06-Feb-2003 -- The whole extent of our plan for the weekend was to explore an area we had not been to before. We headed out on the main Riyāḍ - Ṭā'if road and approximately 3 hours later at 25 km west of Ḥilbān decided it was time to get off-road. We topped up with gas and headed up the east side of the rugged Jabal al-Damkha range.
We toured some of the side wādiys to look at the confused geology, and then continued up the sandy plains of Ša`ib Damkh, where we encountered unusual driving conditions for central Saudi Arabia. After heavy rains in the last week in this area, the track was flooded in many places, and we had to divert to the muddy sides. This was quite fun slipping and sliding around the grassy tufts, especially as we managed to avoid getting bogged.
A pretty wādiy with lots of trees and a dyke of different rock high on the ridge sucked us in to explore. As we neared the rocky slopes of the jabal, there were several tombs and tumuli with long tails. Through a twisting rough mountain pass, and then on to the west side we found many Bedouin camps with good grazing for their goats and camels. After lunch with a spectacular jabal view, we continued north on to white quartzite plains to the northern end of the jabal.
It was only then that we decided to head north to the confluence point, not knowing if it had been previously visited. So we travelled across sandy plains, which had also received recent rain and made following tracks rather difficult as they tended to disappear if no one had been on them in the last few days. We meandered around Jabal Duḥaylān and other smaller jabals of metamorphic and granite rock, and in the late afternoon reached the confluence point 24N 44E, which was in the midst of sandy plains, with patches of green grass just starting to appear. It had been a pleasant journey as it was a long way from paved roads through varied desert territory.
To the south 5 km away there was a low ridge, which provided us with a very nice sheltered camping site with sand and trees. The next day we continued northwards through similar changing terrain for 3 hours to 25N 44E, which was in gravel plains and had been previously visited by folks coming from another direction.