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Friends & Family,
Welcome to another addition of The Wagoner Traveling Chronicles. This edition will be slightly different because I (Alan) am writing it. I figured that since Heidi had written about all our other travels, that this time, I should try out this writing thing. Also, its part of her birthday present. Yeah, I know what youre thinking. "BIG deal!" OK. So now that you know whats going on, Ill get started.
As Heidi probably told you, this trip will be about our trip to Egypt. Specifically, we went to scuba dive in Sharm El Sheikh. After over a year of knowing each other, and both of us loving to dive, it was the first time that we dove with each other. The trip was from 23 October (Heidis Birthday) to 30 October. A week prior to our departure, Heidi and I went to the local dive shop, and tested our gear out. We borrowed a friends dive computer (Thanks Mike!!) thats identical to mine so that both of us could dive together, and stay under as long as possible. It was actually fun getting suited up with our equipment. It had been 10 months since I dove last and about 14 months for Heidi. With the exception of a few minor issues, our equipment checked out A-OK. Were starting to get very anxious!
Day 1 10/23/97
"Happy Birthday, Heidi!"
After we did the morning birthday thing with presents and some great cinnamon toast, we got packed, and headed for the airport. The first thing we realized was that our packs were heavy. Very heavy. Luckily, we didnt have to carry them too far. We got a bunch of envious looks from people on the tube. It was great. Instead of flying out of Heathrow airport (which is really easy to get to from our flat), we had to get to Gatwick. Its south of the city, and after our tube ride, we had to catch a train from the Victoria station to the airport.
Once we arrived at Gatwick (about 2 hours early), and checked our heavy bags, we got to wait. And wait. And wait. OK, so heres the deal. We were supposed to get into the air at 15:40, but we were told that the plane was delayed an hour. So now we get to wait 3 hours. We ate some, and played some video games, and finally I took a nap. As a quick side note, I must say that Heidi has a very comfortable lap for taking naps! Once I woke up, Heidi informed me that the plane was even later 19:10. Needless to say, we finally got on the plane and got our seats (in row #1).
On the landing, Heidi and I were the FIRST people to get off the plane. Now thats a first! After we went through the immigration and baggage claim process (which went smoothly), we arrived at our hotel, and guess what? We were the FIRST people to get our room at 2:45am. This holiday is turning out pretty good so far, eh?
Side note about our ride from the airport to the hotel. The lanes in Egypt are wider than in the UK, however, the drivers have a nasty habit of swerving, driving down the center of two lanes and driving without their lights on. They also honk their horn every time they pass another driver or pedestrian. Imagine doing that in New York or San Francisco.
Since we arrived so late, Heidi and I decided to start diving a day later than planned. Our room was OK. Nothing to write home about. Note the irony there. We had 2 beds, a small refrigerator, and a TV with nothing worthy of watching (just like London).
Day 2 10/24/97
Heidi got us up and around for the day. First stop: sustenance! We went to the hotel restaurant, and looked at their morning fare. The scrambled eggs looked exceptional. Exceptionally runny that is. We opted for the cucumber, beans, bread, and Tang. Now theres a name from the past! Anyway, we ate, and made our way to the city shuttle.
We were dropped off in Naama Bay, and looked around. Not too much to see, but we went on the beach, and saw loads of tourists. After a nice walk, we went to the bank to get some pounds. Egyptian pounds that is. Once we got our cash, we did some shopping at a little market. We bought some water, Coke, candy and cookies; nothing but the essentials. It was very hot, so we opted to go back to the hotel, and hit the pool. I hit it, and it was cold. Uh, I mean refreshing. Heidi got in, and thought it was a tad chilly too. We swam around a bit, and our stomachs started sounding off, so we swam up to the bar, and ordered a pizza. It turned out to be pretty good. It had a very strong olive taste, but we made short work of it. Getting a bit tired, we decided to take a nap. Ahhhh. We got into our room, and found snakes on our beds. Actually, they were towel snakes. The maid cleverly rolled them up into cobras, and placed them on our beds. Pretty cool.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after our nap, Heidi suggested that we go for a walk. We walked around the area, took a few pictures of the sunset. We were walking towards a mosque when the hotels mini-van came by. The driver asked if we wanted to go into Sharm El Sheikh, and we said, "Sure!"
