Friday, 23 November 2007

Diving without a licence (Day 14)

Our last day in Egypt began (like the rest of them) with a clear blue sky and hot, hot sun above us.

The bigger part of our group wanted to take it easy by the hotel pool and enjoy a cocktail or two. M. and I have decided that we'll have enough time to rest when we get back home.
We have been quite busy these 14 days but we wanted to make the most of what was left of our time in Egypt. Who knows when (if ever) we'll be back again.

Not so long ago we were thinking of getting a PADI OWD diving license but in the end decided not to do it at that time. Since we didn't have a license we had to find some kind of an alternative. We didn't know it until then but you can get a taste of diving even without a license. It is called Introduction dive.
After some research we chose one of local diving agencies. They charged us €35 per person with transport and equipment included.

The vehicle that picked us up was not in a very good shape but we didn't mind it. After all it was the diving experience we were interested in.

When we arrived to the diving site we first had some paperwork to fill and equipment to try. Our instructor took us to the beach, where we listened to some theory. After a quarter of an hour we were ready for some hands on experience.
Another fifteen minutes of practice in waist deep water and we were swimming away for the real thing. Those few exercises help you learn a few basic things like emptying your mask underwater. It also helps your instructor to decide how deep can he take you.
I guess we did quite well because he took us under 10 meters. The dive itself took about a half an hour and we saw some serious fish. Among others there were some lionfish and parrotfish swimming around. We even saw a tuna.
Unfortunately we didn't take our camera with us that day. So no photos of me wearing all that diving equipment. I'm sure both of my readers will be really disappointed.

We really enjoyed it and have decided that if/when we decide to move on with our PADI license we will come back to Red Sea to do it. It's quite an alternative compared to learning in a swimming pool back at home. And most likely it would be even cheaper.

After returning to the hotel we had just enough time to grab a meal. We had a delicious portion of squids by the beach.
We didn't have much time to grab our bags from the hotel and stuff them into a minibus. Before we knew it we were looking at Dahab in our rear-view mirror.

About an hour into the desert we stopped at a police checkpoint. After a routine passport check our guide has realized that his documents were left at the Dahab hotel.
If we liked it or not we had to wait at a nearby cafe until the documents were delivered.

After a few cups of tea we were back on our way. This time we had no trouble passing through the checkpoint and into the desert.

Our driver was pushing the pedal to the metal. He didn't mind the traffic much and was overtaking everything and all the time. In one of such situations when there was also a car coming the opposite way, a loud bang could be heard. The driver somehow managed to maneuver the minibus to the edge of the road.
It was our rear right tyre.

My first thought was: 'Do we have a spare?' It wouldn't be very funny to be left in the middle of the desert with a flat tyre when you have a plane to catch.
At that time we were still more then 500 kilometers away from Cairo and at the same time our eventual replace ride was many hours away.

Fortunately we had a spare and soon enough the blown-to-shreds tyre was replaced and we were on our way again.

The rest of our trip went by without any further incidents. It was past midnight when we arrived to Cairo airport.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Snorkeling at Blue Hole (Day 13)

A quick tour of our latest accommodation in Dahab revealed that this was the best hotel so far. It was really something completely different compared to the first one in Cairo. It even had a pool. The water inside the pool had a suspiciously greenish tone to it but we enjoyed a swim anyway.

Undeniably president Hosni Mubarak is a very important figure in Egypt (he has been the not-so-democratically-elected president of the country since 1981). You can see his image on almost every corner and Dahab is no exception. He is always waving and smiling at people passing by.

Early in the morning our guide arranged a ride to take us to the famous Blue Hole. It is one of the top diving sites in the world. The Blue Hole is just that - a very large hole over 200 m in diameter and dropping to over 80 m.
Obviously when snorkeling you shouldn't dive that deep. We didn't mind because there were just so many fish of all sizes and colors swimming around just below the surface. The coral reef begins at a depth of half a meter. We enjoyed every one of many trips to the water that day.

Judging by the stone and metal plates on a nearby rocky wall all of the divers don't settle for a reasonable depth. So once in a while the Red sea decides to chew somebody up and then after a while it spits him out or swallows him forever.

The time between snorkeling was mostly spent relaxing and enjoying delicious local drinks. We mostly drank freshly squeezed fruit juices and cocktails.
I also tried a few games of backgammon. It seems like almost everybody plays backgammon in Egypt. If you ask a bartender at any Egyptian bar for the board and pieces, you have a pretty good chance he'll give them to you. Free of charge of course.

Since most of the day was spent snorkeling, we were quite exhausted when we got back to our hotel.
In the evening we decided to taste some of the stuff we saw underwater. We went to one of many restaurants lined up by the sea. It was quite expensive but in the end - worth it.

Slowly we were starting to realize that we had just another day of Egypt left.


Friday, 16 November 2007

A story about a boy and a dolphin (Day 12)

For the second night in a row we had a chance to sleep under the stars, just a step away from the sea.

What's better then a swim in the sea first thing in the morning? And it is Red Sea I'm talking about!
In my book hardly anything can top that. Well, I can actually think of a few things, but this is not that kind of a blog...

Anyway, some twenty meters into the sea there was a lonely coral rock and a bunch of fish of all colors around it. It was at a depth of around three meters, so I could get real close. Not too close though - there was a Lionfish swimming around and I didn't want to push my luck. There was no sign of dolphins though.

After breakfast I went for a stroll around the little village of Nuweiba.
Just outside the camp there was a sign standing by the road. I could tell it was standing there for some years. It had a faded inscription on it saying:

Dolphin dreams - Swim with wild dolphins

When I asked our guide about it he told me a story about a mute Bedouin boy who became friends with a wild dolphin.

The dolphin kept returning to the same spot every day. When the word about the unusual friendship got around, they were famous. More and more people started coming to Nuweiba to see it with their own eyes and also to swim with the dolphin.

It didn't take long for some people to see a business opportunity in this. So soon enough visitors were charged to swim with the dolphin.
Unfortunately money usually comes together with greed. In this case it was no different. Some people just couldn't get enough and started quarreling.

From that point on, there are two versions of the story (one sadder then the other):

  • The first version says that in one of those quarrels someone really lost his temper. He simply took his rifle and shot the poor dolphin.

  • By the second version the dolphin supposedly sensed the quarrels and problems emerging because of him. He simply swam away and never came back again.

You can decide for yourself which one of those two options seemes more plausible.

The only dolphin we saw when staying in Nuweiba was a wooden one by the sea. It is supposed to remind people of the ruined friendship between a boy and a dolphin.

After breakfast we left it all behind and headed into the desert once again.

We had another canyon on our itinerary. By my opinion this one was the most spectacular of them all. It is a colorful canyon, also called Rainbow Canyon. Those colorful patterns were nothing short of spectacular.

Among other interesting things we saw a huge desert lizard. Well it seemed huge through my European eyes. It was about a meter long and really fat.

When Abdullah our Bedouin guide saw it, he jumped after it. The lizard just had enough time to hide into a deep hole under a rock.
This didn't stop Abdullah. He tried hard to dig it out, but after ten minutes or so gave it up.
Lizards of that kind are supposedly a Bedouin delicacy. I'm not sure if he wasn't just teasing us and only wanted to dig it up for us to take a closer look at it.

At the only time I could take a photo of it, M. had my photo camera. However she successfully took photos of another much smaller but just as interesting desert lizard.

Like those other canyons we saw, this one also had a few tight places to squeeze through. It was fun. Well at least for some of us.

After gathering some sand in many different colors we left the desert and headed for Dahab.

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