24-Oct-2006 -- After the disappointment of 16N 52E, I was determined to have more success the following day. But it wasn't an auspicious start: I woke up late, and got very lost trying to leave al-Ġayḍa whilst digesting my delicious breakfast of fūl and khubz. So the planned 5:30 a.m. 'first light' start turned into a 9:30 a.m. mid-morning start by the time I'd got onto the open road. This would have serious consequences later on at 18N 51E.
On the way back into the interior, there were dramatic views of the typically Mahran dark brooding hills and the asphalt took me to around 16 km from the point. Google Earth (c) showed that the area consisted of a flattish 'plateau', scarred by deep wādiys running in the direction of the Confluence. 17N 52E itself appeared to be sited on or near the edge of one of these depressions, so the big decision regarded whether to drive along the wādiy or along the plateau. The wrong choice would result in a steep climb to get to and from the target.
I went for the plateau option, mostly because it would be an easier surface to drive on than the soft sand of the wādiy. It was still a roughish ride, but I made good time, taking care to drive around the wādiy edges and not to launch the Landy off a cliff. But at 400 m from the Confluence, I thought I'd got it horribly wrong: I pulled up at the wādiy edge, and it looked like the point was down below. It would not be much fun at all to go down and get back up again safely. It was frustrating to think that I might fail for the sake of a few hundred metres.
I drove tentatively round the wādiy edge, hoping that I might get lucky and the distance drop below 100 m, so that I could still write up a successful visit. However, I got luckier than that, and I soon realised that I'd judged the distance wrongly: the point actually lay on the same plateau that I was on, about 70 metres from the edge on the other side of the wādiy! The dark scar of this deep depression can be seen in the view to the West; I took another picture standing on the plateau edge. The views to the North, East, and South are just of flat, featureless fine-gravel and sand desert. There were no habitations in sight, although a few tracks criss-crossed the plateau. These possibly belonged to smugglers avoiding the main routes into Oman.
As is almost always the case, the journey back was much quicker and more direct. On the way, I passed three or four camels grazing in the sands. After one of them obligingly posed for pictures, I returned to the asphalt and continued in the direction of Makīnat Šiḥan on the Omani border. From there, I would turn back into the Mahran desert for an attempt on 18N 52E.
Note: For more information about the involvement of the British Embassy Ṣan`ā' in the DCP, or confluence hunting in Yemen in general, please see my visit to 15N 49E.