December 3, 2013

"From the Wild, to the Wild"

Dear Reader,

On Saturday, the Sullivan family kindly invited me to go out dune bashing and camping with them in the desert outside of Abu Dhabi. I'll tell the story from the top: We drove about 30 minutes away from the city on the highway and then we pulled off onto a side "road" (...which was actually just packed sand). When we had driven a little further, we discovered that the road was blocked by a herd of camels. Glenn pulled slowly up to them and tapped the car horn. Slowly, the camels moved aside and allowed us through.

The road ended and the real dunes began. We let out some air from the tires and took off into the desert. We took a slipped and carved on the sand all the way to "Two Trees", a camping spot familiar to the Sullivans. At camp, we cleared out camel crap from an area, set up some lawn chairs, and made a fire pit. After setting up the tents, we climbed up the tall dunes and sledded down. The sun went down, the fire was started, and Glenn brought out his guitar. He played for us as we sat around the campfire and conversed. Other families that were invited showed up and brought food and good company. Later in the evening, I borrowed the guitar and played the songs that I know. After a long night of laughter and music, we all went to bed at about 12 a.m.

Because I decided to be all macho and sleep under the stars, I borrowed a sleeping bag and laid it out on a thin mat. At night, the desert gets really, really cold. And even though I was wearing jeans, pajama pants, two pairs of socks, and three shirts, I still shivered. I think that I got about 5 hours of sleep. During the night, I would often wake up and try to cover my head, which stuck out of the sleeping bag a head that sticks out of a sleeping bag. (Simile swagg.) At about 3 a.m., I took off my pajama pants and wrapped them around my head. That definitely helped.

At 5 a.m., I was just too darn cold to sleep any more, so I got out of my bag and attempted to relight the fire from the previous night. It took me a while because dew had dampened everything...but once that wood was a-cracklin', I happily warmed my bare feet.

Everyone else woke up eventually and we made some eggs and bacon for breakfast. After chowing down, we climbed in the 4x4s and started dune bashing. For my first ride, I was sitting in the back seat...and I will admit that all the speeding up and down, sliding, and shifting is really, really nauseating. Glenn has experience on the dunes, and he decided to jump over the top of the tallest one around. When we went over the crest, it felt as if we were going to roll over. Thankfully, we slammed into the sand on all four wheels and sped down the dune.

After a while, Glenn let me go behind the wheel and spray up some sand. Driving in the sand was as fun as it was stressful. Actually....It was a little more stressful than fun, and by the end of my turn, I was more than happy to give the wheel back to Glenn.

The sun began to beat down on Two Trees, so we packed up our gear and hit the "road" once again.

All told, I had a BLAST in the desert. Honestly, reader, if you ever get the opportunity to go camping in the desert, do yourself a favor and seize that opportunity. You will have an adventure.

When we started home, I thought that I was leaving the wild....

....but as I neared the city of Abu Dhabi, I was actually entering the wild.

National Day is a holiday in the United Arab Emirates that celebrates the creation of the nation. (Diggin' those rhymes, reader?) This year marks the 42nd year of nationhood for the UAE. (American readers....National Day is to the UAE as Independence Day is to the USA.) Here in the UAE, the government has a lot of money from their oil exports, and they go ALL OUT on their "Fourth of July". Seriously. It's insane.

The celebrations were held on December 1st and 2nd. I went out both evenings and witnessed the unbelievable. I feel like I don't have enough skill as a writer to effectively paint a picture of the National Day craze, and so I present to you, reader, video shot by me during it all. It was loud. It was ridiculous. It was National Day. (I also included at the end of the video some footage from the desert trip and from wakeboarding. Enjoy. :)

Livin' la vida loca. NM

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