2005 Time-out Diary
Wandering around Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon



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26-30 October 2005



Wednesday 26th October 2005    day 107     whereami     Satellite view

Hurghada
Delighted to wake up at 9am with no toothache. I took a couple of ibuprofen and a paracetemol last night as it was getting quite painful, and expected to wake in a few hours in pain, but they knocked me out and I feel fine. It was almost certainly caused by some compressed gas getting under the tooth and then not finding a way out until I was asleep. Maybe it's a good job I didn't get a deep dive yesterday - it's not unkown for a tooth to explode as trapped gas expands on ascent - and that could ruin your whole day!

Got up, showered and packed and went to check out. I was expecting some fuss as there'd been some confusion over payment for the first night. I'd paid it in full but when Arnold got back he'd also paid his half. There was no problem though I just paid 7.5LE to make up the 30LE for the night on my own.

Headed up towards the bus station just after 10am, there's a bus to Suez at 11am. It was 2km and 10 minutes away according to several people but it turned out they meant egyptian km and minutes - about twice the western equivalent. I got there about 10:40 and the bus turned up roughly on time. We all piled on, I'm the only foreigner, and I managed to get a comfy window seat right at the back 34LE.

I was soon feeling hungry and thirsty - no breakfast and no dinner last night. Most were soon dozing and I sneakily drank some water and ate some date biscuits unnoticed - trying to be discrete, it's still Ramadan.

Nothing to look at on the journey so read, dozed and wrote this. We stopped briefly in Zafarana and I could just about see the Sinai across the sea. I was expecting to arrive at Suez about 3pm but it was gone 4:30 when we finally pulled into the same bus station I left from 6 weeks ago. Given the time I was resigned to overnighting here and reminded myself of the name (Arafat) of the nice hotel I stayed at before but I was pleased to learn that a bus left for Sharm El Sheikh at 6pm.

I sat and waited around, and bought some food for break-fast - I may as well join in the full Ramadan experience today. At 5:15 the mosques started broadcasting their prayers and everyone started eating except for the few for whom a cigarette took priority. It's quite a nice time, everyone cheers up and enjoys their food, drinks and smokes.

A call went out for my bus at 5:45 and I got on 30LE. My seat was next to a woman which seemed strange. She was a big lass and needed a seat and a half so, as the bus was half empty, I moved and got 2 seats to myself. We soon got to the tunnel and crossed under the Suez Canal (I was wrong about it being near Ismailia - it's near Suez). We went through quite a few checkpoints but they weren't really interested in me - surprisingly I'm the only non-egyptian on the bus again. We also stopped a couple of times for shay/smoke/pee breaks.

I'm not quite sure why but I've quite enjoyed the travelling today. It's not very comfortable, there's nothing to look at, the incessant koranic music is painfully scraping away at my eardrums, I had to pretty much starve all day - but I'm strangely happy with my lot.

No idea what to expect in Sharm El Sheikh, it's gonna be late for a bus to Dahab.

Arrived in Sharm El Sheikh at about 11pm - earlier than expected. There is a Dahab bus, at 2am - or 3:30 according to the insistent café boy. Sat around, read a while, got cold so put my sweatshirt on, sat around, sat around, got cold. The 11LE bus turned up at 3am and we set off about 3:15. We stopped in a garage for the driver to complete some (what appeared to be) dodgey deals with his mates. Lengths of steel rod came out of the baggage compartment and money changed hands. We arrived in Dahab at 4:30 and I got a 5LE taxi to the centre.

Unsurprisingly it was dead quiet and deserted. I walked up and down trying to find Desert Divers and eventually found it. I sat in a comfy chair until there were signs of life about 7:30. I moved into the communal chill-out area to see if Said was around but there was no sign. I just lazed around there most of the morning and had a nice omelette breakfast. They don't have rooms so I set out to find somewhere to stay.

Spotted Al in a café, good to see him again, and he recommended Auski's Camp. It's almost halfway to "the islands" and took me ages to find it - got a decent room for 15LE. Barely settled when I bumped into Graham (scot) that we'd breakfasted with in Luxor. It's funny how the same faces keep showing up - there must be 100 hotels in Luxor and nearly as many places here.

Just gonna crash out for a while now - it was a long day(s) and a long night.

      High: Dahab seems to have kept it's charm despite a lot of development
       Low: stomach's been a bit off - maybe the extreme fasting 'cos I haven't eaten anything risky


Thursday 27th October 2005    day 108     whereami     Satellite view

Dahab
A bit of a lost day - not least because half of it ended up in yesterday's diary.

