Our first Pajero was 'a prize from the camel races in Qatar'. It took us a while to get over the fact that we'd just splurged the best part of twenty grand on a car - back in the UK we'd have been hard pressed to squeeze together two. That car took a huge amount of abuse, among other things it saw me through the endless desert driving and wadi bashing it took to research and put together two issues of the Emirates Weekend Offroad Guide for Khaleej Times. It had a mechanical winch, which was both a blessing and a curse - a curse because you end up winching every damn fool Corolla driver out of sandy parking lots as well as countless cars out of the desert sand. It's one of the nice things about the desert - I've long admired the real camaraderie out there, where people have always stopped to help each other in trouble, Nationals in particular exhibiting sometimes remarkable chivalry.
Our next car was a Pajero, too. And the next. We've seen the marque through five distinct model changes and have had one of each. Right up to the present day - we picked up a new Paj at the weekend. It's a very nice car indeed. This will be our third black Pajero – it’s become something of a trademark now: same car, same colour. The new model is a great deal slicker and more refined than the 2005 model that's just been retired - the engine's more powerful and responsive and it even has a voice-activated bluetooth phone system that works.
Taking a quick hop through a popular little stretch of desert I use, I got cold feet as the terrain started to get very bouncy indeed. This was, after all, a brand new car and hadn’t even been run in. As it started to slam in the ruts, I pulled my foot off the throttle and in that instant had that nasty, cold sinking feeling you get when you realise you have done something incredibly stupid. One second later, I was nicely bogged down on the flat with stretches of nice deep, soft and flat sand to my front and back.
Super. Out with the sand spade and down with the tyre pressures. A congregation of the mildly curious started to assemble, including a local guy in mufti driving one of those ginormous black GMC thingies with every add-on you can imagine attached and most of the exhaust removed so that you are under no illusion other than this guy has got a really, big powerful mean machine.
Apparently not powerful enough to offer a tow, though...
A Pajero pulled up. Its driver sauntered over and joined GMC man in observing me. ‘You driven in the sand before, have you?’
Oh great. A comedian. Yes, thank you, I have. A lot. I just did something stupid because it’s a brand new car, so why don’t you pop off somewhere and play with some Semtex and a detonator or something…
I smiled at him, my heart black. ‘Haha. Can you give me a push?’
He and GMC man shook their heads. ‘No way. We’ll get sandy.’
I was struck dumb. I’ve spent twenty years helping people out of the sand and now I need some help, I’ve attracted the most precious gang of Priscillas going. In the end we reached a solution. Pajero man drove and I pushed. At least he gave me that much help. GMC man just stood to the side, smoking and occasionally making an unhelpful comment in Arabic.
Last night I drove across that self same stretch of sand. And there was a huge black GMC covered in accessories, irredeemably bogged down in sand up to its running boards and abandoned.
Karma is, indeed, a bitch.