13-Aug-2004 -- We'd passed this way before! Last year on a 3-day trip out of Luxor, we had toyed with the idea of the 26N 28E confluence - but time was short and distances long. This year, though, it looked more of a goer! Firstly, we didn't have the rather odd Aussie we had travelling with us last year, and secondly, we had the help and support and 2 of our close friends.
We had started from Cairo on Wednesday, 11th of August via Baḥariyya where we picked up the 4x4 and spent the first night in the White Desert - what a wonderful place! We hadn't gone far on the 12th before we had an hour of digging to free up the 4x4. Through Farāfira and on to the Sea of Sands for our second night. It was dark when we finally found a spot to sleep. I could have happily died after seeing the sky that night.
We awoke to a stunning vista of huge dunes running N-S into the distance. Now back on the road, I watched as the K's came down on the GPSr. Heart in mouth, I shouted, "STOP!" as we approached the closest point on the road, "Eh, Gabrail (our guide), how do you fancy a trip over there about 3 km to find this, em, eh, imaginary cross on the ground?" Gabrail just said, "Salim (our driver), turn off here! Mr Alan, tell him which way to go!" Hey, that easy...
Easy till now. The surface of the ground was a thin skin of gypsum covering soft sand. After pushing the vehicle for the 6th time in 300 m, we gave up. Too much weight. The girls would ride (I may have had this the wrong way round). Gabrail, Richard, and I would walk the 3 km. The 4x4 shot off into the distance. I kind of expected that they would go ½ km, then wait, give us some water, and then go on.
They disappeared. They also had the GPSr, another bright idea! Anyway, we trudged on following the 4x4 tracks and rather ominously another set of tracks going the same way. Why were they there, had we been piped in the last few days? We climbed out of the wādiy we had been in, hoping for a sight of the girls. Finally we caught sight of them way off in the distance and out of the vehicle. Had they found it, or perhaps they couldn't get to it? There was the ominous scarp slope behind them.
They got back into the 4x4 and were coming back for us, why? We met them half way and after some water Kathy gave me the GPSr. They had had trouble getting our driver to go where they wanted him to! I looked at the receiver: 92 m. They had over shot and we were almost on it. Were we the first? Certainly there were vehicle tracks and footprints around, though not a lot. But most importantly, there were none near the point...
Wow, elation and no small amount of relief, I can tell you. As for the 26N 28E degree confluence: It is 3 km from tarmac, and in the bed of a small wādiy, mostly sand with a bit of gravel and lots of small fossil corals. There is the ever-present cliff to the north. To the east, the slope of the wādiy is close and masks almost everything; to the south the wādiy curves to the right and opens out. Finally in the west, the wādiy side is lower and more open.
Well, that was that - almost! Just 3 final items:
1. Near the degree confluence was a pair of human and camel tracks heading southeast. Our guide said this area was a common place to replen camel treks by vehicle. Why didn't he tell us that from the beginning, it would have saved a lot of worry?
2. We took a different route back to the road, much firmer and no pushing.
3. Finally we had a little trouble getting back on to the road. Last year they were relaying the tarmac. Looking for an easy lip to cross, Gabrail walked into a sand-covered tar pit! One foot completely covered in liquid tar, he lost his flip-flop. We now call this Flip-Flop Corner. Waste not want not, he tried to rescue it 3 days later when we passed on the way back north!