Weekend saving drive
What would you rather do on the last day of your weekend?
You can either look at a Saturday afternoon as something negative: the last few hours of your weekend (UAE weekends are Friday+Saturday) before the inevitable Sunday wake up call. Alternatively, you could spend those few hours meandering over gently rolling dunes. I’ll give you a moment to decide which you would rather choose.
Assuming that you are an offroader, or at least interested in the outdoors (you are reading the ‘offroad’ section remember), I will continue with my story of a pleasant afternoon drive from Pink Rock to Al Faya through the Sharjah desert.
Watch out for the inquisitive camels wandering onto the road!
On the side of a surprisingly satisfying straight road about 25 minutes out from the city, lies the 2nd December cafeteria. It serves piping hot chai karak but is more famous for it’s ‘Omani crisp sandwich’, a tantalising blend of Chips Oman and cream cheese wrapped up in soft bread. The cafeteria is the perfect place to drop the tire pressures whilst you sip your karak and almost certainly burn your tongue. Remember, the key to not getting stuck is surface area and the more air you let out the bigger the area of rubber will be in contact with the sand. I chose to put the Yokohama Geolanders on our ‘06 Toyota Land Cruiser down to about 15 PSI which was probably overkill, but hey, we didn't get stuck.
Venturing away from the Cafeteria, we began heading towards Pink Rock. There is clear evidence of Friday evening’s shenanigans so it is difficult to find a route that someone else has not yet carved. Nonetheless, we press on towards to Eastern side of the rock outcrop where there is hand glider setting up. He uses the evening wind, which is shooting up the rock face, to take off and soar into the sky. After a pause and a few “I reckon I could do that”s, we powered over the saddle between the two rock outcrops, dodged a few strewn rocks and began descending the other side.
Watch out for the rocks as you go over the 'saddle'
Turning right and travelling further away from the road, we dropped down a few gears and began ascending a few tighter dunes leading up to the top of the mountain. Locking the centre differential and dropping even more gears to 4 Low, the Jeep and Land Cruiser crawled onto the rocks for the obligatory poser shot. Mind the wind, however, because unlike the guy with the parachute, it was more of a nuisance than anything else.
You can almost see how we had to lean forward to prevent being blown over!
Posing photos done, we began heading toward Al Faya.
Head back past the cafeteria (collect more karak perhaps!) and cross the road (pay particular attention when crossing as this is a favourite for speeding motorists). From here you will follow the direction of the dunes, passing camel trains and pungent farms. Interestingly, the sand begins to become much darker the closer you get to Al Faya so bear this in mind if you feel you are deviating from the route. It would be impossible to give you any exact directions so all I can tell you is to keep going until you reach a few steep descents which you will need to negotiate in order to get down into the sand wadi. Stick to a lower gear, keep a straight line and you will be down without a fuss. You will then have the option to head towards the Al Faya dune (the biggest dune around) if you want an adrenaline fix, alternately you could trundle through the wadi and take in the effects of last March’s flood.
The sand wadi had massive pools for swimming in last March so naturally we did just that!
We chose the latter partly for the purposes of this story but mainly because the old Land Cruiser has no business being taken to redline considering it has just hit 300,000 KMs
Cracking opportunity to watch the sun go down.
So, as with all desert outings, you can make this route as relaxed or challenging as you like and it’s up to you to take the initiative to get out and explore. At the end of the day (or weekend) why just sit around when there is something as amazing as the desert to explore?