Torturous hours at Mt. Sinai

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Red Sea Relax Resort

Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Oh gosh, I had such a hellish experience on the Mt. Sinai trip that I don't even want to recount it.  Still, I feel obligated to accurately and thoroughly document my experience.  Mt. Sinai is located about 1.5 hour northwest of Dahab.  Its fame derives from Moses, who climbed the mountain and profoundly iterated the 10 commandments.  He must have been like 80 when he did this, why wouldn't I be able to hike up to the peak and say wise things as well?  Right?

The trip consisted of mental and physical torture from the very beginning.  Jennie, the three British guys, and I got ready at 11pm to take off, but of course, that means 12:30am in Egyptian time.  With 6 more people joining us from other places, the mini-bus was packed and the drive was reminiscent of the one to Abu Simbel at 3 in the morning.  We started the actual hike around 2:30am with a guide who named our group Bishi Bishi.  Some people mistakenly heard Mitsubishi; I thought it sounded like Bishil Bishil, which means "staggering out of hunger and fatigue" in Korean.  How ironic.  The full moon phase had just ended a few days ago, so the moon was almost invisible.  Countless stars and the milkyway sprinkled the night sky like I have never seen before.  Unfortunately, I did not get to fully enjoy this beautiful scene as I had to watch every step of the rocky gravel path.  About half of us had flashlights.  The hike oscillated between manageable and nearly impossible.  I was huffing and puffing, sweating so much despite the chilly night air.  We took several breaks to make sure everyone was okay.  I saw a lot of huge bumps to either side of me, kind of like a Korean graveyard.  It turned out to be a camel farm: camel owners trying to entice the tired and the weak to ride a camel to the top.  I don't think so.  You can't ride the camel all the way to the top anyway.  They conveniely drop people off before the last push: 2400 steep stone steps to the top.  Looking back and down I could see other groups climbing the mountain; they looked like undulating catepillars made up of lit candles in the dark.

Many people inevitably had trouble with the 2400 steps, creating traffic jam.  I was just out of my mind.  I wanted this to be over so badly.  A 6km hike to the top of the mountain!  When was the last time I had even walked half that distance on flat land?  The night air was cooling my sweat, and it got increasingly cold and windy as we neared the peak.  And FINALLY we were there.  Finally.  It did not even feel that good to reach the top because of the harsh wind and weather and fatigue and hunger and a full bladder.  I was just uncomfortable in every sense you can imagine.  It was 4:30am.

Then sun slowly began to rise.  The view of the mountains was stunning!  The red valleys made me think of the Grand Canyon.  Hundreds of cameras at different levels clicked repeatedly for pictures.  I just wanted to take a few good pictures and descend.  After the sun rose, Bishi Bishi got together to descend before the sun became to strong and scorched us.  My favorite walking shoes were battered by the dust and rocks.  They were still very comfortable and did their job.  Slipping and tripping here and there, I wanted to cry.  I really, really hated the hike.  I tried to look around and enjoy it, but I couldn't to save my life.  When we got to St. Catherine's after the excruciating hike, I did not even care about the burning bush or whatever.  I just needed to go home ASAP.  I could already feel the strong sun beating on my dirty skin.  I was so cranky that I shoved the touts away with grunts and my backpack rather than with human words.  We finally reached the exit at 8am, but the bus was not coming until 9am.  St. Catherine's did not open until 9am either, so we could not use that to kill time.  Bishi Bishi basically sprawled around some lawn chairs and tables and passed out

The drive back was not at all comforting either.  No airconditioning and long, long drive through the desert mountains.  The driver did not care; he took his time to get out and buy a pack of cigarrettes.  La la.  UGH.  Then I was finally, finally, finally finally inside of RSRR,  2 minutes before 11am.  Cold-hearted and utterly unsympathetic, the staff members removed all the food while I ran into the bathroom like a Russian race horse, and refused to make me honey banana pancakes.  WTF do they not know the ultimate physical challenge I have just completed?  How can they not be stirred by my deterred and disheveled look?  Whatever.  I just heated up the left-overs from yesterday and passed out. 

I would like to say I am glad to have climbed the mountain, but I am not quite sure.  I cannot say I definitely would not have gone either. The hike pushed my limits and strengthened my mentality and physique that have been weakened by the transquility of Dahab.  It was a totally different experience from say, going up to Junfreujogh by a nice red train in Switzerland.  Why they don't have a train or a gondola or even a helipcopter landing station in Mt. Sinai, I do not know.  I do know that I have much respect for Moses and all the thousands of tourists in worse condition than me climbing the mountain to see the stunning sunrise.

As I said, the trip left me conked out until 4 in the afternoon.  Jennie, Sarah, and I went out for our last dinner together in Dahab.  They are both leaving tomorrow morning.  So sad!  I had been with both of them for almost half of my trip in Egypt.  I was originally going to leave by overnight bus tonight to Cairo but decided to stay tomorrow.  The hostel I stayed in Cairo was full, and what am I going to do in Cairo for a whole day anyway?  I just hope the luggage I left in the hostel is still intact.  It doesn't have any valuables.  Well, the clothes and souvenirs are valuable to me but not for a jackass going through my stuff. 

Alright, I am going to watch the movie 21 on Sarah's laptop and sleep.  Yay Dahab!
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