Sinai Kite Trip Ã¢â‚¬â€œ June 2003.
My girlfriend and I were in Israel this summer visiting family and I hoped to show her some of the country I was raised in for some years during my more interesting youth. Due to political pressures, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t possible to travel to the historical and archaeological sites that she was eager to explore. We made a decision not to go to Jerusalem on this occasion, which was just as well because a few days later, the terrible news came out that another suicide bomber in the centre had exploded another bomb.
The alternative was easily found. Once all the family reunions, weddings and such were done with, I suggested to my cousins that we take a trip to the Sinai Peninsula for some intensive relaxation and of course some kiting.
Firstly IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to say something about the Sinai. The place itself is a barren dessert, it receives on average about 8 mm of rainfall every year and its terrain is some of the hardest and least forgiving of any. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rocky dessert with very few dunes, In the morning and evening, the sunrise and sunset cast an amazingly eerie purplish hue to the already beautifully coloured landscape. Often in nature, the things of the most beauty harbour the most dangerous experiences.
We travelled the day after the wedding, we had only slept for 3 hours and the heat of the day had set in when we set off, it was a blistering 35 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 40 degrees C en route from Tel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Aviv, increasing as we travelled south towards the Negev Dessert. The trip from Tel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Aviv to the Israel / Egypt Border takes about 6 hours and passes through Jerusalem and some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever had the privilege to see.
As we approached Eilat, where the border of Israel meets that of Egypt, we were aghast when we realised that this place both looks and feels like the equivalent of the concrete jungle of SpainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tourist resorts. Once inside the city, the atmosphere was far from that of a Spanish resort. We found a good eatery specialising in skewered meats and Yemenite salads. Once filled up and sated, to the supermarket we went. We stocked up on essentials such as toilet paper, cigarette papers, tobacco, chocolate, snorkel and masks and vodka for difficult situations.
Now it was time for the border crossing. The time was 23.30 when we drove to the border. We were worried for obvious reasons, but as we got to the car park, we realised that we must be the only worried ones, as the line of cars belonging to the Israelis who crossed over, extended for at least three kilometres from the border. Apparently 4,000 had made the crossing that day, so we were not going to be alone!
The crossing itself has to be mentioned, on the Israeli side, there is no problem, you arrive you pay a small fee for a visa, and you cross. Arriving on the Egyptian side, the atmosphere is decidedly more complacent. They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even have pens in the little boxes where you fill in the immigration slip, and no one was forthcoming in getting us one, and we waited 30 mins before another Israeli crossed, bringing with him a pen.
Once on the other side, the first thing that strikes you is the transition from one society to another. Things are quite different. A dirt track awaits you with a group of Bedouin taxi drivers all competing for your custom. Its traditional to hook up with other travellers at this point to reduce the fare for the already cheap ride. As we were alone, we struck a deal with a Peugeot 404 driver to take us to an empty beach 65 kmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s from the border for Ã‚Â£20. The drive was rather interesting with the mono radio playing hard Egyptian tunes, and looking out of the back window, revealed a sty filled with more stars than darkness. I was beginning to get in tune with the feeling this place gave me.
We arrived somewhere at around 02.00 hours, all we could see was a small light but as we approached it became obvious that there was a large tent with a man sitting half asleep underneath the palm branches from which the roof was made up of. The Bedouin man informed us that there were no bungalows left, and that we would have to wait until tomorrow to find one free. We found ourselves a spot to rest, and prepared for sleep. Being rather sensitive to the in-flight acoustics of mosquitoes, I began to spray the area with DEET, this lead to another turn in events that was quite unexpected. What I mean to say is that I got the stuff in my eye, and it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pleasant. Neither was the fact that the nearest hospital was back across the border. By now my eye was stinging so badly and my vision was clouding, so I was starting to get more than worried. I washed and washed the eye, but it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to make any difference, so we tried to phone a doctor in Israel from the mobile phone. The only place where we found any reception was standing waist deep in the sea. The doctor advised to wash for as long as possible and two days later, my eye was fine.
Having arrived at night, no one was expecting the morning to bring what it did. We all lay on our cushions and woke to the sunrise. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really have the words to describe the feelings that the views gave us. As all four of us sat in silence, staring out to the Red Sea and the back drop of the Saudi Arabian and Jordanian mountains, the colours of the dessert went from purple to red and finally to yellow before our eyes. We were mystified.
Lior and I went off to find a bungalow for the next night and for an explore of the coastline. Along the way we passed a few more bungalow places all of which were fully occupied, then just as we were beginning to lose hope, a taxi driver passed us insisting that he knew a place just down the track. We were nervous to accept his offer to drive us there, but none the less took hi up on it!
For a full size Ã¢â‚¬â€œ follow link to gallery.
amazing location of room.
Off we went, and we were rewarded by finding a site with no people, a few bungalows, and a perfect sandy beach and launch area. Time to unpack.
The place was nice.
This is the view from the shore.
These are the bungalows so close to the water edge.
We had some breakfast which was amazing, out in the middle of nowhere, we were eating fresh goats cheese with herbs dowsed in olive oil, omelettes, vegetable salad, tahina and fresh pitta bread that was very welcome after our journey and rough night.
