23-Jan-2009 -- The colour map of Confluence Arabica is a sea of red, and only few specks of black are visible… and these specks are getting much tougher to get to because of their remote locations. Our challenge was to visit a set of four confluences, 29N 39E, 31N 40E, 31N 39E and 32N 40E, still available in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia during our normal weekend break. It had taken us months of planning to materialize this challenge in a single weekend.
We had left the most difficult Confluence to the end, since it is in the vicinity of the border with Iraq.
After the successful visit to 31N 39E, we retraced our tracks, and climbed the sand wall once again over to the "safe" zone. We then decided to take a shorter route out to the highway, by aiming to reach a cement factory which we could see from miles away. The terrain was good enough to create our tracks.
We found a graded road from the cement factory all the way to the highway. The time was nearly 10 a.m. After refueling at a small station, we followed some tracks heading northeast and drove for nearly 60 km, the tracks amalgamated into just one track and it was heading very near to the Confluence. We drove for another 10 km.
Then the eye of joy struck again!
The track had passed yet another sand wall, and we once again found ourselves being stopped by the border patrol, exactly 10 km from the Confluence. After a lengthy explanation and verification of our drivers' licenses and vehicle papers, we were told to wait for their senior officer to arrive. It was almost 2:30 p.m. when he turned up, bringing two other vehicles with him – which we later found belonged to local Saudis who were looking for truffles (famous in this area) and they were also "caught". The senior officer could not let us go, instead had us escorted all the way back to Ṭurayf some 150 km to the West.
By the time we got to Ṭurayf it was sundown, and we were "interviewed" by a major who spoke quite good English. After being served tea, the major explained that the area we were in was a restricted zone, and that all the borders around Saudi Arabia now have a 20 km restricted zone (no man's land) imposed, and without written authorization from the ministry no one is allowed in these zones. We were asked to sign a document stating that we would not come into the restricted zone around the Saudi borders ever again! They also inspected our vehicles enquiring if we carried weapons! The major was quite impressed by the vehicles and we were just thankful that nothing worse happened.
With some relief, we started driving back home on the great pipeline highway and stopped at several places for rest before we finally got home in Ẓahrān on Saturday morning. It was a weekend full of adventure and excitement.