Saturday, March 29, 2008

The extreme weekend

I just got back from my fourth weekend in a row traveling. A whole month of straight traveling is a lot, and I am very excited about the prospect of two free weekends in Cairo before Spring Break. This weekend we went to Dahab and Mt. Sinai. Most people do both things in three days, but we only took two. Our extreme agenda was as follows:
-Leave Cairo on a bus for Dahab at 11:00 PM. Sleep on bus.
-Get into Dahab around 8:00 AM. Hit beach. Sleep more.
-Spend all day on beach, have nice dinner in Dahab. Do not check into hostel/hotel.
-Leave for Mt. Sinai at 11:30 PM. Get there around 2:30 AM. Climb mountain. See sunrise. Climb back down, see St. Katherine's monastery really quickly, get on bus back to Cairo.

I didn't really manage to sleep on the bus to Dahab for some reason. I usually can, and I even had my neck pillow this time! Oh well. We got into Dahab early and I took a two hour power nap, after which I surprisingly felt totally refreshed and ready to go for the rest of the day. After breakfast we headed down to the beach and spent the whole day lounging and not really doing anything. Around 4:00 a couple of people decided they wanted to mix it up a bit, so one group went ATV-ing in the desert (ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicle), and Kyle and I decided we wanted to go horseback riding on the beach. We both wanted faster horses...although I've only ridden horses a couple of times in my life, and probably should have asked some questions about the basic logistics before I went. Our guide rode next to me, and was holding my reigns during the beginning. This was fine, except for the fact that there was no space between our horses, and he kept pushing me off balance a bit. I asked if I could ride on my own, and was told that I could, but warned that the horse liked to go very fast. We were cantering down the road to the beach when the horse picked up speed. I wasn't pressing my feet into the stirrups to keep myself grounded, and it was hard to grasp the saddle. I lost my balance and flew off the horse at full speed, slamming into the ground on my back and butt.

I've never been in so much pain in my entire life. At first I was just in shock and breathing really hard but not crying yet. It hurt a LOT, but I got back on the horse after about 10 minutes, and we headed to the beach. Then I got off again and the pain spasms got a lot worse. For the record, Kyle was great. Those who know me well know I may have a proclivity towards slight stubbornness in certain situations. This was one of those situations. Kyle talked me down, convinced me that we should call it quits, that I could not in fact ride the horse, and then spoke with the guide to get a car to come pick us up. I curled up in a ball on the back seat of the car, and we went back to the town and to a restaurant for dinner. Luckily all the seating there is on pillowed benches really close to the floor. I sat down very slowly, and Alison immediately went to go get me some ibuprofen. She came back with giant pink pills. Everyone in the group was so nice and concerned, and anxious to see if I needed anything at all. I was pretty skeptical about climbing a 7,000 ft mountain, though.

When we left around 11:30, my elephant tranquilizers had kicked in, and I was actually feeling a lot better. Still in some pain, but better. I decided I would try to climb the mountain, and Helene said she would go slow with me. Tim and Brian both ordered me to give them my backpack, because invalids are apparently not allowed to carry things. And they say chivalry is dead. I started a little slowly up the mountain, but was actually feeling pretty good, and decided to walk with the fast group. There were tons and tons of people and camels on the trail, but I had my trusty headlamp and could easily see where I was going. It was almost eerily beautiful to see a huge sky and clear stars framed by scoops and jagged edges of silent mountains that kept looming up in front of us with each switchback. I'm really glad we climbed to see sunrise instead of sunset. In all, the whole hike took about 2.5 hours, and you all should be pleased to know that Kyle, Tim, and I were the first three to the top of the mountain. We had a healthy breakfast of tea, oranges and snickers at the small snack stand, and then went up to the very top to await the sunrise. It was brutally cold and windy and we were all exhausted, but I was proud of myself for making it to the top. I went from hitting the ground hard to scaling a 7,000 foot peak. It was literally a day of highs and lows. Such is life.

The sunrise was totally worth the 2.5 hour climb. It's easy to see why this was an appropriate spot for Moses to receive the 10 Commandments. (Although it's far more impressive that he climbed without the advantage of a carved-out trail, huge water bottles and high-tech running shoes.) After watching the sunrise, we headed back down the mountain using a different trail, which was mostly rough stone steps instead of switchbacks. At the bottom we stopped briefly at St. Katherine's monastery...yeah, the St. Katherine...(if you don't know why that's cool then no worries...but for some reason I was thinking about violets a lot while I was there, hint hint...) and then we got on the bus back to Cairo. Thus ended weekend extreme. I came away with a bruise the size of Madagascar, some awesome pictures, a little bit of sunburn, and a really good story.


Natalie said...

please tell me you had letters or something on when you went to St. Katherine's. that shit should go in the triangle. also, I'm so glad youre still alive after being thrown off a horse lol. badass :)