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).
After nearly failing to conquer the 22N 43E confluence point because we were worried about how much fuel we had used churning through sand on this leg of the journey, we were happy to discover that the nearby village sold fuel. On route to the village, we stopped to watch a water tanker arrive at a well to collect water for the camels grazing in the vast valley. The method was to lower the Honda petrol pump down the well until its short intake pipe was submerged in the water. It then pumped the water up the long exit pipe into the tanker. This seemed a lot of work when the pipes could easily be swapped around to avoid having to lower the whole pump into the well. Ah well, they seemed to know what they were doing.
We were warned by the locals that travelling north was not a good idea as there was much sand in that direction. Their alternative added at least 200 km to our journey, so we stuck to our original plan. We did indeed encounter sand, which was the continuation of the dunes that nearly thwarted our previous confluence conquest. We skirted the main dunes and after a windy lunch stop, we recorded our 32nd degree confluence visit. Sad, really.
The actual confluence point was on a sandy plain through which an occasional small granite hill protruded. This was another unremarkable site.