Quad Biking – The Accident

8/24/09

Day 52 Afternoon

Since I was already covered in sand from a morning of screaming down enormous sand hills on a flimsy piece of particle board, why not have more fun in the sand.  Myself and 10 others from the truck head for an afternoon of quad biking (also known as an ATV or four wheeler) in the rolling sand dunes with Desert Explorers.

My ride of choice is a Honda 250 cc Quad full of power and oomph. We set out single file following a guide into the rolling Namibian desert hills; picture the Sahara only bigger dunes.  It starts out slow for everyone to get comfortable with their bike and quickly progresses to an all out pace. Some of these dunes are huge soaring from base to peak an easy 400 feet or more with flat valleys of sand in-between.  The desert in Nambia is home to the largest/highest dunes in the world some peaking as high as 900 ft.

The weather is brisk with a cloudless blue sky and with my sense of adventure I quickly start fishtailing the bike in the sand as the top inch is loose above a hard packed base.  This bike has some power and with only a minor increase on the throttle can make the rear of my bike swerve back and forth in the sand throwing up a dust cloud of sand as I quickly shift up to accelerate.  As we approach the first dunes I quickly discover if I’m not going top speed in the flat valleys there is not enough power to reach the peak due to the altitude increase combined with the loose sand bogging down the engine to a crawl.   So, quickly I pick up when I’m in the flat’s to floor it to top speed and once I hit the base of the dune start down shifting to keep moment in an arched bank as if riding a bike around a corner on a professional banked race track.  I’m having the time of my life and with a few more runs like this push it faster and faster.  I’ve just come off a dune I quickly accelerated shifting through five gears to reach speeds easily exceeding 70 or 80 mph, my jacket flapping in the wind, grains of sand pebble me as I leave a sand cloud in my wake.  Reaching the base of a large dune I downshift as fast as I can maintaining as much speed as possible and just before reaching the peak swerve the bike while excelerating creating a skid as if skidding a car on ice, throwing up a roster tail of sand.  Similarly as a car on ice I steer the bike into the skid while leaning my weight outward away from the skid to assist in control. Once the bike comes out of the skid I shift up accelerating down the dune reaching ever higher speeds racing toward the next dune to repeat the same thing.

Example of what I was doing

Example of what I was doing

For an hour an fifty minutes I repeat this pattern over and over gradually building my confidence slowing loosing awareness of how dangerous it can be.  I feel invincible and boy is this fun.  I come off a dune following one of my truck mates as fast as I can.  I’m in the valley and straight ahead is a dune half the size of the dunes I’ve been repeating this stunt.  Hitting the base the bike barely decelerates and I only have to downshift twice. As I quickly peek due to the faster speed I skid the rear wheels to the left, steer into the skid, and lean hard to the right hanging off the bike with one hand. In the blink of an eye the bike flips over sideways to the left as I instinctively let go tucking and slam into the ground bouncing at least twice and rolling down the side of the dune a dozen or more times as the bike bounces and flips, three times I’m told, landing a few feet away from where I’ve come to rest.

Injured and waiting for help

Injured and waiting for help

Fortunately I’ve come to a stop laying flat on my back.  I’ve had the wind knocked out of me and I can’t get a breath.  My truck mates are quickly at my side asking if I’m ok as I gasp for air unable to initially respond I hear some of them commenting on how epic the wipe out was.  I wish someone had a video to show off the carnage.

Next to come, desert rescue and hospital treatment.

Pictures are now online for Uganda.  Videos will be coming later after I’ve completed the blog and pictures.

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