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swdecato

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I'd like to propose this area as a place to post driving/hiking adventures in Saudi Arabia that may not yet have turned into a GEOCACHE but would help folks when navigating in the area. These topics could be misadventures, fences, day drives, spots to see, places to stay away from, etc.

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Yesterday I intended to get back to my "Steam Cave" to place a GEOCACHE. As usual, I got a late start and didn't hit the road until noon. I never like to take the same route when exploring, so I decided to attempt to get to Hidden Valley by going through Al Hair. I was distracted by several GEOCACHE waypoints that seemed to be within reach, so I thought I'd bag them on the way (GC8D9A, GC937E, GC7665). I approached the CACHE that was on the other side of Riyahd river but the area is so overgrown with weeds it would be an impossible drive, and I had no desire to wade through the jungle. Instead I headed blindly out into the desert trying to find a route down the escarpment.

 

Alas, I soon learned there is really just a couple ways down the escarpment that runs between Al Hair and Dirab. You either go through the valley at Al Hair or you drive on the pavement on the Makkah Road. I did manage to drive along the edge of the escarpment from Al Hair to the paved cut. We found an especially dramatic and beautiful overlook at N24 26.726, E46 41.037. The cliffs are steep here, straight down to the bottom, and there are several tunnel like tubes that would be accessible only with a static rope. There were many goat skeletons at the spot which led me to believe this might be a favorite BBQ spot for the Saudis. I suspect this location is an overlook for the "Pools of Sha'ib Luha" mentioned in "Desert Treks from Riyahd".

 

My journey took me down the escarpment on the pavement and then onto the road past the Dirab compound. On Jim Stabler's "Riyahd Area Northern Map" pgs 76-77 on Desert Treks, I noticed there seemed to be a road that cut through Jabal Hafafah into Wad Ausat. We found the road and headed down it heading NW vicinity N24 25.317, E046 33.978.

 

This road is wide and smooth, and you can make good time since there is no traffic to speak of. It is also very scenic since it winds its way across the top of Jabal Hafafa. The road forked vicinity N24 22.970, E046 31.406. I stayed to the right, and the road eventually turned to pavement. Unfortunately, it led us to a manned gate, and I don't speak Arabic other than "Anna Ameriki" so we had to turn around.

 

I then tried to sneak through the farms in Wadi Ausat hoping to find a route over to Hidden Valley. Alas, sand and rough Wadi's blocked our way. Finally we backtracked to the intersection mentioned previously and took the other road which took us along the bottom of the escarpment (Jabal Hafafah). Since it was getting late, we continued the drive finally arriving back at Al Ha'ir. Mark a waypoint at N24 16.321', E046 47.476 and another at N24 23.049, E046 49.692 which puts you out near Al Ha'ir.

 

So... this journey did discover the road through Wadi Ausat is passable, but the many farms in the valley and their fences block meaningful exploration with a 4WD truck.

 

In Al Ha'ir we encountered some hostile Muslims. They appeared to be angry because my wife did not have her hair covered, so a large crowd screamed angrily at us as we passed. The road dead-ended and I thought I would have to pass back through them again. Fortunately, I was able to find a side road which allowed me to escape.

 

So... if you want to get to Hidden Valley, don't go the back way. I'd stick to the pavement going all the way past Dirab and then heding west on the pavement at first opportunity. Jim Stabler's map does show a road through Wadi Nisah. I've travelled that road. It is very sandy and not easy to drive on. I wouldn't drive that route with less than two vehicles.

 

I haven't given up on "Steam Cave".

 

[This message was edited by swdecato on January 01, 2003 at 11:09 PM.]

 

[This message was edited by swdecato on January 01, 2003 at 11:15 PM.] icon_eek.gificon_eek.gif

 

[This message was edited by swdecato on January 01, 2003 at 11:20 PM.]

 

[This message was edited by swdecato on January 02, 2003 at 12:50 AM.]

