The trail narrows and you see lightening sky through a rocky gap. I had to resist the urge to have a Frodo moment here. 2005:04:25 05:55:01
Earlier this week France voted Non! on the proposed EU constitution. Today the Netherlands did the same (but probably in Dutch). The Euro is tumbling, although it's still at historically high levels against the dollar. What does all this mean?
Don't ask me; I'm not the expert. But over at A Fistful of Euros, they are.
At the close of yesterday's post, dawn was breaking as we tromped along about halfway up the flank of Mt. Sinai. At this point, I suppose we'd been climbing for about an hour and a half, and only now were our eyes becoming noticably useful to navigation. Except for finding Bedouin tea houses. As I noted in this post, those shine like bonfires on the mountainside. At least to well dark-adapted eyes. While none of them is really more than a hut with shelves of drinks -- I'm really not certain how they get electricity up there, but I didn't notice any generators -- the second-largest is at the top of the camel-navigable trail, in the middle of this parking lot. For camels.
Aah! It's those camels again! This is as high as camels can go on Mt. Sinai, so here the path encounters a camel parking lot. Click for bigger. 2005:04:25 05:50:45
Up one goes past the camel-lot and through the narrow pass, and as I chugged along upwards seeing only sky through the gap, I briefly entertained the notion that we must be near the top. Thankfully, the path does level out for a ways, and intersects with the path to the first-aid center (another primitive-looking hut) and a few pay-toilets (largely indistinguishable from the medical hut). There's also an alternate way down from here, a stairway carved into the rock that leads back to the monastary. 3000 steps down. It's called the Steps of Repentance, for good reason I should think, especially if one headed up by that route. I thought of Frodo.
There's something I found out afterwards, though. The Steps of Repentance are actually 3750 steps.
Everyone has to ascend via the final 750 of the Steps of Repentance. These, at least, aren't carved into the side of a mountain, but they're still fairly steep. Tau has gotten a bit ahead of me here, which is handy since he lends a sense of scale to the photograph. 2005:04:25 05:59:59
It's interesting, actually, that Frodo's climb into the Ephel D˙ath is one of my major literary points of departure for the experience of mountain hiking. There are lots of much prettier mountains in literature, after all, and even in other parts of Tolkien's work. And I quite like the things, after all. On the other hand, it's the stark mountains of the desert southwest (United States) that I'm truly closest to, which don't figure as prominently in most writing as do the snow-capped peaks of more Alpine climes. It was actually a thoroughly unusual experience for me last summer to ride a train up into the mountains from Durango, Colorado, and see snow in the high craigs. All of my snowy winters have been spent in the annoyingly flat Midwest.
So, yes, the level space in the path was altogether deceptive. Up the stairs it was for us, and now it became clear why the camels didn't venture higher. There are small donkeys that can manage the steps, and a few passed us ferrying stuff up and down, but I doubt they could manage anybody larger than a child. So I'm going to have to declare the summit of Mt. Sinai not handicapped-accessible.
We were about halfway up the Steps when the sun rose.