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Mojitos, Marcs and Madness by Rob Tye

Mojitos, Marcs and Madness

By Rob Tye

Camel and Bedouin I squinted up at the colossal dune towering in front of our Land Cruiser and swallowed through a mouth like sandpaper. “You ready for this?” my friend Marc said. I grinned back, trying to look like I was born ready. I looked more like a petrified seventeen-year-old with L-plates, it’s hard to be a rugged adventurer when you can still taste the eighth Mojito you had last night. “Come on a quiet sunset safari,” he had said. “You’ll love it. I’ll even let you drive.” I should have stopped at the seventh drink and stayed by the pool. 

Only an hour of training, and a glance at the monster in front, would make anyone think twice. Was I ready? I was in a giant car, with two guys called Marc/k, and couldn’t remember which button turned on the headlights. The question got lost in the engine revving to a wail. As usual,  Two Marcs reckless impulse had taken over. I gripped the gearstick with a sweaty palm, fumbled it into first, and gunned it across the daunting approach. 300ft of sand-dune filled the windscreen as the Mojito tried to make a return appearance. It was impossible. We couldn’t make it. We were going to slam into that ridiculously over-sized beach and be swallowed alive by the desert. I think I actually squealed as we launched up the slope.

I felt sure the brute of a car was going to slide off the vertical line, dig its wheels in and flip over. Marc yelled incoherent instructions at me, “More speed! Change gear!” The other Mark joined in, “Keep straight! Keep going!” Keep this, keep that. He could have been telling me he loved me for all I heard.

We crested the dune with a whomp of sand billowing around the car. The wipers screeched on bucketfuls of grit against the windscreen, desperate to reveal the stunning views over the Wahiba Sands in eastern Oman. Thoughts ran through my over-heated brain. I’m alive! It’s incredible! Now how do I get down?  Crest of a dune

Marc was so impressed with my driving, he said, “You have a rest. I’ll take it from here.” That’s friends for you. We followed the guide jeep over the dunes, our Land Cruiser slewing left and right through deepening tracks in the golden sand. The wind whipped clouds of dust from the cars in front, turning day into grubby twilight. “Watch the edge! Watch the edge!” I shouted, peering out the window as our wheels slid over. I squealed like a pig, again, and then the power of the 4x4 kicked in and found a vital inch of grip. 

At last, we stopped high on a ridge, looking out at endless desert and vast sky. A quiet sunset safari? I needed a strong cup of tea. Pity I forgot the thermos. We waited for the supposed green flash as the sun dipped over the distant hills but I didn’t see it. All I saw was the 300ft descent back down to camp.

Later that night, we circled the fire-pit in a Bedouin camp drinking hot coffee and eating dates. Stories were swapped, mostly from the two Marcs about my erratic driving and animal impressions. A million stars lit the sky. I turned from the fire at the sound of percussion music played by a group of men in the shadows. The women danced with rhythmic clapping and songs sung about their lives. More logs were thrown on the fire. The flames moved with the children running around the tents. I watched our host, Zayed, smile at his brood, take a draw from a water pipe and stare in contentment at the flames.

The entertainment carried on long into the night then the camp fell silent. We stumbled in the dark to our hut and crashed out on thin beds. Lights out. The two Marcs were asleep in seconds. Then something scratched and scuttled its way across the hard floor. It eluded my torch beam. Then the snoring started. It was going to be a long night.

Bedouin Camp   Bedouin

Rob Tye Bio: Rob Tye worked for the UK Government in aerospace and ran global projects and communications for an oil company. He has climbed and trekked in several countries and has worked across the world. He lives in the New Forest in England where he is renovating a cottage and writing his first novel.

Rob was a runner up in the 2012 Travel Story Competition with his piece 'A Walk in the Park'