shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Free flights at Edge of Rub Al Khali Revisited


(editted and added on 18 march 2010
you might like to see even more photos in my wife's folder
Al Areesh desert weekend

She took all the photos in my folder, and she has her own)

Many more photos in flickr folder 'Desert camp trip 2 '



11-12 Mar 2010 Thursday/Friday

The Rub al Khali , (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎),which translates directly as ‘ Quarter of Emptiness’ . That might be better known to people as the Empty Quarter. This is one of the largest sand desert in the world. This 600,000 +++ sq km (250k sq miles) desert covered much of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The Empty Quarter sit astride the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman.

Last Thursday, 11 Mar 2010, we all were at Al Areesh Desert camp again. As reported in that visit made a fortnight back, that camp was located at the Wahibah Sands. The Wahibah Sands is an extension , or a locally named part of the Rub Al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎).

On that first time, we reached that camp at about 330 pm being the check-in time. I liked that so much, and knowing that they have a nice recreation area to sit around even if the rooms were not ready, we decided to go there earlier this time.

We had our lunch at Ibra and we reached the camp at 1230pm. That was after I showed my wife how to deflate the tires to 20 psi to make that run up the slope to reach the camp.

To find not a soul in sight.

We saw a sign that their lunch time was from 12 to 2 pm and we were the first arrivals there.

We made ourselves at home.

On this trip, Jim was also invited to come with us. We first got to know Jim that Kathleen introduced to us at our place and was told he was a Professor in her University. I showed him some pages of my Livejournal blog for him to know me better and to show the interactions of Riamfada with our kitties. The kitties were not home then. And I felt telling him of them were too surrealistic without the photos.

I clicked onto the Riamfada and kitties page at to let him read what I felt were the underlying principles in my relationships with beasties and birdies. And the photos there showed what we have done. And the pages with Dommie coming into the ocean with me for him to read and see.

He was quite stunned , and he told me later more by what he read than what he saw.

He told me he lectured on Philosophy of Religion and tried to persuade me to go to his class of students with Riamfada and kitties to talk and show them all what I considered fellow sentients.

I begged off telling him I am a very bad role model for any impressionable students in any University being a simple Taoist. My views were controversial and might well get him into trouble. I felt if he knew me better, he would not have dreamed of inviting me to speak to his students. What do I know about religion anyway when simple thing like free flying a grey filled me with so much doubts , uncertainties and anguish.

We enjoyed dinner that night and we became good friends. He had not been out of Muscat yet and we all were pleased that he could join us over that weekend.

There were further unseasonal rains since our last visit there. It was amazing to us to see the sides of the hills to be green with grass and herbs in the drive to this camp. Even the sands at the bottom of the camp had a thin carpet of green grass.

Jim had problem sleeping so he went to the cushions on the floor to catch a nap.


I went back to Diana Gabaldon ‘An Echo in the Bone’, the 7th book in her very well written Outlander saga. I advise you all that you should start with book 1. At the same time, you also need to read Diana’s parallel series of Lord John in that same universe. Then and only then can you understand book 7. I was reading this review done of book 7 by this lady who read book 7 only complaining to no end the book was incomprehensible with too many threads and it was the fault of Diana to have written 6 books earlier which that reviewer had not bothered to read. That so called ‘reviewer’ did not even know of Lord John sagas.

Almost like that guy with decapitated parrot who blamed that on not cutting that poor parrot wings instead of on himself for not turning off the ceiling fan.

Riamfada was content to be around me in her harness and leash while Kathleen and my wife did their things.

More and more guests turned up. I had to take the role of resort greeter from time to time to assure them the camp was not abandoned and the staff would be there after their lunch break to check them in and that they should help themselves to the drinks and oranges in the meantime.

At about 3 pm, the staff came and we checked in. We had the same No 15 hut as before while Katleen and Jim had the No 16 hut next to us.

The restaurant/recreational area was a far better place to hang out than the rooms.

From time to time, Riamfada did recalls with me. Some of those in the recreational area and some behind the restaurant.

It was late into the afternoon with the sun low in the sky that we did some flights on the ridge of the camp. I was only 20++ meters from her. I gave that recall to see Riamfada taking off. I was due South of her and she headed due West. I felt no fear of her. I kept quiet to see what she would do.She flew a few beats of her wings before she banked and flew and banked. She took a big semi-circle over the slope and plain below before heading back to me.

She seldom flew in straight line to me when in the open. She would zig and zag on some of her flights to me. This was the first semi circle she did to me.

The next recall was just a bit further away. She did that same again with me preparing to release as much line as she needed. She flew further away dragging out more line. It was more ellipitical flight path, and then she headed back to me.

By then, the sun was on the horizon. Jim brought out his good wine and glasses to drink to that sunset.



Riamfada refused to be left out and joined in.


Wild creatures love fermented fruits. We discovered in our neighbourhood walks a garden with small sidr fruits. They are size of small grapes and very sweet. Riamfada preferences were clearly on over ripen fruits which smelled fermented. What is a sip of wine between fellow sentients.

The sun set. Light was fading. I flew Riamfada again with Kat launching her. You can see that sequence of Riam flying off in an arc to the sunset and then back to me here


and here

Then it was time for dinner, and even more bottle of Jim’s wine.

I wrote in last report that I wanted to come back here to see the stars at night.

I had my green laser pointer to help indicate where to look up to. The laser green beam would stab up into the clear black sky to highlight stars.

Or onto wine cup to turn that to a pretty sight.


