18-Mar-2005 -- We left Jidda in the afternoon and drove north on the Madīna expressway for 2 hours. As we got nearer our turn off point, we were looking at the ḥarrat terrain (volcanic rock) on both sides of the road. We wondered if there were going to be a track somewhere near where we wanted to go in the direction of the confluence point, as otherwise it would be impossible to travel across the big rocks.
An exit overpass signposted to the small village of al-Šalalha to the West was our nearest option leaving only 8.3 km to go eastwards. The confluence point web site says it is 11.0 km east of al-Mizari`, but we never saw this name, but it must be the same place, or very close by. The road was paved for a few km past a number of small camps and permanent houses and then became a bulldozed track, which meandered through low hills and surprisingly kept going towards the bigger jabals further back. When we saw a faint track branching off in the direction of the confluence point we were sure we were going to get near, but we were stopped at a direct distance of 800 metres away by a deep wādiy (ravine) and it would have taken considerable time and been very difficult to try to walk there.
We needed to find a campsite and we knew this would take a while, as this area was not suitable: it was very rocky and offered no protection from the strong cool wind. A friendly local Bedouin with his pickup loaded with hay stopped and was surprised that we were in the area. He invited us to his camp and said he would slaughter a young goat for us. It is hard to refuse such generous hospitality but we knew this would be an all-night affair and was not what we needed, so we politely refused. He said, the track continued over the jabal range and became open ground and would offer better camping opportunities.
It was a very cold clear night with brilliant stars and a strong southerly wind blowing. The next morning, we retraced our route for 6 km and drove up to a Saudi Telecom tower, which had a grand view over the whole area - to the West a few small villages and white buildings along the Madīna expressway with the Ḥajar jabals behind. The red volcanic rock of Jabal Manwar nearby appeared to be a big volcanic plug. It was only when we turned on our GPS that we had realized that we had climbed up a lot from the coastal plains and were at 1600 metres altitude, which helped explain why it was so cold even in the mid morning. We dropped down to the main track and then branched off onto a faint rough rocky track, which took us nearer the confluence point. We had to walk the last 500 metres over ankle twisting rock going over a small ridge and ending up on a flat area at an altitude of approximately 1450 metres.
We took our photos with the view in all directions showing ḥarrat, and piled a few rocks into a small cairn for our group photo holding the GPS. Carefully, we walked back to the vehicles passing remains of old stone houses and tombs from past civilizations.
Although this was not a friendly landscape, it was the home for a few Bedouin camps who let their goats roam looking for a little grass. On our return to the main track we noticed that there was something hanging from a tree at a shepherd's camp. It seems to be a Bedouin tradition to hang up a wolf by the back legs and let it rot - maybe the smell warns their kind to keep away from the goats. However, this was not a wolf but a lynx - a big furry cat with sharp teeth and a striped tail. This was the first lynx we had seen, either dead or alive in many years and lots of desert trips in Saudi Arabia - a nice little bonus to finish off the confluence point trip.