20 March 2007
WEDNESDAY FEB 28th An early morning and another sunrise! this time from the hotel overlooking the Gulf of Aqqaba and the distant shoreline of Saudi Arabia. A bumpy jeep ride took us to a desert region at the foot of the Sinai mountains. Passing through Wadi Dahab, Wadi El Ghaghib and El Murawah, we stopped to leave the jeeps behind and hike for about 90 minutes to the Narrow Canyon. Once covered by the sea, this area was formed by the erosion of water and later winds and sand leaving a barely passable ravine. As a group we made our way through the very narrow slits in the rock, up and over bolders and squeezing through gaps - often leaving the tiniest space between your body and the rockface - to reach an isolated dead end surrounded by a wall of rock. Here there was a small mound of rock where scultors had etched shapes over many years. The silence here was strange - no noise from anywhere. A short walk to meet the jeeps and we were taken to a local Bedouin family Oasis for a superb lunch and the chance to purchase some desert treasures from the small (but enterprising) kids! Well fed and rested, we were then facing a long afternoon of driving to reach the southern most tip of sinai at Ras Mohammed National Park. Leaving the mountains the roads were flat and surrounded by desert and low lying hills. Ras Mohammed national park lies on the coast and is a landscape of fossilised corals. Our camp for the night was ready on arrival as the sun set over the sea. The wind was getting stronger and it was pretty chilly so the large open fire was very welcome. Our hosts had prepared a wind shelter made with blankets and held up with branches tied with rope, each of us had a mattress to lie on and make our beds using the sleeping bags and pillows we'd brought with us. Supper around the fire was good, hot and filling - followed by music, dancing and games - so much fun to be had without alcohol! The stars were brilliant again and before long we were all in our beds. I woke up in the night and saw a desert fox wandering the camp - larger than our British foxes with longer ears, he was gorgeous! The wind had battered our shelter so that some fo the posts collapsed. Sand was everywhere and I don't think anyone had a good sleep - apart from Wael our tour guide who snored until 9am! Breakfast at camp comprised bread, jam, panckaes and chocolate sauce (yum) tea (or Chai) and coffee (Nescafe) & hard boiled eggs. Staying with our desert guides, we took a tour of the national park in jeeps, visiting the Mangroves, visitor centre and the meeting of the two gulfs - Sinai and Aqqaba. The coral reefs were visible from this point and loads of diving boats were racing towards the peninsular from nearby Sharm el Sheik. It was a windy day and not ideal for snorkelling but we found a small bay and had a go. The fish were amazing but the corals became tricky as the sea currents got stronger so we came ashore. Back at camp for lunch - riddled with sand but eatable - we then drove a short way to Sharm el Sheik to board our ferry across the Red Sea leaving Sinair and reaching to Hurghada back on the mainland. The crossing was difficult in strong winds and we were buffetted about, but we got there safely and checked into our very smart hotel 'Sea Garden'. Hurghada is very develpoped for tourism and diving and not my cup of tea. Dinner was at a nearby Italian Resturant which strangley also served Chinese! I thinkk I had a pizza and a 'Sakkara' Egyptian beer. After hiking up Mt Sinai and our desert safari, my clothes were filthy, so I gave them to the hotel to clean and went to bed showered and refreshed - the next day we would be snorkelling again, ths time from the luxury of our own boat!