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I just posted a new cache called Saudi Sauna. It hasn't popped up as approved yet. The following is a supplement to Saudi Sauna and are general comments about travelling through the Hidden Valley region and Wadi Nisah.

 

First, I'd like to say the drive past Hidden Valley is about as beautiful as I've found in my 6 months of explorations here. If you look at the words "Hidden Valley" on Jim's maps you can see how the Wadi's jag in and out of the valley walls. I've driven down into many of these, and the sights are absolutely out of this world. You could spend a day exploring each one.

 

Furthermore, the drive is reasonable. You can get almost to hidden valley without leaving the pavement, and once in the valley, the gravel read is reasonable to drive on. Even if you ditch off the road to explore the unknowing in true 4WD fashion, there ground is smooth and reaonably free of wadi's and boulders.

 

Wadi Nisah also scenic and the valley floor opens up into a wide expanse. However, the road is rough and sandy in places. Since I'm a sucker for punishment, I drive from Hidden Valley through Wadi Nisah today and finally back to Al Ha'ir today thinking it would be shorter. From my location at Eskan Village, it is 100km to Saudi Sauna via the paved roads. Returning through the desert valley on rough sandy roads, it is also 100 km, and with much slower driving. I think I would have to recommend returning via the pavement -- perhaps looping down around to Hafirat Nisah and then back home via the Dirab Road.

 

I haven't done that yet, but a good GEOCACHE day out would be "Hidden Valley" and "Saudi Sauna", returning via Hafirat Nisa.

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The directions I provide to "Saudi Sauna" take you right past "The Real Hidden Valley" entrance. It is paved right up to the valley entrance. I bagged it a couple weeks ago.

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I spent the weekend exploring on the top side of Crack of Doom and Box Canyon Overlook. I discovered a strange bowl shaped canyon with ancient writing on the walls. I carried a geocache there but didn't leave it because I happy with the route in. I've got to analyze the tracks on my GPS to provide you all data with how to get there. Navigating on top of that escarpment is difficult since the Wadis make lateral movement next to impossible. Still there are many beautiful views from up there.

 

My climbing ropes arrived in the mail today. I will feel better being tied in on some of my hikes.

 

More data on my explorations when I get time to dump the tracks.

 

steve

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From Riyadh:

 

Take the old Riyadh - Dammam highway, AKA Khurais road, AKA highway 85, past Hofuf toward Damman. In approximately 100 KM from Hofuf, direction Dammam, you will reach a rest stop with a large gas station on the left side of the road. At this point, the highway is divided with a low cement wall and a chain link fence on top of that. Three KM from the gas station, there is a weigh station, also on the left side. At this point, the cement wall stops and you can cross directly over the sand median.

 

At the point where the exit lane from the truck weigh station enters the highway, is a well graded dirt trail over a rise into the desert. Take this road. (GPS : N 26 10 704, E 49 56 233)

 

Coming from Dammam, or if you have missed the turn-off coming from Hofuf, you will reach the turn (right) to Half Moon bay at a "checkpoint" ( "MOI" gas station on the right side just past 2nd Industrial City). If you find yourself there, go 7 KM towards Hofuf, to the weigh station.

 

Take the well graded dirt trail over the rise being careful of trash trucks on the road. You will need 4 wheel drive in places due to the deep sand. At 7 KM you pass under the very large power lines (steel poles) and will find roads that go off on the left and right. Continue straight, even when the road itself seems to turn off to the right. A smaller trail begins at the curve, but it is difficult to see. Continuing straight, at the 9.2 KM point, you will find a much smaller set of power lines (wooden poles) coming from your left with a road running parallel to them. At this intersection, turn left. (GPS : N 26 12 800, E 49 51 320). In approximately two and a half kilometers (11.7 KM) , you will see a large dry lake bed on your left. Looking closely, you may see where some digging has taken place. That's the place. (GPS : N 26 11 579 E 49 50 899) also (N 26 11 197 E 49 51 076) both are in the same lake bed.

