More Random Memories from the Middle East: Still Sinai

Previously: One  Two

***

The IDF soldier navigated down the hill as Janet got ‘properly’ dressed inside our tent to greet our visitor. I didn’t bother. I figured cut-offs and no shirt just fine. As for him, well he had slightly longish unkempt hair, as was the norm for IDF soldiers back then. Most of them were reservists anyhow. IDF was a mega-weekend-warrior class anyhow. His beret was tucked into his shirt at the shoulder. His olive-drab uniform was dusty. In general, the IDF Army was unkempt, un-kept, un-disciplined and Fucking Ferocious.

Perfect soldiers.

This truth never did escape me. Some respect from me was obviously the ‘order of my day’ here…

I watched him cautiously descend onto the  my beach. The night before I had un-cautiously descended and ascended (ten times), full of false courage brought about by some imbibing and dope. But what the hell! So… I studied his unsteady progress toward me.

As he approached he switched to English, “This is restricted zone,” he said as he pointed with his rifle over his shoulder to what looked to be a military base of some minor proportions.

“Well, It was dark when we got here and I didn’t notice,” I lied.

“You must leave. Now.”

“Something wrong?” Janet said, sticking her head out of our tent.

“Janet, I got this. Go back inside,” I almost barked.

“Fine!” she said. “Gin or Whiskey for breakfast?”

“Back inside!”

“Fine!” she huffed and disappeared inside the tent.

Turning my attention back to the IDF soldier, I asked/said, “So ‘we’ (Meaning US, the U.S. of us), can pay for this ‘wonderful’ base here in Sinai, and you come climbing down from ‘Mount Fucking Sinai’ to inform me that I am not welcome here? Is this correct?”

He laughed at that and proceeded to take a seat on a beer cooler next to our now burnt out campfire. At least this one had a sense of humor.

“I am Jacob,” he said. “And who are you my American Friend?”

“Lance,” I said, cautiously  extending my hand, which he took and shook earnestly. “Would you like some breakfast? We have tuna fish, whiskey, or gin. Your choice.”

Again he laughed. “Coffee?”

“Fraid not. Sorry.”

“I noticed you have some ice in your big cooler. Where did you get it?” (How did he know this?)

“Eilat,” I said.

“Do not drink the water from the melted parts then.”

“Why not?”

“Because it is made with ammonia at the factory in Eilat. Toxic. Do not drink the water.”

“Hell! My man! I drink the water in Cairo.”

“Your funeral then.”

We laughed some more. I was warming up to this guy.

“Seriously though my friend, you cannot remain here.”

“Yeah? Well, we were planning to push south today anyhow. South to Ras Mohammed.”

“Beautiful diving and snorkeling there. Mind the sharks though.”

“The ‘Sharks’ are why we are going.”

“All you Americans… are Cowboys?” he snorted.

“Yep.”

“Okay then. Bonne chance! I take my leave now. Be sure you take yours too. Soon. Shalom.”

“Cheers, and nice to meet you Jacob.”

“Bye,” he said and walked away.

***

“Well, you fucked that up,” Janet said, finally emerging from the tent.

“How so?”

“Now we have to leave this place.”

“Janet, I never intended to stay here more than the one night. I wanna get to Ras.”

“I like it here.”

“Pack your shit. We’re leaving now.”

She ‘packed her shit’ and I schlepped it and the rest up the cliff and loaded our little chariot. Within two hours we were back on the road again, heading south. As we were driving through the Sinai with the mountains on our right, she pulled out her Bible and instructed  invited  demanded of me to ‘turn off that damn noise.’ That ‘noise’ was Bob Marley and I hesitated… for a moment, then saw some seriousness in her brown eyes and acquiesced. She opened her ‘book’ and began to read from Genesis.  I must admit it was fitting, given the time and the place.

