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Michael’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 25 Mar 2006

Location: Dahab, Egypt

MapThis entry should bring me up to date, with 4 entries over the last three days. All typing errors are due to this dodgy as shit keyboard (I'm on a different CPU to the last three updates) and not my Saturday night drinking... promise %-)

Okay, so I woke up in Cairo on the morning of my 'last day on tour' at a reasonable hour of 9am, to find about half the group already gone. I had breakfast with Stan the (71 y.o) man, and caught up with Craig, Kat, Esther, Ryan and Shan. When I knew Craig and Kat weren't comin to Dahab, I started organising my way there.

In Cairo, it's ALMOST as cheap to get someone else to do stuff for ya, as it is to do it yourself. It was gonna cost me 25 LE and 1.5hrs of my time to get my bus tickets to Dahab, or I could get the hotel porter to do it for 30LE. I stayed at the hotel, while the porter played fetch.

I said my final goodbyes around midday, and headed to the bus stop. As nervous as I was about missing my bus (given the destinations were all written in Arabic) I made it finally and we were off around 130pm (not bad I hear for a 1pm bus).

Now, I had been wondering what all the fuss was about the busses in Egypt.... lets say that I no longer have to wonder. The only way to describe it is (pardon my Frence) HOLY SHIIIIT. Man was that a crazy ride. I have never been so tired and scared in my life. The whole time I wanted to curl up and sleep, but that wasn't possible: for 2 reasons.

The bus would rock back and forth, the horizon out the side of the bus dipping and climbing like i was on a yacht. Add to that the lack of speed limit, and the never slowing down to hit a round about (they took it the way Spen takes roundabout in the HQ Commodore, straight over the top, just they don't get stuck!). Man, sleep was not an option... at least not for more than 3 minutes at a time.

The other reason could have been worse than the driving. Two senses were in overload, and thankfully I had the iRiver to dull one of those. They were playing Arabic movies on the bus, and the whole way they had halal music on the speakers, just like halal KFC, only more frustrating. But worse still was the smell. Imagine a bus full of 50 Melbourne cab drivers on a 40 degree day... Is it too much to ask for a stick of deoderant? The defence rests your honor.

I finally rolled into Dahab at 1130pm, ten hours later, the only tourist on the bus. Man was that a mistake. The minute (no, second) I walked off the bus, I was swamped by 15-20 guys asking if I need a taxi. I just yelled LA LA LA repeatedly (No, No, No) hoping they'd go away. Like flies to shit... they stuck. I grabbed my bag and made a dash, getting one guy on his own. He offered his taxi (a ute???) and I suggested it didn't look like a taxi. He promised me they were Dahab taxis, and 5 pound to get into town (though I know it should have been 1 probably) and I gave him the name of the only 'hotel' I could remember - The Penguin.

We pulled up at "The Penguin" although I knew straight away it wasn't. After a quick tour of my room, I jumped in a fell asleep quickly, content in the fact that I was off the bus, even if I had paid WAAAAY too much for the room, and it wasn't where I'd asked to go.

I woke up the next morning and immediately headed to the other ''accomodation establishments" to compare prices. I call them that because the quality varies so greatly. They range from hotels, to 'apartments', to sheds with a mat on the floor, and you don't know what you're getting till you get in there and look around. Given my tummy troubles in Egypt to date, i was partial to a room with it's own toilet, rather than a communal set-up... which kinda ruled out the shed with a mat, going as cheap as $2.50 aussie a night. As it was, I found a place with a shower and toilet, with a double 'bed' (foam matress on the floor) for about $6AUS a night with a view of the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia from the bedroom. It helped having a bit of time shop in the morning.

After finding my new room, I started looking at scuba diving options, really the only thing to do in Dahab. I found my place pretty quickly, and was soon forking over the money (less than it would have been in Australia) to do my Advanced Open Water certificate. I spent the rest of the day basically reading up on the chapters I knew I'd be tested on the following day.

So, over the next two days (yesterday and today) I completed 5 dives, and it was great. The first two dives yesterday were pretty much theory dives (peak buoyancy control and navigation) and the final dive was a Night Dive at the lighthouse. That was the most incredible dive I HAD done to date. It was beautiful, and your spotlight only lights up a tiny portion of what is out there. The beauty of what we saw, pales compared to what we must have missed.

