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Don't play with the sand.

Close to a colossal disaster.

Friday 10th February 2023

After stopping by Trujillo for a bit in the morning, we jumped into our vehicles for the last three-and-a-half-hour drive to our first migratory hotspot, Donana Natural Park.

Our partners Wetland Link International by WWT have put us in touch with someone from one of the local visitor centres, and we’re meant to meet them over the weekend. We arrived quite early at El Rocio, the original far-west, with people on horseback everywhere and buildings reminding us of the western movies. Here we found the visitor centre, Centro Francisco Bernis and managed to have an initial discussion with our contact. Exciting times are ahead!

Click on the video above to see where we are.

We decided to go to a location closer to the sea, a 20 minutes drive, to camp for the night. Axel went first, as Ario took the manager to his flat. He went all the way down, to find a small parking place, it was dark and there was already a van there but he wanted to be on his own without people around the day after. On the side, there was a road, and by looking at Google Maps it seemed it would take to a temporarily closed restaurant near the beach. Of course, Axel decided to give it a try.

The road was really sandy but quite compact. There was a bigger area off the path where we could camp, with a small slope to reach it. Axel went down (mistake number 1), and as soon as he reached the area, it was deep sand, super soft, and Daphne got stuck straight away as he gave gas in low-range gear (mistake number 2). Axel kept hitting the gas pedal to find himself digging his own grave (mistake number 3). OK, it was time to deflate the tyres as they say in YouTube videos, how much? 30 psi (mistake 4). He kept trying to go out without any luck until he left the car to take a breath and look for alternatives when he saw a slightly less steep slope, brilliant! Axel called Ario on the radio, telling him if he could come down to help him. Axel turned his head to see a pair of eyes moving fast around the bushes, he then sprinted to the car and locked himself in. "Ario, STOP walking towards me as there is a guard dog, go back to the car!" he radioed. In a moment of panic, Axel reversed, got himself out of that sand hole somehow, drove up that smaller slope full speed and back to the car park where Ario was waiting. That was close. Lessons learnt, and Googled afterwards how to avoid it.

  • Evaluate the situation without going with the vehicle if unsure

  • Sand driving, 4x4 but no low-range gear.

  • The more you make the wheels spin, the more you dig yourself in

  • Deflate the tyres at 15 psi

  • We need to get into our running training as he was lucky the dog wasn’t interested in him, if it was a Hyena, he would have been a super easy dinner.

Here is a quick moment of me deflating the tyres (not enough though) before seeing the eyes of the dog reflecting from my headlamp.

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