I love a long lie-in usually, but there’s something about camping in the desert that makes me wake up early and be ready for a new day of adventure. However, I was still last to get up and about!
It was a perfect morning and lovely to sit on a rock and enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of toast- slightly charred from holding it too close to the gas stove!
After packing up and making sure we left everything as we had first found it we set off to explore further.
Further down a wadi we came to an area of cultivation. The lush dark green contrasted starkly with the sandy desert and the brown rocks.
On top of a hillside we noticed some man-made walls so climbed up to take a closer look. The walls were nicely built and the dome shaped mounds in the centre of two of the enclosures were reminiscent of tumuli graves. Frustratingly, it’s very hard to find out much about the ancient remains that are to be found in the desert.
We headed out of this amazing area and drove down towards Al Ula to fill up with petrol, before beginning the journey back up to Tabuk.
We stopped for coffee at the Easter Island rocky outcrop where we have stopped a few times on trips up and down the old railway route. I had set up a Geocache here a couple of years ago so checked it was still there and in good condition. It was, but had only been visited by one person -Tulak who is a very keen geocacher from Jeddah who seems to keep a vidual on new geocaches and drives up as soon as there are a couple of new geocaches to bag!
We spent a pleasant half hour taking photographs and soaking up some sunshine before resuming the journey.
With time to spare we stopped at Muazzam station on the old Hejaz Railway and the fort close by- really interesting:) -and for the first time ever the water reservoir was completely full!
Continuing home after a great weekend spent in an area of outstanding natural beauty there is much to reflect on and give thanks to have had the opportunity to see a part of Saudi Arabia virtually unknown to most ex-pats.
However much I enjoy these weekends there is nothing more welcome at the end of it all than a lovely long soak in a bath- perhaps I’ll never quite be the explorer Gertrude Bell or Freya Stark were!!
Bright and early on Thursday morning Viv, Paul, Thez and us set off in two 4wds to explore and camp in a totally new area- Al Shahran close to Medain Saleh, famous for its Nabatean tombs.
It was a 2 and a half hour drive so we stopped off at a rocky place where we knew there was some rock art and inscriptions for a coffee break, take some photos of flowers and set up a geocache.
On we travelled to the Al Shahran area and turned off into the desert after 20km on the new road to Al Jaharan, letting some air out of the tyres as there was almost certainly to be some soft sand in places.
As we drove on the scenery just got better and better. We couldn’t believe how green some areas were and the swathes of daisy type flowers that were practically everywhere! Beautiful:) unfortunately, there just wasn’t time to stop at as many places as we would have liked or we would never have got to complete this first exploratory trip.
We encountered some quite ‘hairy’ driving experiences- narrowing gorges that we were unsure would take us anywhere; stretches of soft sand that seemed to go on for ever, twisting and turning past rocks and bushes- definitely driving by the seat of his pants for my husband and me just hanging on for dear life and urging on our car to get us through!
Soon it was time to find a campsite to relax and spend the night. It took a while to find one we liked and I was beginning to think we were being too fussy when we found the perfect spot.
My bed for the night- and very comfortable it was too!
Yesterday I walked to the compound shop and was cheered up by the grassy area outside the shop. The whole area was a beautiful carpet of yellow and orange daisy-type flowers – an uplifting sight:) I had my phone with me so took a few pix.
Today as I approached the shop I could hear the sound of a lawnmower and my heart sank- as I got closer my fears were indeed confirmed – the daisies were no more- they had fallen foul of the grass cutting gardener.
Last time I went in the desert my trousers had a very unfortunate and embarrassing experience- well I don’t suppose they were embarrassed by I was when they ripped right across my bottom! Luckily I had a scarf with me so sported a sarong look over my trousers for the rest of the trip. With only 1 other pair of trousers I like to wear in the desert it was time for a repair job!
A search through my quilting/patchwork stash of fabrics I found a piece that I liked. Out came the sewing machine, pins, thread etc that have been lying idle for the longest time and it wasn’t long before my trousers are ready for the desert again! Good to see all my patchworking skills have come in useful:) My husband, however, was a little disappointed in my choice of fabric- he expected something I bit brighter and bolder! What do you think of my choice?
