x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The longest journey begins with one step - preparation

Fatigue and boredom need to be contended with before embarking on an epic drive.

Long road trips can form epic memories in terms of their adventurousness as well as boredom.

While North Americans and Australians may snigger at a journey of a few hours being termed "long", and Europeans may expect to at least pass through several countries before the drive can be referred to in those terms, I guarantee you no one on this planet will drive from the UAE to Salalah and not place it in the memory bank of "very long drives I have done".

The road to Salalah is in poor condition, and even when it was new it was built with no hard shoulder, which means that if your tyre strays slightly off the worn tarmac, it pulls the vehicle sharply to the rough edges, which are slanted down and away from the road - very nasty. Add to that the fact that it is not a divided motorway, and overtaking occurs into the oncoming lane; and factor in the flatness of the view, the remoteness and the soaring daytime temperatures, and you have one of the most dangerous roads in the Middle East.

Preparation is key to try and maximise the positives and minimise the negatives of such a long drive.

First, getting a good night's sleep and enough rest before even starting out is crucial for a drive that will keep the driver(s) concentrating on nothing more than a strip of empty tarmac for hours on end, shattered suddenly by large speeding SUVs appearing out of nowhere and flying past, and the occasional shudder of displaced air from an oncoming truck.

In opposing fashion, it is good if passengers, especially children, are kept up late the night before, so that they may sleep for part of the drive and not bounce around with pent-up energy.

Comfort is paramount. We take pillows from home, blankets, little stuffed toys … we look like Toys 'R' Us is moving.

Fatigue is the enemy. If possible, taking turns at the wheel is ideal. If not, the sole driver must stop whenever necessary to freshen up or even take a nap.

Entertainment helps. Favourite games, quizzes, audio-books, or just plain music can help tremendously to while away the hours.

A mechanically sound vehicle is required. Especially those of us who drive older cars, the extra stress of continuous motorway can take a quick toll on drivebelts and other such consumable items - if in doubt, replace early. Particularly for the UAE-Salalah drive, with its rough, cracky tarmac, high temperatures and speeds, the condition of your tyres is very important.

And lastly, knowing the way ahead of time avoids unnecessary delays in reaching destination - download The National GPS track, stock up with plenty of water, and have a good journey!