09-Feb-2003 -- In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, instead of a scattering of 1-2 day public holidays through the year there are two 5-7 day breaks, for the celebrations at the end of Ramaḍān and at the climax of the Ḥajj. Residents thus have the opportunity to make a long trip, either inside or outside the country. Our group of eight chose to visit the western edge of the Empty Quarter, with four of us extending the trip to 10 days with a similarly off-tarmac (although not as sandy) visit to the centre of the country. The 10 day round trip was 1,300 km off road, plus another 1,700 km on tarmac positioning the vehicles. We visited 8 Confluences, four in a square on the western side of the Empty Quarter (20N 46E, 20N 47E, 19N 47E, and 19N 46E), one in the adjacent "triangle" defined by the surrounding tarmac roads (18N 45E), and three in the central plateau region (21N 44E, 22N 43E, and 23N 43E).
The journey from the 19N 47E confluence took us directly west. As we were now a 100 km further south, the dune lines were running a little north of east to a little south of west. This meant that we had to cross many dune lines to keep the westerly bearing. What’s more, we had to cross each line in a zigzag by going north over the dune line and then west again. This is the more difficult direction to cross the dunes as they normally offered us a steep slip-face to impede our progress. However, we were able to find sand ramps that allowed us to ascend these lines and progress at a fair speed considering the obstacles we were overcoming.
Having driven a mere 100 km that day, we finally located the confluence point on the side of an undulation in the valley between two dune lines. Thankfully it was not within a dune line as we would most certainly have had to walk the last portion. Again, our view was horizon-to-horizon sand, interrupted by dune lines.
As it was late afternoon, we headed south-east (the easier direction to tackle these dunes) down a number of slip faces (the highest was measured at 150 feet/45 m) to find ourselves a high dune to snuggle up to in case a sand storm blew up.
Continued at 18N 45E.