The scenery between Jeddah and Qunfudhah was pretty uninspiring, and overall I was disappointed with the snorkeling as well. I had a nice rest in Qunfudhah with Sultan and his friends, but I wasn’t super optimistic when I left. Who knew that I was heading into the best riding of the trip?
Maybe I should have known because I was crossing into Aseer where the famous (?) “Flower Men of Saudi Arabia” live.
First I had to ride inland a bit on the main highway to get around yet another desalinization plant. Then I found some fun roads to take me back to the coast for the last time.
Imagine! Trees, grazing, even irrigated agriculture:
My final Red Sea beach was Al Jumaiaat where the border patrol went over the top and delivered me a camel meat kabsa lunch and a few oranges. This civilian:
stopped by later with juice and water. As I’ve said before, people were very generous.
I found the best camping of the trip that night and started heading into the mountains the next morning.
First, however, I had to spend a few hours pushing through the sandiest road of the trip. If you thought the above irrigated agriculture was, well, a difficult place to plant corn, check this out:
It appears that someone planted corn in the sand there and put a fence around it. Good luck.
As I climbed higher, there really was more water.
For me, however, the most exciting thing was seeing Aseer’s traditional stone construction, what I’ve decided to call schist architecture because it reminded me so much of what Ferda and I saw in Beira last year.
Unfortunately I don’t actually know the names of any of those villages. Those photos were taken on an ~80km stretch of road on either side of the pass (~1020m) between Muhayil and Al Batilah.
My next pass was a 1500m climb (from 400m to 1900m) via Al Batilah and Al Shabain taking me to this campsite:
I was getting into the rugged Aseer Mountains at this point.
The village of Hesua was surrounded by steep mountains at the base of my next pass, only (!) a 650m climb. A Bangladeshi man made me breakfast, and friendly Sattan from Sudan welcomed me to this picturesque schist village.
I had an insanely steep and loose descent into the next valley, followed by (yikes!) a steep 1400m climb through the Raidah Sanctuary up to 2800m, my last pass before reaching the provincial capital of Abha.
I obviously loved seeing the traditional architecture, but the highlight of this stretch was spending time with Hassan (aka Frank Zappa; because of the resemblance) during the two days I stayed at his house in Sumeri.
Hassan speaks good English, loves to laugh and smile, and has wonderful contagious energy.
His brother-in-law, Hasan Ali, took me to (guess what?) a schist watchtower one morning!
In case you’re wondering how I’ve been all around Rijal Almaa without mentioning it, well, I’m saving it for the next post. Stay tuned…