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Egypt – Wiped Out

Where to begin after days of no internet access.  Yes, the withdrawal pains were hell at first.

Actually, I barely noticed if not for the piles of e-mail to wade through just now.

Last night in Luxor, we did the sound and light show at Karnac’s Temple.  It was… cheesy…  cheesier than expected…  didn’t cost a lot so okay, but it just went on far too long.  The first maybe 20 minutes is walking through the temple as various statues and buildings are illuminated and a booming voice tells their story.  The rest, which felt like hours, is sitting in some stands built by the sacred lake.  Now the booming voices tell stories about things that happened at Karnac.  The light show gets kind of stale because there’s very little variation in the lighting and after a bit, personally, the stories just kind of melted together.  All I remember is the final grand music to let me know to get up and move.

Afterwards, we all went as a group to an Irish pub to celebrate the birthday of one of our group members.  I was totally exhausted.  And I had eaten my McDonald’s meal after navigating the market one more time.  But it was still a fun time.

Repacked when I got to the room so that I could sleep as late as possible.

Early start, we went to… karnac’s temple…  Okay, actually, I had a far better time in the daylight.  The local guide took us around and told us about the temple, the statues, etc.  And then we had some time on our own to wander about.  Really beautiful temple.  But I am well and truly templed out now.

After that, the long, long ride to Hurgurda (sp?).  Nothing much to say about the place, it was only a night stop before catching the ferry the next morning.  Had an okay meal and stayed in what is now the champion of seedy motels for me personally.  The bathroom was more caulk than tile and the shower was the bathroom…  I knew such existed, but never have I seen it in person.  Glad it was just a stop over and nothing long term.  Sam had warned us that it was not a great stop.  And in fact, we’re the last tour to go through Hurgurda.  Next one will wrap back to Cairo to get to the Sinai Peninsula.  Trade off, much longer on the road but no dodgy hotel and no danger the ferry won’t run (which was a real concern).

Anyway, the ferry did run.  Two hours, bumpy sea, but I fared okay.  Then another couple of hours by bus to the Sawa Camp in Nuweiba.  This was a gem of a place.  Just incredibly beautiful.  We were on the red sea and you could see Saudia Arabia on the opposite side from our huts.  Very primative.  Shared bathroom facilities – the showers had hot water heated by the sun (very hot if you slept until 11am like I did on day 2) and electricity was only available in the evenings.  But I swear it was a little piece of paradise and I’d have stayed there for days.  Great food, warm sun, long beach filled with little straw huts.  I can’t say enough nice about this place.  It was totally the decompression I needed.  Day two there was totally a free day.  Some in the group went scuba diving.  A handful of us stayed behind and just enjoyed that place.

After a day and a half, it was time to move on.  Regretful farewells to the puppy and cats and that gorgeous bit of beach and then onto St. Katherine’s.  This is where we got to see an ancient monastery, which is home to the apparent descendent of the original burning bush.  And where we climbed Mount Sinai.  Now, I have to preface this by saying, I’d been dreading this for days.  I couldn’t make up my mind what to do.  Half of my brain said to sit it at out at the hotel.  Another half said to do it.  Some little corner suggested the camel ride might not be so bad.  You see there were a few options.  Climb the 3750 steps (not so much steps as rocks positioned in such a way as to approximate steps), take the camel route up and then do the last 750 steps yourself, or just stay behind.  One member of the group stayed behind as she was sick, another did as she knew she couldn’t make it.  And one took the camel route.  Smartest one of the 10 of us who started up.  Another had a bit of a panic attack and decided not to go.  Sam, our guide stayed behind and the Bedouin guide went with the rest of us.  I constantly lagged behind.  I was so unprepared.  Principally, I just could not catch my breath in the thin air.  The rest was sheer not being in shape after having had so many phsyical issues keeping me off my feet in 2007.  One of the group, Cameron, hung back with me.  I really appreciated that.  I’m sure he could have gone faster.  And in fact, after we were on the last leg of the 750 steps, I told him to go on because I was not sure I was going to get up in time for the sunset.

I just did.  Drenched in sweat and gasping for breath, I lurched through this little iron gate at the top and saw the sun just hovering over the mountains surrounding Mt. Sinai.  I was, in fact, the last person to reach the peak yesterday.  Not per se what I wanted to achieve, but I pushed so far past what my body wanted that it was an achievement none the less.

Then back down in the dark.  In the dark, after the 750 steps, we took the camel route by foot…  This was worse for me in some ways than what we had done before.  I took one misstep early on and felt my ankle protesting.  It hurt for about 3 minutes and I thought I had sprained it again, but it cleared.  It was a clear warning message that I had to take it easy.  So, I was also the last person off, still with Cameron.  As soon as I saw the van, loaded even with the folks who stayed behind, I had to speak to Sam.  The next stop was dinner at the Bedouin guide’s house.  I hated to miss it, but I had to go back to the hotel.  I knew I needed to take some asprin and just crash or I would be a waste today.

I was dropped off and changed and took aspirin and crawled into bed with my bottle of water.  My legs were literally shaking.  I obviously pushed a bit far!  Just to add insult to injury, the power went off several times.  I had images of sleeping in that room and freezing to death and all in the world I wanted at that moment was to be home in my warm bed and familiar covers.

By the time morning came, I was in a better mood.  Showered and packed my bags and wandered down to reception.  I was a bit off on the time.  I thought we were meeting in the lobby at 8:30am, but we were to be leaving at that time.  I had 15 minutes to shovel breakfast down and get on the bus for an 8 hour drive back to Cairo.

The only stop on the way was for lunch.  My legs felt like stove pipes at that point.  But all is loosened up now.

Tomorrow is our last true day of the tour, but we are doing the final group dinner tonight as Sam will be moving over to another hotel for his next tour tomorrow night.  During the day tomorrow, we meet up with our local guide again and we’ll see a mosque, a church, and Khan el Kalili market, the largest in Cairo.

I have to get up at some ungodly hour on Sunday.  Not sure when, but Sam said he’d let me know.  My flight out is at 5:15am.  Connection in Frankfurt before I get back to the states and continue the reverse journey on Marta, to my car, and finally back to my own bed again.  Egypt has been fantastic, but 15 days in a group definitely pushes my limits a bit.  It’s absolutely not a dig at the people, just the way I am.  I needed some more me time along the way and the beach day was about it.  Still, I would do it all again.

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