With hundreds of vehicles in the same patch of desert, inevitably in places they are going to get bunched up, for example where the route becomes narrow. People get frustrated and if I advise them to hold back and wait for the car ahead to clear the area, then someone from behind who is perhaps less patient, jumps the queue and pushes in. That causes resentment, which represents another source of danger as frustrations boil over. My advice is simply to remember that you’re there to enjoy yourself. Concentrate without stressing and relax, without being complacent.
• Make sure your vehicle is in good shape before you head out and check there’s air in your spare tyre — so often people go to put them on and find the tyre is flat. Also check you can remove the wheel nuts because many times we find they’ve been put on by a dealer or tyre shop with a pneumatic wrench and the driver is unable to undo them.
• Don’t be tempted to speed on the gatch tracks — the harder, established tracks through the desert. They are very dusty, and the dust from vehicles ahead of you can hide a multitude of obstructions, such as oncoming traffic, parked or broken down vehicles, pedestrians who have exited a vehicle, even camels. Drive at a speed that allows you to brake within the distance you can see ahead.
• If you do get stuck, again, relax. It’s really not a problem, and in most cases, recovery can be quite simple. First of all, re-check your tyre pressures. As tyres warm up, the volume of air inside the tyres can’t change so instead, the pressure inside increases. This reduces the size of the tyre’s footprint and that makes it harder to drive in the sand. So if you do get stuck, before asking for help, first check your tyre pressures and reduce them as necessary.
• Don’t try to drive yourself out once you know you are stuck. Stop spinning the wheels, and wait for help rather than bury the car up to its axles, because when that happens it becomes much harder to extract. If you have a compressor on board then you can try letting your pressures down as low as perhaps 3 or 4 psi but if you do so, remember, no sharp left or right turns and of course, you must inflate them immediately once you’ve got out of the predicament.
• If you’ve got a rope and shackles, start fixing them on to save time when a recovery vehicle arrives — think about which way you are going to be recovered more easily — generally down-hill if possible but remember the towing vehicle doesn’t want to be driving into soft sand, so work out where the firmest sand is around you and be prepared to be towed in that direction.
• When you do get out, take a breather and relax for five minutes, because nine times out of 10 if you jump straight back into the car and drive off stressed and exhausted, you just make more mistakes and get stuck straight away again. When that happens, people grow increasingly irritated and it becomes an endlessly exhausting cycle of frustration. So relax, and enjoy the day’s fun.
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