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Ben heads off on a
Ben heads off on a "humdinger" tour.
The Arizona "forest": not a tree in sight.
Learn about desert plants and wildlife.

Hummer Tour

Thursday, August 31, 2000
Looking for adventure? Hit the sands of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona with Ben, in his very own Hummer.

The Hummer was designed in 1979 for the United States army as a high-mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV, pronounced Humvee). In 1982 the manufacturer delivered 11 vehicles to the government, and a year later they received a contract for 55,000 vehicles. In 1989, another 33,331.

In 1990 the first designs for a civilian hummer were started, and the first one came off the line in 1992. Now there are seven civilian models available worldwide. They were used in the Gulf War, but are also used in mining, fire fighting and rescue, construction and oil and gas exploration.

A Hummer is two metres wide and can ford water 76cm deep. They can be carried two at a time by helicopter and can be parachuted two at a time from the back of a cargo plane. A new one costs about $170,000, and once you start adding the extras, it is easy to get up to $841,000.

In 1995 Jesse Wade started Desert Storm Hummer Tours, the first in America, and chose Hummers because he thought they were the best way to show off the beautiful desert. He started with four and now has six, and between the high season (from October to June) he takes them out every day of the week.

The tours normally start at Jesse's office in Scottsdale, though he will do hotel pick-ups for groups. After 35 minutes of driving along tarmac you reach the Sonoran Desert, which covers 20 percent of the state of Arizona. Then you travel at about 16km/h for another half an hour, and another half-hour climb up an old gold mining trail will have you two-thirds of the way up the 1830-metre mountain. Once there, your guide will tell you about the flora and fauna and the history of the area.

In the early 1900s, part of the Sonoran Desert was accidentally registered as a designated forest area and named Tonto National Forest. Those huge plants out there are definitely not trees but cacti, the real desert plants.

The saguaro stands 11 metres tall when mature, and needs to be between 75-100 years old and four to six metres tall before it grows "arms". It is recognised as the symbol of the west, and its blossom is the Arizona state flower.

Another intriguing plant to look at — but on no account touch — is the Teddy Bear Cholla. It stands about 1.5 metres tall with a dark brown base and bright yellow/green top. It's beautiful to look at but its barbed needles cause more injuries in the desert than any wildlife.

The state tree is the Little Leaf Palo Verde, and an octillo looks like a group of long, thorny sticks shooting out of the ground for about three metres. It is not related to any other known plant.

The desert is home to rattlesnakes, and the Sonoran has four species. While they won't kill you, their bite will make you feel awfully sick. America's largest lizard, the gila monster, also lives in the desert, as well as the turkey vulture. You might also be lucky enough to see a Harris's hawk nest. Unique to this part of the world, they hunt in packs and usually have three-parent families — two males and one female. The desert is also home to javalinas (which are similar to pigs), mule deer, coyotes, mountain lions and bob cats.

Location

Arizona's Sonoran Desert in the west of the United States.

Cost

Desert Storm Hummer Tours run from Scottsdale into the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. A four-hour tour starts at around $170 per person, including a desert guide. They operate year round.
Qantas flies daily to Los Angeles with American Airlines connections to Phoenix, Arizona. Return economy airfares start at $2010 from the east coast, $2330 from Adelaide and $2810 from Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Desert Storm Hummer Tours
0011 1 480 922 0020
Web: www.dshummer.com
Web: www.scottsdalecvb.com
Web: www.arizonaguide.com

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