17-Dec-2007 -- The opportunity came along to have a look around the area to the west of Luxor and Aswān. It was partially a follow-up to my trip that included the first visit to 25N 32E in 2005, but this trip would take us further west and south hopefully, with a couple of opportunities to grab a Confluence or two. Riḍā and Šubra drove the two vehicles from Cairo to Luxor where they picked up Stefan and myself at the airport. We had allocated 4 days for the trip with perhaps all 3 nights camping out, or perhaps one night in a hotel in Luxor, Aswān, or Kharga depending on how we progressed.
We headed west on the Kharga road before stopping, dropping our tyre pressures, and heading south off road and into the area of wādiys that we had a struggle getting through last time. This time we intended heading south and west afterwards, so we did not want to go down a wādiy and fail to get back out again. We were particularly interested in picking up some of the tracks shown on the Egyptian survey maps of the area. We picked up possibly the correct track we were looking for but it was also close to an old seismic line that had been recorded about 12 years previously. We tried to follow the track east but the terrain became increasingly difficult, we lost the track and had our first puncture. So we back-tracked to the old seismic line and tried to follow it south, hoping to find a way through the wādiy that we could drive back out on. This was not to be the case as we ended up on top of a blow hole in a narrow wādiy with some spectacular cliffs defining a tight gorge ahead.
So we turned around and after a few efforts at pushing and digging we cleared the wādiy and headed northwest hoping to pickup another track marked on the map that would take us south west. After a short while we crossed a track that looked about right just 400 m off where we had digitized its location. We turned left and at first it looked like a good Bedouin track until we came to an area of a few dried up and withered bushes where the vehicle tracks petered out. A few hundred meters later we were still following trails of some sort, somewhat confused wider tracks, when we came across several piles of old broken pottery that indicated that it must have been an old camel caravan route. The confused trails were in fact many camel tracks.
We followed these trails for 14 km, they were clearly visible but there were few vehicle tracks indicating that this track at least was an old caravan trail between Luxor and Ez Duah, south of Kharga, where it intersects with the Darb al-Arba`īn (40-days road), the old slave trade route from Sudan. We then had our second puncture and with only one remaining spare between 2 vehicles, we deemed it wise to return to Luxor to get the tyres repaired before heading south. The 25N 32E confluence lay almost on our route north to the blacktop and although I had been to it, Stefan had not, so we decided to stop on the way past. However our tire problems were not yet over as we had a third puncture before getting to the Confluence and we were down to no spares between both vehicles!
We stopped at the Confluence and Stefan produced a brand new E-Trex from its wrapping and proceeded with the zeroes dance. It was a labored affair between unfamiliar partners but they eventually achieved it and we made our way gingerly back to the blacktop. We made it and were into Luxor by dark and ensconced in the Old Winter Palace Hotel for dinner. We had two tyres repaired and had to buy a replacement for the third but we were ready for an early morning departure and our attempt on 24N 31E.