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Badawï Trail, Syd Stelvio – Transit Days to UAE

Badawï Trail, Syd Stelvio – Transit Days to UAE

There have been whispers around the camp as to who the infamous Syd Stelvio really is, my spies have informed me that questions are beginning to be asked and aspersions cast as to who the face behind the words is. Theories are many-fold and are as amusing as they are outlandish. The truth is I am all of you, the conduit of all things and happenings within our little bubble. A demi-God of our rallying world? Well, no, but perhaps the Keyser Söze of motoring journalism, yes, that one suits just fine. It was certainly a case of the usual suspects as we left Riyadh early this morning for another long transit day, the second of two, and one that would take us to our new home in the UAE.

Our long journey began yesterday and in the already too hot sun of Taif we departed for a 932 km day, a long stint in the saddle by anyone’s standard but for these old steeds, well, it really was a feat of endurance. A small detour had been included to take us to the Al-Wa’bah Crater, an impressive 2km wide and 250-meter-deep crater, formed by subterranean volcanic activity. A sodding great hole in the ground. The irony wasn’t lost on the British crews, who found themselves inexplicably humming the tune to Bernard Cribbins seminal song ‘Hole in the Ground’, appropriate really since it was his memorial service yesterday, marked by a sing-a-long of that very song.

Nostalgia and geology ticked off it was back to the grindstone to get across a whacking great chunk of desert, that seemed to stretch on forever. At times like this there’s nothing to do but settle into the ride, perhaps stick a bit of Extreme Noise Terror on the stereo (check them out, they’re John Peel approved) and relax as the soothing music washes over you. It was hot, and only getting hotter and as we found our way to sea level again on the second day’s run, I found the sweat gushing out of pores that I didn’t even know I had.

Despite the hot hot heat these runs are certainly a time of rest for the navigators, after looking at nothing but the trip and road book for days on end they no doubt enjoyed being able to stare out of the window for a bit, even if all there is to see is sand. This morning’s run out was a touch more interesting, with burnt orange dunes towering either side of the road, their shapes and shadows almost hypnotic in the early morning sun. The drivers too can switch off a little, without the constant calls from the navigators and needing to wrestle the cars this way and that.

It’s certainly a time for reflection, as your thoughts drift through your head, before they coast off into the desert like the sand being whipped across the tops of the dunes. The subject of one’s meditations come in all guises, profound and otherwise, some will certainly have been considering all that we had seen in Saudi, and the people that we had all met along the way. They have been good natured and friendly, gone were the rock projectiles of Jordan, replaced by smiles and waves and conversations with enthusiastic petrol pump attendants. We are but a fleeting intrusion on their daily lives, and I daresay we will never see them again, but those small day to day occurrences make up a sum greater than their parts on adventures like this and a great deal of thanks must go to the everyday folk of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their hospitality.

Others attention will drift to home, particularly as we enter the final third of our journey. This time next week many of us will be stepping off planes and being reunited with loved ones, and whilst we think of them always, it is on the long concentration runs where they consume our thoughts and our hearts most profoundly.

We aren’t quite at the end yet though, and even with the mileage covered over these past two days there is still a long way to go. Thank fully the border crossing today was fast and efficient, through and out the other end in less than an hour. Tomorrow, we get back to the competition, but for now the bar is open and one or two need to even up their accounts after our week in the dry, whilst some have seen the light and have hit the gym… Nah, don’t be daft!


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