The town was pretty dinky.
The shop owners were very pushy, and wanted to show us all of their wares. We walked around a bit, and ran into a shop owner named Mohammed. He showed us various pieces of jewelry. I purchased a sliver cartouche (car-toosh). Its a necklace with my name spelled in hieroglyphics. Heidi ordered a papyrus scroll with her name in hieroglyphics and Arabic. Wed have to pick that up tomorrow. Mohammed was a very gracious host, giving us some good tea and talking with us about America. We left Mohammeds, and went exploring through the city. It was very dirty. Just so you get the visual, think of Tijuana or Honiara.
The people in the town consisted solely of men. The only thing that Heidi and I could think of was that its against the Koran (the Muslim Bible) for women to be out in public after dark. Now I know that Heidi is beautiful, but I had no idea the effect that she would have on the Egyptian men. Wherever we went, all of the men would stop what they were doing, and just look at here. It was actually probably more of a leer. We walked on, and ran across a vendor selling fruits and vegetables off of the back of a truck. They all went nuts trying to sell us stuff. I happened to see my most absolute favorite fruit. Pomegranates! I was pointing at them saying "pomegranate", and they had absolutely no clue what I was talking about, so I picked one of them up and pointed to it. They call it roh-mahn. Nifty, huh? I bartered with the guy who looked as if he had never taken a shower or brushed his teeth, and paid 4 E. pounds for 2 pomegranates. That works out to a little over a buck. Heidi declared it a Kodak moment, and we were off. We decided to call it a night, so we hailed a cab. The driver ripped us off 1 E. pound. It's only about 30 cents, but its the thought that counts.
We were starting to get hungry (again), and luckily, dinner was about to be served. We waited by the pool for awhile, when a manager-type guy told us we could eat. First ones to the buffet! The food tuned out to be very good. For dessert they had some very beautiful creations, buy my favorite was the pomegranates (rumman). They had several platefuls of just the seeds. I was in heaven. They had powdered sugar, which Ive never put on poms, but it was tasty. Ummm mmmm. Heidi was more adventurous than I in the food department. She tasted a little bit of everything. I did good, but trying out new funky looking foods is not one of my strong points. Ask my mom, shell tell you. Anyway, after a superb meal, we showered and hit the sack; in separate beds. Darn. Heidi wanted to move them together, but I was too tired. There was some minor disturbance during the night. Some guy yelled for everybody to be quiet. I was out cold, so I didnt hear the noise he was talking about, but he woke me up.
Day 3 10/25/97
Our first day of diving, and were up bright and early. We grab a quick bite to eat, and then we meet our diving group. Amr was the dive leader. He briefed us, and we were off. The boat we were on (Sea Star) was slow, but it was comfortable, and it was a nice trip. On a side note, there was soooo much building going on where ever we went. Think of a place that youve been to where building is going on, and multiply it by about 1000 times, and thats what Egypt was like. For those whove seen a lot of building, only multiply by 100.
Our first dive site (moored) was "White Knight". It was a nice underwater canyon. Heidi and I were buddied up with an older gentleman named Max. The canyon itself was only about 20 feet wide, but we went down to about 95 feet. We saw a few fish, some small groupers, and a few lionfish. For those of you who dont know what a lionfish looks like, get an encyclopedia or check out http://touregypt.net/vdc/Rsfish.htm. You should see a nice picture under Lion Fish. Its amazing that something so beautiful can be so deadly. I was keeping track of Max who wasnt a very experienced diver. He was a hoover (somebody who really sucks the air), and he got low on air very quickly. The three of us surfaced, and Max snorkeled at the top while Heidi and I went back down. Heidi found a garden of eels, but they were in their holes.
We surfaced a little while later, and dried off. Good news: I only had two hoses. Yee hah! Sorry, inside joke. Bad news: Heidi and I had wetsuits on. Yeccch. That combined with 20 pounds of weight made the dive a tad too warm and confining. I dont know about you, but I like to dive with as little on as possible. Ok, just venting. We had a great lunch, Saffron rice, humus, fried fish, beans, pita bread, veggies, and plenty of water. I was so hungry. I went back for seconds. After we were fed, we went back to the docks to get more tanks.
