Monday, March 29, 2010

Dune Days (X)

And then, after three perfectly clear, sunny days we hit this wall of sand and dust on the way back to Riyadh. About 250km out we started to lose visibility and things only got worse the more we drove. This picture was taken at 4pm. I didn't even realize when we arrived back in the city because the skyline was completely gone.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to stay inside or in their cars during a storm like this. Some bike riders are just tougher than others.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dune Days (IX)

"Bones bones brittle little bones
it's not the milk you seek
it's the sun you need"

Camels are incredible animals that are perfectly adapted to the harsh desert climate, but they're not immortal. We found this skeleton, bleached by the sun, laying almost completely intact under some scrub brush.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dune Days (VII)

Walking along the tops of the dunes actually reminded me a lot of hiking in the snow. The wind shapes the sand just as it shapes snow drifts, creating large wind-lips and fragile ledges that can shift with the slightest change of weight. The consistency of the sand also changes with little warning; you might be sinking to your ankles in one section and then unexpectedly be standing on a windswept area of hardpack.

While at the top of this set of dunes, the wind picked up and demonstrated just how quickly the sands can move. In the few moments I took to wrap my scarf more tightly over my face, Ziggy wandered away from me and his footprints were almost immediately filled-in with fresh sand. Here, Ziggy heads off to the valley floor while his footsteps disappear.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dune Days (VI)

We were driving, very fast, across a wide open sandy area when along the rapidly approaching horizon we saw these dark patches. We slowed down when we neared and I saw hundreds of what looked like miniature watermelons yellowing in the sun. They were scattered everywhere.

We jumped out of the car and I cut one open to see what they were like. The inside was white and smelled strongly of watermelon. I took a small bite and Tanya immediately turned to me and told me that these were poisonous, information that would have been more useful moments earlier.

The melon tasted bitter and I spit out the piece I had bitten off. This was probably why the camels we saw grazing earlier in the day had left this patch alone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dune Days (V)

I'm not really sure why this little guy let me get so close to him; maybe it was so hot he didn't want to move, maybe he wasn't scared of people or maybe he thought I wouldn't see him if he stood still.

With the exception of a few birds and some camels, this was the only animal life I saw. No scorpions and no snakes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dune Days (IV)

Yes, the dunes really are this beautiful. The trick to taking a picture with this kind of deep shadow is to wake up before the sun rises and walk away from your camp to the top of the dune ridge. You'll be tired for the rest of the day, but it'll be worth it.

And while the sun rises and slowly starts to wake the rest of the group down by the cars, you can sit quietly and think about how great that bottle of wine is going to taste tonight at sunset.

Besides, how many people get to watch the sun rise and set on this corner of the world. We didn't see a single person over the three days we were camping.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dune Days (III)

Wide open spaces. High speeds. The wind whipping through an open window. These are very fun things.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dune Days (II)

A giant petrified log in the middle of the desert? Yup. In fact, this entire area surrounding a small hill was scattered with petrified debris. Maybe it was a small grove at some point?

This chunk looks like it may have spent some time in water while it was decomposing. This pattern looks very similar to submerged trees I've seen in some of the alpine lakes of northern California.

The rest of the group checks out more evidence on top of the hill; bits of petrified wood in the foreground.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dune Days (I)

Flying across the open desert at 80 kph and hoping that our path continued unimpeded, I leaned out the passenger side window to take this photo. The sun had already set and the last bits of light were fading along the horizon. We were still 20 minutes away from the dunes and our camp, but we were determined to make it there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trust Me.

I was just as surprised as you to find this skateboard park in Jeddah. Who knew that people in the Kingdom like to shred the concrete wave?

Alas, I was without my skateboard and wearing a suit when I came across this hidden wonder, but for all of you planning a quick seaside vacation this spring don't forget to bring your helmet and pads.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let Down.

It was a pretty big disappointment to finally realize that the residents of Jeddah refer to themselves as Jeddawis and not Jedi.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Usual.

A German landscape architect, a Canadian non-profit organizer and a British Diplomat. Barbecue, pretzels and beer. The Rolling Stones on a very fancy sound system.

And this:

Just another weekday night in Riyadh.