My first time… Hiking in the dark!

Single Woman Travels Gravatar profile photo taken at Mount Sinai, Egypt

Single Woman Travels Gravatar profile photo. Photographer: Brandon Oelofse

Ever wonder where my Gravatar profile photo was taken??!

It was taken during one fine sunrise on top of Mount Sinai in Egypt – 20 days before the beginning of the uprising, better known as the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

I have been fortunate enough to have seen the sun rise on all 7 continents. Each and every time, it is an amazing feeling and experience for me. From darkness to light – the dawn of a new day. Fresh start.

After darkness, I learn to appreciate the light.

This was one of the more unexpected hikes I’ve ever completed. Hiking up the side of the mountain for about 3.5 hours in the middle of the night, under the faint glow of a new moon and the torch-light in my hand – I got startled a few times.

We chose to walk up the sloped path, not knowing at the time that I would come face-to-face with camels, repeatedly. The camels carried supplies to the vendors at the top of the mountain. Some tourists or pilgrims rode the camels to the top of the mountain but what goes up must come down – which explains the oncoming camel traffic as I walked uphill, very slowly.

Sunrise seekers ready for 2am hike up Mount Sinai in Egypt

Sunrise seekers ready for 2am hike up Mount Sinai in Egypt

It was a chilly evening. We arrived at the base of Mount Sinai around 2am, after a day of horseback riding on the beaches of Dahab. I tried to sleep in the van but I was just too excited! In my backpack was 2 litres of water in my water bladder, snacks and my 1-lb sleeping bag – I wondered if I wore enough clothes.

I am known to be a slow walker. I walk even slower when going uphill – yes, that is possible. Pretty soon, we all walked at our own pace. The couple walked hand-in-hand. My 6′-6″ friend walked ahead of me and took breaks to wait for me. I kept a constant, steady pace and we started to play “Marco Polo” to keep track of each others progress and whereabouts.

My first close encounter with a camel in the dark was like a rude awakening! My head was down as I could only see the patch of ground as lite up with my flashlight. Focused and intense. One foot in front of the other. I tried to stay away from the edge of the path on my left, as I feared one wrong step and I would slide down the mountain. Unexpectedly, I felt a hot, steamy breath on my forehead. At the same moment as I looked up, I was at eye level with an oncoming camel with super long eye lashes, I had to swerve out of the way as he walked downhill on my right. I was REALLY awake now!

After my first encounter, not only did I have to focus on where my foot land, I had to be aware of potential oncoming traffic. I wish I had better night vision! Even though the path is quite wide, I wish it was even wider.

The slow walk uphill provided time for introspection and reflection of my journey in Egypt. I had spent New Year’s Eve on the Nile river while Alexandria was rocked by a deadly bomb on New Year’s Day. The contrast shown at the Great Pyramids; empty tombs alongside fake treasures sold as souvenirs. The amazing hot-air balloon ride I took with my new friends from Australia and Singapore, over the Valley of the Kings at sunrise. The security convoy required for our drive to Abu Simbel from Aswan. I had no idea within a matter of weeks, chaos would ensue.

As I progressed up the mountain, the price of supplies climbed higher and higher. Water, snacks, walking sticks, hot drinks – became more and more expensive – to emphasize their importance and scarcity. Close to the summit were vendors with warm blankets and mattresses rentals for weary and cold tourists who were seeking comfort after the night hike. It always amuses me that entrepreneurship is alive and well – especially when found at remote regions of the world.

Every person is innately or can be an opportunist in their own way. I believe it is part of our survival mechanism.

Sunrise amongst cloud and morning fog at Mount Sinai

Sunrise amongst cloud and morning fog

When the sun rose, the view was magnificent! The experience was once in a lifetime. The skies were clear. The air fresh and crisp. The sun provided an instant warming effect. Every one was in awe of Nature’s beauty.

Sunrise view at Mount Sinai, Egypt

View of sunrise from top of Mount Sinai

Fellow sunrise viewers seek warmth with blankets and mattresses at Mount Sinai, Egypt

Fellow sunrise viewers seek warmth with blankets and mattresses.

Glow of sunrise on nearby mountains at Mount Sinai

Glow of sunrise on nearby mountains.

Tourists in the glow of the rising sun at Mount Sinai, Egypt

Tourists in the glow of the rising sun.

After viewing the sunrise, tourists hike down Mount Sinai

After viewing the sunrise, tourists hike down Mount Sinai

10 minutes into my decent, I wished I had chosen the sloped path instead of the stairs with thousands of steps. My knees were hurting and aching but we had to travel together as a group. I could not go back and walk down the other path and be separated from my friends. I relied more and more on the walking stick.

I shall forever remember to walk downhill, instead of down steps when given the choice. I had countless flashbacks of my time on the Inca trail. Though I must say the path on the Inca trail in Peru were very well maintained and very well built, in comparison.

Looking back at Mount Sinai as I descend to the base

Looking back at Mount Sinai as I descend to the base

Mirror lake found on side of Mount Sinai

Mirror lake found on side of Mount Sinai

Saint Catherine's Monastery viewed from Mount Sinai, Egypt

Saint Catherine’s Monastery viewed from Mount Sinai, Egypt

I’m not 100% sure if I received the 10 commandments while on top of Mount Sinai, like Moses. Though I did find the rumored location of the Burning bush in the compound of the Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

Here’s the Ten Commandments:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
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5 thoughts on “My first time… Hiking in the dark!

    • Thank you Kat! Yes it was quite the experience of a lifetime considering the events that happened after I left Egypt. I do hope the dust to settle soon in Egypt so other travelers will travel there and gain their own experiences. Wishing you an amazing weekend! 🙂

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