Last Friday, and we're off for a day in the desert with two other families. The plan is to go quadbiking in the morning, then on to a place called Hidden Valley for a picnic in the afternoon. I have no idea what to expect at Hidden Valley, but the quadbiking is at the same place we went to the first time we did it, so on familiar territory there at least. This is also the first time we've been into the desert in our own car, so I'm keen to see how the Prado performs "off-road".
The last time we went quadbiking I posted several photos of the children in action on the bikes. I was a bit nervous about how they'd get on that time, so spent most of my time watching them and taking photos. This time however, all of us are seasoned quadbikers, so we spent the whole hour whizzing up and down the sand dunes at top speed, and all I could manage photo-wise was this shot of Karen and Karin by the cars - sorry, but I was having too much fun to take more :-)
After the hour was up and we'd paid the Bedouin for the bike rental, our three-4x4 convoy headed further south towards hidden valley, which Barry - the only one who's been there before - says he should be able to find easily. About 10k's past the quadbiking area there's a left turn which I'm expecting it to be a dirt trail - like last time - but there's actually a tarmac road which leads on for another couple of k's before turning to dirt. Barry's up ahead and blazing the trail, Andy's in the middle and we're at the back, and the other two are kicking up such a dust trail that I have trouble seeing where I'm going.
After a while Barry slows down; a sure sign that the going is about to get tougher, so I shift the Prado into diff-lock, low ratio mode (hark at me!) and I'm ready for anything. The narrow trail is very rocky and twists from left to right. At almost every turn there's what is either a large bush or a small tree, and on several occasions there's a scratching sound on the side of the car, just like nails down a blackboard that tells me I've gone a bit too close to the branches - I hope there's no permanent damage!
After what seems like an hour of this but was probably only about 15 minutes, we arrive at our destination. We're in a valley alright, surrounded on all sides by high slopes of very rough, sharp, rocky terrain. We all pile out of the cars and the area's a blur of setup activity; We three men are erecting a gazebo
to protect us from the sun and 35 degree celcius heat, the women are unfolding camping chairs and unpacking coolboxes. The children are nowhere to be seen in this effort however; they've shot straight up the nearest mountain
and before I even know what's going on they're almost at the top of what looks to me like a pretty dangerous climb. Elliot had the foresight to take my camera up with him so you can see what I mean about the climb and the terrain.
The adults bellow with one voice for them to come down NOW, and we settle down to a very pleasant picnic.
The children are soon off again though as soon as they've eaten, only this time they pick the hill to the other side of the cars, which is marginally less treacherous.
Despite the rocky terrain this is a very nice place for a social gathering. The weather was great, there was total silence (apart from the racket we made), and the scenery was spectacular.
We set off on the return journey and on the way back to the main road pass a herd of camels going the other way (presumably for a picnic at Hidden Valley, since there's nothing else in that direction). Some of the camels (presumably the male ones) have red "posing pouches" strapped to their nether regions. Perhaps they're holding "Riyadh's Sexiest Camel Competition" behind that hill over there!
We get back to the DQ late afternoon, and to the Embassy pool for the last hour of daylight, where Barry and I discuss plans for a joint skate around the DQ, I meet Barry again around 7.30pm and skate together to the other end of the DQ and back, with a break at Starbucks at the halfway point.
So hang on a minute... in one day we've quadbiked, climbed mountains, swam AND after all that I've skated across the DQ and back - I'm in danger of getting fit here!