Thursday, 7 March 2013

View From The Camel Trail

We've been to the Camel Trail Number One a few times since our arrival in Riyadh.  The Camel Trail, as it is commonly known, is a short ride out past the edge of the city.  The ridge overlooking the path that zigzags it's way to the desert floor below affords a spectacular view of the sunset after a gorgeous Riyadh day.

There are two camel trails that I know of cutting tracks through the escarpment.  There are probably a lot more as being able to travel to Mecca was, and still is, an important trip undertaken each year by pilgrims. In the past, if they didn't want to take the longer, easier route through Al Kharj they would utilise the short cuts forged down the steep face of the Tuwaiq escarpment presumably, initially, by roaming camels with humans later making the tracks more user friendly.

The modernisation of Saudi means that a highway now carts people, quiet efficiently I must say, to and from Mecca so the Camel Trails are currently used mainly as sightseeing and picnic locations by expats and locals alike.

The first time we went to Camel Trail No 1 was in a Mitsi driven by a crazy Finnish dude.  The track to our destination was faintly outlined in the dust and parts of it had been washed away by heavy winter rains, so we had to navigate our way through, or around, the numerous gashes that were left behind.  Getting stuck in one of those holes would have required lifting the car out!

The last time we went, a month or so ago, the dusty track had been graded and metaled.  The upgrade means it's now a lot easier to find your way to the Camel Trail, though there are still a few places with king size pot holes where the ground has fallen away, and there's one spot on the rocky plateau where you could belly out a small vehicle if you're not careful.

A lot of work has been undertaken at the site above the Camel Trail with the addition of little picnic tables and a few rubbish bins.  Rumour has it that the Japanese are responsible for this work - it was part of a deal for some other project they were involved in.  Even so, bring your own carpets or chairs for added comfort while enjoying your picnic and waiting for the sun to go down.  If you're going earlier in the day, sun shade of some description is also a good idea as there is no shade at all at the top of the trail.

The trail itself is a very easy walk down a well developed path paved with rock slabs and bordered by retaining walls of more loosely laid rock.  Depending on your pace, getting down doesn't take that long.  Coming back up is a bit of an effort for the slightly unfit.  Fortunately there are a couple of places to take a seat, if required.

For a path that is supposedly hundreds of years old it's surprisingly well kept particularly as there was mention of the path being used to haul cannons when residents of Arabia were at war sometime in their long event filled past.

Each time we've ventured out this way a Bar-B-Q of some description has been put together.  You can bring your own bar-b-q or, if you're a good boy scout (or girl guide), there are plenty of rocks lying around for creating a fireplace.

Group Bar-B

Couples Bar-B

Boy Scout Bar-B
While the bar-b experts are getting fireplaces organised is a good time to scout around and take some pictures of the view and rock formations or walk the trail if you're keen for some exercise.

Crocodile rock

Rock formations overlooking a township.
People walking the track.
Picnics and Bar-B's with sunset views does sound very romantic, however, as with any desert experience there is a practical issue that many have to deal with eventually.  We have nicknamed the drop just passed the last picnic table 'The Dunny Roll' because of all the dunny paper marking  previous deposits.  It is the only spot nearby where you can get out of sight and down to business.  If you don't like heights, or are worried about falling of the side of a cliff, I suggest you go visit the loo before coming to the Camel Trail.

The last table before Dunny Roll Drop.

Location of Camel Trail Number 1

We've enjoyed our visits to the Camel Trail when we've gone - it's a great spot for a sunset ma'salama, a lovely place for a late picnic lunch with friends after a spot of mid-winter quad biking, somewhere to test your fitness if you're fancy a bit of a walk and, as a location to take visitors so they can have a desert experience with lovely views without having to travel too far, it's pretty good.  I hope you get to experience it one day.

Ka Kite,

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