Treeking

What To Expect on a Trek

These programmes are run in the lower lying “desert” areas of Sinai and  the Western desert and also the “high mountain” region of St Catherine. Whilst the Sinai mountain area does not reach the altitude of ranges in Europe or the Americas, this term is a useful description to distinguish between the two types of terrain to be found in the Sinai.            

You will wake up with the dawn and feel the considerable and rapid changes in temperature as the sky is progressively irradiated by the “golden ball” in the sky as it becomes visible in its entirety. At first, especially in the winter months, you might feel a little reluctant to crawl out of your sleeping bag, but you will quickly learn that it is well worth it to set off early and make good progress before the sun lies directly overhead. Your Bedouin guides will have been up well before you, making a fire and brewing sweet, hot tea to tempt you out of your much valued sleeping bag! Incidentally, even in extremely hot conditions, hot drinks are still both pleasant and appropriate – they raise your internal body temperature to bring it closer to the external temperature. So, whilst on a chilly early morning in winter, you will especially savour the hot liquid coursing through your veins, on a hot day it will act to reduce your feeling of being overheated, as the atmospheric conditions will no longer seem so oppressive.

Breakfast foods will have been chosen to give you energy for the morning’s trek.
Deliciously fresh Bedouin bread, freshly made over the open fire – and if you make it out of your sleeping bag in time it will still be hot! – complements any foodstuff to perfection and is extremely filling. Desert explorers, like an army, march on their stomachs, and this traditional foodstuff will keep you going in any season.

If you are participating on a camel trek, you will soon get used to the daily ritual of loading and unloading the camels  - and also learn to observe their patterns
of behaviour and mood. Their facial expressions and vigorous moving of their jaws can be most fascinating and extremely amusing. One thing about camels – they never fail to have distinct personalities and their interaction with one another can be delightful to watch. These “ships of the desert” are always among peoples’ favourite photographic subjects – I am sure no visitor to Egypt goes home without at least one picture, and the animal will seem to pose for you! To go home without any camel pics would be as unthinkable as leaving without a shot of a palm tree.

 Just like human beings in the morning, they can be a little reluctant to get going and they are not shy to vocalize their initial resistance as their handlers put their saddles back on and load them up with equipment. Their range of vocal expressions is as impressive as that of their facial ones! By the way we “would-be” desert explorers, not being familiar with camel riding from childhood, are of course not as adept at this activity as the locals. So it has gained a reputation for being somewhat uncomfortable over long distances. Of course you have the option of walking instead of riding should you so wish, but if you feel discomfort in the saddle, please do not be shy to inform your camel handler immediately – maybe some adjustment can be made to the saddle itself, or a blanket can be re-arranged so as to pad out the saddle in a more comfortable manner. Due to their increased exposure to tourists over recent years, many Bedouin speak English well enough to understand such an enquiry, and in any case you will always be accompanied by a guide who speaks both Arabic and English and is able to liaise between guests and Bedouin. This comment applies equally to any other enquiry you may have regarding food, sleeping arrangements etc.

So ….we have loaded up the camels, or set out on foot, depending on the tour, and find ourselves in one of a variety of different landscapes, be it a broad valley flanked on both sides by imposing “shoulders” of granite/magna, or in a sandstone area, on a dune whose sand is so thick and inviting that you just want to roll over in it and play like a child. Also to be found in these sandstone areas are the bizarrely eroded rock formations, whose fantastical shapes and colours could not be reproduced by any artist or sculptor. Only Nature herself knows how to create such monuments to beauty.

Here we should also mention the “High Mountain Area” of St Katherine, which has its own unique ecosystem and climate, very different to the lower lying “desert” areas. In the warmer season, depending on the month, you can find a variety of different crops, from apricots to olives to raspberries and more, being harvested. The splendour of the gardens in full bloom is a joy to the eyes. In the high summer, normally in June, the Bedouin move “en famille” to the orchards and leave their houses in town for a while. So on a summer trek, you can have many delightful encounters with the very friendly locals. After September, the harvesting season is over, school starts again and the families migrate back to town. If you join a winter trek, you won’t meet so many local people en route, but the season cannot detract from the stark beauty of this region, characterized by huge outcroppings of granite, which dot the landscape like so many fallen meteors.

Whatever the terrain and the season, the typical morning’s progress will be some 2.5 hours before we stop for lunch. Lunch will be again be filling and nutritious; both lunch and dinner are normally based on staples like rice, pasta, lentils etc. Fresh fruit is available depending on the season; any fresh vegetables and salad ingredients are chosen for their suitability to lasting as long as possible without refrigeration and only the best quality is selected. You will be amazed how long certain foodstuffs, such as cucumbers, potatoes and onions can last being carried around on camelback! And of course you will always have the delicious Bedouin bread fresh every day.

Lunch is always followed by a siesta. Especially in the warmer months it is important to move in the hours when the sun is not at its strongest. To avoid dehydration and the physical discomfort which can be associated with it, we also recommend drinking at least 3 litres of water a day in winter and maybe 4-4.5 litres (3 bottles) in the warmer months as summer approaches. Generously seasoning meals with salt also helps you to retain a good percentage of the water you are drinking and not to sweat it all off.

Look out for telltale signs of possible dehydration: maybe you go for overly long spells without the need to urinate or you start to have a headache. In these cases, DRINK MORE WATER!!! Just a few words about hygiene arrangements: in open desert, there is no shortage of rocks to offer you discretion for going to the toilet, making a change of clothes or having a quick wash. As regards the latter, the desert being dry, you become dusty rather than dirty, so it is surprisingly little hardship to go without a proper shower for a few days. Fill a jug with water from the “jerry can” and give yourself a quick splash!

After another 2.5 hours or so, we will stop to set up the evening’s camp. The Bedouin will want to have unloaded and settled the camels at the chosen spot by sunset and dinner will already be in progress on the open fire. The location for the overnight camp will have been carefully chosen for its appropiateness for the conditions and season. In the winter months, when the wind can be stronger and give a “chill” factor to the already cooler temperatures, it is important to choose lower lying places which are more sheltered, or for example more enclosed by surrounding rock formations.

You will never forget your nights spent contemplating the wonders of the night sky. So many stars, especially around the time of the new moon. Conversely, the brilliance of a full moon, whilst outshining some of the stars, can highlight the scenery surrounding you in a light the like of which you may never have seen before…..white sandstone seen in this light, with all its bizarrely eroded formations, really is the stuff of fantasy. The shooting stars can occur in miraculous numbers; there are nights you can just lie back and count them. Make a wish on them when you see them ……..

Whether or not all your wishes come true, spend a few days in the desert and see how your mind calms down. The awesome beauty and stillness of these landscapes rarely fails to make an impact. Sleep for a few nights under the stars, absorb your surroundings day and night with all your senses and this magical environment will infiltrate your entire being. Close your eyes and see a clear picture of imposing rock formations silhouetted against the horizon playing on your eyelids. Let the wilderness touch your soul – and try to keep some of this magic with you when your vacation is over!


 

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