Brig for the final time came to my rescue and towed me the short distance left back to the Ghaf tree as time for us was running out and we had a flight to catch. Dave with the 6.5 just managed it back on his own steam….wow what an experience,   Another epic desert run had been completed, Dave shook my hand and congratulated me on my buggying skills and courage in the dunes, to be honest I amazed myself, I also enjoyed it more than I could of ever imagined, I like thousands of other people had looked at Dave and Brigs superb photo’s and video’s, but believe me, not one of those videos do the actual experience any justice, the dunes look double the size in real life, the speed across the rough Sabka’s seem much much faster, many times I had all three wheels in the air, for what seemed longer that a second or two.

We left the desert for the last time, and headed back to the Ranches, unloaded all the gear, showered and enjoyed and lovely meal cook by Brig, packed our cases and chilled out for and hour before heading to the Airport.
Dave and Brig were the perfect hosts possible, they couldn’t have possibly done any more for us than they did, we were both very honoured to be invited to their home and felt at home there within minutes of arriving, it was one of the best action packed and exciting holidays we have ever had, and not a moment was wasted. I am sat here now on the plane waiting to take off finishing this diary of our great holiday and reflecting on what we have done and seen during our stay, I know one thing for sure….buggying for me will never be the same again, how can I compare the experiences in the dunes this week to running up and down the flat beach at Mablethorpe….it just seems so boring in comparison. In the dune you experience vast distances, gradients that you wouldn’t think possible to climb and descend in a 50kg kite buggy, heat you can only imagine and wild life I have only seen on the TV.

The whole Desert Gang are truly some of the nicest people you could possibly meet, they will do anything to help you, I felt really honoured to meet all of them and to be invited in their play ground, I will miss them all deeply. Finally Dave and Brig, they both took time off work to look after us, barely let us pay for anything, made us feel totally at home in their home, and spent the whole week looking after us both, they are both highly intelligent people and well travelled, they are a joy to be around, and listening to their adventures that they have had during their time together, they are both lovely people, totally different in one hand and both the same in the other, joined by a common bond…..adventure and fun, they couldn’t have done any more than they did for us, and we are both very grateful.
Dubai is a wonderful place and anyone who visits Dubai will not be disappointed, yes there is an unbelievable amount of construction work going on which is all part of Sheik Mohammed’s vision of creating one of the most exciting and spectacular places in the world, I would say he is well on the way to achieving this vision.

Well, this was my first trip into the Dubai desert, Sand Yeti and his lovely wife Brig were our host and couldn’t have looked after us any better. We met the whole of the desert gang which was great and they are truly fantastic people.

Sand Yeti spoils us with his beautiful flowing desert buggying video’s, he makes it look so dam easy, well believe me its not. In 44 degree temperatures, all kitted up, I was nearly dying out there through heat exhaustion. I had three days in the desert and this video is made up of mainly the last two day, during the Buggy Drome run and finally the Dragon run…some of the dunes are twice the height of a house, with near vertical sides, the worst part is not knowing what on the other side of a ridge.

Brig, gives a vital support to the desert runs, carrying spare water and kit, and is always there to help you get a kite back in the air, the lines are 40m long and when a kite goes down, it goes down over the following ridge, her support imho is crucial.

I am sorry to not have included all the desert gang in this video, I chopped this down from over 4 hrs of footage, and I wanted to have it all in…