27 October 2015

10-25 October 2015: South Sinai desert, Egypt

Getting away from it all...that was what I had in mind for a 2 week expedition/trekking trip through the South Sinai desert...and that's what I got!

Everything from the daily routine, through to food, sleeping outdoors and drinking up to 7-8 liters of water a day.  I couldn't get further away from my normal every day routine if I tried (ie working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, and glued to email 24/7).  There is no wifi in the desert....which meant work was forgotten about during these 2 weeks.

I went through a company called Secret Compass and thanks to a previous overland leader who recommended this trip - I read up on the trip and booked it. http://www.secretcompass.com/expeditions/sinai-egypt-nomadic-desert-crossing/

The group consisted of the Secret Compass leader, 2 Bedouin guides, 3 camel 'boys' and 7 of us 'clients'.  We got on incredibly well and it included British, French, Russian and Italian nationalities, with a gender divide of 2 guys to 5 gals.

Each day was similar in some ways, but the terrain differed from the morning to the afternoon.

We would get up at 5am (to the clanging and smell of coffee being made), have breakfast (which usually consisted of eggs or porridge), start walking at 6.30am, quick break 1-2x during the morning, get to lunch about 10.30/11am, have lunch, have a 1-2hr siesta and then start walking again about 1.30/2pm with a quick break in the afternoon.  We would get to camp about 4.30/5pm, have numerous cups of coffee/sugared tea and then set up our sleeping rugs etc.  Then dinner would be prepared for about 6/6.30pm and off to bed about 7.30/8pm.  The routine didn't differ much from this across the 12 days.

What did differ was the terrain...sometimes it was sandy, other times rocky.  Sometimes we were trudging through wadis mile after mile and sometimes we were hiking up mountains. Other times we were rock climbing through canyons, and other times we were doing our best to get up/down slopes that could throw us to our deaths if we slipped!

We didn't get to wash often....well....three times over 12 days...and so we did smell (but who could tell!).  But that was part of the experience...as was sleeping on hard ground, peeing behind bushes/rocks where you could find them, and trying to look a little bit respectable when your hair was all over the place and not washed for 6 days!

Our two Bedouin guides were amazing, funny and always filled with cheer.  They spoke great English and quickly became an intricate part of our group.  We could not have done this trip without them, nor the boys who looked after the camels and set up/down our camps, or Dave our leader for this trip. 

Everyone made this a trip to remember - and now I have the bragging rights for the rest of my life for completing it!  You always felt supported by other group members even when feeling not the best (e.g. dodgy stomach, blisters), or lagging behind, and because of that the wonderful memories I have of this trip will stay with me forever.

Don't get me wrong...this was a hard and challenging trip...and at times it was just putting one foot in front of the other....but it was so worth it!

Brief summary of the food, challenges and highlights from this trip:
  • Food
    • Breakfast: bread, porridge, omelets, eggs etc
    • Lunch: flat bread with feta cheese, babaganoush, and/or tuna/corn. Sometimes a hot meal of rice/meat/veges
    • Dinner: goat, chicken fish, potatoes, lentil soup, rice, veges, spaghetti bolognese, bread (dinner was usually via a communal platter shared between 4 and eaten with hands)
    • Dessert: we sometimes got dessert as well which was Egyptian style custard and apricots (really delicious!)
    • Tea/coffee - always available with every meal and usually a good handful of sugar added to the tea!
  • Challenges
    • Blisters - heat spots turning into blisters required Dave to either drain them and tape them up, or just tape them up.  He is an absolute pro at this!
    • Heat - drinking up to 8 liters of water can be hard but very necessary.  Heat exhaustion and dehydration are things you do not want to experience out in the desert
    • Rocky ascents/descents - this requires concentration and spotters to ensure you can safety get up and down these slopes.  If you slip, you could break something or worse
  • Highlights:
    • Getting back to the basics - thinking about the 'now' and the basics for staying alive (water, food, shelter)!
    • Bedouin guides - they mixed with our team extremely well and became part of our team very quickly.  Seeing the 'politiking' amongst the Bedouin tribes was an eye opening experience as well (as the tribes discussed the trip and how they can be involved in it)
    • The small joys of living outdoors, sleeping under the stars, taking each day as it comes
    • Living up the challenges such as a hike up a 2,600m mountain, trudging up/down never ending wadis!
    • The food - delicious, 'organic' (ie including the goat we had killed during the trip) and there was so much of it
    • The group - we gelled together and everyone looked out for everyone else

The terrain was different every day

Our first night camping out under the stars

Water was so important on this trip - we drank up to 6-8 litres a day

Laying out our sleeping mats, rugs and farwas (Bedouin cloaks)

Flatbread was our main staple for the 2 weeks

We were never left hungry!!

Some stunning canyons that we walked/climbed through

Siesta time during the hottest part of the day

Sometimes barren landscapes....

....though most times we were surrounded by canyons

Always very rocky

Dealing with blisters!

A stunning dune that we came across early in the trekking

Rocks, rocks and more rocks

Blending into the background!

Rock climbing skills a must!

Hot, hot and hot

Striding across the landscapes

Stunning sunset one night

Water came through here at one point and now the sun baked
sand is cracking up

Only shade sometimes is under the camel

Coming into camp for lunch....

Bedouin guides cooking for us
Preparing potatoes for baking on the fire...yum!

What would we do without our tea/coffee!

Sometimes sleeping out was on rocks rather than sand!

Keeping up on water was so important - so we filled
up where we could

Setting up camp again for the night (this night we actually had to take cover
in the 'hut' due to a lightening/thunder storm)

Entertainment by the Bedouins

Not often you get a rainbow in a desert!

Very artsy pic....

Beautiful landscape....

Cold enough to be huddled in our farwas

On top of the world

Enjoying the breeze!

Lunch at 2,600m

Scrambling up and down rocks was an every day occurrence

Nights were great in front of the fire

Coffee - getting it right was important for our health and mental state!!

Our very mischievous Bedouin guide!

A hangi - but Bedouin style


Sleeping out on soft sand (thought the mossies were a pain in the butt)

More scrambling....

Another lunch stop

What would we do without our camels...

Who would guess there was natural water in a desert!