Posted by: treksinai | July 7, 2008

5 Days in the Wilderness

Took off on Friday morning from St. Catherine with 65 liter MEC backpack, a Bedouin guide, and an experienced English guide-trainer. The point of this expedition was to get GPS coordinates and for me to take photos and get a good enough feel for the environment to write a formal article.

 

Day One: We trekked up the highest peak in Egypt, (St. Katreen) where we looked down on Mt. Sinai and got an incredible view where even the Red Sea was visible. After spending some time up there, we descended to a valley where we had lunch in a desert garden(were there was a mini-pool to swim in!) Normally this is where a group hiking with SheikhSina (the company I work for) would spend the night. But we were pressing on, as we only had 3 days to do a 5 day hike. We walked for another few hours, along a valley, up over a ridge and down the other side before getting to our camp. That day we walked just under 23 Kilometers and could feel the effects. Supper was as tasty as could be and the bread was freshly made and baked in the fire on a pan by the Bedouin guide. We slept under the stars – I can’t remember being in a place where more stars were visible, the ‘space-clouds’ and shooting stars were all over the place, and the silence (except for the wind in the trees) was one of the most calming experiences I have ever had. 

 

Day Two: Warmed up the bread from supper, dipped it into melted Fetta cheese then headed out for the upcoming 19 kilometers. The objective was Gebal Bab – but the hike up to it was the most splendid part of the entire trek… as you may see from the photos. Sometimes we were lucky and could leave our big bags at the base of the mountain then head up quickly and lightly. With the onus removed – the hike came to life. There is an excitement to leaving ones burdens behind – especially if they were heavy; certainly true for trekking as well.  The second night we slept in another garden, the guide mixed some flour with water and salt, then put it in the hot ashes and covered it with more ashes. 20 minutes later we dipped our warm bread (Leba) into a potatoes soup, and ate in silence.

 

 

Day Three: This was our easy day – 12.3 Kilometers. Mainly walked through valleys, down a couple gorges (some areas requiring some climbing skills), one col, 2 monasteries and several gardens. It was a relaxing day and we all we knew we would soon be able to shower and sleep in our own beds. For the past three days we had been drinking well water. It was fun to pull drinking water out of a deep well with a bucket attached to a rope, a technique that has probably been used for thousands of years. Sometimes the water would be quite murky with alive floaties, but hey – if Bedouins can drink it, why can’t I… 

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Posted by: treksinai | July 2, 2008

Gold

I have been away for the past 10 days traveling through Jordan, Syria and Israel/Palestine. Yes, it was quick, but i saw all the sites i wanted to see except for Aleppo in Syria. It is quite easy to get from St. Catherine to Petra in one day. And certainly worth the trip… and israel is only about 2 hours away.

Anyway – My last day of vacation i went to a beach town along the Red Sea called Dahab (Gold, in Arabic). This is the photo you see here – it is about 1.5 hours from St. Catherine in a mini-bus costing about 4 or 5 american dollars. I found a place to stay for 2 dollars a night and a snorkeling kit for 2 dollars a night.

I placed my white body on a beach bed and tanned for a few minutes before no longer being able to resist the water. I have never been snorkeling in my life and apparently this area is one of the best places in the world, as there are coral reefs all along the coast – with amazing fauna and flora. So i plunged in with my flippers and goggle set – it was incredible. Despite the many divers deep or not so deep below – i still felt like i was alone in a whole new world. Diving deep so that i could look up at the world above and get the flying sensation. It is so free under the sea and the flippers made me feel like a torpedo… a rather slow one, but never-mind. The coral was shallow close to the beach, but there were sudden cliffs that went deep into the dark sea as i went a little further. I was told that just a few kilometers down from here was one of the nicest places on earth to go snorkeling (the Blue Hole). I will go in a few days…

I hope the photo speaks for itself. It is nice to go from St. Catherine to Dahad, but also nice to return; as St. Catherine is 5,000 ft higher with a much cooler temperature and far less tourists.

snorkeling in the red sea!

Posted by: treksinai | June 19, 2008

Scorpion in my Bed

I was setting up my mosquito net before bed, usually I turn off my light, but this time i decided to tuck the net behind the pillow before turning off the light. i saw half of something, wasn’t sure what it was barely sticking out of my pillow, i slowly lifted up the pillow case, and there appeared to be a dead scorpion.

I starred at it… then realized i should probably kill it, went to get my shoe – as i approached it the second time, it scurried under my sheets. So i went to the caretakers of the Camp, they immediately came running and literally tore my room apart (not really looking, just shaking everything) searching for this scorpion. After not finding it they started to wonder if had just seen things.

i changed rooms, this morning they cleaned everything and i should be back in tonight. But – now i’ll be a little more aware, at least for a while. 

Posted by: treksinai | June 16, 2008

trying a climbing short-cut in the wild…

so i took off this morning – trying to catch one of my colleagues/boss who went up with a bedouin guide and a french freelance journalist to Mt. Kathrina (the highest in Egypt) an hour or so earlier. i thought i knew which peak was Mt. Katherina so i cut straight up the mountain (it wasn’t Mt. Katrina)… instead of taking the zig-zag trail. I was on all fours the entire way, it got so steep that i left my water bottle behind. this is when my heart started beating and i switched off my ‘pump-up’ music. My mind went to ‘ultra careful/risky’ mode which often makes your legs shake a little bit (: but my manliness tried to overcome this reaction…

often i would think, okay, just up this section then i’ll stop (it would calm me down) then one more section, then one more… i never made it to the peak (the red dots indicate from and where i got to), but got pretty close. going down was even worse as one constantly has a great view of the fall. it is quite slow going down when it’s this steep, and discomforting when you just see dropping ledges  I set up little piles of rocks as i went up so that i could take the same path down. this saved me. 

