Thai version

Monday, October 8, 2007

Caught by a Shark

February 1977 in Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia I was working on a Corps of Engineer Project, I head out for an overnight and a day at the Red Sea. However Khamis Mushyat is on the top of the mountains and I have to travel down to foot of the mountains and then on to the Red Sea. I travel on an asphalt road from Khamis Mushayt to Abah. Abah has a security check point. At this check point you have to show the security people your driver’s license and explain that you want to go to the Red Sea. Then they hand write you a pass which allows you to proceed to the drop bar and give them the hand written pass to the person at the drop bar. Then they raise the drop bar and you enter a different world.

The road from Abah is all twists and turns following the side of the mountain to the tunnel at the foot of the mountains and it is only a cat trail (a road that is made by just a Caterpillar and is a twisting and turning road that is cut along the side of the mountain making a single lane with pullouts that allows you room to pass when you can). However large Mercedes trucks haul from the port of Jizan to Abah and use this cat trail to make the trip, since it is the only road. They are heavily loaded going up the hill which is very steep. So their progress is very slow to say the least. They have a very high center of gravity and when that they are loaded they are very top heavy. So if they lean too far to one side they are easily overturned. It is quite common to see one on its side on this cat trail. Also if they get to close to the uncompacted edge and it gives way they end up on their side or at the bottom of the wadi (valley).

One of the common sights on the trucks rear view mirrors is a thub a large lizard (about 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet long) which the local Arabs eat. I have eaten these and they taste like chicken to me. The thub is a vegetarian eating the local plants. Seeing baboons along this section of road is quite common. The leopards which kept the baboons in check has been hunted to almost out of existence because they also eat the local sheep and goats. This allows the baboons to multiply unchecked. On my trip going down I will meet all of the trucks coming up the mountain. Also the trucks that have delivered their cargo at the top of the mountain if they can find cargo to take back down the mountain will be on this only road/cat trail returning to Jizan. If they are unable to find cargo they will be empty going down the trail trying to go as fast as they can to get another load. Were the cat trail turn at the valleys no culverts are installed so after rains wash outs normally happen in these locations. There is no guardrail to keep you from going over the edges. The road is not very safe however it is the only road.

I arrive at the check point at Abah and provide them my stateside driver’s license and after looking at it they write out a pass (one word written in Arabic on a scrap of paper) they give me the hand written pass and I leave the security check point with the pass in my hand. When I return I have to do the same thing only stopping on the Jazin side of the drop bar. Then I proceed back to my Nissan Patrol which is a takeoff of the old army jeep with improvements. However this Nissan Patrol has a cloth top and has no air-conditioning. It does have a heater that does not work to well since there is very little antifreeze available to be used in the cooling systems. I get in the Nissan Patrol get it started and proceed to the drop bar. There I give the guard my hand written pass and they open the drop bar and I can proceed down to the Red Sea.

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