26-Oct-2006 -- It had been an interesting week travelling around al-Mahra and Ḥaḍramawt in search of confluence points, with five successes and one incomplete in the bag. The last visit (to 17N 50E) involved negotiating with armed Bedu tribesmen. I was hoping that this, the final visit of the trip, would be more sedate.
Today's task had a revenge element. In May, during the visit to Yemen of my friend Polly, we had attempted to reach this point, but without success. There was now a chance to redress the balance. It lies down Wādiy Haynin, a prominent branch wādiy off of the main Wādiy Ḥaḍramawt. The DCP currently lists it as being in the desert Governorate of Šabwa, but since the Governorate restructuring of January 2004, this Confluence has been placed back firmly where it belongs - Ḥaḍramawt, my favourite region in Yemen.
I left the hotel at 9:00 a.m. and the drive from Say'ūn to the town of Haynin (which stands at the entrance to Wādiy Haynin) took about 90 minutes. From Haynin it is obvious where to enter the broad wādiy, and rough tracks take you through beautiful rugged scenery and past a few small villages that are at their best in the early morning or late afternoon light. A line of telegraph poles guides you in for the first 10 km or so. The tracks eventually merge, and go as far as 8 km from the point - this was the point at which we had to abandon the attempt in May, due to lack of time.
Here are a few Bedu shacks, where I met a local chap called `Aliy. I asked him for permission to continue down to the end of the wādiy, where I knew the target was located. He was baffled as to why anyone would want to go that way - there were no people there - but saw no problem in me doing so. He added before I left that the road might be 'a bit difficult'.
The surface from this point was execrable, and consisted of large boulders that the Landy could drive over only at walking pace, constantly slipping and threatening a puncture at any time. Occasionally there were a few stretches of 'track' - nearly invisible grooves, probably many years old. It took me nearly an hour to creep my way to 2 km from the confluence point. From there, there was no way forward by vehicle. A cave close by had a few man-made odds and ends in it, but no-one seemed to be around.
It had taken me three-and-a-half hours to get this far, and I couldn't face giving up just 2 km from the point. I packed a bag of water and, leaving the Landy behind with some trepidation (if anything were to happen to it whilst I was away, I'd be in serious trouble), set off down the last bit of the wādiy in the mid-day heat. The whole way I kept thinking that I must be mad - and swearing that this would be my last confluence visit ever. This view was reinforced somewhat when I passed a small cave near a stretch of palms with a rather disturbing talisman hanging outside it. The owner, thankfully, was not at home.
After about forty minutes I reached 16N 48E, which lay under an overhang of the cliffs flanking the wādiy to the Northwest. There were beautiful views across the wādiy to the East and the South, but the point is located far too close to the north-western cliff to see anything except rock to the West and the North. But I was thankful that at least I didn't have to climb up the wādiy side to get to the target! I paused for a quick chocolate milk by way of fuel for the return walk, and set off. On the way I noticed an interesting 'rock garden' and at one point I tip-toed past a cave in which I thought I might have seen somebody sleeping, although I couldn't be sure.
To my relief, the Landy was untouched, and I started to try to retrace a route back down the wādiy. But this confluence point had one last nasty surprise in store for me: I couldn't find any of the 'tracks' going back towards `Aliy's house. The GPS breadcrumb trail was no use because of the poor accuracy on the way in. Although the general direction was obvious - there is only one way up and down the wādiy - I had to forge my own path for 6 km across the boulders. It took forever, and I don't think my poor car will ever be the same again. It's still making odd squeaking noises now...
But back at `Aliy's place it was easy enough to get back on the main track out, and I was treated to the sight of the wādiy's hills turning golden as the sun started to descend. I collapsed onto my hotel bed at 18:00, after a nine-hour round trip. It was an exhausting, but at least successful, day.
Notes: For more information about confluence hunting in Yemen, please see 15N 49E.
This is my 18th successful confluence visit in Yemen, marking the half-way point for land-based confluences (the DCP lists 35, but 17N 46E, by virtue of the June 2006 border demarcation with Saudi Arabia, is now in Yemen, too). It also means that I have now been to at least one confluence point on every line of longitude and latitude in Yemen. However, by my reckoning, there are only between three and six more 'do-able' points here. So, unfortunately, my confluence adventures in Yemen might not last much longer :-(