Monday 16 October

(magnify) Dawn in the desert

We have a leisurely start to the day, but I manage to be the last one ready. Scramble to lace my boots, grab my bag, and race after the group who are disappearing over the sand bank outside the camp.

‘Melted’ rock

It is already quite warm. We turn left from the camp and head out across a broad valley, with weathered rocks high above us to the side. A lot of the ground is quite lose and difficult to walk on. After a bit we stop in a thin strip of shade under a narrow overhang, where the action of the weather has carved the rock wall into Gaudi-esque choir stalls.

After a bit of a breather we continue in the same direction. The ground is broken in many places with dried bushes. The sand is not a uniform colour – there are regions that are paler, and some that are redder. Where the sand is less firm it is striated with ripples, but there are no dunes as such, except one on the far side of the valley where the sand has collected in a gap between the hills.

(magnify) In the Siq Burrah

After walking for some way, we turn left passing through the narrow gap between the feet of two rocks into a smaller side-valley, and a bit further along, left again into a narrower gorge, which we follow as it turns between the rocks. This is the Siq Burrah. Towards its end, the siq widens, and then dropping down through a narrow opening we reach our lunch stop in a shady hollow under an overhanging rock. Across the siq is a beautiful rock that has cleaved right down the middle, exposing an almost perfectly flat yellow and red face.

Cloven rock

We are all quite hungry, and the nosh is excellent. We spend quite a while there before moving on. Our way crosses a wide flat plain and then turns left past the end of an outcrop. I begin to think that I might be recognising where we are, although many of the rocks look very similar. A large flat rockface about half way up one of the weathered walls looks just like some kind of portal, as if a magic word could command it to slide open for us.

(magnify) Desert sun

Indeed, we are not far from the camp and just as I become certain that rock standing alone visible directly ahead is the same one visible from the camp, the camp itself comes into view.

Another delicious dinner. Tonight I resolve to sleep out under the stars. The stars give enough light that I can easily make out the surrounding mountains from my position outside the camp. It is not cold and I fall asleep quickly.