Monday, May 23, 2011

Hat's off

Lately, I have been having a hat craving. Maybe it's the summer weather, who knows??

I RARELY wear hats... maybe because you don't see many people wear them here unlike say... Australia, where they have  racing day and you surely have to get a very exotic hat to wear. Or for instance, the wedding of Prince William (did you see the hat to Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice?)

My gawd, do English royalty dress like the mad hatter??? and they think this is stylish?

Oh well, back to normal looking hats.....

In a span of maybe a month, I have bought myself 3 hats. The first one is a fedora I bought at Esprit. (haven't had an opportunity to wear it yet)
I bought one in black felt (the picture is straw)

The next two are basically the same style. a big round floppy hat for something you would wear while strolling down a beach (which i still have to do... summer in the Philippines basically over in two weeks~) It's been raining hard lately... a sure sign the monsoons are coming

This hat is so classic, it just takes you to somewhere warm.... big round sunglasses on... maybe sailing on some yacht, sipping a cool drink. VERY french riviera of me, I know!

There was a time I has a cowboy hat craving too... just bought a bunch of straw cowboy hats.

I have to do the beach SOON--- weather forecasts have said we have some typhoons coming in the next couple of weeks.. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Climbing a mountain (part 3) -- reaching the top

MT Sinai, the camel station (AKA: base camp 2)

I could see the lights and knew we had reached the camel station. At the cafeteria, I was reunited with my fellow travellers. My husband was already slurping on a hot bowl of instant noodles. It was amazing that they had instant noodles at 6000 feet. There were more people behind me looking for those noodles and my husband informed me that it was the last one. (they sold out on  noodles.- - I guess they hadn't figured that 90 freezing cold asians were going to climb the mountain that day)

I took a few minutes waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. (we had to complete our group before we were allowed to climb the rest of the way up)

They informed us that about 30 of us intended to proceed the rest of the way. The other opted to stay at the camel station. It was another 30 minutes climb to the very top for us to wait for the sunrise.

picture with the camels

camel parking lot

a beduin smoking a pipe at the camel station (photo by my friend)
resting my head....

in 20 minutes, we started climbing. it was about 4:30 am. With my flashlight, I carefully climbed the narrow steps. It was rocky and we had to be careful in stepping, some of the stones were quite loose. There were another group who were climbing also and at time, we had to let the faster climbers pass. some of my male friends complained they had to go pee... and found some rocky outcrop to do their business (good thing it was dark, and I could only HEAR them and not SEE them.... hahaha)

The air was quite thin at this point and we got winded very easily. I tried to regulate my breathing too but eventually had to take some rest stops to catch my breath. You can't really see how much further you have to go to reach the top since it was pitch dark. you just had to prod on... I kept thinking.... how far? are we there yet???

You can't really see much, maybe only two feet in front of you. when you look up, you try to gauge the length you still have to climb by the number of flashlight you still see. Eventually we reach the top. YES. it was soo fulfilling to be able to climb. Maybe something you do once in a lifetime.

me taking pictures
 The sun began to rise and everyone had their cameras ready. The beduins were shouting at everyone to be ready to shoot.

(The time frame was short-- it was sunrise after all and you only get 2 minutes for everything to happen)
i'm on the top of the wooorrrrlllld.....

Sinai at sunrise

me and a friend... trying to balance on a very scary rock

nice picture- I think

grand view of it all.

The whole impact of the climb will hit you when you climb down... (photos by friends)
traffic going down

camel station in the morning

the steps up... I climbed THAT????

the beduin mall... hahaha

looking down at how far we need to walk down

steep!!!! climbing down..
Suffice it to say.... all of us really FELT it the next day... some had to have canes!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

climbing a mountian (part 2)

The beduin said nothing as he led the camel up the path. Around me, I could barely distinguish the outline of the mountain. I hear the other camels carrying our group. I leaned over and touched the hide of the camel, wondering how it would feel like. His skin/ fur was similar to a horse.

"Who's there?" I shout out as I sensed a camel coming up from my rear. I felt uneasy being alone in the darkness and I longed for conversation. We were told not to use our flashlights as these might blind the camels so it was impossible to tell who was beside you. 

"It's me!" a girl shouted.

I could hardly see who this "me" is, considering that we were about 90 people in the group,  so I asked, "Who is ME?"


I smiled. It was one of the younger girls in our group. In front of me, another girl shouted "Hey, Imelda. It's me Yolly"

My camel was getting grumpy. The beduin who was guiding me was having a hard time commanding it to move forward. Every once in awhile, it would try to make a U turn and go back down from the path we had come from.

I chatted up some of the people beside me. It was dark and as we learned, a very long ways up. The saddle had a handle in front and at the back, which made riding a bit rough.  I gripped them both as the camel rocked me back and forth trying to sway with the rocking motion of the camel. I figured it would make it less hard on my bum.  I was wondering how long this would take. (guessing the boys would have a hard time in this kind of seat)

I squinted and tried to make out the path we were going. I could make out shadows of the side of the path as we slowly ascended up. I look up and see the silhouette of the camels of the other who were in front. To the left of us was the side of the path, the ravine side. In the dark, you can't really SEE anything but you can SENSE that there is a ravine there somewhere especially when your camel decides that he want to walk on the LEFT side most of the time!

