Thou shalt not offer me another bloody camel!

Trip Start Aug 14, 2010
Trip End Jan 20, 2011

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Mount Sinai car park - yes car park in tents!

Flag of Egypt  ,
Sunday, December 5, 2010

On way to the beach at Dahab, we stop to climb Mount Sinai. The mountain is famous for being where Moses received the 10 commandments.  It’s a long drive from Cairo to Sinai as we stop for an hour at the port town for a lunch break.  That night we camp at the base of Mount Sinai, arriving about 6.30pm it’s already dark and pretty cold.  Allison and Ish are on cook group and Jules and I help them prep their veggie lasagne and cheesecake pudding (see you really can eat well on a truck!) before putting up our tents.  It’s the closest confined camping situation we’ve been in as we need to keep all the tents within the shadow of the truck as the car park will start filling up in a few hours and we’ll either wake up trodden on or with cars/trucks/buses in front of our tents.  It’s hard to believe it’ll get that busy when we’re the only vehicle in the car park at this time. 

After dinner it’s lights out as quickly as possible as those who are hiking the mountain need to leave at 3.15am so that they can catch sunrise at the top of the mountain.  Given the recent bout of illness I’m resigned to staying in the tent as most of the others climb.  I get up when they leave to capture the before picture but then hop back into bed as they start their climb.  The car park is, as expected, filling up quickly, mostly with noisy Arabs who are waiting to tout their services in various ways.  So noisy are they that once the hikers have left Mark gets into an altercation with some of them who are stood right next to the truck talking loudly. After being cheeky when Mark asks them to be quiet because others are sleeping, Mark jumps down from the truck and throws one of them against their truck and a scuffle ensues.  It seems to stop without coming to major blows (I’m listening to all of this right out side my tent and thinking - please don’t fall on my tent it’s too late and too cold to get up and fix it!) with a few more cheeky but much quieter jibs coming from the pride dented Arab boy.  Finally though the noise quietens down and as the others are hiking I get another 4 hours sleep before getting up for breakfast. 
The hike though is much more exciting and here’s Jules again to tell you all about it…
So up bright and early (well early, not sure about the bright!) - lots of muppets turning up during the night and they certainly weren’t using their quiet voices!  So we wrap up warm (thanks for the jacket Kim!) and off we go.  Well kind of………..we head off up the track only to be stopped, bags searched and told we cannot go any further without a guide.  We don’t really need or want one as the track is clearly marked but they insist, saying its for safety - what a load of old shit!  We try to get out of it but in the end reluctantly agree to the 85 Egyptian Pound (c $15 USD) fee and carry on.  Wow, not to make a big issue of it or anything but what a complete waste of space - he hardly spoke English, didn’t really even walk with us and didn’t bother tackling the last 700 steps up and just left us to go up ourselves!  The first section is about an hour or so of not too strenuous walking but I tell ya, I’m already stripping the layers off.
We take the easier route up the mountain (the ’Siket El Bashait’ route) and avoid the hard core ‘Steps of Penitence’ which is around 3,750 steps right to the top - you’d feel the burn on that baby!!  So off we plod, I’m walking mostly with Ish and Allison as we have a similar pace and so begin the stories to keep us amused - Allison had a goodie which she tells her school kids but I cannot remember it - not cos I was bored and not listening I promise!  The next part of the adventure, which becomes so bloody tiresome very quickly are the camel-ride sellers.  I swear every few metres it’s - you want camel, I have nice carmello for you, you look tired, you want my camille……and so it goes on and on and on.  You start of being polite but that soon becomes very difficult - it was quite amusing listening to Allison’s responses though, they got angrier and angrier the further we went!

Another absolutely classic encounter was with the massive group of African pilgrims that were making their way up the hill.  Dressed in all kinds of weird and wonderful things (and not so appropriate I might add!) from suits, to lovely dresses, posh little going out shoes (even saw one lady with kitten heels and a handbag!).  Probably due to their attire (and that they were all pretty old) their pace was pretty slow.  Which meant us trying to manoeuvre our way around them, being caught right in the middle of them singing away happily (which was actually very cool) and hearing one poor guy calling out ‘oh lord Jesus, god bless you Jesus, oh please help me Jesus……whilst negotiating one of the steeper sections of the climb!
We were making pretty good time so stopped of in a coffee shop (I’m not joking) just before the last 700 steps so we could keep warm down there for as long as possible - and also partake in a much deserved chocolate bar!  
 Just before sunrise we set off up the steps (which requires a whole lot more effort!) and only just make it to the top in time.  It wasn’t as cold as we expecting but if it was the ever resourceful locals were on hand with blankets you could rent - not to mention the lovely camel souvenirs you could buy just in case you weren’t yet sick to death of the things!  There were loads of people up there but we were lucky enough to find a sneaky little spot behind the wee church up the top and got to enjoy the beautiful sunrise in relative peace and quiet.  It was a beautiful spot to just sit and take in all in - and if you’re AK and Allison, to enjoy sipping on the hip flask of gods knows what AK carried up with him!  Not even being 6am yet, I thought it was a wee bit early for me!

The views of the mountains of St Catherine were stunning and we were soon all clicking away, trying to get that perfect shot!  Then talk turned to what the actual Ten Commandments were and between the 6 or so of us that were there we couldn’t even get them all - shame on me and I have the nerve to go around telling people I’m a good Catholic girl!  Ha, ha, ha - even I find that amusing! 
We eventually make our way back down, Ish and I taking it super easy, taking in the serenity, stopping off for wees behind rocks and getting the must have camel shots.  

Our group plan had been to try and lose our hopeless guide and we thought we had nailed it.  However……just as we were nearing the end of the trek, he pops out of nowhere and starts walking with us.  We get back to Roxy and everyone is having breakfast so we join in while the guide just hovers around.  I ask the guys what we were doing about the money and am told we are only going to pay half as he didn’t even walk with us let alone guide.  Long story short, a massive argument breaks out, Mark, the guide and a few others go to speak to the ’police’ and it turns out we did end up having to pay the full fee.
Not surprising really, it’s a continuing theme here in Egypt that you will get violated at every turn by touts and scammers - and the majority of them are so bl**dy rude.  It certainly puts a dampener on the Egyptian experience and is the main reason that when asked where the worst place on our travels was, Egypt wins hands down every time.  There are some very nice, genuine Egyptians to be found but unfortunately for them they are significantly outnumbered by the scummy, rude, low life ones out there!
So after all that drama is over, Jen and I set about putting down our reliable camping companion ‘Moist’ one last time.  We make sure we get photographic evidence of this monumental moment of final tent put down right before our final Roxy drive day heading to Dahab.  It’s a drive in which you reflect on what you’ve done over the past 4 months and think ahead about the things you’ve still got to do.  If I’m honest, I’m looking forward to getting off the trunk and getting going on our new adventures. 

If I am asked, I would say 3 months is about right to travel on an overland truck with a group - 4 months just tips you over the edge of getting over it I think but that’s only my opinion. 
So Dahab here we come……..bring on the chilling, snorkelling, eating, drinking - YES, YES, YES!!!
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