Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 11: Hiking up St. Catherine's & travel to Cairo

Ugghhh.... it's early. 1 am wake up call and we're dressing to hit the trail.
It's dark, we're unsure as to how far the hike is. We've heard from Kobi and others it is strenuous... expect a 3 hour hike up and 2 hours down (for an athletic man - but what are we??) of the original 18 who were gung ho to go, only 11 actually make it up and out the door.

There are camels to take us 1/3 up the mountain, but after reaching the camel pick up, most of us decide to hike the entire way up. It's a gradual (if long) slope and we're ready for the challenge. It's not terribly cold and the stars over head are AMAZING!!! Such a clear sky you can see the Milky Way.
We have a Bedouin guide, but because of the different paces of each in the group we get strung out. There are MANY people on the trail. Orientals, Germans, Amish, oodles! We share the few flashlights we have and the final 748 steps to reach the summit remind Dan and I of the videos we've seen of the hike up Mt. Everest. Obviously, this is a much smaller scale, but there is a definite line to get up the narrow steps to the peak. After 2.5 hours we arrive at the top and reunite with most of our group.

As twilight and then full on dawn approaches, the feeling of being on Mt. Everest continues: We are on one of the tallest mountains around and below us smaller peaks start coming into view. I have a small fear of heights and begin to get freaked out at the thought of our trip down the 748 stairs to the easier hiking area...
The sun pops up behind the clouds as a large dim orange ball. Certainly not the most colorful sunrise I've seen but so weird to think Moses lived on a mountain top like this for 40 days communing with God. The company we are with (tho not AS holy as our God) is WONDERFUL... Lindsay and I are filled with trepidation about the journey down.
Soon, it's time to hit the trail and walk down. We have a long hike ahead of us and I most CERTAINLY want to take my time heading down.
Here is a portion of the steps down.
A view looking back up to where we came from. There is a cathedral at the summit that you can just barely see... that's where we were.
Mike, Dan and my Dad - with the peak we just climbed behind us.

The stats: 2.5 hours up, 2.15 hours down. 1200 calories burned up, 600 calories burned on the way down. 3.5 miles up (3.5 miles down) round trip = 7 mile hike. Elevation gain: 2500 ft, Elevation lost (on the way down) 2500 ft. Tylenol needed to soothe my aching knees? 1.5 bottles. ;-)

After a quick breakfast (oh, and my tummy is grumbling and NOT happy), shower and pack we are out the door. Our first stop? The Monastery we just hike by at the START of our journey: St. Catherine's.
The Monastery houses a church to St. Catherine, a well for Moses and the "burning bush". The bush was NOT still on fire, in case you were wondering. It's already starting to be a warm day and soon we're back on the bus for the long 7 hour drive to Cairo.
Our next stop is a Nun's Monastery. Currently there are 5 nuns there: 3 Greek and 2 Romanian. We met with one of the tiny sweet Romanian women. Their church was lovely and she was an amazing hostess.
In the hills around the Monastery, monks were said to live and study, dedicating their lives to God. They would occasionally lower buckets down the mountain to be filled with food so they could continue their studies.

Before lunch, we made one more stop. By now, my stomach is NOT happy and all I'm doing is sleeping and moaning on the bus. We can't get to Cairo soon enough.
Here is a well Moses dug after crossing the Red Sea from Pharoh in the Exodus from Egypt.
This is the Red Sea (and ships waiting to cross the Suez Canal). We drove under it before heading to lunch and further to Cairo.