Today I walked into the desert. Very quickly the quiet descends. I only walked a few kilometres from the road. This is inhabited desert here. But it is still peaceful. The tracks of 4x4s through the sand and vast quantities of casually discarded plastic are a constant reminder of the extent to which our species ought to be wiped off the face of the earth. We haven’t yet managed to completely ruin the peace and the beauty here though. But it’s harsh. The sun beats down hard. I’m glad of my hat and cravat, and of course my flask.
My footprints are still there now until the rain and wind obliterate them. They go weaving through the stands of camelgrass, unusually green from the rain, rife with rustling lizards. They go between the tall sea carved mesas, eroded into eloquent shapes that stand in sharp relief against the blue sky. They pick their way past the bleached skulls of camels and goats that lie where they fell – or where they were dragged. Often there’s a cloven hoof still shaggy – picked clean above the knee and just lying in the sand.
The desert is a place of death, even here so close to the road. Small silver birds twitter and wheel in the air. Maybe part of their diet consists of those oafishly discarded chips and bits – but mostly it will be the beetles and the insect life that has been here forever.
So much plastic though. My eye frequently catches movement, expecting a lizard or a scorpion, but getting instead a band of thin plastic caught in a zephyr. I’ve seen the window go down so many times from somebody’s car, and a handful of junk discarded. I wonder how far I’d have to go to find a trackless part of this wasteland without bleached plastic, slowly reducing to microscopic particles that go back into the food chain.
Here in local desert the mesas are often partitioned with scavenged barbed wire – a different, threatening type of homelessness. Concentrated piles of bones near fenced off mesas denote feeding grounds but for what? Dogs or people? I don’t go under any of the fences even though they might have been made decades ago.
I find a Geocache stashed in a hole in the rock in an unfenced area. It is part of why I chose this direction. A little bit of something familiar and now I have a smiley face on a digital map in The Middle East. Just one. That’s all I wanted. More litter. Just directed litter.
Having done my technology thing I put the phone away and go into a ceremonial spiritual place.
I am led to a thornbush located far from the tyre tracks. I sit for a long time in the heat of noon and I say my farewells at length to this powerful beautiful hostile place. I fill a glass with sand, thorns and bones. This will come back with me and join the international oojie-boojie strangeness that is accumulating on my altar at home – so long as it doesn’t get poured out by a bewildered customs official. (I checked my bag in. Unusual for me, but there’s stuff in there I don’t want to have confiscated.)
Now I’m in the air, heading to Jeddah. It’ll be late when I arrive. I’m going to try to get to the Red Sea, even just for an hour, to connect with that body of water before I head back to London.
An unexpected trip to Saudi. A good one. I’ve been hopping about recently. I’ve learnt things. Now to consolidate before more hopping…
A 9 hour layover in Jeddah. I made the cardinal error of saying yes to one of the guys who say “taxi”. An argument later and we are followed as far as the security guard by a shouting man who understands numbers far more now he wants way too much of our money. I embarrassed Joe by holding firm. Now I’m gonna hit the red sea before 2 hours sleep and the flight home.