Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Sound of Silence of the Red Sea Mountains

There it is again, this insatiable longing for landscape: wideness, altitude and void. While the jeep is racing across the sand track and brown, pink coloured and light grey rocks approach, my thoughts linger in the past.


As a young girl, I used to devour books of adventure stories. TV did not attract me. I had my own movies in my mind that I created out of the letters and lines I read: camel trains crossing the Sahara, pilots surviving a crash in the Kalahari Desert thanks to their knowledge, and all those made-up fairy tales about Kara Ben Nemsi… That was my world.

Later then, I saw the „real“ desert: first in South America, then here in Egypt. On my first trip heading from Luxor to Hurghada in a tourist bus, I opened my eyes wide in surprise: there were mountains in the middle of the desert! Unconsciously, I memorised the journey. Some years later, on my second trip in the reverse direction, I recognised the rocks and curves again – it was my landscape.

Robby is steering the Jeep through a narrow river bed, to our left and right rise layers of sandstone in a gentle beige, light yellow and rose on top of each other. Seemingly petrified waves bear up in the silence, betray their treasures and tell their history to those who may listen and look there: corals, fossils and nesting places for birds. Amidst this furnace there is green and flowering: three months after the devastating rain floods last March, the desert is still in full blossom. I’m excited about the coloured flowers, green herbs and bushes. My mates however, are bending over fossil figures in the coral block – 40 km linear distance from the Red Sea shore.

The tread pattern leaves ephemeral traces on the wide open plain. In the distant mist, some Red Sea Mountain Peaks soar; now and then, somehow in the middle of nowhere, stands an acacia. After a while, there stands another one, as if connected to the first one by an underground water channel. Between them thorn bushes grow or there’s only stone desert. The rain has washed away, down to the coast line, all the sand scattered by the wind. The scree and pebbles are left over. Soon, Robby says, the scree and pebbles will sink into the sand and the ground will become soft again.

How long have we been on the road? I’ve lost all sense of time; fortunately. Here, there is no noise, no garbage, hardly any human traces – so why should we care for the time? The sun is high in the sky, the air becomes clearer and we drive into a valley. Granite gleams brightly in the heat, brittle black rock is apparently steadily on the move. Yellow ochre sand lies among those sculptures. We follow the direction of the wadi until we can’t go no further. Robby guides us across boulders up to a little saddle, where we have a breath taking look on more landscape: beneath our feet spread the Red Sea Mountains: rocks, peaks, valleys, rocks, peaks, valleys… westbound to the Nile, southbound to North Sudan. I’d love to continue walking, hiking, further, onwards… Yet, now in summer, it’s too hot, I would not even be able to carry all the water needed. But in winter, it’s possible, at least for a couple of days…

We leave the narrow valley behind us, and head deeper into the mountains… Sometimes the ground is soft and there is wheel spin, however, Robby reliably steers the Jeep back on solid ground.

Asking „stop!“ is what we agreed to halt the car and take pictures; yet Robby reluctantly wags his head. Gradually, he slows down and stops the car behind the sixth or seventh acacia above the invisible lifeline. This is where we’re going to have lunch and a rest, in the shadow of “his” acacia. Within a moment, Robby prepares a barbecue and treats us with cool, fresh salad, grilled chicken, potatoes and vegetables. To our surprise, there is also fresh fruit and tea. Lazing about is not difficult with a full belly and in this heat.

We decamp; roll out of the valley, around a hill, into another valley where the rocks gradually retreat; we’re leaving the mountains, but first, the Jeep climbs a steep sand slope until it gets stuck. We scramble on foot for the remaining meters and up there, we stop breathlessly: we look across the huge sand plane between sea and mountains, discern a slim white line and behind it the vaguely blue glimmering sea. What a final for this day!


And, Robby looks at me questioningly. My answer: There it is again, this longing for landscape that can never be satisfied, but only keeps on growing.

This journey is a day trip by Jeep with Robby Schropp from iQ-onTour. Robby organizes trips and trekking (one-day or several days) as requested for individualists and nature lovers, inquisitive people and outdoor freaks. The trips are organised and conducted meticulously and with much blood, sweat and tears. More details at iQ-onTour.

Some impressions: