August 6th, 7th, 8th 2010
Took a 3-hour train back from Aswan to Luxor and stayed a night because I couldn’t possibly catch the next bus to Dahab. However, I found out that the Luxor-Dahab bus was sold out and my other alternative was to take the bus to Suez and then buy a ticket there to Dahab.
After an 8 hour journey, I arrive in Suez at 5:30 am or so. The bus station is dumpy. There’s a coffee shop open to serve the night bus customers stopping by. A boy is preparing ingredients to sell falafel sandwiches at a nearby stand. Flies are buzzing around and he doesn’t pay any attention to those which land on the food. I park myself outside the coffee shop and notice that Batman (with Van Kilmer and Chris O’ Donnell) was playing, and in English! A nice way to kill a few hours until my 8 am bus to Dahab. I finish watching the movie around 7, head over to buy a ticket, and am told that the next bus to Dahab is actually at 11 am. Oh, I was mad. The past two hours have been an eternity at this station and I will have to spend another four? I had no choice. I was feeling irrational at the same time and bought a felafel sandwich. The guy crushed the falafel inside the sandwich with his bare hands. And I ate it. Hope the guy washed his hands! I didn’t have any dinner last night, and now I would have to wait until evening time to get any food. I might as well play Egyptian roulette. I can’t imagine there being any health inspectors around this part of town.
Time passed very slowly. At 10, I got back in “line” (imaginary) for the ticket and was told the bus would be late. I ended up getting the ticket around 11, boarded the bus around 11:30 am. Now, to face another 7 hours to Dahab…
Dahab is a pretty little seaside town. I put my stuff down and went to check out the sea. That evening, there was hardly any wind so the sea was dead calm. The sun was almost done setting so there was a beautiful pinkish orange color in the sky. There’s a slight mist but I could make out land across the far side of the sea…was it Jordan? The tide was low and some people ventured out pretty far to play in the waters.
My room at the Penguin Village had no A/C and it was extremely hot and stuffy inside, perfect conditions for a sleepless night. I was so tired I managed to knock off a few hours before succumbing to the heat. I woke up around 5 am, figured I’d take a shower and head to the sea to watch the sun rise. There was a cat, lying lazily on the table facing the shore. Egyptian cat beach bum.
(Cat chilling by the beach)
A little side note, please don’t get too repulsed as I think it’s quite funny. The toilets flush levers were broken so people had to manually open the toilet tops and pull the mechanism that triggered the flush. But a lot of people didn’t seem to know that so when pressing the button didn’t work, they left their kids swimming in the pool to surprise the next person. And there were signs that said “Please don’t throw toilet paper into toilets, throw them into bin.” WTF? Good thing I’m a rebel.
I spent the day doing a refresher course for Open Water diving, having already been certified in Austin two years back. It was just me and my dive instructor Tamer. We went out to the Lighthouse, one of many popular diving/snorkelling spots along the shore. I have no talent for diving, so Tamer had to deal with my lack of buoyancy control skills. It’s one of the most important diving skills to have as having good control means you don’t start destroying corals by swimming into them. And equalizing pressure, oh God. Never mind, I will work on everything when I get back to the States because I love diving.
Most humans see life on land. It’s definitely refreshing to see life under and over land, by diving and climbing mountains. The corals and sea life were spectacular. I recommend everyone to learn to dive. Ok, maybe I just want to encourage my friends out there to get certified so we can all go diving together. Diving isn’t an individual activity, you ALWAYS have to have a dive buddy.
After that morning dive, I decided to do an afternoon one. A small group of us headed out to Moray Gardens, about 30 minutes drive out. Again, spectacular sea life. We got to see a school of young barracudas, among everything else which I can’t name. I was disappointed we did not have time to go farther east as one of my dive buddies said that he was told by people there were whales (or was it whale sharks?) sighted there. I am hoping that during my lifetime, I will get to be in the water with a gentle giant whale shark.
I spent the evening watching the sun set. I decided I wasn’t going to sleep in my room that night. The restaurant attached to my hostel had an open air roof with plenty of giant cushions so that night, I slept under the stars, going to sleep as the warm breeze constantly blew and the waves washing onto the shore sounded like God’s lullaby.
(Top right side is where I slept)
Next day, went snorkelling at Blue Hole. It’s a massive deep blue hole (what gave that away??) surrounded by coral reef. Wasn’t that impressive to be honest, despite the hype. Was fun though, but after an hour, I was ready to go back. That night, I packed my fleece, some water, biscuits, and headed out with the group to Mt Sinai. We set off around 11 pm, arrived around 1 am, met our Bedouin guide (a tall, thin, skinny guy named Hamuda) who would guide us up the dark slopes.
Trekking in the dark is quite fun as you can’t see how much is ahead of you and get overwhelmed. Looking up at the sky, I saw countless stars. Bedoiuns would gather at random spots along the way up trying to sell camel rides to tiring trekkers. I think it’s a cop out. I personally like to earn my way to the top, on my own two feet. I understand some trekkers are old or out-of-shape but I don’t care. There are 80 year old men who earn their way up Mt Everest (30000 ft). What’s 7500 ft on a mountain catered for tourists?
Anyway, after several pit stops, lots of hiking and conquering the 750 steps to the top, we reach the summit around 4:30 am. Some people brought their sleeping bags. I sat in crouching position under a small rock cave and took a 30 minute nap. The sun was supposed to rise around 6:10 am so I made sure I was ready for it. And it’s quite something to watch a sunrise from a mountain top. Not just the sunrise itself but how it begins to color the surrounding landscape.
(Prior to sunrise)
(Some people enjoying the sunrise)
(Me and a random Bedouin guide)
(One of several pit stops located on Mt Sinai)
We headed down around 7 am. Everyone had two choices : Head down the way we came or head down 3750 steps (built by some crazy monk a long time ago) to St Catherine’s monastery. I chose the 3750 steps (750 down the way we came, then 3000 more). What a grueling 3750 steps they were but there were some great views to be had. We walked in small canyons and between rocky cliffs/hills until we finally reached the bottom around 9 am. I went into the monastery just to check out the “burning bush” from the Bible. Very unimpressive. It’s just a massive hanging plant in a blocked off portion of the monastery. Yawn. Snapped a picture, got out of there.
(Climbing down the 3750 steps route)
The bus from Dahab to Cairo was at 3:30 pm. Another 8 hours on a cold, stuffy, ugly-colored bus blaring horrible Arabic music and movies. Fun times.
(I ate this for at least 4-5 meals, just so good)