27.12.2011 - 27.12.2011 -7 °C
We all slept like logs for the short time we had and bounced out of bed after hitting the snooze button 4 times. Jessica was a late withdrawal after failing the fitness test the night before. To her credit at 8;30 the night before she offered to come on the bus with us and see us off. What a trooper. Unfortunately at around 1:15am all we could get out of her was "arrgh", which is Arabic for "get out of my room and turn the light out and shut the door on your way out"!
We collected our Bedouin guide called Hassan and set about the 6km trek up the mountain. The first 4.5 km are fairly gradual but with lots of rocks and opportunities to come a cropper if you don't get the right foothold. We all had head torches which helped and Hassan would yell to us to go to the right or left when a camel was streaming down or up the mountain. The camel guides don't muck around when they have an empty camel. They really move them quite quickly to get to the next gig.
Whilst Louisa was doing it easy, she was taking her time and dropping back at times, so the camel guides were lurking like vultures, a step or two behind her, asking her is she wanted a camel every 4 or 5 steps.
For the first 20 minutes we were carefully looking to place our feet where the camel dung wasn't, but this was getting increasingly difficult. In the end I decided to pray to the heavens (Moses style) to guide my feet away from the camel crap. God's server must have been down as within 2 minutes we were all ankle deep in poo. And on that point, why is it that whenever you saw an obvious and safe place to get a foothold, there would be a big camel steamer lying in the middle of it? I think this explains the grin on the camels' faces.
Sunrise was due at 5:30 or 6:15 or 5:45 depending who you spoke to. Hassan said it was at 6:05. We stopped at numerous Bedouin "cafes" on the way up as Hassan was keen to take his time. We were keen to get going on most occasions. 100 steps from the top there was a final "cafe", with the usual blankets and seats inside. Hassan said that we should wait here for 30 minutes as it was cold on the summit and we had some time to wait. It was around 5:15. No arguments from us and we were asleep in 12 seconds. Rudely awoken at 5:45 by Hassan saying that we can now take our time going up the final 100 steps as it was 20 minutes or so to sunrise. He continued to lay down the law about what to do and what not to do on the final assault, and was cranky at us for wanting to get going....he said it was still around 30 minutes to go till sunrise...... as we could see the start of sunrise over his bloody shoulder!
Anyway there was probably 200 people at the top, some wearing Santa hats, some singing hymns, and a South African choir (pretty good by the way) belting out a hymn in the national way with lots of clapping and chanting. Sunrise was good but very cold. We all had on about 5 layers of clothing, but still hired a blanket at the last spot for 20 EGP. I was tough and let the others have it...what a guy.
Took about 100 photos and then headed down. On the way down there were many people still struggling to make it up. They were taking breathers every 4 or 5 paces but were in good spirits. We took the same path down as we took up, but there is a shorter path apparently. The steps of penitence....3000 of them. No thanks.
We met Bassem our main guide at St Catherine's Monastery near the bottom for a tour there. Very interesting place with paintings and manuscripts dating back thousands of years. There is also a waterwheel where Moses had a vision and the burning bush where Moses was told by god to get cracking up the mountain. The monks that live here have a constant reminder of their fate as the skulls of deceased Monks are stored at the Monastery....they are buried first and the skulls retrieved later....sorry about the detail.
Back to the hotel for a crappy breakfast and to freshen up for our 3 hour drive to Sharm El Sheik. We headed off at 10:45 and got to our hotel at around 1:00pm. Our first hour at the Marriot was underwhelming.
- Our rooms were stuffed up with the wrong bedding configuration in both.
- Our bags were not delivered till I asked where they were after an hour. Now we are all for carrying our own bags to our rooms and in fact prefer to,we were not allowed to!
- Didn't get our simple lunch order for over 40 minutes, and when we did, Jessica's did not come. Apologies from the staff as the chef had forgotten. The fish and chips arrived 20 minutes later....raw. Management were on the ball though and the chef paid for our entire meal...and drinks.
Spent an hour with Sam at the local dive shop getting his certification sorted out. We opted for the first level that will restrict him to 12m, but it means he won't be spending his entire week here, studying up on diving and doing all the water sessions. The is too much do around here.
Dinner though was great. Our package includes breakfast and lunch and normally this means buffet, but the buffet is on the other side of the main road. We are staying at Marriot Beachside and the other section is known as Marriot Mountainside. There is a local alternative at the Marriot's Italian restaurant. Great menu, great service. Jessica threw a glass of red wine at Louisa (well she made it look like she knocked it) and that kept the staff occupied for a while and in good spirits.
All extremely tired so off to bed for an early one, and maybe.a sleep in....but not for Sam who has an 8:45 appointment at the dive centre!