It has been a very cold night with temperatures below zero, probably minus 3 or minus 5. When we wake up the thermometer marks -1°C. The water in the bottle has frozen partially and so have we. We are at a pretty high altitude of around 900 meters above sea level and the wind blows gently from the East to increase our cold. It is still dark outside and we are about to witness the magnificence of the sun rising behind the volcanoes. It emerges right above the crater making it even more spectacular.
Marina cooks some shakshuka, completely different from the ones we have had for breakfast these past few days. Very spicy and with poached eggs in a vegetable stew. This restores us from the cold wake up and gives us energy to pack up the camp and start another day of exploration. We are certainly tired as we get going one hour later than what we had planned. No drama. At this stage of the trip we are all in easy going mode.
Before resuming our way to Wadi Al Disah, we make a quick stop at Mushroom Rock. Another pretty impressive spot that we reach after some more off-road driving.
We then head to the wadi through a stunning road. The landscape changes by the minute, going from the black volcanic rocks to sandstone and sand desert. Easy road and reckless driving of the local people, especially the big Land Cruisers. A usual practice here on the road is to drive onto the shoulder to let the car behind overtake you without any risk. Sometimes you can even be pushed out of the road by someone eager to show his ability and braveness. Crazy!
After climbing a steep road for some kilometers, we find a stunning view from the top of the hill over a big valley surrounded by big mountains that somewhat resemble the Grand Canyon.
Wadi Al Disah is south of Tabuk and a touristic place for the region. Wadi Al Disah translates to “valley of palm trees”. There is a small brook running along the wadi with puddles, big and deep puddles. You have to cross them with your car if you want to get to the end of the valley. In one of them, Marina’s car gets stuck in the mud, the wheels fully covered in mud and water. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to dig the mud to get out as we do in the desert. We have to rely on the winch she carries and the help of my car. They get you in trouble but also out of it. We get our feet wet, but this is the sort of adventure we knew we would have at some point in the trip.
The wadi is beautiful, full of palm trees, bamboos, and all kind of trees and bushes. It is called ‘valley’ for a reason. There are some local families that come here for picnic. Just after rescuing Marina and while we are stopped to refresh and have a snack, three young Saudi guys approach us. They are excited about talking to foreigners and they are very friendly and welcoming once again. We have the typical chitty-chatty, where are you from, how do you like Saudi, how long are you staying here… when the park rangers come asking if we can help a family that has gotten stuck at the same place as Marina had. She goes with her car and winch and rescues the man, who was very grateful. Another guy who helps in the rescue invites us for lunch to his home in Tabuk. Unfortunately, we cannot go as we are heading in the opposite direction. The man who needed the rescue, will still be scratching his head asking how was it that a woman driving a car helped him out of that situation.
After admiring the wadi, we head to the coast where we will sleep tonight. We choose Wajh Beach as a good place that is not so far from the wadi, but still gets us closer to our next destination: Ummluj, which is too far away to reach today. We have dinner in a local fish restaurant: grilled faris (I guess this is the name) and the inevitable rice, this time black rice. It is a relief to not eat chicken for a whole day, the first day in the whole trip. We were starting to worry we were going to grow wings.
The hotel is far from what I would like, but seems to be the only one available in the area. Really cheap and run-down.
The past few days have been much more scenic and landscape focused than the first stages where we had more of a cultural and historical experience. Saudi is a jaw-dropping country that is not disappointing us at all. However, our trip is coming to an end as tomorrow will be our last day of full discovery. We are now more than 2,300 km away from home, where we have to be on Sunday by the latest. This is more than 23 hours of driving to be done on Friday and Saturday. We will depart from the group on Friday morning after camping in the Black Sand Dunes and we will stop over in Riyadh.
Total distance: 430 km; Total time: 11 hours 25 minutes; Moving time: 6 hours 20 minutes; Average moving speed: 67.6 km/h