By mid way, the Bedouin was REALLY making an effort to control the stubborn camel. Every one in awhile, it would bump another camel beside me, squishing me feet in between that I had to shout "oww!!" By this time, the beduin gives me a stick and gestures me to whip the camel on the backside. Really???

I make a light handed tap on the camel, shouting "Yala, habibi!!" like what I heard out tour guide shout when he is calling us. My friends laugh.

The beduin gestures "more!" I feel guilty as I give a better tap--(secretly, I feel excited at being able to "guide" the camel) I ended up shouting louder rather than tapping harder. The others in the bottom of the pack instantly recognizes my voice. (truth to tell, my voice is like a child's- quite thin and shrill)

"Imelda!!!!!!" they shout from the bottom

I shout back the hello's and laugh. This is getting to be fun after all.

Midway, another beduin took over my camel and it seemed the camel is more agreeable to him (I am guessing the first one was not the original owner) and I had no problems with my ride after that. It was a long ride and I had packed some small chocolates with me (for energy) and some dried dates. I rummaged through my bag and give my beduin a pack of dried apricots.

He looks at it and asks "good?"

"yeah, it's nice!!" I tell him.

He seems skeptical. I try to tell him "apricot" but I could not determine if he understood. Finally he eats it and exclaims, "good!". He reaches out his hand to me again, "chocolate!"

Errr… ok… not even a thank you??

The tour guide warned us that the beduins would be persistent in asking for anything you have on. Particularly asking for chocolates, your bag, your pen or whatever they think they can mooch/ask from you. It is not impolite to tell them that you need or still want to keep you things. They would usually brush it off and try on some other poor guy.

Next: reaching the top

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Climbing a mountain (part 1)

Sinai Peninsula:

12:30am and my phone alarm clock goes off. I can’t believe I am waking up at this hour.  It was a mere 4 hours ago that we trudged into this hotel in the middle of the sinai peninsula after a long bus ride from the border crossing at Eilat (Israel) to Egypt. The hotel claimed to be 4 stars. The only thing 4 star about it was the expansive swimming pool. (w/c we will never have a chance to try). The hotel room itself was bare. The key lock (yes, the one where you turn it -old style) looked like it had been repaired from being previously kicked in. The furnishings were worn down. They said it was the best hotel in that area. 

Rubbing my eyes, I see my husband is already awake too. I quickly go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, skipping taking a shower all together. I had thought about taking a shower the night before but scouring the hotel room, there was no hair dryer in sight. The morning would be no different. I would not dare go out and climb a mountain with wet hair. (they say it’s near 2C when you go up). By 5 minutes to 1, we were already on the bus. They also warned us to go to the bathroom before we climb as it IS a mountain after all and WC’s are not available (guys are so lucky they can GO anywhere).

Everything was pitch dark as we drove from the hotel to the foot of Mt sinai. The only lights were the lampposts from the road leading to the hotel. After 5 minutes, even they were not visible. I wondered how the bus driver would know where to go- experience, I guess. Another 5 minutes and I could see some shops. It was the bus parking lot at the foot of the mountain. Our guide hustled us out and directed us to walk to the camel station. I looked around and saw a WC SIGN. Suddenly (or maybe psychologically) I had the urge to pee. But the group was moving fast going forward like a wave. I dismissed the urge and prayed it was just nerves. I would not be seeing another WC for the next 4 hours.  (eeek)

I could not determine the length of the walk since we only had flashlights to light our way. I kept reminding myself to stay with the group and not trip on the rocky road or step on camel poop. When they told us it was dark, it was REALLY dark. I have never been out in such darkness before. Living in the city all my life, darkness meant you had some kind of light coming from somewhere all the time. This place had NO LIGHT.


I could hear the grunting of the camels. We were nearing the camel station where we were going to ride camels to go up. (cost $20-) there were about 90 of us and we were asked to line up. We would be given numbers and a beduin guide. I lined up, hardly seeing anything. I clutched the small flashlight I brought along. “36! Name?” the guide asked. (they need to check eveeryone is accounted for). “Imelda” I said, looking out in front of me trying to see determine how far the path leads. I could see some silouettes of camels lying on the side of the path. The beduin headman shouted something unintelligible to someone and another beduin suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled me. He said nothing and walked at such a fast pace, I was afraid I would trip. IMaybe he had night vision eyes but I was having a hard time determining where we were walking. I had thought they would let us ride the first camel available but he led me farther down the path. I could hear several camels and wondered which one he would ask me to ride. (I think I passed 10 camels before we stopped). By this time, all I could hear were grunting camels and several people shouting as the camels rose to their feet. I had no idea where my husband was.

This is my camel, and I don't know his name. I gripped the handles as the camel rose to it's feet in a wobbly front first and then back kind of rise. (whoa mama!) .... Now, we ascend 7000 feet!

(to be continued)


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