06-Apr-2004 -- The Easter break gave us an opportunity to do a last long trek of the camping season before the desert summer set in. The trek was a combined affair for the first three days and then the party split up into two different trips. The initial stage took us 1000 km from Riyāḍ through north Burayda, into the volcanic fields southeast of Ḥā'il, to Ḥā'il itself, and into the granite mountains northwest of Ḥā'il. The second stage that I was a party to, took us 1700 km northeast of Ḥā'il, north into the frontier region, southeast along the Dahnā' sand dunes, and then home to Riyāḍ. During this trip, our party managed to bag seven new confluence points – 27N 44E, 27N 41E, 28N 42E, 28N 43E, 29N 43E, 29N 44E, 28N 44E.
From the rushed 29N 43E confluence point, we hurriedly searched the nearby dune line for a sheltered campsite. Fortunately, we found a delightfully firm basin populated with long spindly flowers that were about knee high. They provided a great compliment to the beautiful Arabian sunset.
After an uncharacteristically cold night, we started off early as we were running behind schedule and still had a lot of travelling to do. Twenty minutes from camp we came upon two Saudi lads who waved us down. It seemed that their vehicle had broken down the day before and they had walked to the track in the hope that a vehicle would pass by. We located the pick-up truck a few kilometres away and discovered that their jack had broken and they were unable to change their burst tyre. They also had another flat tyre and two tyres that were partially deflated. We lent them a jack and inflated all their tyres, which seemed to hold the air. The lads were very grateful and were supremely confident that they would reach their destination. Their predicament did not seem to worry them unduly.
We followed the track through the sand and crossed the Darb Zubayda once again before reaching a pre-planned petrol stop at which we gratefully filled our tanks. It is always very satisfying having full fuel tanks when we do not know when the next fuel stop will be. The tar road that passed the petrol station took us to a small town at which we were able to replace the shredded tyre from the previous day's misfortune.
During the preparation for the trek we had noticed from the NASA images that we had very hilly terrain to negotiate in order to reach the confluence point. So we had plotted a twenty-kilometre route along various wādiys (valleys). The image was right about the hills and the prepared route was a great help in getting close to our destination.
The final few kilometres saw us travelling on a series of ever-fainter tracks through the hills, often encountering small areas of grassy meadow surrounded by rocks. The actual confluence point was on the edge of one of these meadows in a bland rocky landscape.
Continued at 28N 44E.