Sunday, 23 February 2014

Return to The Edge Of The World


We've been to The Edge of The World a few times since arriving in Riyadh.  Now that we know how to get there, it's a quick and relatively easy drive in a 4x4.  One day we drove past a few blokes who were struggling to get motorbikes through the sandy spots.  Given they had taken road bikes off road it wasn't surprising they were finding the going a bit difficult!  It seems the Edge of the World is a popular desert trek that expats like to take on whatever vehicle they have to hand.  Lord knows we tried it once in a Camry.  We didn't make it!

This weekend we headed out there again in our trusty, hired Yukon.  Mr UK is leaving at the end of this week and it was decided a trip to the Edge was required as neither he nor Mr Oz had been yet.  We were joined by a Kiwi couple who were also Edge newbies, and Little Oz, a newbie to Saudi, along with the Braai Master and his wife who thought spending the day with us in the desert sounded like a good plan.

We couldn't believe the changes that have taken place on the way to this popular desert destination.  Mostly in relation to the towns we drive through.  They are expanding.  It's an indication of the money the government is spending on the country.  We've seen the little settlement of Uyayna, just before The Edge Of The World turn off which, by the way, still lacks an actual signpost (though there is a pink skip now marking the turn off point), grow from a scraggly hick town to a place that is a lot more lively with a new Othaim Market and a fancy handbag shop, among others.  (Fancy handbags strike me as an indicator of wealth creation in this country, much like increased lipstick sales is a sign of a country going through economic recession).  We've seen the road connecting Uyayna with Sadous become a smooth dual carriage highway.  And our favorite fruit and vege road side stall is concreted out front.



Off the main road, the trail out to the Edge of The World has also gone through a few changes, the most obvious is the graded road that takes you all the way to the new gateway located next to the dam.  There the road splits with the left side continuing toward the army post we found on our first trip out this way.  Don't take that road.   Go through the right hand side complete with a brand new shiny, metal gate posted right next to a tent with flag.  Today, a chatty bearded man and dog were sitting in attendance and waved us through when we asked if entering was OK.  Past this entrance is a second gateway and soon after you'll find the soft sanded river bed has had truckloads of gravel laid down to make the way a little easier to follow, though you can always get out of the soft sand and follow on firmer ground if you prefer. ( I usually get to drive to the Edge of The World and did take the wheel for a while later in the day, but Hubster wasn't very keen on giving up the driver's seat this time.  What's with that!)

The window in the escarpment hasn't changed much, though there appears to be new rock fall off the sides.   Dandelions and other flowers were blooming on the hillside, a welcome change from the brown barrenness from previous visits.  The walking tracks leading to higher and more precarious viewing vantage points have become more worn as the popularity of area has grown.  The Edge still manages to attract people as close to it as they dare to look at the desert beyond...
Thanks for this pick Hilary -
and for more on Hilary Travels in Saudi visit her blog
...or they pose for photo's pretending to be near the edge..


(the boys were much less adventurous than us girls when it came to edgy views.  Chickens!)

...and then there's the guy who just wants to throw stones over.


Once we more adventurous types had had our fill of standing on the point, we headed back to the truck to find the boys had been scoffing coconut muffins and were wanting lunch!   The best place for a picnic is right  in the middle of the natural window, though remnants of picnic fires can be found in more perilous looking nooks and crannies.  We have, once or twice, carted our chilly bin and magic carpet up the shale hill to rest in a shady overhang.  This time, however, we opted for a picnic spot neath a beautifully spreading tree back along Acacia Valley, just far enough off the river bed not to get dust from passing cars and close enough to bush coverage for walks to the toilet.


Carpets were spread on the ground and chairs opened up for the, ummm, more mature who have difficulty with ground level (both getting there and doing anything useful once down there which, come to think of it, was most of us!)  Tea and snacks were passed around and salads prepped while the master chefs all got busy with their respective Bar-B's: a braai for the meat (this master chef is extremely good at his job), a fire for the Hallumi, tinfoil wrapped spuds, and roasting marshmallows, and a camp burner for hot water.  Why we had so many cookers going is beyond me - but boys will be boys when they are in 'Great White Provider' mode.  Regardless, it was a delicious feast in the desert.


All the while we were entertained by a herd of camels having fun taking dust baths in the sand while being dutifully watched over by a hobbled male.  And every now and then entertainment of the Saudi variety drove past in utes calling, waving and drifting in the sand.  We hoped they didn't hit a log hiding just under the sand because that would have meant running to someones rescue and upsetting our day.  The funniest thing was a ute pulling up and asking in broken English if we had a drink.
'A drink?' we said
'Yes. One glass. Black', they said.
'What?', we said.
'Black Label.  Johnny Walker'
'Ohhhh, we said.  Uh, no.  Sorry.'
It's bizarre to think in this Muslim land that locals not only presume we expats are all soaks carrying booze into the desert (we only had mint tea, cold water, soft drink and and bad coffee), but that they are not averse to asking to participate.


After our meal the carpet came in handy for those who needed a bit of a nap and then it was time for marshmallows over the coals.  Little Oz had never tried those before (What kind of Ozzie are you mate!)  But once shown how he was hooked cos they were delish! (Taking over the cooking and consumption of toasted marshmallows was suitable redemption from further ribbing.)


What topped off the day was Mama Camel coming over to investigate our picnic site.  Because she was sniffing the air filled with smells of spuds and steak and toasting marshmallows, Hubster wondered if she might like a freshly baked potato.  She loved it.  So, he tried her on a baked onion - not so happy with that.  Then he thought, how about some chips.  Mmmmmm, nummy she thought.  And then a couple of the other girls came over, so they got a spud too.


Though the other girls moved off, Mama was perfectly happy to hang around for a scratch and photo opportunity, before slowly making her way back to the rest of her crew.  Our crew were feeling rather chuffed with themselves having that experience.





It was a beautifully relaxing day.
And though it would have been great to stay into the evening with a log fire burning (lord knows we had enough food to last till the morning) as dusk was approaching, it was time to up sticks and head home.  Maybe we'll stay a little longer out near the Edge of the World next time.




In Case You Haven't Been Before Here's a Map with Edge of The world. 

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View Kiwi In Saudi: Tiki Tour in a larger map




And Here's Directions to The Edge Of The World.

The Edge of The World Co-ordinates N: 24 56' 31.9" : E:045 59' 31.2" 
If you don't have GPS then, starting from Kingdom Tower, Olaya, take Uruba Road (west).  Watch for the signboard 'King Khalid Eye Hospital' (KKEH), when you see it, move onto the service road.  Go straight through the traffic lights and veer left onto King Khalid Road. Follow King Khalid Road to exit Route 5762 to Salbukh/ Sadous/Jubayla. Take this exit and head to Sadous. You will pass by Jubayla, Uyainah and Sadous.  24.5 km from Jubayla (before the road goes up a rise and passes between two hills) turn left to an off-road. Soon after entering this path, on your left you will find an iron and wire fence. Follow the track until you reach a fenced area with a gate. Enter the gate and follow any convenient track for 22 km heading west.  




Ka Kite,
Kiwi




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