Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jebel Baloum

Although belonging to Tuwaiq mountain range, Jebel Baloum stands alone with a peak of 1045m (see Ionis Thompson’s book). The main mountain is surrounded by smaller ones and can be spotted from quite a distance (15km or so).

I have been to Jebel Baloum twice before through Nissah, to the south of Riyadh, but my cousin Hamad and I wanted to visit the Jebel from the east, i.e., through Wadi (valley) Al Howtah. The place has no shortage of caches and the last time we were there we bagged two caches: Tuwaiqcache and Fifth well.

The latter cache is hidden above some old wells sunk into the ground not far from the main mountain. We also bagged part of Adam’s apple.. probably the most demanding and challenging cache in Arabia. Baloum is the Arabic word equivalent to Adam’s apple.

On my third trip to the Jebel, I woke up one early morning and left Riyadh with AbuTalal & Hamad. The weather was dusty at some places but cleared later. We arrived at Howatah and continued through Na’am, the famous garden of palm trees. By 10:30 we were at Hariq and were running low on fuel but all gas stations were closed because of Friday prayer. We went up north to check the dam and it was empty. At 12:30 we filled up and proceeded through Howtah valley on a dirt road. The track was good and lead us out of the Wadi.

The landscape is beautiful. A sense of serenity and tranquility surrounds the area. The whole site looks like a piece from another planet like Mars … not that I lived there but good for making a movie here. As we left the valley we noted a natural arch on our left. It’s a rock feature at the tip of Khashm Makrouq and is known to geocachers as the flying arch. We approached the arch and bagged our cache in no time .. easy one.

We then continued on a northerly direction to Baloum and had to cross some sand ridges before stopping near the old wells on the eastern side.. It was almost 4:00 p.m.. While AbuTalal was preparing our meal, cousin Hamad and I went up the nearby Jebel to bag Adam’s apple. It was one of the difficult and dangerous hikes we took. Our trip up and down lasted for about an hour but there was actually more to go as we discovered later.

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