This post is part of a L’appel Du Vide feature, Misadventure Mondays. In each segment, I’ll ask one of my favorite travel bloggers to share one of their Travel Misadventures. This Monday, Erik Smith from On my Feet and on my Mind shares his Masada hiking disaster.
Tell me a little about yourself and your current trip:
I’m 39 years old and I traveled all over with my family growing up. After a few years break in college where I didn’t travel- I rediscovered my travel bug in 1996 when my family took a three week cruise to Southeast Asia. I followed that up with long trips to both Europe & Australia, before deciding in 2003 that it might be possible to visit all of the National Park Units in the lower 48 states. I’ve been working towards that goal since, and I’m at 306 of 350 (or so). I took a break from my National Parks quest in 2010 to spend a month in Israel, and I’ll be spending a month in New Zealand this year starting on May 10th. I’m fairly new to blogging, but it’s a nice hobby- I don’t have grand plans to be a digital nomad or take an extended round-the-world trip, I’m happily married to a devoted non-traveler and I have a pretty good job which allows me to take a month every year for traveling.
Describe your travel style:
I think pedal-to-the-metal describes my travel style best. I usually pack an insane amount of stuff into my trips. I don’t go on vacation to relax- I hate laying out on the beach and other leisurely activities like that on my trips. When I’m on a trip, I usually get up to take pictures of the sunrise, then it’s on the go all day until I photograph sunset.
What’s been your best/worst travel misadventure? Tell me about where you were, who you were with, and what happened.
One of my best misadventures and one of my worst misadventures came within a week of each other in 2010, when climbing Masada in Israel and Mount Sinai in Egypt. A week before, heading to Sinai, I had climbed up the snake path at Masada early in the morning. I’d been in Israel close to a month and had done a lot of walking, so I managed to talk myself into believing I was ready for the hike up Masada. I started up around 5 A.M., and it was already well over 90 degrees when I started. I had four liters of water with me, which I figured was fine for the hike- an hour to hour and a half for most hikers. Needless to say (it wouldn’t be a misadventure if everything went well), I felt like I was dying about halfway up. I had exhausted three of my liters of water and the temperature was rising fast as the sun came up. Although I felt like I was going to die, I made it up with a splitting headache from the dehydration. It took an hour in the shade while drinking lots of water just to recover from the hike up.
A week later, I was in Eilat in Southern Israel, with my trip winding down. After an exciting trip to Petra in Jordan, I had one day left before my bus back to Jerusalem. I had intended originally to hike Mount Sinai on a day trip from Eilat, but my experience at Masada had left me gun-shy about trying another grueling hike, this one three and a half to four hours, according to the guidebooks. I let the owner at my hostel talk me into doing it, and I headed across the Israeli/Egyptian border shortly after 10:30 P.M. to meet my driver. We arrived at the base of the mountain around 1:00 A.M., where the driver introduced me to my guide.
The guide suggested we get some tea and refreshment before starting the hike, but I confided to him that I wasn’t sure I could make it all the way up the mountain, but I’d rather get an early start so I could rest a lot along the way and possibly make it up. He assured me that I would make it, but agreed to forgo the tea and head up early. It was the most beautiful moonlit night, with the moon so bright I could actually make out some of the surrounding landscape. My guide barely needed to use his flashlight at all. I surprised myself with my determination. I had purposely left my cell phone back at the base so I wasn’t constantly checking the time. I just walked and walked. We rested briefly, twice, but the camel path we were taking up had a much smaller incline than the snake path at Masada had.
Finally, after hiking an indeterminate amount of time, I had to ask how we were doing. I expected him to say that we were about halfway up, and was pleasantly surprised when he told me we had only about 20 minutes to a half an hour left. We made it to the top, and I wrapped myself in a filthy blanket rented from one of the Bedouin merchants at the top. I sat waiting for sunrise more satisfied with myself than I can remember.
What were the negative or positive outcomes of your misadventure?
The negative outcome at Masada was a raging dehydration headache all day that I could not shake despite drinking water constantly. The positive outcome of the Mount Sinai hike (besides amazing photos) was the knowledge that if properly mentally prepared, I can accomplish quite a bit.
What did you learn from this misadventure that you can share with other travelers?
Use travel to try and push your own boundaries a bit. Be true to yourself, but also allow the experience of travel to broaden your horizons.
What’s the one other lesson you’ve learned on your trip that you wish you had known before you left?
Bring a few singles when attempting a trip via private driver from the Israeli border to Mount Sinai, you may have a couple of bribes to pay along the way, and they don’t make change.
Thanks Erik for sharing!
Interested in being featured on Misadventure Mondays? Contact me and share your story!