Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sunrise Hike on Mt. Sinai

On Tuesday night we departed the hotel at 10:30 PM. The drive to Mt. Sinai is approximately 3 hours. A few of the group did manage to get some sleep but I did not. We passed through several tourist police checkpoints where they boarded the bus. The lights came on the bus and we had to be awake to show them our passports. I would just about have closed my eyes when we would come to the next one. At 1:30 AM we approached the last "rest stop" (Meaning last chance for flush toilets). Also we pick up our Mountain Guide for the hike.

By about 1:45 AM we had reached the destination and exited the bus. Immediately you noticed how much colder it was than just that morning when we had been at the beach! And there were quite a lot of people. Everyone was in line and eventually we started to shuffle our way along the path. It is really dark here and we each have a flashlight to guide our way - basically to try and avoid the camel poop along the trail. After about 30 minutes we reached the camel station. Our guide directs us in groups of 2 to a Beduoin who takes us to a camel. I am with Sheridan (our youngest in the group at 9). Once we are on our camels we start to ascend the mountain. It is really dark but after awhile I can make out the long line of camels heading up the mountain. If feels like I'm in Star Wars. The camels sound like the Tauntauns and the it looks like where Luke was from - Tatooine?. Plus the camels sound like the sand people.

It takes about 90 minutes on camel to reach the base. It is also as high as the camels can climb. The time is 4:00 AM. Our guide tells us we have 15 minutes to rest before we need to start the climb. We all hundle in the little shop trying to get warm because the temperature has dropped even more and the wind is strong. At 4:15 AM we depart - again shuffling along the trail with the flashlights but we quickly come to the steps. It is 750 steps up to the top of the mountain. The climb is difficult and we're all moving slowly because we are so exhausted. But we do arrive to the top for the sunrise. There are more stores at the top.

Our group watches the sun come up, waits a few minutes, takes some pictures, and is ready to start back down. We descend the same steps we climbed up but now it is a mass exodus as everyone is going at the same time. Half the group hiked down, the others took camels. (I was on a camel at Sheridan's request). For future hikers, the rule of thumb is "camel up, hike down". Trust me, the camel down is not so easy on the bottom.

We arrive back to St. Catherine's Monastary at the base around 7:30 AM. After visiting what turned out to be the worst bathroom of the trip, we are reunited with our guide, Saher. She gives us our box breakfasts. While we are eating she informs us that we will have "free time" until 9AM when the monastary opens for visitors. This turns out to be more than our over-tired, exhausted, freezing group. After being awake for more than 28 hours we are ready to head back to our beautiful hotel & beach. Only one person wanted to wait and out and unfortunately for her, it was a majority rule. We headed back to the bus and drove down to Sharm. We arrived back at the hotel at 11:00 AM.

The rest of the day was free to relax at the pool and beach - trying to catch up on sleep and recover from an experience none of us is quick to forget!

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