24-Jun-2005 -- The humidity from the Red Sea and the heat of the summer's day cause clouds to form in the afternoon over the Tihāma plains. As the clouds drift eastwards and meet the escarpment, which rises 6,000-8,000 feet (1800-2400 m), the result is frequent violent thunderstorms. On the Thursday afternoon as we reached the top of the al-Hadā escarpment at 5:00 p.m., the heavy black clouds were not too distant. When we reached the western al-Ṭā'if ring road we caught up with the very heavy rain, which was quickly flooding everything. The water was flowing in the city streets and forming huge deep ponds blocking the roads, and there were many minor accidents as cars rear ended.
Our plan was to leave the heat and haze of the plains and Jidda, and camp high near the edge of the escarpment where it was less hot. But with the thunderstorms causing any non-paved roads to be very muddy and slippery and camping sites the same, we decided to continue driving south of al-Ṭā'if until we came to drier territory. After a very pleasant camp in a wādiy with many trees, we decided on the Friday morning to attempt the 21N 41E confluence point. This looked as though it could be difficult, as it probably was in some jabals.
We continued down the main south road to al-Bāḥa. Past the sprawling village of Qiyā we turned westwards off the paved road into a very wide sandy basin, which went back for some distance into the hills. We followed close to the rocky ridges on the northern side, and the first 3 km was messy with most tracks leading to houses or ending up stopping at new earth berms, which had been bulldozed to claim territory. After a few detours, we managed to get through the scattered local dwellings and progress into the sandy wādiy, which had many acacia tress and small red granite rocky outcrops. After a few more km we neared the confluence point but we still were not sure what side of some small jabals it was on. However, a small track lead away from the main wādiy between some jabals and we were pleasantly surprised that we were able to drive right to the confluence point. Quite a relief as the temperature was now in the mid 30's in the shade even though it was at an altitude of 1,500 metres and it was too hot to walk or climb for too long.
The actual confluence point was in the middle of the valley floor surrounded by small rocky hills with a small herd of camels grazing right where we stopped. They were not disturbed as we moved around them taking photographs in all directions - probably just curious why we were there. After recording our success, we continued further southwestwards exploring different tracks, which went into the red granite jabals - some good potential camping spots in sandy areas with some big trees for shade. We came back out on a main graded track which was in the middle of the wide wādiy and must have been heading to a village much further back.
Later in the afternoon, as we left al-Ṭā'if and climbed up to the edge of the escarpment, the clouds were building again for another thunderstorm.