It was an unexpected stopover. Having actually got on the road by 5am and realised the beauty of an early morning ride before the heat of the sun started to play with the wind, I hung around the last gas station before Al Barth, the second gas station along the road after Haradah. It was the usual template for Little India, small shop areas, some boarded up, a couple of restaurant takeaways, a clothes cleaning and pressing service was the most unlikely service provider, the usual mini-market selling foodstuffs, fresh milk, crisps, biscuits, nuts a small vegetable area but most valuable of all it had a small hotel with rooms. About to set of for a night in the desert the wind suddenly blew up leaving me stranded so I booked my small accommodation having decided to sit it out.
The next morning I set out again at about the same time and again the sun had not yet messed with the wind pushing it against me with the force of it's heat. It was the beginning of another great day. The wind had instead built a dune across the old road. The desert was creeping along its way across which the Wabash took what had to be done in its stride.
Up the road I saw a sign for Al Wasie which led to a small village which was stunningly scruffy and if all the plastic bottles dumped on the Arabian Sea coast had blown across Saudi every single one would have ended up outside this fella's shop selling extremely cold milk. So I got my Route YC flag out as part of my plan to fly it in all corners of the world I was passing through held up by these noisy but very polite young lads.
Al Wasie was the biggest surprise of my day. Scruffy on the small main street but the homes were immaculate. Artificial lawns were laid on their stony courtyards and people were happly drinking coffee whilst children played. There was an impression of real calm and safety. I could have arrived late at night and someone would have taken me in and cared for me.
So I set off once again on this bicycle with a strange Japanese name. I didn't know if it was a food or something I should think of as something more serious, such as a vehicle that could take me around the whole world. When you cycle little bits each day you can't imagine for a moment what it is you're doing. You can't see the curvature of the earth just dunes, just like you can't see around corners to know what's going to happen next. It's just all straight lines and sometimes it's curves and hills but never does this road tell you where you're going and what it is you're trying to do.
“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”
― Jack Kerouac, 'On the Road'
Map of the Day