Here we are following our friend's car further into the desert near the Fossil Valley in Oman.
I was game for hiking the mountain in the distance (above) to see the "Hanging Gardens," which are famous for growing downward.
M did a superb job driving over the sand in our Toyota minivan. It was the only non-AWD vehicle in the group. (Someone called our car a "saloon car.")
An Omani man - you can see him if you enlarge the picture above - waved hello as he ran after his camels, herding them like a shepherd. A true desert experience. I practically swooned.
But the firm sand turned soft. Then it turned rocky. Then very rocky.
"I can't take this any more - we have to stop," I announced.
My imagination had us either bottoming-out on the sharp, grape-fruit-sized rocks or getting a tire puncture and being stranded in the desert.
"We can't - there are cars following us," M replied coolly.
I was tense. I am a worrier. World class. (My nickname in high school was "Atlas" for a reason.)
As M continued over the ever-larger rocks, I began to think of winters in New Hampshire, when we'd drive over icy mountain roads on our way to cut down a Christmas tree. (I'd clutch the arm rests, envisioning our car sliding off the road into a snowy embankment and our frozen bodies found weeks later.)
Then a surprising thing happened: our neighbor's car, the best car in the group, got a razor-like gash in the side of the rear tire! It was replaced with an excellent spare, which was flat (!). But the spare was quickly pumped up by our amazing friend and guide.
When the repair was finished, we decided to skip the hike and call it a day. By then we'd been out in the sun for hours. We felt lucky our humble minivan hadn't had any trouble thus far. Some of the others did the hike and said it was difficult, because of the steepness, but that it was great fun.