Forgot to mention that around 6-7am I watched a pretty big dorsal fin prowling up and down the bay about 50m offshore. I'm not sure if it was a dolphin or a shark.

Dozed on my bed for most of the afternoon but didn't really get the sleep I need. I just feel washed out with my uncomfortable stomach and a sleepless night.

I'm not quite sure what to do from here. I don't think it's wise to go diving, I'm sure my tooth is just waiting for an excuse to play up big time. It's a bit of a disappointment but I wasn't going to do much anyway. I can't imagine there's a lot of Divemaster work going - it's too quiet. I'll probably have a few days snorkelling and think about a Plan B - I've got a little idea to work on.

Went out for a drink in an open air bar with Al and Justin (SAfr) and had a few funny games of pool on an increasingly slopey table. Then off to a basic bedouin café for a good chicken meal for 14LE. My stomach feels like it's returning to normal - I really don't know what's up with it, I feel like I've eaten a lead weight but I'm pretty certain I haven't.

Back to the hotel at 11 for a reasonably early night. Going snorkelling tomorrow.

It's pretty quiet here, not too many tourists and Dahab has definitely still got it's magic. The hassling is fairly relaxed to which is always good. And this camp is great, my room's nice and fairly clean and there a good atmosphere about the place. It's a long way from the centre with it's noisey bars.

      High: bumping into Al again so quickly - he's a good bloke
       Low: definitely feeling the pain today from irregular food and lack of sleepzzzz


Friday 28th October 2005    day 109     whereami     Satellite view

Dahab
Great night's sleep - totally crashed until 9am, and the stomach's nearly back to normal.

Bumped into Graham who was also going to The Islands to snorkel - Al and Justin seem to have already gone. We went for an excellent feast of a breakfast and a couple of shays in the place next door 18LE.

Walked up to The Islands and were just getting in when Al and Justin turned up. We had a really good snorkel there and saw lots, we only got out when we were too cold to continue.

     

  

Played with a frisbee on the beach to warm up - pretty difficult as it was breezey. I had a very quick 2nd snorkel but my camera battery surprisingly ran out - must have left it on.

Walked back to the camp, Al and Justin stopped there as they're on a trip to Tiran Island tonight. Graham and I carried on towards Eel Garden. Graham bumped into someone he knew so I carried on alone. Had a superb snorkel - even better than this morning. Managing to get pretty deep too and stay down a while.

     

     

     

     

     



Didn't see Graham again until I was walking back. He was hurrying to snorkel Eel Garden before the sun set.

Back to the camp and spent a while sorting out today's photos. Always takes a while 'cos 70% of underwater shots don't turn out well - I LOVE digital cameras!

Sat around in the camp a while with the usual few plus Pavel (russian), and a few canadians. Had a few puffs on Pavel's shisha pipe and it was actually ok. We headed off to a bar at the other end where there was a pub-quiz but we were late and missed it. The bar was noisey and shouty - not what I'm into - so I left them to it after one drink.

Walking back looking for food and internet I heard someone call my name - it was Arnold (actually Arnaud I now think). Had a quick chat and caught up. He wants to come snorkelling with me tomorrow 'cos he's not confident enough in the water to go alone - we're meeting at 9:30.

Had a reasonable kofta meal in the same place as last night for 20LE. Spent a 4LE hour in a good internet café.
Karen: I've tried to email you several times but NTLWorld is rejecting everything I send. How was China / Mongolia ? - email me.

Really good day, great snorkelling in great company. And Dahab is just great - very chiiilled out, very relaaaxing, mostly very quiet. Every other traveller I speak to came here for 3 days and is now in their 2nd week - or similar.
I'm pining for a guitar though - this is a great place to loaf around and play.

      High: snorkelling Eel Garden - and that strange orange fish - I love the 2nd-to-last photo
       Low: the noisey bar - I don't need all that


Saturday 29th October 2005    day 110     whereami     Satellite view

Dahab
Out at 9:30, no sign of Arnaud so I went for a shay - don't need breakfast after 2 big meals yesterday. Started towards Eel Garden, it's pretty windy today and the sea is choppy. Met Arnaud coming late to meet me and he pointed out that I didn't have my fins with me. Back to get my fins and for Arnaud to hire some from our camp - they seem to be the cheapest. Met Al on his way to snorkel Lighthouse Reef and decided to meet him there - it's more sheltered from the strong wind.

