Mount Sinai (or Moses Mountain as the Egyptians call it) is mentioned 41 times in the Bible!! When I was researching our trip to Egypt I came across the whole “you must hike up Mt Sinai” thing a gazillion times. But I was not convinced.
Firstly, I am asthmatic. Secondly, I am so unfit it is ridiculous. But, with all the reading and research I kept on hearing phrases like “it’s an easy walk”, “it’s only a couple of hours”, “it’s not a big deal”. So Lisa in her infinite wisdom booked for us to climb Mount Sinai.
It’s important to note at this point that Megan is a karate champ as well as a life guard so she is super fit and oh she is 16 years old!! I am a couch potato and 30 something!!! With this challenge included in our trip I started walking daily in an effort to build up my stamina as well as my fitness level…then I got sick and that was that.
I should have known this was probably not the wisest thing to do when just days before a man was kidnapped in Sinai and held to ransom. Now he was well treated and in fact stated that he enjoyed his time with the Bedouin but well it was dangerous. My second clue was when we were given a guide who spoke only Arabic and ……wait for it….Russian. Lastly, when all the others making the trip with us was Russian I should have known things were going to get interesting.
The three hour drive to Sinai felt forever as the temperatures started to drop. Megan and I had packed one backpack and had jackets with us to ward of the chill but it was still cold and slightly unpleasant being stuck in a minivan with so many other people for so long.
We eventually made it to the foot of the mountain in the early hours of the morning. There was one bathroom which was ummmm interesting but necessary. Our guide gave a rundown of what was happening….in Russian. Meg and I had no clue what was going on but we followed the crowd. Which were really walking fast to the point that we lost them. But Meg being the champ ran to catch up to them and explained to our Bedouin guide (who spoke English) that we needed to set a slower pace if I was going to keep up. Shame he was really sweet and concerned with he found out I was asthmatic.
And so the climb began…
Mt Sinai is a 7 497 foot high mountain. I made it to the first stop past St Katharine’s Monastery when my lungs gave out on me. I was suffering one asthma attack after another and I was battling to regain my breath in between because the air was becoming so thin. Our Bedouin guide was concerned for my safety reminding me that if I was to fall or pass out or die there was no way to get me down of the mountain. He insisted that I return with another group making their way down the mountain to base camp.
I could not deny Meg the opportunity to summit but leaving her was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. Two of the younger Russian women spoke English and assured me they would look out for her and our guide (after I threatened him with everything from decapitation to castration) promised to make sure she was ok. I was torn, I felt like I was deserting the most precious thing (which she is) but I had no choice. In the end I trusted my gut, the guide and the Russian ladies.
As Meg made her way up the mountain I made my way down. Things kinda got interesting because I was really battling to breath but the guide bring his group down from the summit was wonderful and really tried to help me. When we made it to the base camp our non English speaking guide and driver told me that there was no place for me to stay. I looked around and true enough everything was closed….everything (remember that for a little later)!!! They were sleeping in the mini van so I joined them. I did not sleep much between being incredibly worried about Meg and praying for her every minute and the snoring men but what really kept me awake was the sudden cold.
It was at this point that I realised that I had taken nothing from the backpack. Megan had my warm jacket, she had all our cash, our food, the cameras as well as all the water and wait for it…..wet wipes and toilet paper!! Of course the moment I realised this I was thirsty, hungry and desperate for the bathroom.
Depending on how well you want to know me…you may want to stop reading at this point...
So, it is now about 3 in the morning. I am really really frantic for the bathroom. I decided to see if the bathroom we had used earlier is open…in fact up until this point I had no reason to think it would not be. But alas!!!! It was locked up. WHO locks a public bathroom in the MIDDLE of the night!!! Apparently the Bedouin. I did not know what to do because in all honesty I was about to have a major accident in my pants. There were a couple of guys in a tent type thing who were drinking tea so I asked them if they could open the bathroom but NONE of them had a key.
Well friends, a women has to do what a women has to do!! A tour bus was parked a little to the side of the parking lot and there was no other cars or busses around it. The bus was dark so I figured there was no one inside. I walked (well it was more of a waddle because my need had become so great) to the far side of the bus, checked that no one was around at the little shop where the guys were having tea was not in sight. It was at this point that I realised that I was about to drop my pants in an open space and squat. Oh the thoughts that went through my mind…let’s just say it was a dark dark time. I looked around one more time and started to unbuckle my pants. It then occurred to me that as it is I have trouble squatting. I am not sure what it is…perhaps it’s because I am short or just stupid but if travelling in the Far East taught me anything it is that I am not a good squatter!! As if my situation could not be more dire I faced the cruel reality that not only was I going to have to squat but I was gonna have to remove my pants to do so. Contemplating this another thought raised its ugly little head…what was I gonna wipe with. Remember my earlier statement that Meg had the backpack with EVERYTHING it, yip that!!!
So to recap….I am desperate to pee, the bathrooms are locked, I have no toilet paper and I now need to remove my pants and squat!! Let me tell you its kinda in a moment like this that you pray for the earth to swallow you up!! It was time to take care of business. I checked that no one was around, I dropped my pants and maneuvered one pants leg off so that I could move the pants out of “danger zone”, checked around once more and dropped to my knees. As relief set it, I was overcome by a fit of giggles. Oh my word was there ever a better candid camera moment!!! I had a good laugh as I drip dried, then realised I was actually half naked, backed away from “the spot” and quickly sorted out my pants. The only problem is that my pants leg would not go over my sneaker. There I was butt in the air hopping around trying to get my pants over my shoe!!
Finally, I made my way back to the car, got settled in and as I slowly drifted off to sleep it occurred to me that I would be in a similar position in the desert. UMMMMMMM
As the sun started to rise I woke up and went to sit outside. It was kinda chilly but oh-my the sun rise was amazing. I may not have made it to the summit but I sure did have a mountain top experience. I felt such peace settle around me and I experienced such serenity as I watched the light touch the mountain tops. I prayed and I know that right there and then I have never felt closer to our Heavenly Father. My heart cried out for the earthly father I had lost and all the sin and ugliness I had been carrying around with me felt lighter…..a burden lifted.
But as morning dawned I became worried about Meg and wondered how her mountain top experience was going. I wanted to hike up to the monastery so that we could at least see the “burning bush” or at least what they think was the burning bush but was told that the monastery was closed due to all the unrest in the area.
It was about nine o clock and my nerves were on end as the young Russian ladies appeared. I must admit that I was a little panicked when I saw that Meg was not with them but they said that she was fine but had taken the longer route back. That’s my Meg…always up for an adventure. She arrived about 15 minutes later and I am not sure who I was happier to see…her or the backpack…
I will share some of Meg’s mountain top experience soon…