Pictures coming...........patience Timothy!
The First Empty Quarter Fahud/Saudi border loop on New Years Day !
Strangely it had all made sense the night before, but at 10:30pm on New Years day in Fahud, wearing a pair of shorts, a borrowed long sleeve T-shirt and clasping a ridiculously cold beer, sitting inside Tims car with the heating on…….. it really didn’t make any sense at all.
Outside it was 14 deg C and the wind was gusting at well over 80km/hr. We’d set up “camp” (bed plus sleeping bag) in between the car and a big concrete building to act as a wind block. I outwardly mocked Tims ridiculously red woolly knee length socks, but was inwardly disappointed at this years xmas present of ankle length cotton England flag socks…. Mum, take note for next year please.
10.45pm and with a tummy full of curry and the forced down cold beer, we jumped into our sleeping bags fully dressed and started dreaming of balaclavas…
Tim asked me to turn off the light as he rolled over, (he even called me darling), but my full moon abilities are limited, and unfortunately we were set for a cold, windy, moonlit night. Wonderful. I wasn’t even drunk.
5:30 am and it was just as dark, just as windy but even colder. 10 deg C now.
Heading for the petrol station we wondered why, in an oil town in which everyone starts work at 6am, the fuel station wasn’t open. But at 6:15 it did.
Starting the bikes at 7am (we needed “warm breaks” inbetween braving the outside / kitting up exercise) proved entertaining.
The XR turned over after a few prods. Not easy but no too difficult either. The CRF proved otherwise. The battery clearly had similar thoughts about enthusiasm for riding as we, and lazily turned the engine over. Hmm. However, looking on the bright side, the exercise warmed me slightly, and eventually it jumped into life after a good 5 minutes of booting. From then on the battery was fine.
07:30 and we were riding at 80km/hr down tarmac to Yibal. Tim was thinking nice thoughts about his wife who had last minute thrown in a fleeced windproof jacket. I was just clenching my teeth and being outwardly grumpy.
At Yibal, we topped up with fuel, to add to the 10 litres of fuel in my backpack, and 5 litres on the rear fender. In total 30 litres of fuel…..500km to go. Tim was much the same.
We also had tools, spares, plenty of food, and 4.5 litres of water each….as we were off to the empty quarter…..which really is….empty.
Also we had ..…space blankets, thuriyas, brufen and GPS’s loaded up…..and working !
The ride down the Saudi border (less than 3km away at times) is awesome. An easy track surprisingly, zig zagging through the enormous dunes seemingly placed there on the sabkha. We were averaging 70km/hr and 20km/litre at this point. It was fantastic…..except it was still 14degC and 10:30am !!!
We stopped for a break, and “purely in the interests of warming up” I went for a blat up the dunes. Incredible. These things are sooooo steep, and “sand blindness” sets in instantly. You just cant judge the perspective, everything is so smooth. So very different from bumpy old Bowsher. When on top of the dunes and looking down onto the Plaines and into Saudi it well….just like Google Earth ! Incredible. So different a view from the one you get riding through. You simply must do this. Either ide or walk to the top….its unbelievable.
Carrying on down the track we got to our half way point and furthest South around 12 noon. Middle of nowhere so time for a non-reality check. Tim phoned his missus on thuriya….wonderful. So surreal.
We then branched East and then to the North into non tracked land. The previously easy graded road became a wind blown track with dunes covering the road. This was more fun !!
It looked like we were getting to the end of the dunes so one more assault up them for a good play. Rucksacs removed it was wonderful to ride free from the weight. Unfortunately one steep peak too many at too high a speed and after a fair bit of air, and a front wheel landing in very soft sand, I was catapulted over the bars and down the dune. Ouch is not what I said, but its what I meant !! In quite a lot of pain, but no broken bones down went the tablets and on went my pack. Sensible riding from now on ……..
But no. We now started the 35km section shown as wet sabkha and rocky outlets on the map. This was uncharted. There were tracks left and right around this area but not straight through. Well, we’ll give it a go. We can always turn back. Fuel consumption had been good. We’d be OK. The rocky cliffs were tough on my muscles, and Tim just kept up the rear laughing at my winces…. Navigation was tough, straight lines were impossible and there were rocky drops, and holes everywhere. But after 10km we hit sabkha. Deep salty sabkha …. But it was relatively firm so we pushed on. Anticipating a sudden wet mud we both stood, thus enabling a more comfortable ejection from seat if the inevitable happened, but thankfully although we needed to drop 2 gears a couple of times we made it through.
The end section was like Kenya….. grassy, tusucky, dry and brown with bits of green. I’m sure I saw a lion feeding on a gazelle too. By gawd these pain killers are good ! And the camels were black ? Someone tell me why ?
Then slowly but surely the tracks re-emerged and we found ourselves riding the easy graded roads to Fahud. I only lost Tim once…… we were 25km from home, it was an easy graded road and I’d stopped checking every km….. but he’d run out of fuel, and I’d missed it !!! Happily riding out of sight and round the bend whilst he sat there…empty ! But I did go back, and I did give him a couple of litres……. And he ran out again, just 2km from the car after we made a detour to see the touristy Fahud 1 well, drilled way back in 1958….yawn…. he said he was to cold to care !!
Back at the car. 10 hours of journey. 7.5 hours of riding. The temp never broke 16 deg C, and we managed 1 litre of water each all day !! The wind was back up, the temp was dropping to 12 degC again. We dismounted and departed in 15 minutes. Heating on, warm (ish) beer being highly appreciated.
Enormous curry just before NIzwa, more painkillers, and home by 9pm.
It’s a fantastic ride, but you’ll need 30 litres on a CRFX and 35 on an XR400. You will also need a coat and some woolly red socks if you try it in January.
And Beware, those dunes are tougher than they look !! Avoid them until nearing the end of your journey !!
Lots of love, and a Happy New Year, Safe Riding and stuff