Obstinacy in Sinai
I had hoped to go and hike the mountains around Mount Sinai & St. Catherine’s monastery for a couple of days. The peaks that line the Sinai coastline had whetted my appetite and the allure of a little altitude to curb the intensity of the heat was more than a little enticing. Most of the hostels in Dahab organise day-trips there, but I am a parsimonious traveler with a deeply engrained dislike of tours, and so went in search of a bus, hankering to re-live the kind of fun had getting to Erciyes in Turkey back at the start of this trip.
One tour-operator had told me that the bus left at 8am; my hostel manager claimed that they no longer ran, but that I could go on his tour. My cynicism of the vested interests of such folk meant that I disregarded his advice, and instead waved-off a new-found friend as she boarded the night-trip to the mountain.
The next morning at the bus station, I found out that he had been right. Nice Egyptian hostel manager, one point; stubborn, tight-fisted traveler, zero. Back in town, I learned that there would be no tour that night as the monastery would be closed the next day. Two points to the manager. I had burned my bridges, and unless I was willing to kill another couple of days in Dahab, hiking the hills of Sinai was now off.
Deciding the mountains could wait for a return to Egypt, I had just enough time for a morning coffee and a final dip in the Red Sea before another slog-out to the bus station, carrying my oh-so-heavy backpack during the peak of the Dahab sun. I would have to settle for ogling the scenery from the bus window, clutching a one-way ticket to Cairo.
The road to the capital is a long one, traversing the arid, desert roads of Sinai before skirting up the other side of the peninsula’s Red Sea coast. A while after the bus had cleared all the police check-points that surround Sharm el-Sheikh, black rubber traced an “s” through the wind-swept sand that dusted the tarmac. The source of these skid-marks soon became apparent: an over-turned bus lay across the road, its human-cargo spilled out beside it, some bleeding from meeting with the asphalt. My fellow passengers muttered prayers to Allah as we crept past this gruesome spectacle, but the scene did not seem to tame the unrestrained over-taking of our own driver.
That night, I arrived into the bustle of one of Africa’s most densely populated cities, a little wiser to the woes of obstinacy.