Saudi Arabia

April 14th - My 41st Birthday

Our Camp site was just off the main road that runs through the UAE and on to Saudi Arabia. To the right is a salt flat that stretches some miles, we drove off the road through deep soft sand to the edge of the salt flat. About 20 yards from the road. The other side was a desert / scrub plain with hillocks and 'installations'. As a rule during our trip back and generally while traveling in the 3rd world, avoid installations.

The other great thing which is reflected in the general text is the preference for camp breakfasts rather than posh hotel. Okay, a bit awkward to prepare, but the eggs are fresh and the coffee is great!  

Speedo at 141 when reset to 0 tacho at 5163

Last night was one of our best nights, outside under the stars, a hard bed of sand and a single layer of hard foam pad with the moon out, and by that I mean really out, not like a night light but like a shiny mirror that reflects the full force of the sun back down on us. Who needs a camp light with a moon like that! Apart from the uncomfortable bed there was the regular rumble and roar of the trucks as they raced past at all hours - this was clearly a main artery of trade and looked and sounded like it. Other than that, and here's the really good bit - it was free, there was no stench of cigarette smoke wafting through the ventilator and we didn't have to fight for the sleeping arrangements that we had ordered - it was bliss.

Up with the dawn, coming up like thunder at 06:00 and for the first time since leaving Pakistan a decent breakfast at a price that resembles the ambiance. I found the matches. A small pack sitting in my computer tool box taken from the Pearl Continental in Lahore some months before - or maybe years ago!

Coffee to start with and on to the fried egg sandwiches before Geoff and Dominic woke up. Four hours later the car had been re-packed with a semblance of order. There was now a few more cubic feet of space than was absolutely necessary, luxury indeed.

We set off at about 10:00 for the relatively short drive to the Saudi Border at Sila. This drive was through a pretty boring landscape of main road which was dual carriageway, a central reservation and border which was in the process of being planted with trees of various kinds and about 10 metres beyond a salt pan. Every so often there is a radio mast or large satellite dish but thatís about it for the scenery. Except for the point where we came to photograph it and we hit the one area of 'greening'.

13:30 and Lunch was a fried chicken deluxe meal at greasy Moh's just on the entry to Sila, though Sila didn't seem to be much more than a truck stop and a couple of restaurants come shops.

Arrived at the outgoing border at 13.45, offered tea on UAE side. los of stamps needed to get out but all eventually got. Then Saudi Arabia side. A doddle compared to Dubai port. got passports done easy, then for car, but turned back as one last stamp needed (and moron queue jumping blocked our way!). then inspection. had dumped last few bottles of beer and emptied 'lens case' just before border just in case. Saudi official mentioned in broken English 'black label', sounded like a request! but may have been a trap eh? anyway, we had nothing and, unlike others who Lesley had seen being taken apart by same official (who had team of 6 minions to unload and open up people's bags) were passed through in a few minutes.

Vehicle stamps , large sheet with 4 boxes at bottom. first stamp UAE vehicle inspectors, second stamp UAE passport exit control, third stamp Saudi passport entry control, fourth stamp Saudi vehicle inspectors. sheet finally given in at exit from Saudi border post. Very sensible! 

We had a note provided by Saudi vehicle people (entry note) simply to show any police in Saudi who might happen to stop us. No interest at all in carnet, car not a problem, UAE side questions about triptych, why was it not filled in? Overall, everyone interested in making things work, no obstructiveness at all. Basic and major problem was in bringing in the container with both car and camping equipment which was persistently talked of as 'used personal effects'.

Filled the tank at Sila border Tacho - 5480 Trip 317, zeroed

Stopped 6.30 pm and found nice sandy place, turned out to be bug heaven, not problem. only sand fleas would bite us. but Dominic in particular, afraid of sheer quantity of them (dung beetles, camel ticks, flying bugs, grasshoppers etc. so put up igloo tent (quick and easy) and had fairly good night all cuddled in together.

Saudi generaly, bermuda shorts and short sleeved shirts ok for men. shalwar kameez,with head cover worn by women here

ight, sill lots of trucks tho' gfyfyutfd

15 April, Wednesday

5569 tacho, 89 trip meter, thn zeroed for the day's drive

set off at 9 am - ie took 3hrs to get going today, as opposed to 4 hrs yesterday!

NB Sila iis the general purpose border area between UAE / Qatar / Saudi Arabia and is not marked n the map. Salwa is another 50 kilometres onwards.

Salwa trip meter 52. tacho 5623

The road towards Hofuf is variable desert with a steady change in and out of scrubland to bits with the occasional real sand dune, some settlements which would not look out of place in Pakistan apart from the fact that there are very few people visible. Loads of camels however and big ones at that, one camel herd that we stopped for as it crossed the road.

