10th March 2008
So off I went at 9:45pm at night and got onto a minibus and we went round for about 2 hours picking up other people, as always in Egypt the slow stupid way. We reached the infamous petrol station and waited around there for about an hour until the big bus rocked up. There were two shops there, one I found out was for tourists and was expensive, the back grotty shop was for Egyptians and was cheap. I went in the back shop to have a look around and my guide attempted to shoo me out of there, he only spoke Russian and Egyptian, so he relented and let me buy my pringles and mars bar for 27EGP instead of about 60. We finally got on the bus, and as usual it was a bus full of Russians.
I sat next to this nice lady from Belgium, Lyn who was also on her own and she spoke English. We drove into the night right into the interior of Sinai and had to show our passports at the security check points. We arrived at Mt Sinai at 3:30am an immediately began the climb, or the run I should say, the delay at the petrol station had cost us for time.
There was no way I was going to run up Mt Sinai so when a Bedouin face came out of the darkness, I asked him how much for his camel and got up on that. I went about halfway up the unforgiving mountain in pitch blackness on my own on a camel, I was so glad I had a torch with me. Turns out the camel was slower than walking and I fell behind the group, which suited me just fine as the other tourists and the guides were already annoying me.
I reached the “Steps of Penance” and surrendered my camel; they are not called the Steps of Penance for nothing. They are 750 chunks of unstable rock jutting out from the mountain, believe me by the time I was done with them I was sorry for all my sins. I was already tired and now sore from the camel, and I started the horrendous climb, something Lonely Planet said was easy. Which was rubbish.
I went up a few steps and thought, I can see the top, yeah, I thought that a few times, it took me over an hour to climb these unforgiving steps. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in all my life it was so hard, the climb seemed like it would never end, and just when I was losing hope another lady came down and said, “Don’t worry the top is around the next bend!” I raced up the next 50 steps and there it was, sunrise from the top of Mt Sinai, worth every bit of effort. I can safely say that climb was the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I’ve never felt such a sense of accomplishment in all my life having reached the top. (And I’ve got a University Degree!) Some people in our group didn’t make it.
I then climbed back down, which was quite difficult, with more people coming up now that it was light and the constant flow of camels getting in the way…I twisted my ankle and feet a few times but hardly noticed. We were supposed to go to St Katherines, but it was closed for the day, however this didn’t stop them taking full price for the tour which made everyone angry. We stopped for breakfast at some crappy little hotel and had about 20 minutes to eat, or so we thought, the guides just sat around yakking for about an hour and kept us all waiting, which annoyed everyone all the more.
We then started to two-hour drive back and stopped halfway and had a ten minute break or so we thought, the guide just sat outside the petrol station smoking for about half an hour, he left the bus door open and hundreds of flies got in. No one got off to have a break everyone just wanted to get back, this guy was something else. We then got back on the road and after about ten minutes the crazy bus driver went over a large boulder and punctured a tyre! We sat around for a while not knowing what was happening, then we were off again driving with a flat, we were in the middle of the Sinai Mountains and no one had phone reception, believe me I checked, I wasn’t going to be out in the middle of nowhere, with a guide with the intelligence of a squirrel and about the same attention span, if I didn’t have to. The wheel started to make kind of a grinding noise and we kept going for a while and then stopped and started again. All the while we were given no information on what was happening. Eventually, they got some phone reception and called Sharm to send out hotel buses for us. We waited about another hour, and all got on our buses, which would not leave until they were all full, annoying. I yelled at the drivers “Come on! Yella! Yella!” I don’t think they were too impressed, but it was an awful thing to do to people who had paid for a professional service and I got a good laugh out of my fellow travellers. My foot had also finally decided to recognise the fact that I’d really hurt myself and I could barely get off the first bus and onto the second one. I limped into my hotel and went off to bed, I woke up and the pain was gone, weird.