Next stop, "Tower". This was a drift dive where the current is supposed to take you along a reef, then the boat comes and gets you once youve surfaced. This time Heidi and I got paired up with 2 young guys Elliot and Peter. As we were descending, Peter was having ear problems, so his buddy told Heidi and I to go on. We dropped to about 110 feet, and saw a fair amount of fish at the beginning. Not too many fish during the middle, but a bunch at the end. We saw turkeyfish, lionfish, some spotted groupers, and parrotfish. We also saw some very beautiful corals. Now a bad habit that I have is to look for big stuff. You know sharks, turtles, rays, and things like that. There was an amazing amount of smaller type fish, such as butterflyfish, and angelfish, and many others that we dont know the names of. We saw some absolutely gorgeous colors. Bright purples, deep blues, and vibrant yellows. This was definitely a good dive. This time, however, Heidi and I dove without our wetsuits and a lot less weight. We loved it!
After a long day of diving, we got back to the hotel at about 4PM. This time, we came back, and our bed (we had put them together) was made up with a towel heart, and two towel swans with the blankets framing the whole thing. Pretty amazing what you can do with some towels and blankets. We ate some licorice (thanks Donna!) that we had brought over, and went out to the pool. After a short swim and short nap, we decided to head into Sharm again.
Once we were back at Sharm, we went over to Mohammeds to pick up Heidis scroll. He was very hospitable, and made Heidi and myself a drink. He got a coke, and put a shot or two of whiskey in it. It was pretty good. You must be reminded that Egyptians take great offense if you turn down their offer to have a drink of anything with them. Mohammed also shared some of his dinner with Heidi (rice with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and veggies). She liked the food a lot. I didnt think the food looked too appetizing, so I passed. No surprise there. Mohammed "casually" mentioned that we should buy some more whiskey for him from the duty free shop, since no locals can shop there. It was like being asked by a teenager to buy them beer. I got the impression that it was slightly illegal for him to have the whiskey in the first place. If we buy him some, Ill tell you.
We were getting hungry, so Mohammed showed us a place to eat. The place looked pretty cozy, except for the lamb carcass hanging in front. We ordered Italian food that was awesome. Now Heidi didnt see this, but while we were eating our appetizers, some guy was cutting up the carcass. I was the lucky guy who got to see the famous Egyptian butchery skills in action. Yeah, real lucky. Surprisingly, it didnt put me off my food. After dinner, we went exploring again. And again, Heidi was turning heads. The men werent even trying to be subtle. We passed by many places with men drinking, smoking (from the big glass bottle pipes with long hoses), and watching TV (very similar to English pubs). All of them would stop and stare at her. That got a bit tiresome, so we decided to walk in a part of town that was less busy. We got some ice-cream cones (to fill up the empty spaces) and walked back to the hotel.
Day 4 10/26/97
We wake up for another glorious day of diving. We get on our boat, and were off! Todays first dive is Ras Nasrani. Now heres a trivia question: What does "ras" mean? Give up? It means "point" or "head". Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, youll see Ras in front of a lot of the dives that well do.
Ras Nasrani, the "Christian's Head", is located 6 miles north of Na'ama Bay. The dive was not extremely memorable, but it did have a sandy canyon that went very deep. There was a fair amount of fish, but nothing big or exciting. Beats working though!
Our second dive was much more impressive. The dive site was Far Garden. It starts of as a narrow slope, which turns into a wall at about 50 feet. There are 5 reef groupings arranged in a nearly straight line. There were some great coral formations with tons of glassfish swimming around. We also saw trumpet fish, lionfish, turkey fish. Very nice. The other awesome thing about this dive was that we were down a little over an hour.
After a good day of diving, we went back to the hotel. This time, our bed was made up with tiered blankets on both sides of the bed with the towel snakes on each side. Silk flowers were carefully placed all around with a vase in the center. Picture a butterfly with its wings spread. We cleaned up, and went into Naama bay for some food. During our trip back from diving, Max told Heidi of a good place to eat. The name of the restaurant was Dananeer. Compared to the other eateries that we have seen, this place was primo! I ordered the lobster, and Heidi ordered a steak. After drinking what seemed like a gallon of water, our meal came. Stupendous. Awesome. Incredible. Those were some of the things we were thinking. The presentation was very nice, and the food was great. After a stuffing ourselves, we left the restaurant, and on our way out, we saw DESSERT! Now you must be thinking that after all that food, how could we possibly eat anything more? Well, dessert was ICE CREAM!
