24-Oct-2006 -- Earlier that morning I'd managed to get to the first point in Yemen's wilderness Governorate of al-Mahra, 17N 52E, and it was now time to push on to its northern neighbour, 18N 52E. The road I was on goes to the border town of Makīnat Šiḥan, where I was able to get fuel. I also had a chat with a very amiable Somali refugee who spoke amazingly good English, apparently learnt in Yemen at the British Council. Oman has recently expelled many Somalis, and I imagine that my new friend was just one of many waiting on the border for a chance to return.
After Šiḥan, assuming one doesn't carry on into Oman, the road curves back into Yemen. All of the roads I'd been driving on in al-Mahra during this trip have only been completed recently, and are fast, straight and empty. It is the presence of these roads that has made it easier to explore al-Mahra and, of course, for me to do my bit for the DCP. 18N 52E lies about 20 km off one of these new stretches of road, which links Šiḥan with Thamūd and Wādiy Ḥaḍramawt.
On leaving the road, I thought it was going to be easy - there was a flat surface of gravel and sand, and I was able to keep up quite a speed. But then I realised that I would have to cross range after range of hills on the way. Although low in height, they were black rocky outcrops, and they slowed my progress considerably as I teased my way over about seven or eight ridges that all (sod's law) traversed my direct bearing to the point in a perpendicular fashion. I was also worried that I might meet a set that I wouldn't be able to cross.
However, after much swearing and looking for tracks through these outcrops, I eventually reached the point, which was located on a sandy flat between two ridges. Because of the close proximity of the hills to the point, the views to the North, East, South, and West are rather obscured. However, climbing one of the many hills affords striking views of the landscape - a desert interrupted by hundreds of black outcrops. As was the case for 17N 52E, there were no signs of human habitation nearby, but plenty of vehicle tracks around. The GPS did read all zeros, but must have flicked over as I took the picture. Typical.
After returning to the Landy, I found a better route back along a flat pan of sand and gravel that avoided all of the hills and outcrops. Although less direct, it made for a much quicker drive back to the asphalt than it had taken to come from it. But, despite two confluence successes, there had been a lot of time wasted today and I was going to have to be quick if I was to get to 18N 51E by sunset.
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.