25-Mar-2016 -- Just over 14 years ago I visited this confluence point, and as a weekend trip I was leading went close to it, I decided to pop in for old times’ sake.
Our trip of 5 vehicles drove south from al-Riyāḍ to Laylā on the Thursday night after work. The 300-km stretch of tar was fairly quiet by Saudi standards and we arrived at a pre-determined camp site in time to chill out while we waited for a lagging vehicle.
The next day, after a brief visit to the Laylā Lakes (`Uyūn al-Aflāj), long dried up, we successfully avoided being trapped by the many pivot irrigation fields – mostly old ones – and headed east towards the fringes of the Rub` al-Khāliy (Empty Quarter). The terrain is pretty flat and partially sandy with areas of gravel and stones.
It was here that we located the confluence point, in an unremarkable place with no views apart from a horizon of flat sand plains. As normal we spent some time finding the exact spot – the GPS wavers slightly so just when you have all the zeroes displayed and want to take the photograph, it changes by a second. The “first time Confluence Visitors” in the party were bemused that we had arrived “there”, and even more amazed that I had 44 primary visits in Saudi Arabia under my belt. Clearly there is very little to do in Saudi Arabia?
Our trip resumed down a water course where we stopped for lunch and were greeted by two very friendly Bedouin hunters who proudly showed us their bag of three small birds and a spiny-tailed lizard. Not much for their meal.
Our route took us to the north-south dune line that separates the Rub` al-Khāliy from the west. They are difficult dunes to cross so we headed north enjoying the eastern views of the dunes, before settling into a sheltered spot for the night. The stars in the non light polluted desert are absolutely spectacular.
The morning started well with an amble through flat sand undulations with periodic dune lines. Unfortunately, we had unknowingly ventured up a large converging dune valley. When we tried to extract ourselves by heading west we encountered a huge area of medium sized dunes separated by gypsum valleys. It took ages to navigate the succession of dune slip-faces, where numerous vehicle extractions were needed.
Finally we shook off the dunes but we had lost a lot of time and were against the clock to make it back to tar before nightfall. We were delayed further by the lack of tracks through the rocky terrain which was unknown to us. The final nail in the coffin was the last of 5 punctures during the weekend – a trip record. Thankfully we carry two spares for such trips.
Luckily we came out into some flat sand plains towards dusk so that we were able to make some timely distance to reach the tar just as it became dark. A very pleasant trip into a new area with very pleasant company.
Coordinator's Note: This confluence visit is registered as "incomplete" as it doesn't comply with the DCP Photo Requirements.