16-Jan-2004 -- The plan for the weekend was to do a long trip exploring an area that we had not seen before, and aiming for the confluence point as the most western point. Thursday the 15th January was a very nice Saudi winter’s day – blue clear skies, no wind and the temperature in the low 20°C’s.
We started down the Makka expressway and at Ruwayḍa, headed off to al-Ša`rā'. After lunch we turned SW on to the al-Dawādamiy/`Afīf road. For variety, we intended to leave the paved road near Kabšān rather than follow it for another hour to near the Confluence. What we had not expected was such spectacular, small granite rock sculptures of all shapes and sizes. This was a great playground with sand and many trees at the base of the rocks where the water ran. There were numerous local Saudi having picnics and enjoying such a beautiful day. After some time winding our way through the area, we headed N/NE on sandy plains between the bigger jabals.
This was a good area for seeing birds - big steppe eagles and griffon vultures perched on rocks or scavenged on dead goats, lumbering off as we approached, and then soared majestically above us. There were also many smaller birds like white crowned blackwheatears, and brown necked ravens. The recent rains had washed out tracks on the plains and small sand dunes, but we managed to get through without deflating the tires. On the top of the dunes there was spectacular scenery again - the golden sands in the foreground and the huge granite Jabal Turkfa glistening in the afternoon sun. We stopped early and found a great camping spot tucked in at the base of the smooth granite with lots of trees. The night was clear and cool, but with our hot fire and warm bedu coats, we were very content and the stars were brilliant.
On the Friday morning we had 25 km NW to the confluence point. After leaving the granite jabal we came onto wide sandy plains with lots of tussock type grass. Like the previous afternoon, there were many bedu camps and some small permanent settlements, which meant there was good water and pasture for the camels and goats. The camels looked very healthy, and there were many very young baby camels.
The main tracks headed west to a small village on the paved road where we refuelled. It was only a short distance across the plains to the confluence point 25N 43E. The photos do not really do this area justice – the huge granite jabals in all directions are just so spectacular. We went back E/SE on minor tracks to the northern tip of Jabal Turkfa where we found an unusual geological formation. Beside the smooth granite jabal, there was black volcanic protrusion and orange cinder ash in the valley. It would have been a good camping spot with golden sand and lots of trees against a stunning background of red granite and black basalt.
We left the jabal and traveled eastwards to al-Qarāra, and then SE on tracks through more granite jabals, changing to sandy plains and metamorphic rock. After lunch, we joined the paved road at 2.00 pm near al-Shuarqima and with a few breaks, we reached Riyāḍ at 6.30 pm.