Friday, August 12, 2011

Headed back overseas

As some of you may be aware, our family is headed overseas in a few months. With that in mind, I'll try to turn this back into a travel blog. Over the past few years, travel has been limited, and Sand and Tsunamis has morphed into a bit of a Dad Blog instead. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not quite what was intended.

We're bound for Germany for a few years, and I will likely be taking a trip downrange in support of the war sometime next summer. Should be fun, eh? Will keep you all posted as further events warrant.

And now, for a random travel photo...


Mark Hardaker said...

Hi Dave:

I've been following your Saudi Empty Quarter blog from 2004. We are leaving this coming (Saudi) weekend for a trip to the meteorite crater about 500km SE of Riyadh and would like to exchange a couple of emails with you about our plans.

We live in Jeddah, so day one will be simply driving the 1,100 km across country to get to our starting point.

The main thing I'm looking for is a number of good GPS points for good, reliable gas stations in the EQ. We have some, but they date from 1999 and consequently I'm not too happy with them.

also interested in your brush with authority. We have also had several run-ins with the MOI people but so far nothing too serious. I fear that this time they may prevent us from getting into the desert at all.

My emailk is mark.hardaker(at), if oyu have the time to reply, I would appreciate it.


Mark Hardaker

Dave and Melody said...

Thanks for the note, and apologize for getting to you a bit late. Just found it.

Been a long time since I was there, and I don't have precise GPS coords, nor do I know how to get in touch with the guy who did. Not sure he's even still in the same line of work...

I can tell you that if you look at the main road network, you see a triangle with the West side leading from roughly Najran in the SW up about 150km to the NE (Route 177). East side leading from the apex about 200km SE (Route 175); along Route 15 paralelling the Yemen Border back to Najran (headed West). That's roughly the area that we were in.

On our trip, we came down from Riyadh, and entered the desert to the west of the top of the triangle. There are a few gas stations around there. We visited some petroglyphs off to the west of the apex (first overnight), worked our way south, gassed up, and then headed east across the middle of the triangle. Overnighted somewhere in the desert (2nd night), and continued east the next morning. Got detained on the East side roughly halfway down then escorted to the SE corner and sent on our way to Najran in the SW corner where we hooked up with the General to stay at his place (3rd night). After kicking around Najran, we headed back north and overnighted on the west side of the road headed north from the apex. Morning of the 5th day out, we headed back to Riyadh, getting to our compound mid/late afternoon.

Honestly don't remember where the gas stations were, but if you take a look at Google Maps satelite view, you can see some concentrations of buildings (you have to basically work your way along each leg). Najran is a medium sized city and you'll have no problem finding gas. Not much on the southern leg of the triangle, and only one that I know of on the East side (where we got stopped). Think that there are 3 or more on the W side.

Our detention was friendly with the requisite ghawa, chai and dates. They seemed more concerned that we were a bunch of farangs out there alone and unafraid in what can be fairly rough land (geographically as well as risk of abduction, etc). We had some letters of permission, and had done what we could through channels available to us to get the word out to the authorities that we were coming down that way. They didn't seem to really care about that and were more intent on ushering us on our way, and keeping us out of the dunes while they did it. It was an armed escort, but not aimed at us.

All in all it was a great trip. Wish I could help more, but really don't have current info on what's there. I can only assume that things are more or less the same.

Hope you have a great time out there, and I'd be interested in hearing about it when you get back.