15-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).
Our final night away was the only breezy night of the trip, and the wind was not strong enough to be a real inconvenience. In the morning we left the last of the black hills gift-wrapped in stone walls (see 21N 44E) and looked for a gap in the strips of sand dune blocking us from the Confluence. Although we had crossed hundreds of kilometres of sand in the Empty Quarter we wanted to avoid these dunes as they were particularly broken up. A short sample foray convinced us that they would take a lot of effort to traverse, and, more importantly, as our margin of fuel was lower than we wanted, that it was wise to stick to the most fuel saving route (i.e. no churning through sand).
Our detailed maps and some main tracks, albeit hard to follow over a few narrow necks of sand, came to our aid, and we arrived at the Confluence very soon after decisively leaving the dunes. It was within sight of a village, and shortly after we arrived a water tanker populated with waving children zoomed past. Two more visitors arrived in quick succession. As always on these occasions we regretted that our knowledge of Arabic was so limited, but we did establish that there was petrol available in the village, and (probably!) that we were not surveying for a tarmac road, and that despite our desert boots we were not from the military.
After taking pictures at the Confluence we made our way to the village, to our surprise catching up with the water tanker in a hollow by a well, taking up water using a generator/pump.
Continued at 23N 43E.