23-Oct-2006 -- Waking up on Šarma beach at sunrise was superb, especially following the previous day's success at 15N 50E. By way of an `Īd gift, I dropped a small bag of fruit and sweets off at the house of the two chaps that I'd met the night before, and on whose land I'd slept. It was then time to drive on to al-Ġayḍa, the Governorate capital of al-Mahra, 300 km to the East, and to make an attempt on 16N 52E - the first confluence visit to be made in al-Mahra.
al-Mahra is Yemen's second largest Governorate, and by far the least populated. Only 70,000 people live in this vast desert/mountain terrain, and many of those are soldiers working on border protection with Saudi Arabia and Oman. Relatively speaking, almost no-one lives outside of al-Ġayḍa apart from a few Bedu shepherds and semi-sedentary tribesmen. It had been my aim to visit this region since arriving in Yemen nearly a year and a half ago. A magnificent coastal road between Sayḥūt and al-Ġayḍa takes you up and down cliffs, with dramatic views of the Arabian Sea to the South and the Mahran mountains to the North. A sophisticated system of four tunnels is a surprise (I don't think seeing a space station in Yemen would have struck me as any more out of place) as you approach Nišṭūn, one of Yemen's very few deep-water ports. However, in true Yemeni style, the tunnel lights are kept turned off, so one has to trundle along inside with the help of a few cats' eyes and the will of God.
16N 52E lies between Nišṭūn and al-Ġayḍa, and Google Earth preparations revealed that a wādiy runs the 15 km from the main road to the point. Finding the wādiy entrance is not difficult, and a few huts mark the turn off. A rough track then took me to about 4 km from the target. However, it continues in completely the wrong direction, and - after a total of two hours of fruitless searching in and around the wādiy and its flanking hills, never getting closer - I was forced to admit defeat. The direction I needed seemed to be served by no navigable routes and, as I was alone, I had to consider the safety of my vehicle and myself. A hike would have been possible, but an 8 km round trip in the baking heat after a long drive hardly appealed.
Most reluctantly, I headed back to the main road and on my way to al-Ġayḍa. But the first point in al-Mahra must fall soon; in šā'a-Llāh, I would have more luck the next day at 17N 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.