Now comes the part I had been waiting for eagerly. Whilst sitting in the breakfast area, I was avidly watching the water for signs of white horses, at around 09.00 hrs, they came riding in like the four horsemen of the apocalypse. 15 - 20 Knots by my estimation and cross-onshore. I told my girlfriend what was going to happen, and got the gear ready for the water. There was an area to the left of the bungalows free from debris and obstacles making it the perfect launch.
I must admit, I was a little fearful on entry due to the coral and sea urchins, the entry wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so bad as the coral only starts 4 or 5 meters away from the shore-line, and is very soon over a meter deep. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t present a problem until I lost my board on a jump, landed on my back, then tried to stand up forcing my foot onto a black urchin 12 inches high. I made for the shore, jumped off the board and went to consult the local Bedouin who made up a bowl of hot water with oil floating on top, and then dabbed it onto the 4 black splinters I had acquired. Within 10 minutes there was no pain and I was on the water again.
The wind quality was good, it had been a long time since I had experienced the thermal winds of a hot country and you can sure tell the difference. Nice and clean with not too many gusts here. Once over the reef, the velvet blue of the water captivated me there, I have surfed a few places and this was by far the loveliest water I have been on. The photos simply donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it any justice.
After a few hours, I decided to come in and re-hydrate myself, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t notice how much water you lose in the dessert, as the heat is dry, you water evaporates before you have a chance to notice it on your body.
I had a small problem with my landing in as much as there was no one to catch the kite. I had to self land her. The wind being so strong, it picked the 12m Rhino up and deposited it rather unkindly on a bungalow 20ft down wind of me. The kite had had its day and was torn from the LE to the TE. I had to hope that the wind would drop off if I was to get out again on this trip.
Although I was upset by this event I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really be too disheartened because a second later I was ambushed by 6 or 7 over excited and curious Bedouin children. 3 boys and their sisters I assume. They had never seen anything like it, and the camp manager told me that this was like seeing a space ship landing for them. A young lad kept feeling my skinny biceps making me feel like an anorexic Sylvester Stallone! They were cool though, I enjoyed their enthusiasm and let em play around with my boards for a while.
Time to eat again and spend some time with my girlfriend and my cousin, I walked over to the main hut and took some Lyre lessons from another local. I must add that if you need to clear a seat at a restaurant, buy an Egyptian Lyre, you wont have much trouble.
The camp itself is pretty basic, but very adequate. You feel like you are on safari, and in effect you are. They have toilet and showers, which you use by starlight at night as there is no need for a roof. The bungalows are adequately spaced so that if you do have neighbours, they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t disturb you much. Besides, by the time 23.00 comes, most people are all strangely sleepy for some strange reason. You can chill out in the main hut as most people do. Sometimes the guys get the Djembe drums out and make merry beating out a Sudan rhythm, whilst others dance around it. Evenings pass really nicely, there is nothing to do except reflect and look at the millions of stars. I saw more stars at night here than anywhere else I have been. During September, there is a meteor shower that produces many visible shooting stars to count instead of sheep.
Now that we had out bungalow, waking up was nice. The dessert exerts its influence on you and you seemingly live by the sun, waking at dawn every morning just in time to catch the sunrise colours to a cup of Nescafe or tea. My girlfriend seemed to need to rest more than I did but I was only too happy to get the drinks in.
The scenery is also very interesting. During the times when I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t kiting, I would have loved to go on a camel trek to find places to photograph in this amazing place. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get the chance to do it on this occasion as we were only there for 3 nights. The colours of the nearby hills would have to satisfy me for this trip.
Nine oÃ¢â‚¬â„¢clock came and so did the wind, only this day, my wishes had been answered and I was looking around for the genie. 12 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 16 knots cross onshore and the Mach 1 15.1 came out for a spin.
Today was cool as my confidence was up and I spent most of the day on the other side of the reef. Hence my personal photographer didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do so well at capturing the feeling, armed with only a 210mm zoom. Gliding over some reef remnants was amazing out there 200 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 300 m offshore, there were pillars of reef reaching almost to the surface.
Throwing my head back every now and then , I thought I could see coloured corals and fish, but I was moving too fast to focus. Never the less it was a breath taking as ever.
I spent a long time out there carving up and down the blue water, and looking back to the shore made a fantastic backdrop for the kites blue and white. I felt happier and more exhilarated than I had as a child.
Once back on the reef section, I noticed a couple of people had gathered to watch from the beach side sun shade hut and so acted up for them for a while, trying to get as high as possible while they looked on and smiled.
I seemed to have wandered a little down wind on my exit, and due to the bungalows and people there was no where to land except for the sandy space directly in front of the main hut / restaurant. I worried about the owners getting upset, but rather that, than damaging another kite or at worst another onlooker.
For the others, there was sunbathing, eating, drinking and deep relaxation. The beach was sandy and inviting, most people just spend the days wading through the water at waist depth. The temperature here reaches 50 C in the shade during August, so energy can be lacking if you succumb to the sea.
Girls Enjoying the Sun.
I suppose all thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s left for me to do is to thanks the guys at the Towte camp for their hospitality and kite friendliness. I have their contact details if I ever want to return, which will be next summer. It even crossed my mind to organise a kite trip there if there is enough interest.
I highly recommend this place for anyone wanting an adventure, but please be sensible if you go.
Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish.