05-Dec-2004 -- After our successful conquest of 30N 27E we continued driving along the bottom edge of the Qaṭṭāra scarp driving about 60 km in total along this track. It was one of the nicest drives I have done in Egypt with the spectacular scarp on one side and the ominous sabkha on the other, which we had to cross in places, and lots of green copses of date palms. We were on a tight schedule and did not have time to stop and enjoy, but there were some delightful looking campsites that would oblige a longer stay.
We then came to the oilfield track that took us back across the sabkha. We had some scouting to do that would take us very close to 30N 28E. Just as we were about finished, we unexpectedly came across a strip of sabkha. Instead of driving 10 minutes around it, I though I would cut across it, it looked hard and we had crossed similar patches earlier. Big Mistake! I got half way across and down I went. The second vehicle stayed back but it was too far to either bank to safely tow from. So it was dig and get the sand maps out. Four hours later, at about 4:30 p.m., and lots of digging we had made 60 m. Every time we got it out we would break through and we would have to start again. We had unloaded the vehicle to lighten it and we then had to carry everything to the nearest safe spot with a decent size bush to shelter us from the wind. This took an hour and we just managed to set up camp before dark. We were all very tired after a hard afternoon's digging, and after a quick meal we collapsed into out beds for a very welcome sleep.
We were up at the crack of dawn, Steve and Emad setting off in the second vehicle to scrounge wood or anything else to help recover the Toyota. Tony and myself set about digging the truck out for the seventh time. Steve and Emad were successful and came back with some wood and old pallets. They also had borrowed a very long rope, so long the second Toyota could not pull it without the stuck Toyota attached, so we gave up on that and carried on digging. Twice more we got it out to have it crash back in again often into a gooey mush, the top of which would wobble like jelly when stood on.
Then with both front wheels up to their axles but the rear wheels on hard ground we set the boards, stuffed branches under the front tires and climbed the front out gingerly in low 4x4. We then filled in the holes left by the front wheels, bridged it with wood, laid the remaining wood out front, gunned it in high 4x4, pushed like mad and although it depressingly dropped when coming off the wood, we ploughed on and we were out with three tired puppies left groveling on their knees with the push effort, but delighted with the success. It was 22 hours after I went in, with 7 hours digging, to save a ten minute drive around – did I feel silly!
Then it was back up to the camp, pack up, quick brew and hit the road. We had a long way to Cairo, but it was only a short distance off the track we were to take, to get the Confluence. The sat imagery showed sand dunes for the last couple of hundred meters and we approached with trepidation – we did want any more digging! It turned out to be low flat sandy areas as opposed to dunes, the type of terrain we were dreaming about a few hours ago. Not much to say about the point as it was in a low point surrounded by gently rolling sand and nothing of interest to see. However the elevation did read -47 m, lower than expected but well above 30N 27E. We turned for home, and despite a last minute scare with Emad needing a quick push, we were back on the track and on our way home through Abū Ġarādiq. We made 6th-October-City just before dark fell and then home for a well earned bath.