Camping in the desert

23 Apr

A few weeks ago we headed out into the desert for a spot of camping. We accompanied our friends Ben and Madele (who live within spitting distance of us) and a group called the Riyadh Rovers who hit the desert almost every weekend on day trips and ‘desert sleepovers’.  It is generally safest to travel into the desert with a few other cars, especially if you plan to stay out. Also, once you get off-road, you really need to travel with people who know where they are going as all the landmarks look pretty much the same – well, to me anyway. It is just one rocky sand dune after another. The desert, as far as I have experienced so far, is very rocky here. The desert in Doha (where we lived previously), was just sand really and a lot more like driving on the beach. Driving over the rocks through the Saudi deserts is quite heavy going and is a very bumpy ride but fun none the less.

We hired a 4×4 as we don’t have our own yet. No residence permit – no car. Fortunately the destination was not too far so we knew that Luka would be able to handle the time in the car. We travelled about an hour and a half  by road out of Riyadh and then another hour and a half off-road through the desert. We came across quite a few camels and I got some great pics BUT I/we??? lost my new little Sony Cybershot camera during the trip and with it the photo’s I had taken…aaaaaaaargh! 

We set up camp in a Wadi, which is a dry river bed, for the night. The Wadi’s obviously stay dry for most of the year but when the rains occasionally come they quickly fill up and develop into proper, strong flowing rivers for a short time. This Wadi was also used as a route to bring camels through from one area to another as there were a lot of camel prints in the sand. There were some trees on either river bank and even a touch of green grass growing on one side, very exciting for us desert dwellers. And, oh my word, were there millions of FLIES. They nearly drove us mad. There are at least 10 of them on you at any one time. Luckily they disappear as soon as the sun sets and so you stop the frenzied swatting that makes everyone look completely nuts.

The evening in the desert was glorius.We decided before we left that we would not take any tents and sleep under the stars as the weather was still mild and really pleasant. Luka was made for camping, he had an absolute ball and would have won the ‘dirtiest baby in Saudi’ award hands down. He is generally filthy by the end of most days but he did a particularly spectacular job on this day. He had a bit of a moan when I tried to wipe him down before bedtime but was otherwise as happy as a lark. He slept between Olaf and myself on our inflatable double mattress for the night and loved looking up at the stars as he drifted off to dreamland.

All was going just swimmingly. Even Olaf, who is not the keenest of campers, was having a great time and we settled down to an early night under the stars after a busy afternoon. At about 3am a breeze started blowing through the camp. It gradually built to a proper wind. In any other circumstances, this would not be a problem at all, apart from the fact that it may keep you awake BUT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SANDY DESERT, THIS IS A PROBLEM.

I lay there knowing exactly what we were in for as the sand started to swirl around us. I pulled the covers over Luka so that he had some protection from the sand and waited. I think I may have dozed on and off until Luka woke us all at 5:30am. I think everyone in the camp was grateful that Luka had brought an end to the long night. We, and absolutely EVERYTHING around us, was completely covered in a thick layer of fine sand. Our faces, our pillows, blankets, food, cutlery, crockery EVERYTHING was brown and sandy. As with all dust storms, the sand hangs thick in the air around you for a few days and in the early morning light it looked like we had woken up in the middle of winter and a heavy mist had descended into our little valley.We were able to dust ourselves off and have a laugh about it as we knew that we were heading home to our clean homes and warm showers. If we had to have endured the day out there, it would not have been quite so funny. It was a lovely night out and a dust storm that we will always remember.

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One Response to “Camping in the desert”

  1. shelley Hamann April 24, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    Greetings from Southern Africa, WOW how cute is Luka!!! He’s so darn big, how old is he now?!?! Wonderful to be able to communicate. You are all looking so well… All is well here… Starting to enjoy the beginning of winter… We would love to hear from you ~ shelley@moetrans.co.za ~ let us know how things are going… Love to you all 🙂

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