Hofuf was the place where we were going to change money. An operation that is normally absurdly simple, as should be the event of driving from one side of a relatively minor desert town to the other. The whole matter took from 11:00 to 13:00. The first bank we went to suggested the supermarket as a suitable place to change money. They in turn suggested the money changer up the road and round the corner which turned out to be a good few kilometers away and another false start at a bank that rather than simply say, no we don't do this, spent a good ten minutes trying to contact London to see if my credit card was in credit. The money changer was finally reached and half way through the change wanted the passport which I didn't have and I had to go back to the car to get it.

After that we headed towards Damam based on a single signpost which after a while lost interest in showing us the right direction. After a 10 minute drive past the reuse of waste water project we turned round when the road was becoming a serious backwater. Back through Hofuf and finally on to the Riyadh motorway where there was a sign to Syria and Jordan which if we went via Riyadh would take us a good 1000 Km out of our way. We aimed for the northern road as being the more sensible.

Geoff says. 'I love mummy today, now and I love ISI and Treehouse' end. 

I liked playing in the Treehouse and at the ISI.

(Geoff wanted us to write that)

Filled Sally at Dhahran with a few teaspoonfuls of fuel left at a rather grotty garage with an even dirtier cafe from which I expect we will all get something dreadful. On towards Kuwait and yet again we got lost in Dammam, no signs for Kuwait, few signs for the airport. We spent hours going all over Dammam, there were virtually no signs so we eventually found a taxi that was going to the airport and followed them. Dammam is a very large city that goes on forever but has no signposts. 

We finally got out of Dammam and headed north towards Kuwait on what appeared to be a bcak road. Strangely enough it is the cities where a GPS would have been most useful - along with a reasonably large scale map of the area - which would most likely have sufficed!

Drove onwards past the big Saudi Arabian port of Jubail and eventually gave up when we came across a likely looking campsite. You get a nose for the kind of tracks and turnings to take to get just far enough from the main road to be out of sight and mind. Also, and equally important, surreptitiously enough that the local village doesn't come and visit

Camped just north of Jubail in an old Oil drilling rig site.

JPEG image Jubail thumbnail - click it..

April 16

Up early with the dawn again and a potentially embarrassing situation as 'Katy' drove over the hill as I was going up with little to nothing on - in fact nothing on. There was I standing naked on top of a hill in the one country in the world that values extreme modesty above life itself! Fortunately they were different hills and he turned off and went on his way. The same car that had done the rounds a couple of hours before.

Set off from the campsite at 08:00 the quickest yet at two hours, I've got a cold and am suffering on the start of our biggest journey - we are aiming to kill 800 Kilometers (we managed just on 900).

The noise was the motorway just over the rise that actually existed

During Tripth fuel at metre at 620 . Tacho at 6190.

Filled with fuel at 623 - zeroed.

Filled tank at 234 on trip 6428 on tacho

Filled tank at 410 on trip 26 litres 10 rhials 6604 on tacho at Hafar al Batin

Filled tank at 695 on trip 36 litres 14 rhials 6888 on tacho at Rafah

stopped at 18:00 to camp up in the sheep prairie which has as its main un redeemable factor the number of flies, though a lack of other bugs, but then this is at the point where the sun is about to go down and who know what delights await us.

April 17th

NB. Lots of beetle - friendly beetles according to Dominic.

Loads of flies

Trip at 869 Zeroed. Tacho at 7063 heading off at 08:43 having got out of the tent at 07:00.

Stop for fuel at 7350 - no power then no diesel stopped at 12:00 finally left at 14:15 given 20 litres by Franks

Stop for fuel at 7439 full tank. with 65 litres - we were obviously all but empty when we pulled in to the one garage in all Saudi Arabia that started out with no power and ended up with no diesel. Onwards to the border, not at turaif but at Kaj (Ithra) another 150 Kilometers or so further on which is approached past a fine mud brick desert (last remake of BeauGeste) type fort.

The border crossing was a two hour affair, on the Saudi side the first step was to work out the complexities of a Pakistan registered car being driven by a Briton with a Dubai temporary plate marked on the temporary permit to drive in Saudi Arabia. Big problem was the comment early on until I pointed out that I was leaving Saudi Arabia, also I was on the exit route on the border so it added to my tale. This was then followed by a process of trailing back and forth to find a computer that worked so that the guard could enter the cars details, then more trailing around and back to his office so that they could be entered again - or maybe all the other attempts were fruitless.

On to passports and a fairly prompt scan through the passports accompanied by a lot of affection towards Geoff and Dom while Lesley was told that she should sit down at the far end of the hall and look futile. This took about 10 minutes in all and we were then free to go.

The Saudi's required no payments at either the entry nor the exit formalities.

Saudi Arabian Links:- The Saudi Embassy in the USA The Saudi Embassy in The UK