Anyway, i will post photos of the view on the flickr link. 

 

trying to summit this peak - quite a thrill... almost too much

Posted by: treksinai | June 15, 2008

Camel School!

i have a bruise right in the middle of my back. and my rear feels like it has been massaged for three consecutive days by a big man with giant wooden fingers.. apart from that, today feels good. Yesterday i went in a truck for about 9 minutes, then hiked about 28 minutes to get to a Camel school in the middle of a large desert mountain plain. Our instructor was an 18 yr old bedouin by the name of Muhammad. not the kindest of cameleers but he  certainly knew his stuff. 

 

My Camel ‘Aboot’ was kind, but so whiny. camels are the whiniest (maybe with reason) creatures i have ever heard in my life. they just go off with their noises, every little thing … imagine a human looking around… or being ridden – nevermind. learned how to sit a camel (on and off the camel), stand a camel (on and off), tie its leg up, saddle it, ride it slow and fast, and most importantly how to sit on a camel without wishing death upon myself. (either way, not very comfy – but still feels pretty cool) so, a photo will tell a better story than my writing, so… here you go. 

Posted by: treksinai | June 14, 2008

A mini-Trek . . . and tea

the day started as usual in the office – which has a pull-up bar in the middle of the room (sometimes i hang from it or pathetically try one arm pull-ups). anyway, one of the ex-pat guides from Hungary with an Australian passport asked me and 2 other co-workers if we wanted to see some gardens up in the mountains and meet Dr. Ahmed – the herbalist of the St. Katherine area. Sure – we said, had tea, and headed up the mountains leaving the office behind.  

Just a quick note: apparently the sinai mountains are of the oldest in the world – which is not difficult to observe. Massive pieces of these granite peaks have been falling off for many many years and have created unique valleys (wadis) scattered with boulders of every size and shape. All the mountains seem to be falling apart and slowly slowly coming down back to the ground. You look up and around and witness this journey, witness thousands/millions of years in ‘process,’ in mid-story… kind of neat.

okay back to the story: so after 20 minutes of walking we go over a ridge and down into a beautiful valley where a small monastery is garnished with trees and plants; making it stand out substantially in these desert mountains… where the color green is like the color blue in england. anyway, so we stopped at a little bedouin mountain house and drank tea under the shade of a bamboo shelter. After which we went a little further up the valley and found incredible coves under boulders where one could easily sleep and spend an amazing night/evening. and had tea. – then on to the herbalist, never met him. went to his garden (where we had more tea) about an hours walk from the bedouin home and then headed back to St. katherine. The trek back was really nice, between two mountains – a certain path for flash floods (not the season), a bit of climbing or 4-limbed hiking required, but nothing too risky. when we finally popped out, we were in a small mountain village which required having tea again – drove back to St. Katherine in a taxi, went to the shesha cafe, ate kebab, watched Germany play Croatia. and had tea.  

monastery (Wadi tala)  

Posted by: treksinai | June 11, 2008

Running through the wilderness…

I left just before 8 p.m. last night to go on a run through two different valleys between Mt. Katherine (the highest in Egpyt) and Mt. Sinai (the most famous in Egypt) i brought my head lamp thinking that it might get dark. For the first part of my expedition i had a stray dog run with me (i kept thinking it might bite me) – but eventually when i started to head up into the mountains it decided to sniff whatever was around… it’s a good thing i brought my headlamp – by the time i returned it was too dark to see without it.

BUT – as i got up to the narrowing valley between the two rocky peaks, i had to climb up a little hill to start heading down the next valley, at that point i turned around to see where i had come up from and was moved beyond words at the reality of what i was feeling and seeing. the breeze was cooling, the scenery was incredible, the sun was setting behind the mountains, and i was all alone, running! in the sinai desert mountains. what may have added to the effect was the music i was listening to… but either way – i haven’t enjoyed a run ever this much in my life – the trails were nice, spontaneous, and winding only as much as the valley… i wish i could have filmed it… anyway, maybe i will someday. 

Posted by: treksinai | June 7, 2008

the fox camp

as aforementioned, Fox Camp (the hostel) brings quite an eclectic group of people… due to its religious and historical richness… just yesterday i met this british couple, in their land rover, who had traveled all around africa; a 1.5 year journey! they were just on their way out of africa… –

fox camp is also a port for desert excursions on jeeps/camels/ and by foot… i get to go on my first desert trek on the 18th of June – half of the trek by jeep and half by foot. ending somewhere on the beach of the red sea. should be interesting.

Today the euro cup begins – makes me happy. we are trying to get a restaurant to get cable! and i think i get to play in a soccer tournament today… not sure.

night shot of fox camp 

Posted by: treksinai | June 6, 2008

A panorama shot from the King’s Castle… this is looking west from mt. sinai

 

castle

Posted by: treksinai | June 6, 2008

A Castle in the desert?

A king of egypt had respiratory issues back in the day so he decided to scatter 10 pieces of meat on ten specially picked mountain tops. The summit where the piece of meat had decomposed the least became his choice for the new royal castle. (i don’t know how intelligent this experiment would be considering decomposition is mostly due to bacteria, or flies laying eggs etc. so… anyway)

Here is a photo from the left-over ruins of the castle – the view was beautiful, but in a unique way as you can probably see. the hike down was a lot of fun because we went down this gully/valley between two mountains where massive pieces of granite mountain had fallen and created a long narrow boulder park. jumping from rock to rock, climbing up and down mini-mountains, going down cracks where sometimes a backpack made you too large to fit. anyway, it was fun time… got back to st. katherine when it was dark, ate kabab drank 1.5 liters of water, then slept like an infant…    

 

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