We spent some miles in this activity. I smoked some cigarettes and studied the landscape. The Sinai Desert along the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba is wondrous beautiful. As I said, the contrast moved me. Janet’s reading (which she did quite well, I may add) added to the ambiance. This girl had some talents. “In the beginning…”

But, the magic moments could not last (Janet and I had a propensity for combat). We eventually got into an argument about thirty clicks outside of Sharm el Sheik. I was slightly gin-buzzed by this point and in no mood for…

“Stop the fuckin’ car!” She shouted.

“Whaaa?”

“Stop the FUCKING CAR!”

“Shit! What for?!”

“I’m getting out! That is what FOR!”

“Janet, we’re in the middle of a fucking desert in a Muslim / Bedouin country. Are you sure?”

“Yes! Goddamn it! I am sure. Stop the fucking car. I hate you!” (Not entirely sure where this sentiment came from, but it was, I could see, sincere.)

“Fine!” I stopped the car. “Don’t forget your fuckin’ Virginia Slims,” I said as she opened the door, got out and proceeded to ‘march’ down the empty road.

I would have (should have) left her there, but y’all know I could not.

 

 More to come… Here

Video Credit:

TheCowboy4411

Throw-Back Thursday: “If You Don’t Mine, It Don’t Matter”

There is sand in the Sinai Desert. Lots of sand. There is wind in the Sinai Desert. Lots of wind. There are landmines in the Sinai Desert. Lots of landmines, some dating back to the ’56 war. Most of them are still functional.

When wind and sand collide, the sand moves. In waves. The sand does not respect manmade things. Manmade things such as roads or landmarks, or mine fields. Sand does not care if it inconveniences you. Or puts your life in danger. Sand has no conscience and actually does not give two shits about you or me, or anyone or anything.

Sand is just sand.

These truths about sand were to become blatantly obvious to me one day back in 1978. I was driving my Chevy Van Passenger Vehicle to the Suez Canal to rendezvous with a similar R&R vehicle coming from Cairo. My vehicle was loaded with ten passengers, all very happy to be headed out on R&R. It was my simple job to get them to the rendezvous point so they could take the little boat across the canal, climb into the other van and head on to Cairo and their scheduled flights back to The Real World.

From SFM Base Camp to Suez is about thirty klicks.

untso_map3

SFM Base Camp Located Between
The Giddi and Mitla Passes

Travel time on average, an hour and change, depending on how long the Egyptians wanted to detain me at the check points along the way. I always brought along some packs of Marlboros to provide them when they insisted on ‘baksheesh’. No big deal. I could afford the bribe. Hell, in our little BX (Base Exchange) cigarettes were three bucks a carton.

This particular day back in ’78 was a day after a particularly savage sand storm. The roads to Suez are passable most days. And safe. Off-roading is not safe.

Stay on the pavement.

I can compare it to the line from Apocalypse Now: “Never get out of the boat.”

As I drew closer and closer to the canal the roads began to get more and more difficult to discern. Now mind you, I had made the canal run many, many times, but I am a guy who can get lost in his own hometown of Honey Grove Texas, Population 1800. This is a small town, not too many ways to get lost, unless you are real creative. I am real creative.

I came to a point whereby I just could no longer make out the paved road. I took a turn in the general direction of the canal, hoping to pick up the road again after a few minutes. As I was bumping along I noticed one of those landmine signs:

mines

So did my passengers.

They freaked. I suppose this could be considered a normal reaction. They all started jabbering at once. I invited them to shut the hell up, and then I calmly backed the fuck out of the mine field, carefully retracing my inbound route.

Once I got back to the spot where I had obviously taken a wrong turn, I took the other turn and eventually made it to Suez. Picked up the inbound passengers and didn’t even have any shit to clean up in my vehicle, but I think at least one of my passengers had shit his pants.

Now all I had to do was make it back to Base Camp without any more drama. I gave it fifty-fifty.

postcard

Home, Safe Home

More to come on SFM

Here is a related post.

And another “Hello Minefield In The Sand”

And one more here

Thank You For Your Visit.

Comments always welcomed.

