Half an hour after the tour company called to say my out-of-town guests and I were being re-routed to "The Tourist Camp" instead of "The Desert Dunes Fantasy Wonderland Resort" I'd paid for, we turned off of the main road and onto a gravel path. The gravel path quickly gave way to a vast expanse of sand dunes.
Rufus revved the engine and guided his rusted out Land Cruiser toward a large dune. "We do dunes now, touristers!" he proclaimed, bobbing his head like a cocky hip-hop star on MTV.
"Oh sweet, this is gonna be like a roller coaster!" the guy riding shotgun yelled.
"Weeee!" we all screamed as we barreled toward the top of the dune, our utter disgust for Rufus giving way to child-like glee.
KA-THUMP! The Land Cruiser lurched to a dead stop.
We looked out the window to see that the bottom half of the front wheels were stuck in the sand. Rufus floored the accelerator, which only succeeded in causing the back wheels to fish-tail and drive the front of the car further into the sand.
"Ok, touristers. You too heavy for car, you get out," he said.
We climbed out and stood at the top of the dune as he tried flooring it a second time. Sand sprayed everywhere and the front bummer of the Land Cruiser disappeared into the sand.
"Ok, you dig, touristers!" he called, rolling down the window and pointing to the back of the SUV. We took shovels out and started to move the sand away from the front wheel. Then the guys got behind the SUV and pushed as Rufus accelerated. After 15 minutes, the old beast was free.
We climbed back in and coasted down the dune and head for the next dune.
"Alright, here we go!" called shotgun guy.
But the same damned thing happened when we got to the top. We all groaned and got out of the vehicle. I called up The Tourist Camp and proceeded to have my second Susie Greene-esque tirade of the day (again, Ms. Greene is NSFW). The Tourist Camp said they were dispatching "Kumar" ex poste-haste.
"Uh, dudes and dudettes, I don't think homeboy here has engaged the 4 wheel drive," shotgun guy said as we watched the wheels spin. How shotgun guy knew this I have no clue, but anyway...
We were digging out the rust bucket when one of the ladies pointed toward the horizon and proclaimed "Look! Help is here!"
In the distance, a white Prado raced towards us, negotiating the dunes as deftly as a gazelle bounds across the African savannah. A man dressed head to toe in khakis hopped out of the car, waving to us as his Yasser Arafat scarf billowed around his neck.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I'm Kumar and I'll take you to The Tourist Camp," he called, motioning for us to get in the Prado.
We dropped the shovels and grabbed our overnight packs without giving Rufus and the rust bucket a second thought.
As we walked toward the Prado, Kumar muttered something under his breath. One of the visitors, who spoke Hindi, did a triple take.
"What did Kumar say?" I asked her.
"He said something like 'How many times have we told them not to send that stupid sisterfucker here'?" she translated, blushing.
"Damn straight, Kumar! Gimme five!" I said, high-fiving him as we walked to the Prado.
Kumar took us to The Tourist Camp, expedited our check-in and then chauffeured us on an extended dune bashing excursion. Kumar of Arabia had some serious dune bashing skills and we had a grand old time.
Things were going good until it came time for dinner. As we sat in a circle on the floor and ate from a communal plate, I saw the color drain from Mr. Adventures' face.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Um, he's baaaaack," Mr. Adventures, said pointing at someone behind me.
I turned around and saw Rufus stumbling toward us, brown-bagged beverage in hand - *WASTED*.
"Hi touristers," he said, plopping down beside us.
As we looked at him in scornful silence, he dug in. Then he stood up, reached across the communal plate and took a can of beer out of one of the ladies' hands.
"You are nice girl, you should no drink. Never!" he said, smiling sweetly.
"Alright, Rufus," I said, snatching the can from him. "Why don't you go back and hang out with the other guides. We're busy."
"No," he laughed. "I like her. I want her not to drink. She is nice lady. I want her marry me."
The poor woman almost choked on her food.
"Rufus, go! Now!" I said through gritted teeth, pointing toward the tent's opening. He got up and scurried over to his
"I can have dinner with you?" he asked, trying to put his arm around her. Food was flying as we tried to keep him from the hapless woman.
One of the guys stood up, put his arm around Rufus and escorted him away.
"Ok, I don't think he'll bother us again," the guy said, returning to the group.
But how wrong we were...Later that night, we were sitting beside a camp fire as a group of men performed traditional Sand Landian music and dances. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Rufus sitting a few meters away screwing around on his mobile phone.
Rather than making a scene, I pretended to ignore him. After a few minutes, when my attention was wholly focused on the performers, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I caught a whiff of stale beer as I turned my head. Rufus was peering down at me.
"I not bother you. I have just question," he said defensively.
"What?" I asked glaring at him.
"Have look at this," he said, handing me his mobile.
As I took it, he asked "Whose feet are these?"
I looked at the screen for a second and recognized my silver nail polish.
"They're my feet," I said, starting to hand the phone back and shooing him away.
"Hey, wait, what the hell are you doing taking pictures of my feet, you creepy-ass freak?!" I screamed, ripping the mobile out of his hand. I deleted the picture of my feet...and the one of his prospective bride's feet...and the one of Mr. Adventures' feet and hurled the mobile phone into the darkness.