Last Friday’s forecast was for just 11 knots, therefore, I didn’t bother throwing my smallest kite in my car before heading to the ghaf tree, which as many of you would have guessed by now is about 30 minutes drive from my villa and is a lonely but magnificent tree in the Dubai desert.
Setting up, I was amazed that the wind was rather more than 11 knots, so decided on my favourite Blade – the 4.9m Mk V.
Never knowing what the winds can do, I packed the 4.0m & 6.5m Blades for my trip.
It was a tough ride as the winds picked up and gusted very badly in the dunes. 12 kms from the ghaf tree, it got positively dangerous to stay in the dunes & I headed into the closest sabkha. I slowed down & just completed a turn when a sudden gust caused an almighty snatch on the kite. I saw my handles take off & watched them quickly disappearing into the sky that was heavy with a dust that looks like a yellow mist into what now was becoming a furious sandstorm. Brig raced after the kite that was dragging its handles into the gloom with her Polaris Razor. I had been using the earlier Flexi handles that used to break periodically & muttered to myself, ‘Good’.
Another old grey or black FF handle breaking meant that I would fit on a spare set of Prolinks.
However, Surprise! Surprise! A handle hadn’t broken but rather it was the 6 mm diameter nylon strop.
That had never happened to me before & I’ve racked up around 40,000 kms of desert buggying since I started. It could be that the strop that I’d had on for years had weakened from being ingrained with sand, possibly age hardened or was damaged from the sun’s ultra violet rays. Maybe it was a combination of all three, who knows?
After retrieving the kite that had now tangled lines & bridle we slowly got it sorted & the Prolinks fitted to it. It wasn’t easy as the wind had now reached 35 knots and gusting more than that at times causing large grains of sand to smack painfully into areas of exposed skin. In such a storm you soon learn what it is like to be sandblasted and just hoped I wouldn’t be skinned alive.
At times I would look for my buggy that I thought had blown away because it had completely disappeared in the whipped up sand.
Here is a pic taken just 30 m away from the buggy when a lull in the wind exposed it for a minute or so.
Wishing that I’d thrown in a smaller kite, all I could do was to set up on the 4m Blade. This is the real Widow-maker of kites having smashed my wrist badly in 2011 when I was using it in gusting conditions in the dunes.
So on goes the 4.0m Blade and I was already thinking how I could get back to the ghaf tree without having to cross any dune strings.
Fortunately, the ferocious storm that had sprung up very fast about an hour earlier began easing off & I could head off back to the ghaf tree. I was still overpowered but had to keep my speed down (below 60 kph) because the visibility was still poor & I feared that I might run into something that could do me some damage.
About a km from the Ghaf, I came across a lonely buggy on the sabkha. It seems that my mate Angelo had abandoned his attempt to get back to the ghaf tree & suffered the walk of shame because there was no way he could manage to fly his 5m Albatross in the storm.
With the excitement being over, all I have left from that adventure today are very sore eyes as the sand gets everywhere including forcing its way under my goggles.