Alone in the Sinai desert


Dear Ezra and Lian;

Do not be afraid.

I was all alone at a crossroads in the Sinai desert. I was watching the sun getting ready to set. 4 hours ago, this was amazingly beautiful. Now it was a concern. This was not supposed to have happened. I was trying to figure out my options. Do I stay here by the road waiting for any vehicle to come by or do I wander off to the hills for some protection? After dark, what is more dangerous this road or this desert? I had given up hope that anybody was going to be heading west towards St. Catherine’s Monastery. I was in a place where tourists like me are the targets of kidnappings, shootings and bombings. I was there all alone. I was far from police stations or army outposts or anyone. I hadn’t seen a vehicle in hours. I had no phone. No friends or family knew where I was or where I was going. I had no idea if this crossroads was monitored. I had no idea what was coming next.

That moment was the result of a bunch of bad advice I took and bad decisions I made. I kept pushing ahead to stay on my travel plan. I should have learned from all my little mistakes that day and just stayed in Taba.

Then I saw a car coming in the distance. I already had cash out in my hand. Either I was paying for a ride or I was handing it over in a robbery anyways. The car stopped beside me. A young man rolled down his window. I asked him if I paid him if he would take me to St. Catherine’s Monastery. He wanted twice what I was offering (pretty close to what the taxi drivers all the way back in Taba wanted). I had no bargaining position or cause for complaint. I didn’t even wait for the trip to start. I took out the money and handed it over. I threw in my big backpack in the backseat. I jumped in the passenger seat.

I enjoyed the amazing scenery. The reds, purples and browns of the sandstone mountains are beautiful as the sun goes down. As it got dark, we narrowly missed hitting a wandering camel. After a couple of hours, I arrived safe and sound at one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries. The next morning, I, along with hundreds of tourists and pilgrims hiked to the top of Mt. Sinai; a possible location of the Biblical Mount Sinai. We watched the sun rise. It was really, really cool. Looking back though, it wasn’t worth the risks that I took to get there. The sun has risen about 5000 times since I saw that sunrise. That mountain will be there tomorrow.

I used to keep risky, stupid stuff like this a secret. I never wanted your Grandma to find out, so I wouldn’t tell anybody at all. She would literally get sick with worry when I travelled. I figured I would put her in the hospital for real if she ever knew half of my stories. (I’m not exaggerating.) A couple months ago, I told her a few things like this. Now since she is starting to suffer dementia, she can’t remember our names very well. She also can’t really appreciate danger. All she did was pat me on the knee and say, “We still love you Tim” or start rambling about something that didn’t make sense. I can tell you these stories now. Hopefully you learn a thing or two. If you make mistakes, make your own. Please don’t repeat mine. Still, don’t tell Grandma about it, but please tell me.

Most times we don’t pay for our mistakes. Any low budget world traveller survives on the kindness of strangers. Most people in the world are not out to get you. However, it doesn’t really matter. It only takes a few people willing to do bad things to make a real big mess of things. Right now, the Sinai is not a place to be hitchhiking to see a sunset. I’ve done a few brave things for stuff that really does matter. I hope if my future letters do anything, it is that they help give you the courage to do the right thing, especially when it is difficult and when it counts.