31-Jan-2004 -- Once again, we used the Ḥajj religious holiday to explore new areas within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our journey was divided into two separate sojourns because some people could only make it for the beginning of Ḥajj, some only at the end of Ḥajj, while others could complete both portions.
Of interest to us during the first part of the journey, was the "un-bagged" 22N 49E confluence and the "attempted" 22N 48E confluence. This took us west of Riyāḍ for 300 km to Ḥaraḍ, and then south for 80 km to Yabrīn, where the tar road ended. We then, continued off-road for a further 450 km before reaching the main road at Layla (300 km south of Riyāḍ).
We had already visited the 22N 49E confluence point, but missed being the first there, by a day. So we now headed for the 22N 48E confluence point. This Confluence had been attempted more than a year previously. Those explorers tackled the sand dunes from the west, but had been thwarted by dune lines of slip faces. Our plan was to go with the flow of the dunes, and come from the east.
Our route took us due west out of the initial sandy area, and then across a great expanse of small stony hills with the occasional patch of sand. We searched for, and found, a well that was marked on the map. However, rather than being an ancient stone dressed well, this was a modern bore hole (complete with accompanying modern day debris). Our lunch stop on top of a small breezy plateau saw the final demise of one of the vehicle's roof racks. The roof rack had looked less than sturdy from the start, and the rough terrain only exacerbated matters. While the roof rack was being offloaded for its final ejection, the second spare tyre was dropped. It bounced wickedly a few times and then landed right on top of someone's table, crushing it completely. The table owner was not amused, but had to laugh when the rest of the party could no longer contain their hilarity.
We pressed on after lunch, some vehicles lighter. We expected difficult sand before the Confluence and then very difficult dune lines after it. We were pleasantly surprised that the sand did not present too much of a challenge to us. It was pretty similar to the previous Confluence, where there were irregular sand dunes with occasional patches of small, flat, gravel plains. Again we tried to follow the gravel as much as possible and dealt with the dunes as best as we could. The gravel petered out, and the sand became more of a challenge, presenting us with some formidable slip faces and treacherous sand bowls. We finally arrived at the Confluence and as Robbie Burns day had just passed, a member of our party with a dubious heritage piped us to the actual point.
Continued at 19N 44E.