Oh dear. I'm in the middle of the desert hinterland surrounding Dubai, with a passenger who wants to get out. A passenger who wants to go home, wants to be absolutely anywhere other than where she is right now. And I'm starting to feel the same. If there was an ejector seat in this Jeep Wrangler then I'd have used it by now. Because it's stressful enough trying to battle your way over sand dunes without a passenger saying, in no uncertain terms, that they wished they'd stayed at home. What was supposed to be a pleasant day out is rapidly plunging into stress overload. The prognosis is not good.
To be fair, I should have explained more explicitly what would be involved. Off-roading, something I've had a fair amount of experience in, in all manner of conditions, is not the most relaxing of activities. It requires a strong stomach for when the going gets tough, not to mention an ability to go hours on end without a toilet break. It's a team exercise and each occupant of the vehicle in question needs to be committed - some would argue in more sense than one.
This is the 15th Dubai Jeep Jamboree and I've been looking forward to it for weeks. On paper, at least, it seemed like a brilliant event, with roughly 200 Jeeps all being driven in an organised, official event that would prove the capabilities of the evergreen American brand. Jeep has kindly given me a new Wrangler for the day and, while it looks nowhere near as tough as some of the modified machinery here, its credentials are beyond question; its relatively skinny tyres are much more suited to traversing sand dunes than the fat, bad-boy rubber the other cars have.
But the event doesn't get off to the best of starts. While the desert is obviously a big old place, having dozens of experienced dune bashers setting out from the same place was always going to be a bit of a shock to the system. Lunatics whizz around us as we take our first tentative steps into the unknown and the inevitable happened: loads of vehicles immediately go off-piste, marshals get cross, drivers end up stuck in the soft dusty stuff and have to resort to shovelling their way free, just seconds into proceedings. We are on the verge of being crashed into by other Jeeps more times than I care to remember.
Still, I try to reason, once the event gets under way properly, the tight packs of cars will thin out and things will become easier as the serial nutjobs storm off in a cloud of sand. It's the same with any event where so many vehicles are involved and, sure enough, it does get easier. Because we do the decent thing and get lost.
Jamboree means "celebration", and this really is quite an accurate description of today's event. It's a celebration of the diversity of Jeep as a brand, the enthusiasm of Jeep owners throughout the region and the desert enclaves that provide the fun. For this is the natural habitat of these vehicles - doing rough stuff is what they were built for. So my lack of preparation is nobody's fault but my own and I'm determined to crack on and turn things around. We will have fun, and that's the end of it.
As much as anything else, today is about me trying out the newest Wrangler. I admit that my experiences so far with Jeep have been limited to my father's old Grand Cherokee back in the UK. It drank fuel at an alarming rate and broke down more often than Halle Berry in an Oscar acceptance speech, so this is a chance to see if things have improved. And indeed, they have. For while the Wrangler is overtly utilitarian, it's been a thoroughly pleasant thing to drive so far and, more importantly, has shown itself to be a Land Rover's equal when it comes to the business of crossing terrain that would have most "off-roaders" throwing in the towel. I rather like it and I find myself thinking that, if I could just get my accomplice to enjoy herself, I could quite happily own one of these, albeit with a few macho modifications.