Then today's dives - Underwater Naturalist (bit of a wank dive) and the Deep Dive, a compulsory dive to 30m. In actuallity, the Underwater Naturalist also went to 30m, but the objectives were different. We set off from the dive shop just after 9am in a 'taxi' (Jeep) that was towing a tariler with our dive gear. We headed north from Dahab, along dirt roads for about 40 minutes till we made the 'world famous' Blue Hole. This supposedly in the top 5 dive sites in the world (don't quote me) and is 'world famous' for the number of lives lost there (over 150).

Plaques line the rock ledge to entry point and as I walked along, I read that most of the divers were in their early to mid twenties and male... needless to say I tried to block it out of my mind quickly. As we later discussed the bus ride from Cairo to Dahab was probably more dangerous than diving the hole, and the numbers are not that high given how many divers dive the hole each day, let alone each year. There was literally a queue waiting to get in.

Once I was in I could quickly see why. It is a small hole (2m x 2m square), that drops for 26m and under an arch beofre opening up to the 'wild blue yonder' with no visible bottom. You spend the next half hour swimming back along the ledge to the exit point (about 100m away) looking at an incredible array of fish. This quickly became my most incredible dive to date, replacing the night dive...

In the afternoon we dived the canyon, again to 30m, and again saw an incredible view. The reef appears to to be flat at about 18m, where suddenly you find a small tear, (about 30m long, by 2m wide) in the reef floor. Here the 'canyon' is dropping to a depth of between 30m and 55m. Obviously I was restricted to the 30m side (maximum depth of Advanced Open Water Diver) but it was incredible... and again became my favourite ever dive.... 3 in a row ain't bad.

Between the two dives today, I saw more different fish than I thought existed, and the colors were incredible. Over the two days I saw octopus (huge), torpedo rays, spanish dancers, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, fish, fish ,fish, and coral, coral, coral. It is safe to say, Red Sea diving has me hooked. It also helped that I met a world record holder of a couple scuba records (deepest dives) who was at the centre I went to... Mark Andrews. Check his bio (I didn't read it all, but I know he went down to 205m to find a wreck.... that's a long way down to have to come back up).

That about brings me up to tonight (bar a few drinks after completing the course, and later with dinner) but I want to explain Dahab to you. It's tough to even call it a town. It is a main street, that runs along the beach (which primarliy consists of rocks or pebbles), and stops suddenly and turns into a 'walk'. Like Burke St in the city kind of. This 'walk' lasts for probably 2km, circling the entire bay of Dahab. Along this 'walk' you will find NOTHING but:
1. Dive centres - 65 in Dahab, most on the walk
2. Hotels - varying from hotels to 'camps' with shed with matress on floor.
3. Restraunts, so many restraunts. The competition means crazy cheap prices too. Each restraunt has seating on the beach, and a kitchen on the other side of the walk. The waiters come out of the kitchen, carry you food across the walk (10m) and then into the seating area which is on the beach.
4. Tour places (camel, jeep quad bikes etc.)

And that is Dahab. 75% of the population must work in the hotels or dive centres (often joined together) and the population is largely male (as I found out tonight whilst wandering the town looking for a bar). Bars are almost non-existent, but all of the restraunts seem to sell copious amounts of cheap alcohol. (Half litre full strength beer for as low as $1.25 Aussie).

The taxis raelly are all jeeps and utes that run around the main strip, tooting their horns. If you want a cab, you shout at the driver your destination and just jump in the back of the ute.... it's great. Also, it appears as though while horns are mandatory, head lighst are optional, even in the middle of the night.

Entertainment is also kept at a minimum. The pub I've had dinner at the last couple night (TOTA'S) does a mean burger, but the highlight is the nightly movie. They have a portable DVD player, connected to a projector that projects onto a blank screen in the beer garden, and a single speaker hooked up for sound. But the best bit is that the movies are all shit house quality VCD's, filmed in a cinema, and pirated, but still with Arabic sub titles. Last night I saw Charlies Angles II and decided it had to be the worst film ever created. Tonight I saw Lord of War - well kind of. The VCD was apparently 2 parts, and they didn't have the 2nd part, so I saw about and hours worth, before they put on "Murder of Crows". Finally they put on 'Shade". Again, for you poker buffs out there (I've mentioned it to some before), you have to see this movie, even if it is just for the slight of hand card manipulation in the opening credits... plus it has sly stallone in it.

Anyway, that bring me up to know. I have no idea yet where I am going from here (except perhaps back to the pub) as to weather or not I chase a total solar eclipse, which is provoing harder than I thought, or stay here and do more diving. I will let you all know when I make my decision. In the mean time, hope you are all well, and as the saying goes around here: DIVE NOW, WORK LATER.