22-May-2004 -- I had to go scout some potential work around the al-`Alamayn area over the weekend. I thought this would take me to within about 50 km of the 31N 28E confluence. I have passed this point 4 times in the last couple of months just 8 km away travelling on the main Alexandria - Maṭrūḥ coast road but never had the time to try for it. Being in the western desert you have to be wary of mines and really only roads or well used tracks should be trusted meaning any attempt may end up incomplete. However there was evident agriculture activity near the coast road so perhaps there was a chance. There is also a road that passes within about 3.5 km to the east of the point and one that passes 4.5 km south of the point so very tempting.
I estimated I would need 12 hours just to see what I needed to do, so an attempt would make it a very long day if I went for it. Big Jim bagging two in Thailand settled it, so I was up at 4:30, packed the thermos and sandwiches and slipped out of Ma`ādiy with the aid of headlights. By the time I climbed up on the bridge over the Nile it was light enough to see the pyramids. Things went well and five hours later I was heading west along the oilfield road that parrels the main coast road. It was the first time I had driven this road and I was interested to see if I could discern any battle scars from the great battle that took place at al-`Alamayn 62 years ago. This road runs right through the battlefield, but I saw nothing that could be attributed to the battle. However there are still many unseen dangers in the form of mines and it was noticeable there were no tracks other that those for quarry operations leading off the road for 15 km either side of the main minefields. The vegetation was a bit greener indicating even the camels tend not to wander there.
As I drove west, Bedouin camps and then small villages began to appear, increasing hope that I would find tracks into the Confluence. It was a pretty desolate drive with only one sad grove of figs failing to take root this far south of the main road. Figs are the dominant crop all along the coast. Once near the point, I tried to approach from the south up quarry tracks, but they thinned out short of the point. Access from the east proved the best, a nice fresh fig grove was opposite a promising turnoff, leading to another fig grove and then more houses and farms. After a bit of weaving around the tracks and fields - or at least ploughed bits of land, I crossed what I thought was a pipeline and I was past it. A quick u-turn in a ploughed patch, and I was back on the pipeline track and the Confluence was smack on it about 50 m south of the intersection. The Garmin must be learning because all I had to do was pull up, walk round the back, and bingo, all zeros.
I stopped by the German war memorial on the way back and confused the tourist police. Having snuck in along the oilfield road, they had only spotted me coming from Maṭrūḥ. We knew from our Sīwa trip they like to keep tabs on the movements of visitors, and there was a flurry of radio chatter as I drove the tourist police up to the monument. Eventually, they accepted I was from Ma`ādiy and not a hotel in Maṭrūḥ and there was no problem. As with the Commonwealth cemetery, the German monument is an impressive if sombre reminder of the cost of war. It was then back to Cairo arriving, tired some 14 hours after departure, but the Cairo traffic was surprisingly kind. All in all a good trip, did what I need to and bagged another Confluence.