Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Empty Quarter 2.0

We went camping in the Empty Quarter again earlier this week, this time without any freaky thunderstorms swooping in to put a damper on our fun.

Also increasing the fun factor was that we went with two other families, for a total of six adults and six kids.

However, the trip wasn't quite as epic as it could have been since both Jeremy and I were battling colds. Jeremy was on the tail end of his, while I was in full panic that I had a nascent case of The Cough. I spent most of the four-hour drive into the literal middle of nowhere assessing the relative scratchiness of my throat and whether it was increasing or decreasing (it was increasing).

But the Empty Quarter has a lot to distract you, even from sickness.

We camped in the same general area as last time and I believe the kids were out of the car for approximately 0.25 seconds before the shoes were off and they were out exploring.

 Gigantic, never-ending sandbox = Magdalena's wildest dream come true.

 Miriam was the oldest of the six kids along for the expedition and she made the most of being the leader.

We ended up camping a couple of dunes over from the site of our previous adventure, and drove in farther to avoid having to hike our stuff over the dunes like last time.

We hit a little snag when "driving in farther" meant "getting stuck in the sand." The first to fall victim to the deceptive sand/salt flats was not us, but one of our traveling companions. They got out with relatively little difficulty (says me, who watched from afar).
I have learned that you should never leave home without taking along your friendly neighborhood Australian With A Land Rover (that's him on the left). Indispensable.

You see, the next morning on the drive out, it was our turn to get stuck. We were first in line in the caravan. The tricky thing about driving off-road is that to avoid getting stuck, you need to maintain a good clip. You also need to watch out for soft, sticky areas. Speed + on-the-fly navigation is not my forte, which is why THIS happened:

Jeremy did his best to make me feel better by telling me how nice it was that I hadn't gotten us stuck about 50 meters earlier, in a patch of muck that was far from any solid ground that a second vehicle could perch on while it pulled us out. At least here, we had a random rise of semi-solid sand nearby for our Australian With A Land Rover to work with.

I have to admit that after I realized it was going to take a while to get us out, I totally wussed out and sought refuge (along with the girls) in our friends' car while everyone else (plus two SUVs who stopped to help) worked on solving the problem. I know that some people are able to see situations like this as part of the thrill and adventure of off-roading, but I was feeling sheepish/ashamed/humiliated/stressed that I'd gotten us stuck in the first place, so it wasn't exactly super happy fun time for me.

Anyway, by some small (?) miracle, they pulled us out, and we pressed on through the Empty Quarter for a scenic drive.

Then we drove a little through the Liwa Oasis towns. I don't know how much of the above picture (a villa on a hill) is oasis per se, and how much is super directed irrigation, but it sure was a sight to see.

The highlight of the trip for the girls was the part where they found a dead baby camel. Seriously. The first I heard of it was when Miriam came busting over a sand dune telling us to "come see, we found a dead baby camel!" I thought maybe she saw a rock that looked like a camel, or had got all the kids to pretend that a bush was a dead baby camel. But no: next thing I knew, Magdalena came over the same dune, grasping a bone in her little fists and saying, "look, it's a camel bone!! It came from the body of a camel!!!" Best/most disgusting camping moment EVER.

So far, our trips to the Empty Quarter have been surprisingly eventful. I hope next time can take it down just one more notch toward everything going as planned. Just one. Please?


JosephJ said...

I take it Crocs are the footwear of choice in the sandy part of the world. Makes sense, except when you get sand grating against your toes inside the shoes...

Liz Johnson said...

Ok, that's an AWESOME discovery of bones. Nice find, Miriam!

(I'm sorry that you got stuck!)

Crys said...

beautiful...weird how there is beauty in something so empty :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

The dead camel story is great.

My new favorite photo is the stunning picture of the dunes w/ Meme on the top, encouraging the other kids.

Scotty P said...

Cool story. I'm glad everything worked out. Are you going to hesitate to go there alone now? Seems like you would always want at least two cars.

Anna said...

This is Chris.
We went to the empty quarter to go camping once when I was really young (like 4 or 5) but we left right when we got there because the adults saw that there was oil leaking from the bottom of the car. I remember they made us all run back to the cars as fast as we could and then we drove right back home again. Maybe I would have found a dead camel baby, too...

Kathy Haynie said...

Well, I've had all kinds of camping adventures, but I have never once found a dead baby camel. Way cool. Speaking of cool, was it hot?

Lilianne said...

Those pictures are so awesome. What an experience to be out there! It reminds me of Aladdin! :-) And there is NO way I would ever have my hand in driving in all that sand! You're such a brave woman! I know you've been known to do a lot of the driving while Jeremy is in the car, so it doesn't surprise me that you were driving...but still, wow. That's impressive that you'd even TRY. Your girls are going to have so many wonderful stories about their "foreign" lives - including finding a full camel skeleton in the desert. So cool!!

Bridget Palmer said...

JosephJ, crocs are definitely the kids' footwear of choice in our family, anyway.

Scott, Jeremy was talking to one of the strangers who stopped to help pull us out and he mentioned the time we went camping there by ourselves and fled in the middle of the night while it was raining. Apparently the stranger said we were "brave" to do that. I think "stupid" was possibly what he meant to say. We were very lucky we didn't get stuck that time, and yes, I think it's good to travel in packs in the Empty Quarter.

Chris, that is so sad.

Kathy, it was very warm during the day (but not so warm that the kids were listless, obviously), but at night it cooled down nicely. I almost, ALMOST needed to get inside my sleeping bag. :)

Lili, let it be known that I totally chickened out the first day after the other family got stuck in the sand and Jeremy got behind the wheel to finish the job and get us to our camping site. I should have insisted on the same treatment on the way out. :)


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