22-Oct-2006 -- Time once again for the annual `Īd trip and, of course, another opportunity to attempt some new confluence points. Last year's adventure netted 15N 49E in the Jawl and 16N 49E in Wādiy Ḥaḍramawt. This year, I planned to travel around the deserts and mountains of al-Mahra, the only Governorate I hadn't visited so far during my posting to Yemen. But, before getting to al-Mahra, there was some unfinished business at 15N 50E. This point lies just 9 km off the main road from al-Mukallā, which we'd driven along last year without realising that a CP was close by. Google Earth showed that the point was north of the road down a sandy wādiy.
A small town stands at the entrance to what is, according to a cheery man on a scooter, Wādiy Hubourk, and a track leads about 4 km into it. However, after getting that far, I came across my off-roading bête noire - a heavily bouldered wādiy bed that was excruciatingly slow to drive upon, not to mention hard on the car. Loud bangs from underneath the chassis and a fear for my tyres made me stop at 4.7 km from the point, and I took photographs for an 'incomplete visit' report. However, whilst sulking on the way back, I noticed tracks in the hills flanking the eastern side of the wādiy. I knew that the CP lay on one of these hills, and I'd been expecting a tough climb in the heat. There was clearly a better way to get to the point than I had been trying.
But, whilst rushing off to one of the hill tracks located near an interesting oil-drum fence, I managed to put both of my front wheels over some barbed wire that was lying on the ground. This was a potential disaster; I had two spares with me, but was already worried about my other tyres from driving on the boulders. It would be irresponsible to carry on.
Needless to say, I did carry on (after checking the tyre pressures after another kilometre), as I couldn't countenance losing the first point out of a planned eight for this trip. In the end it was the right decision - the tyres held, and the hill track took me to 361 m from the target. I was pleased that my initial approach (wādiy + climb) had failed - even this short distance was still a hard enough walk in the blistering mid-day heat of southern Yemen. The views over the wādiy were beautiful, but the point itself lay in a dip, so there are only moderate views to the North and East, and just a hillside peppered with black volcanic stones to the South and West. A bush almost perfectly marks the spot. There are no villages nearby, but there is a temporary shelter about 500 m from the Confluence, probably belonging to a local Bedu.
The drive back down the wādiy was uneventful, and just one kilometre further down the main asphalt road towards Sayḥūt I turned off towards Ra's Šarma. This area is popular with expats (or at least the few that ever leave Ṣan`ā') because of its beautiful beaches upon which turtles come to lay their eggs at this time of year. Whilst there, I chatted with two locals, who were excited about the end of Ramaḍān that evening, swam in the sea, and bedded down on the beach in the hope of sighting a turtle. That didn't happen, unfortunately, thanks to my sleeping soundly through the night. Oddly enough, the same thing happened when I camped at Šarma last year... it must be the good sea air.
The journey continues at 16N 52E.
Note: For more information about the involvement of the British Embassy Ṣan`ā' in the DCP, or confluence hunting in Yemen in general, please see my visit to 15N 49E.