16-Nov-2004 -- Point Basalt: 32N 37E
Nisreen, Jack, Bilal and Sameh, we all left `Ammān, Jordan's capital, on Tuesday, 16 November 2004, to find and document the 32N 37E confluence. We teamed up at 9:30 am and drove out heading east towards Azraq, more than halfway toward the `Iraq/Jordan border. Jack packed his laptop and Garmin GPS III and supplied provisions for the day trip. He also had downloaded a Russian topographic map of Jordan from a Berkeley University website, which easily interfaced with the GPS system, supplying real time navigation. Detailed topographic maps of Jordan are quite hard to find locally.
Outside the Greater `Ammān area, Sameh drove us through the stretches of a barren isolated desert plateau to an altitude of about 630 metres. `Ammān is perched at an altitude that ranges between 800 and 1100 metres. The first hour of the trip the terrain was no challenge for Sameh's new 4X4 Toyota Hilux truck. We drove on asphalt until the Azraq plateau, and then turned to off-road tracks further east. Mostly the terrain was manageable with small rocks and gravel scattered on a flat ground.
Nisreen used her digital camera to document the trip and supplied the music selection, while I took notes to log the trip's data and development. As we drove closer to the trip's final destination, the ground was turning into a blackish terrain, literally blanketed with skull-sized, odd shaped round basalt rock, delaying our arrival at final destination a few hours. We were only 5 kilometres away now, but as we drove onward, rock sizes were becoming larger and larger and jagged. After crossing about one kilometre into this terrain, our speed dropped to almost 3 km/h. The risk of a puncture also became ever more likely, and we deemed it too risky to continue.
We decided to turn back after a few failed attempts of dizzying jerking and wobbling inside the truck, agreeing against hiking the remaining distance of 4 kilometres for fear of leaving our valuables unattended.
With sad faces, we aborted the mission and decided to hunt another confluence further to the south of Jordan. But as we drove away in the direction of the inter-kingdom highway, Bilal yelled, pointing at what seemed like a vehicle track eastward in the direction of our destination. The binoculars confirmed luck and we drove back towards brownish tracks hidden amidst the blackish basalt landscape.
We drove for a few kilometres on this blessed route, which moved us straight toward our Confluence, crossing one flat mud pan the size of a football field at some point with an elated speed. But the track diverted away at about 750 meters from our final destination. At this close range, we disembarked and hiked the final leg.
Our 750 meter hike was very difficult as we had to hop over rocks all the way through. The workout was well worth it with our destination finally met. Jack and Sameh zeroed on the Confluence, and Nisreen took the pictures that confirmed our completed mission. All around the confluence, the landscape was mirrored exactly the same without any landmarks, so we used a water bottle to pin point the Confluence. The area of the Confluence presents some of the most abstract landscapes one can hope for, flat and strewn with black basalt rocks that glitter in light. The only signs of life we've come across were some tiny bird species that probably fed on lizards, beetles and flies. We also found empty shells of snails. We could see no plants, except in the distance, lining narrow dry stream beds, used in winter by sheep herding nomads. Our Tuesday trip saw a calm cloudy day, with moderate 23°C temperature and south-eastern wind speeds of 13 km/h.