Muhayil to Taif
I was awake early and didn’t feel like lying around so set off before it got light again. I was rather thankful for this as it turned out. I’d been trying to decide whether to take road 209 (easy, safe option) or 2452 across the mountains to join route 15 heading north from Abha to Taif. 2452 looked the best option but the satellite imagery looked rather insane:
Without knowledge of the road conditions I decided that those bends could be a little challenging, so I took the main road.
OMG, that could have been a mistake and a half. 209 is magnificent, a series of endless, beautiful bends that lead down a mountain valley and the climb up the escarpment via a series of sweeping curves, tunnels and insane bridges. The light was terrible, hence the lack of photos. Worse though was the traffic. I now understand why Saudi has so many dual carriage ways where they don’t appear to be necessary. It is because the drivers are absolutely stupid; driving at maximum speed, passing on blind bends, including in tunnels, and playing chicken with the cars coming in the opposite direction. Building dual carriage ways and placing concrete barriers between the trafix must be easier, or cheaper, than educating drivers or enforcing some sort of road trafic law. By the time I reached the plateau and 98% of the cars veered off on their suicisal journey to Abha I had had a major adrenaline fix. I likened it to soloing right at the limit of ones climbing ability and then discovering that the rock is unpredictably loose. The rest of the journey on Route 15 was deliciously calm and fascinating. A superb ride and one as good as I’ve done anywhere so far.
I had to venture a little off road to get to see these views off the edge of the plateau. For most of the day I was riding along the ridge, but without making a special effort to get to the edge, you might not know it was there.
A few traditional houses remain in the villages and towns on Route 15, but most are in ruin.
Today was all about Yemeni food. I ate at two restaurants, delicious food and nice people, and spent a total of SR10. It would have been cheaper if I hadn’t been extravagant and bought a diet 7UP.
So the spectacular part of this journey finished in Taif. Over the next two days I’m returning to al Khobar. Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I’m going to ride to Riyadh. I love this part of Saudi and don’t want to leave. There is so much to explore here; I’ve only scratched the surface, as you can see in the map below which traces my route over the last three days.