 

If you have the old directions to this site, that talk about passing near a microwave tower, you will notice the referenced tower at your 2 o'clock about 3 Km's from the site.

 

Take a small gardening tool / trowel, a D handled shovel, a boot brush, some extra water (to drink and to wash the sand off the roses) and newspaper / box to protect them on the return trip. The flies are very bad there as it close to a land fill. You will want to have insect repellent on yourself and maybe burn a citronella candle in your truck while you are there.

 

There are many roses already dug up and probably more surface with each rain. Still, I recommend that you try digging first, most seem to be found close to the water level, two feet of so beneath the surface. When you need a break, then take a stroll and see what is laying on the surface already.

 

Happy Hunting!!!

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Yesterday my wife and I headed out on a random drive taking the exit off of R40 just outside of Riyadh towards what is called "Third Airport". This rather wide two lane road dead ends but a small road off to the right winds down into the valley.

 

At the base of this winding road there's a place many refer to as "The farm". We didn't have our GPS with us yesterday since I'm in a loaner truck, but we took the first dirt road to the left just across from the farm and followed it generally North-West.

 

The road was fairly nice -- perhaps good enough for most 2WD vehicles, and it heads at nicely towards the power lines that follow the Tuwayq Escarpment. Initially the road heads towards a small mountain range that parallels the escarpment, but once around the range, make a bee-line for the power line. The escarpment drops down dramatically a few hundred meters to the west of the power lines.

 

We explored the many overlooks the poke out into the escarpment, but found the most dramatic views on the little finger that overlooks "King Faisal's Pinnacle". I believe this area is refered too as "Third Camel Trail".

 

I'd recommend this trail for anybody looking for "bang for your buck" since it is less than 100km from Riyahd and offers some breathtaking views of the plane west of Riyadh.

 

On our return drive, we chose to follow the power line road all the way in to R40 (Camel Trail II??). There are many beautiful overlooks on that road as well, but the road is rather rough. I'd recommend returning the way I came.

 

A great outing. I will return on a warmer day.

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This past weekend I took a friend out to see "Saudi Sauna". There was a smaller cave to the left of the main entrance about 200 feet up that I wanted to explore, but I didn't want to do it on my own. I brought along my newly purchased hiking equipment although we didn't really need it. The ascent to the smaller cave is fairly straight forward, but the view from so high off the ground makes it very intimidating once you've arrived.

 

I did not dare climb the last ten feet to the entrance. My friend bravely climbed the wall and slithered in. Unfortunately, the cave was little more than a small chamber about 15 feet in diameter.

 

Once we were safely back down to the valley floor we looked back at the cliff and realized just how high up we had climbed.

 

We then drove South along what Jim Stabler calls "Hidden Valley" using the maps from "Desert Treks" book as our guide, finally turning West on the gravel road leading out towards Hafirat Nisah. The road is rather sandy in places, but it had rained the day before making the drive quite nice. There's a long fence that extends the width of the valley connecting to Jabal Fardah but the road is open allowing an exit that hooks up with the pavement on the road leading to the North towards Bakhra'a and then east up the escarpment and back towards Riyadh.

 

There are many more spurs and wadis to be explored in the area. I hope to drive down to Al Jufair and eventually down to Graffiti Rocks.

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V. Interesting, swdecato.

 

Regarding your trip to Faisal pinnacle, I too believe the view from the top looking down to the pinnacle is very dramatic (best way to see the pinnacle). As you pointed out, the place is past the third camel trail. However, I wonder how you came to this point from North West of Riyadh and not from the typical Makkah Road west (Route 40 W), exiting after the solar panels before the road descends.

