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)