Met up at the reef and Arnaud and I went straight in. He was pretty nervous about it and wasn't at all sure if he should go in the choppy sea at all but I persuaded him it was nothing to worry about. After a few minutes flapping around and coughing up seawater he was fine and I left him to it. Lighthouse Reef is much better than I'd been lead to believe - I'd been told it was now dead but though the coral is badly damaged there's a lot of fish, and they're very tame having seen hundreds of people every day all their lives. Some big surgeon fish had an appetite for the seaweed that floats around and you could almost hand-feed them. Arnaud was over the moon with what he saw there, he'd never seen anything like it and thanked me for pushing him.

Back to the restaurant where Al and Justin were relaxing for a shay and an hour later a good Pasta Arabiata 18LE.

We headed up to Eel Garden and I wore my dive computer to see how deep I was getting. I went in first on my own and almost the first thing I saw once over the reef top was a good sized ray on the sandy bottom about 15m below me. I dived down several times and got a few shots before he went deeper and out of sight. The visibility is not as good today - churned up by this morning's wind that has now calmed.

ray   ray   ray

     

I had a few goes at getting deep and my best was 18m - not bad unweighted and carrying a camera. It was a very long way back up and I had to fight a strong urge to breathe in. I hadn't really considered that. Normally when you hold your breath the urge is to breathe out first, but at depth the air in your lungs compresses (to 1/2 volume at 10m, 1/3 at 20m) so you feel like you need to breathe in. You also have to donate some precious air to your mask airspace on the way down. It was interesting though, it was a strange feeling looking all that way up to the surface without a load of diving gear on. And that 20m mark is begging to be broken another day, without the camera baggage and without a snorkel - I had to remind my hungry lungs that the snorkel wasn't a scuba reg a hundred times!

We've heard about a big freediving competition happening here very soon but don't know the details - might be interesting though I don't think we'd get to see much.

There wasn't as much life around as yesterday and I soon got cold anyway so got out. I might have a look at the prices of the thin neoprene vests that some wear. We had a laugh with the canadians from our camp about how we were all shivering on the shore having spent 30 minutes in 26C water and now with sun going down still probably 26C air temperature. We're all acclimatised to much higher temperatures and have become wimps. Returning to England in December is gonna be a nightmare - I'll be wearing my entire wardrobe! Winter diving in Stoney Cove doesn't bear thinking about!

Wandered back to the camp, sorted out my few photos and dug out my travel guitar that I swore not to play any more - but I need it.

Didn't feel particularly hungry but felt I ought to eat so went for a walk about 10pm to see if anyone was about. Found nobody so sat in Bedouin Lodge with my book (Modern Arabic Short Stories) and had a really nice toasted cheese and tomato sandwich with chips and salad, plus a shay and a lemon juice 22LE.

Back to my room about midnight for more guitar and diary.

Pretty lazy day really but that's what Dahab does to you - everything happens at a very gentle pace - well what's the rush?

      High: breaking the surface from my 18m freedive
       Low: the cats trying to steal my lunch? the painful barefoot entry/exit at Eel Garden? - totally trivial really


Sunday 30th October 2005    day 111     whereami     Satellite view

Dahab
Woke up feeling ropey again. This bloody stomach of mine was almost back to normal but today I have finally succumbed to the traditional egyptian's revenge - with all it's frequency and urgency. I also ache all over.

I decided to spend the day lounging on the comfy floor cushions in Bedouin Lodge restaurant reading and sipping shays and lemon juice. Read Arthur C Clarke's "Voices From The Sky". It a non-fiction book containing his ideas about what technology will bring to our lives in the near future, especially in terms of space travel and communications. Given that it was published in 1966 most of that near future has been and gone. I'm not a big ACC fan but it was interesting - his thoughts on communications have mostly been surpassed by mobile phones and the internet but space travel has not come close to his expectations.

I actually managed to get quite comfortable there and quite enjoyed my day - and the conveniences are conveniently close. However you look at it, it was a much more dignified way to spend the day than periodically sprinting up and down the corniche with a pained expression and tightly clenched buttocks! And besides, I suspect running is illegal in Dahab.

I felt a bit better in the late afternoon and made a tour of the 3 2nd hand book stalls/shops I'd spotted. Very disappointing though - it was nearly all pulp fiction romances and detective mysteries. I returned to the camp empty handed. I did stop to pick up some biscuits and sweets to satisfy a sudden craving for sugar.

It's early evening and my aches and pains have mostly gone but I still have occasional urgent needs so daren't stray far. I can't believe that it's caught up with me here - on the face of it this seems like one of the healthiest places I've been.

Got a late knock on my door from Al and Justin - just returned from their trip to Ras Mohamed - they had a good time and saw plenty. Justin's off to Cairo tomorrow so Al and I are meeting for breakfast and snorkelling.

      High: nice chill-out time loafing and reading and people-watching
       Low: bloody stomach problems - I hope that's the end of it now




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