90 minutes- the time is takes to play a football match ….OR……. a fantastic top-to-toe body massage from the compound masseuse. I certainly know what I would choose. I had regularly had shoulder and back massages from Aeysha but today was my first body massage and it was truly fab-u-lous! She certainly found all my tense, knotted areas- some of which I was totally unaware of. I enjoy a firm massage and appreciate that this means a little pain from working on the very tight places and there were a few times I found myself resisting the pressure. But, despite this I felt sooo good all over…back, legs, arms, feet, shoulders, neck, head, tummy …each area felt renewed and much more relaxed than I can remember when. ……And did I mention the hot stones- a fantastic addition to the whole experience.
I’ m addicted and will be going back for more in a few weeks when Aesha returns from her 3 week holiday.
Monday is craft morning here on the compound and as I was on holiday I could go and meet up with some of the other crafters on the compound. Dilemma though- what token craft project to take to look like I was serious and not just there to drink coffee and chat! Searching around in a couple of cupboards I found the sock I had started nearly 2 years ago -or was it even longer! – As a preent for my sister-in-law. A couple of hours later, after a coffee and a lot of chat I returned home without even knitting a stitch!
Later in the afternoon I decided it was time to ‘put this sock to bed’ and got those needles ‘click- clacking’! Eh voila after a couple of hours I was finished!
… And now for the other one…..hopefully it won’t take 2 years to complete and my sister-in-law may get her socks before next winter:)
From my window this morning I was cheered up by the sight of this beautiful iris that had just opened up.
I grabbed my camera to go out and practise the use of macro photography. I was enjoying taking the various flowers that have recently started blossoming with the warmer weather when my gardener called me to come and look at what he had found in the back garden. Curious I followed him thinking perhaps it was a locust or praying mantis and was surprised to find …..a tortoise!
I know a few people who keep tortoises so set off on my bike to visit them to find out if it belonged to them. Nothing definite came out of this so I posted a photo on my Facebook page and a post on the compound Facebook page and soon had a few more suggestions. Meanwhile I gave tortie some tomato, water and peas which ‘he’ chomped into with great gusto! An hour ago he was picked up by Sarah our compound animal rescue person who is going to house him with her tortoises until his true home can be found. A reasonably happy ending:)
On our way to the desert for our overnight camp we stopped at a garage on the way where local people set up stalls to sell their goods. We were particularly interested in the wood seller as we wanted to buy some wood for our fire at night. The wood seller was very pleasant, but being a woman in Saudi I stayed in the car as I didn’t have my abaya on and didn’t wish to cause a scene! I did want to take some photos and was trying to ask the seller if it was ok when a couple of boys from the next stall seemed to take offence at me taking photos and started gesturing and talking to me-to push their point even further one of them picked up a stone and started tossing it in his hand. I felt very threatened and was aware that Paul and the others were engrossed in their transaction and unaware of what was going on! What was really ‘funny’ was just as we were about to drive away one of them started taking photos of me!!
We travelled onto the twin arches where we had camped before and settled in for the evening. Our aim was to, hopefully, see the comet that was passing. Being a bit hazy only Viv managed to get a photo with his very powerful zoom lens. However, we had a very pleasant evening identifying various constellations and the planet Jupiter.
Around the campfire I played around with taking photos using my iPad and experimenting with photobooth.
How do they get here? Who did they belong to? And why is there usually only one of them? Weirdly every time I go on a trip in the Saudi desert I always find single shoes! Mostly it’s obvious why they’ve been abandoned as they’re usually in a pretty bad way and have become unwearable….but rarely a pair. I can’t believe it’s only one-legged people who go in the desert and leave their shoes behind. Here are photos of Thursdays collection of ‘finds’ – an eclectic mix to be sure- and not the kind of footwear I’d be inclined to choose to wear in the sandy desert.
Macro photography has been an absolute disaster as far as I’ve been concerned. Every time I’ve thought I’d cracked it I have had to look at all my friends beautiful ‘captures’ when all I’ve been able to succeed in doing is create , yet another set of blurry images! I’m pleased to say that yesterday’s attempts were a great improvement:) the only worrying thing is it was more ‘luck than judgement’ and I just hope that next time I will be able to reproduce a few more successful macro images……….