Sinai Field Mission. Or The Story of How Lance Lost His Mind and Later Found it Ferreted Away in His Pocket

This Post is a Continuation of a Promise I made to Me (And to Y’all, Gentle Readers) to write about Sinai Field Mission. For brevity’s sake (The Soul of Wit), I am breaking it down into snippets. To catch the back story, actually the forward story, please go here: No Bare Feet Beyond This Point.

And Here: TA

And Also Here: My Mine Field

Continue reading

Hello Minefield In The Sand

(Sung to Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand”)

To an Unfeeling Landmine

So Sorry Neil

This spontaneous post is a follow up to the frivolous one below

***********

Hello Minefield in the Sand

Is this place at your command?

Can I live here just a while?

Can I pass your sweet, sweet style?

Not old enuff now to change my ways

When so many died here

Is this your plan?

It’s the problem with you

That makes me wanna go insane

So many innocent doan wanna play yer game

Hello dead one in the dust

You died because of us

Your band did not begin to rust

I guess it was all the sin I had

To trust a walk that didn’t seem bad

Holding out now, to change some things

Just some water; do that seem strange?

I was hoping that you’d turn bad

Go away now, I’d be not sad

But you hang around…

To kill my kids

You make me feel angry, but not like this

Purple blood on a sand background

With so much about you,

You’ll never be found…

Until you kill someone else.

*********

Too many people die still today from landmines meant to kill combatants in so many older, forgotten wars. 

If You Don’t Mine, It Don’t Matter

There is sand in the Sinai Desert. Lots of sand. There is wind in the Sinai Desert. Lots of wind. There are landmines in the Sinai Desert. Lots of landmines, some dating back to the ’56 war. Most of them are still functional.

When wind and sand collide, the sand moves. In waves. The sand does not respect manmade things. Manmade things such as roads or landmarks, or mine fields. Sand does not care if it inconveniences you. Or puts your life in danger. Sand has no conscience and actually does not give two shits about you or me, or anyone or anything.

Sand is just sand.

These truths about sand were to become blatantly obvious to me one day back in 1978. I was driving my Chevy Van Passenger Vehicle to the Suez Canal to rendezvous with a similar R&R vehicle coming from Cairo. My vehicle was loaded with ten passengers, all very happy to be headed out on R&R. It was my simple job to get them to the rendezvous point so they could take the little boat across the canal, climb into the other van and head on to Cairo and their scheduled flights back to The Real World.

From SFM Base Camp to Suez is about thirty klicks.

untso_map3

SFM Base Camp Located Between
The Giddi and Mitla Passes

Travel time on average, an hour and change, depending on how long the Egyptians wanted to detain me at the check points along the way. I always brought along some packs of Marlboros to provide them when they insisted on ‘baksheesh’. No big deal. I could afford the bribe. Hell, in our little BX (Base Exchange) cigarettes were three bucks a carton.

This particular day back in ’78 was a day after a particularly savage sand storm. The roads to Suez are passable most days. And safe. Off-roading is not safe.

Stay on the pavement. I can compare it to the line from Apocalypse Now: “Never get out of the boat.”

As I drew closer and closer to the canal the roads began to get more and more difficult to discern. Now mind you, I had made the canal run many, many times, but I am a guy who can get lost in his own hometown of Honey Grove Texas, Population 1800. This is a small town, not too many ways to get lost, unless you are real creative. I am real creative.

I came to a point whereby I just could no longer make out the paved road. I took a turn in the general direction of the canal, hoping to pick up the road again after a few minutes. As I was bumping along I noticed one of those landmine signs:

mines

So did my passengers.

They freaked. I suppose this could be considered a normal reaction. They all started jabbering at once. I invited them to shut the hell up, and then I calmly backed the fuck out of the mine field, carefully retracing my inbound route.

Once I got back to the spot where I had obviously taken a wrong turn, I took the other turn and eventually made it to Suez. Picked up the inbound passengers and didn’t even have any shit to clean up in my vehicle, but I think at least one of my passengers had shit his pants.

Now all I had to do was make it back to Base Camp without any more drama. I gave it fifty-fifty.

postcard

Home, Safe Home

More to come on SFM

Here is a related post.

Thanks for reading.