15-Apr-2005 -- The main road west from Madīna is quite scenic as it leaves the plateau at 750 metres and gradually drops through the huge jabals to the sea. It goes through a varied landscape and starts off by winding through wide wādiys with lots of trees, then continues dropping into an area with nice red granite jabals. There are remains of old stone houses near the newer villages, which have many white mosques. At the mid levels it changes from the red granite to the normal rock jabals with narrower wādiys, and at the lower levels there are the remains of many big old mud villages. At Badr Ḥunayn, which is a main town, there are huge sand dunes where the Tihāma plains meet the jabals. There are a lot of heavy trucks on this winding road, as well as many cars speeding to the holy city of Madīna, and hopefully the new divided and straighter expressway, which is nearing completion, will make the driving a bit more safer.
5.4 km directly from the confluence point we turned off the main road to see the al-Terra dam which had been built to protect the lower wādiy from flooding. It was a rare and pleasant sight in Saudi to see a dam with so much water in it.
The jabals were very big and near the road and we wondered if we were going to get much closer to the confluence point than 3 km from the paved road. We found a rough track up a gravel wādiy bed, and when it got quite rough, we stopped with 1.96 km to go in a southeastwards direction. We continued by walking not knowing how far we would be able to go. We met a local who had driven another km past where we left our 4-WD. He was making tea under a tree and was definitely surprised to see two westerners. After the customary Arabic greetings, we chatted and he said that he had 8 beehives scattered throughout the area. He was concerned that we had enough water and we told him that we were walking for only another 10 minutes or so.
However, we went for 35 minutes up the narrow wādiy bed, which snaked around throwing the GPS arrow in all directions. Finally we stopped at an altitude of 446 metres with 480 metres to go directly eastwards but this was up a steep jabal, and the confluence point could not be reached without considerable climbing. It was already becoming dangerous to be walking for too long as it was 40°C in the shade and a lot hotter in the sun - and it's only spring!
We took our photos of the GPS and the views in all directions showing the high jabals. We had been surprised on our walk to see in various places the remains of old stone houses and in the few small flat areas some cleared land for cultivation. We also took a photo of a well which had a bucket made from a car tyre and a rope to get water from about 6 metres below the surface - the jabal with the confluence point being in the right background.
On the way back we stopped and talked to the local Saudi man who had waited for nearly an hour to make sure we returned safely. It turned out to be very interesting as he had grown up in the old stone houses that we had seen further up the wādiy, and 40 years ago he had walked (probably in bare feet) down the rough gravel wādiy for 8 km every day to a small school and then walked back. He said the name was Wādiy Athal and also named various high jabal peaks that we could see. We asked him about the stonewalls that were built going across the small hillsides. They were very old and when I asked if they were over a thousand years old, the answer was "maybe" which is normal when they don't know the age or history of who built such things. He gave us a banana each, which was sharing hospitality, and asked if we needed more water.
We were pretty dehydrated when we reached the car after being out walking for an hour and a half in the heat, so we doused ourselves with water which soon evaporated and drank a lot to replenish our liquids.