29-Nov-2002 -- Our first attempt to reach 23N 53E ended in failure because we were stopped at an army checkpoint. For the second attempt, we organised four vehicles. Phil Chicot had helped organise the UAE Desert Challenge Rally a few weeks previously, and we saw from his maps that the Rally had passed close to the Confluence, and this confirmed that the best approach was from the north.
Our first day took us along the tarred roads, south and west of Abū Ẓaby, down to the Liwā Oasis, where we then headed 50 km NW along a very good track. After that we joined the rally route and set off south across rolling dunes, finally setting up camp for the night. We were sufficiently far from civilisation that there was no chance of being disturbed by quad bikers as on our previous attempt!
Overnight the temperature dropped to about 9°C, and we woke up in a sea of fog. (Picture 2: The campsite, and Picture 3: The dunes above the fog). The journey to the Confluence was straightforward, avoiding large dunes and following the rally route to within three kilometres across the superb rolling countryside (Picture 4) The Confluence is on the dip face of one of the dunes and looking north you can see one of the larger dune faces (Picture 1 with child for scale). From higher up you get a good idea of the surrounding area. The view to the east (Picture 5) shows the vehicles at the Confluence.
Rather than retracing our route, we decided to continue east, heading directly towards Liwā. Looking at our route, I announced that the next 40 km would easily be achieved within an hour. Unfortunately, the dunes became closer and closer together, until the topography resembled an egg box (Picture 6). The final 20 km took us about 5 hours to navigate. We gave up on this route, and headed south to where we hoped we would find the track, which runs alongside the fence marking the border between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. As darkness fell we followed it to the army post, where we had been stopped two weeks before. The difference this time was that we were on the inside wanting out! After a few minutes discussion (thanks Rafīq) we were allowed through, and started the long journey back on the road to Abū Ẓaby.