There was no moon on that night. The sky was clear and the stars were beautiful I think.

For the wine was getting deeper and deeper into my head. My earlier thoughts and desire to look up to the night sky was subsiding more and more with each sip of the wine. Much as I liked to look up, the bed was more and more inviting. Riamfada was happy to sleep on the bed head above my head. As long as her bum pointed the other way I was happy too.

We all got up early the next day. With Riamfada harnessed and leashed, the 3 of us went to the recreational shed. We sat outside facing the slope and the plain below us to enjoy seeing the morning slowly woke the rest of the land as light brightened and touched the desert floor below us.

It was time for breakfast for all of us. Riamfada had her breakfast of mash that I brought with me in our ice box.

Leash of different sorts have always been employed in flights of birds. Those who do not use physical leashes and harness use a different kind of leash. They fly their birds hungry or very hungry and never a meal before they are flown.

You must have read the comment of that person in my last report ‘Reflections and rants’. We should have more in common, and I felt I had more in common with him in that at least our birds got to use their wings a lot more than most other birds.

He has 2 beautiful RFMs. Macaws are a lot less nervous than a grey. Bird flight shows all over the world uses macaws or 2s due to their temperament. CAGs are never known to be used for flight shows.

You know I have never wrote I did free flights, unless I taken off the leash at the very least. At any rate, those were accompanied by so many photos showing I used harness and leash.

I do not feel one up on any of you even if you do not fly your birds at all. Neither do I feel one down from those that used no PHYSICAL harness and leash.

You have read enough to see that if he understood what I wrote, he would have complained a lot less.

It was so fundamental to me. Riamfada’s safety must be paramount at all times and if risky, I would use harness and leash on her.

When I felt the risk could be taken and mitigated as much as I could, I would free fly her.

Riamfada, being a sentient of equal standing with me must be given the respect and dignity due to her. I just could not use hunger as an invisible harness and leash to compel her.

I felt it not right to free fly her yesterday. Perhaps my gut feeling told me so, or perhaps the fright she gave me that last time lingered on. But her soaring flights done yesterday reassured me.

My wife was on the ridge and took Riamfada. I went down the slope at a diagonal and made my way almost to the fence at the bottom and 100 meters away and 20 meters down below her.

I called her. And saw her flew off to my direction.



She hold her height and was soon over head of me. She circled once and then spiralled down to me as if to land.

See those sequential shots starting here and onto page 12

Then she changed her mind. And turned around to face that restaurant again and flying up to there. It was almost a parroty joke that she was playing on me with perhaps undertone of exuberance flight. I was almost tempted to give her more line to see what she was going to do. Except there were chairs and tables and people above and the palm leaves thatching of that hut might caught on the line.



Regretfully, I wound in a bit of the line to ensure that she would not land onto the roof. I put a bit of thumb pressure on the reel spindle to add resistance and she landed just before the restaurant.

I felt it was ok. I told my wife to pick Riamfada up again. I gave recall and she flew so nicely down to me. No parroty jokes this time round.



See the sequential shots starting page 13 ending at page 15

I came back to my wife. She took Riamfada and I walked South on that ridge back to the huts about 70 meters away.

On my cue, Riamfada took off heading towards me.



Sequential shots seen in page 16 to page 18

She wasnt flying straight at me. She veered off slightly to fly over the slope. Nearing me, she flew an arc over the huts there and back onto me.

She gave me back my confidence in her. We went back to my coffee and to take a short break.

Katleen came and joined us by that time.

I decided I could remove that leash. Riamfada would wear that harness with that yellow thingy containing the telephone numbers.

I moved back about 20 meters and called her. She responded immediately.




Sequential shots starting here

She flew very much on line to me curving in to land on me at the end.

I walked her to Kathleen and went back to my position to call her again.

Her recall to me was done very well.

I brought her to Kathleen for the third time. I moved further away, about 30 meters away and called.

sequential shorts starting here




That last free flight was done so nicely, in a line to me. She was a lot more polite in her free flights to me than in the harnessed flights.

Each time, she took and discarded the sunflower seeds, the almond seeds I offered her.
Bending her head for rubs instead.

I thought that was enough free flights. Her leash was attached to her harness and we went back to our table. She perched nicely behind me.



We sat around there with me back into my book.

Jim joined us a bit later, he catching up on the sleep he could not get that last few days.

Here are some shots of the camp taken by my wife who walked up the lower dune behind us.




the camp behind me with the high sand dunes behind them

It was time to go.

We drove on to Sur to have our lunch there. Then we came back via that beautiful coastal road so show Jim more of the beauty that is Oman.

This was an enjoyable trip. This was not an exciting trip. I am happy for that.
I was glad that old Chinese curse ' I wish you have exciting times' did not happen on this trip.

Many more photos in flickr folder 'Desert camp trip 2 '


Important old letters on harness
Harness for flighted parrots – To Nick and folks

August, 2005.

‘ cargo cult'

'Ramadan & Kitties on beach// Chess -1st Saturday IM Tournament // Tinkerbell Harness for Piper '


If you like the photos here, they are all taken by my wife and uploaded on my behalf by her.

She has her own sets of photos in her Flickr account here



If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.
or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice


For those that through no fault of their own, or otherwise, and had to part painfully and unwillingly from their beastie or birdies, whether in the past, or the present, or in the future, I dedicate the saga of Riamfada that I had wrote , and continue to write to that final handover , to you all.


(edited on 4th November 2011 to include below)

To Shanlung - How to do Free Flight Outside

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