 

From your description (correct me if I’m mistaken), it seems that you started off from Diriyah or probably Ammariyah and then headed west to the power lines paralleling the Tuwaiq escarpment. In our last trip to bag the “Zenda road” and “tears”, I remember continuing North West hoping to get to the edge of the world by following the power lines. But instead, we reached to a point where the escarpment suddenly came to an end making room for a wide valley that we couldn’t cross over (perhaps the pipeline, entrance to Acacia valley from the west). On our return, there were two trails on the map in Thompson’s book that start at Ammariyah (probably your starting point) and end near the escarpment, (see Northern area Map). We tried to find those trails but in vain and had to come back using the same road we took earlier. Any clues as to those trails..?

 

I like this area a lot and it would be really nice if we could find another route back to Riyadh from the North West (thru Ammariyah or Diriyah) instead of having to go back to R40W and descend to J5 and then ascend again. Could you confirm that?

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quote:
However, I wonder how you came to this point from North West of Riyadh and not from the typical Makkah Road?

 

When you reached the point where the pylons descend the escarpment (which, by the way, are the original Longships of Zenda) you were very close to the End of the World (GC6CA7) cache.

 

I think you will find that the routes to which you refer from Al Ammariyah go to the escarpment but do not descend it (one is paved for a lot of its length). The first descent by vehicle beyond the Mekkah road is the tap line road that passes the Edge of the World. This starts below the escarpment at N24° 48.267 E45° 51.963 and above the escarpment at N24° 57.358 E46° 13.699. Regrettably you can’t reach it by travelling along the escarpment because you cannot drive down into Wadi Al Ammariyah as you found out (not quite true you can drive along the top of the wadi and then descend but you need to drive back half the way to Al Ammariyah). There are of course other routes down the escarpment if travelling by foot, The Tomb to Lord Jimbo (GCD88C) being on one of them.

 

M of M&Ms

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mhfares, I'll do my best to explain my route going in. It is much smoother than going in where you mention.

 

You head out West of town on the Mekkah Rd. Go past the DQ exit. You will then get to the first bridge goes over the first Wadi outside of the city. The road first goes downhill, then heads up, kind of cutting through the rock. You take the first exit to the right. Really I think it is the next exit to the right past the DQ exit. The road becomes a very wide double lane road and it goes past a fairly new stadium on the right. They just installed new lamp posts all the way down to the stadium. Stay on this road until it comes to an end. Then there is just one way you can go -- to the right. This smaller road winds down into the valley. Once you've gone all the way down to the valley bottom there is a small farm on the right hand side of the road -- the first building you will come to. The paved road will take a sharp right just before the farm but you must exit the highway onto the gravel road that goes straight out from the paved road. Stay on this gravel road all the way to the power lines. It is a very smooth road with nice scenery and also much shorter than going in the other way.

 

By the way, I really liked the pictures you posted on the "Saudi Sauna" cache page. Real funny to see you with a thobe climbing up into the "chamber". Ha!!!

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M&M,

Your description regarding the tap line road, with all the coordinates mentioned, in & out, is very informative .. thanks for that.

 

Swdecato,

Good explanation, I will try it out on my next visit to Riyadh (anxious to go there)

 

Regarding the pictures on “Saudi Sauna”, ..that was my cousin.. being unmarried with no kids, he is more of a risk taker than I am. I kept telling him one is enough.. don’t go up, but he kept reminding me of Putnam’s law “the one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it”. Besides, we already had a deal for all of our adventures: he does the climbing and I take the pics .. icon_wink.gif

 

Looking forward to see another one like “Saudi Sauna”.

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Dick,

 

Was sorry to hear you got stuck in the sand enroute to Patriot Pool. I posted some pictures on the Patriot Pool page so you would know what you are getting yourself in to. There's no need to go through sand to get there -- just stay on the gravel road I spoke of in the description. Assuming we are not locked in next week, I plan on returning to place another cache in the cave near Patriot Pool for those not wanting to climb the wall (similar to Saudi Sauna).

 

Good hunting.

 

steve

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