The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Delightful Dahab

The following takes place on Days 193-197, June 8-12, 2011

For Mick, Arnold, and I, the next day was fairly uneventful. As Vitaly and Ying had left the night before and with no actual tour for us, we had the day completely free. We took the opportunity to walk to the Luxor Museum to check that out as it hadn’t been on the itinerary for our tour. Finding it turned into a bit of a challenge as the road it was on was currently under construction/repair so it deceived us into thinking we couldn’t walk that way. Added a good half hour to our search.

IMG_7868When we did find it and went inside we were all pleasantly surprised. Sure, it was a bit smaller than the museum in Cairo(and more expensive), but it had a semblance of order. All the pieces were in their place with placards explaining their significance. It even had the mummy that had been rediscovered in a Niagara Falls museums back room.

We spent a good few hours there before heading back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the day by the hotel pool, with me meeting a family from England who gave me a few beers for free. Before we knew it though it was time to head to the train station. Arnold had the sitting train back which left half an hour before the sleeper train that Mick and I would be on.

When Mick and I got into Cairo the next morning we were both wiped. I think the rush rush rush of the last few days plus the semi-sleep one gets on a train got to us because the moment we got to the hostel, we both fell asleep until early afternoon. The rest of the day we didn’t do much except grabbing our tickets for the overnight bus to Dahab. We ended up meeting back with Vitaly at the hostel as he was taking the same bus to Dahab.

It was not the most comfortable bus ride I’ve been on. Mick and I got one of the last tickets of the bus so we were crammed into the very back. With random stops where we had to get off to show our passports and/or have our bags checked by drug sniffing dogs, we didn’t get the best sleep.

IMG_7881Dahab is a little town on the edge of the Gulf of Araba, which is fed from the Red Sea. It is a major tourist destination for the fantastic diving opportunities that it presents. This fact is obvious for the fact that most hostels are affiliated with a dive centre in one way or another. We ended up going to Dahab Divers as they had the best price for the three of us. We got our own room, air-conditioning, TV, and bathroom. And with so many tourists still terrified to come to Egypt, we got massive discounts on the room. It made me sad to hear that this was supposed to be the busy season and yet the town seemed so quiet and dead.

IMG_7894With our room so close to the water, it’s no surprise that we spent the majority of our times at the waters edge, on beach chairs, enjoying enormous glasses of the best chocolate milkshake I’ve had in years.

And with the discounts of the room, Mick and I even managed to score a major discount on an introductory dive. Our instructor, Kat, was amazing. From Scotland originally, she moved to Egypt to work in an office and then left that job to be a full time dive instructor in Dahab. For only 30 euros each, Mick and I got a crash course lesson on diving including the hand signals, the tests we would be doing when we first went underwater, and the equipment we would be using.

We donned our wet suits and took the wagon down to the diving area. I went first. Putting on the weights turned out to be the hardest part of the outfit as you have to bend over at the waist, hoist the weight belt up, and do it up tightly without standing up straight. Basically you’re resting the belt on your back while you do it up. Then came the inflation vest and the air tank. Mask, regulator, and fins were the last.

For me, the hardest part of the whole experience was getting used to breathing underwater. It’s a long, slow breath in, a long, slow breath out. A very calming breathing exercise, but until you get used to it you can panic. It took me about a minute to get used to that. The tasks I had to do involved two different ways of taking the regulator out of your mouth and replacing it, blowing the water out so you can breath, and two different methods of de-fogging and cleaning the mask. Once I passed those tests, it was time to swim.

Here is where my utter lack of creative description becomes noticeable. I can describe what it was like. Surreal comes to mind. There were many times I kept thinking to myself that I’m actually underwater. Seeing all the fish, the life that teemed under the surface was breathtaking. There were colours down there I didn’t even know existed. The coral was fascinating. It was just. . . . wow. I was under the water for a good hour and managed to get down to about 12.3 meters under the surface.

To say I’m hooked is an understatement.

I spent any time in the water after that for the next couple days with a snorkel and mask. The fact that I could float in water that was tens of meters deep was amazing.

IMG_7907The three of us had probably the best time together. Each night we would head out for supper. Two nights we walked into a different town nearby for a famous little seafood place. Insanely fresh, cheap, and tasty. Then we would stop off at a liquor store to pick up some booze, the first time in Egypt really. I ended up picking up a large bottle of Egyptian rum and some coca cola. That would be my downfall. Half the bottle one night, half the next. I was a mess. After that first night I had to throw out my pants I wore to bed as somehow I had ripped a hole down the entire side of them.

Our last night together was pretty bittersweet. I definitely felt close to these guys. We stopped off at the little restaurant/bar across the street from our hotel and drank beers and played cards beside the water until it was time for me to leave on the night bus to Cairo. Both Mick and Vitaly surprised me by giving me a hug goodbye and I had to try not to shed tears as I left. IMG_7915It was strange how much I grew attached to them. They were a great group.

And Dahab. What can I say about it? Go there. You will not regret it.

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