Sidenote about ice cream. Surely ice cream has to be one of the greatest foods invented. "Greatest?" you say. "Greatest!" I say. Heres the theory that was put forth by a wise friend. (Hes a chef, so he should know!) His theory is that ice cream fills up all the little spaces between the food. Its such a simple premise! His theory as well as research was submitted to the Nobel committee, but alas, there is no Culinary Nobel Prize. Maybe next year, Alan.
OK, so the ice cream selection was less than optimal, but I actually went out on a limb, and tried something unknown. Something different, something foreign. I had casata ice cream. It was the best casata ice cream that Ive ever had. Honest. Ohhh. You want to know what casata is. Well, it turns out that I never got a complete answer. I was told that its supposed to be a bunch of different flavors in one. Actually, it tasted like banana. Heidi had her usual coffee flavor. There was a bonus for both of us: they had sugar cones! The ice cream was yummy, and after all of our spaces were filled, Heidi and I called it a night, and went back to the hotel. We relaxed a little bit, and I used my trusty diving knife (thanks Pop!) to eat my pomegranates. After that, we both crashed.
Day 5 10/27/97
Once again, were up early for some brekkie, and were off for some diving. Today were diving in Ras Mohammed. This is a national park that has some world-renowned diving. The first dive was at a site called Ras Zaatir. Its only accessible from water, and took us awhile to get there. There was a lot of coral growth, which sustained a lot of fish.
Our second dive within Ras Mohammed was called Fishermans Bank (also known as Jack Fish Alley). This was a great dive. It started out with a cave at about 15 feet, and came out at 24 feet. The second cave started at 9 feet, and ended at 40 feet. We swam through both of them and they were very cool! Very spooky, but very cool! Near the tail end of the dive, we saw a huge grouper that was 4-5 feet long. It was chillin next to a fan coral, and I didnt see it until I was almost on top of it. I pointed it out to Heidi, and she pointed it out to some divers who were behind us. It is amazing how these creatures can camouflage themselves. It was funny because the other divers didnt see it at first. When they did, they were all pointing and gesticulating. Its a diving thing. Very close to the grouper, we saw a crocodile fish. The crocodile fish is really a neat creature, because its head looks just like a croc. We also saw a few blue spotted rays relaxing on the bottom.
Usually, we would do two dives per day, but today we lucked out, and got to do an additional dive. The third dive was Shark Reef / Yolanda Reef / Turtle Rock. It was a drift dive with a fairly strong current that carried you around the three reefs. Picture 3 columns (reefs) in a row and we were dropped at one end then picked up at the other. The beginning was great! Tons and tons of small glassfish and lots of bright, purple coral. We drifted over to Yolanda Reef, and saw a number of fish. Between Yolanda Reef and Turtle Rock, there is a wrecked ship that carried a container that held toilets, sinks and bathtubs. All of these things were now lying around the reefs. Pretty weird. At Turtle Rock, Heidi spotted a good size Moray eel in a cave. There was a lot of life on this dive, and it was a shame it had to end.
When we got back to the docks, Heidi thought it would be better to stay in town and eat rather than go back to the hotel. She was right, because I probably would have gone to bed. We liked last nights meal so much we ate at Dananeer again. The food wasnt as good, but it was still pretty good. Im actually a bit surprised that they let us in, because we were obviously right off the diving boat with our nasty Red Sea hair and our damp towels. After eating, we went back to the hotel very sated, and very tired.
When we were back at the hotel, Heidi was taking a shower. I turned on the tube, and I watched Egypts version of "$25,000 Pyramid". You know the game show with Dick Clark as host. Anyway, I thought that was pretty amusing. Good night.
Day 6 10/28/97
Yawn! Stretch! Its early. Too early to have my eyes open. But Heidi and I are diving the Thistlegorm (wreck) today. Its 4:00 AM. I know, yeccch! We have to get up early because the dive site is so far away.
The story of the "Thistlegorm" dates back to 1940, in Sunderland England. She was 415 feet long with a beam (width) of 58 feet. Net tonnage was close to 5000 tons. She was designed as a commercial ship, but since the British government helped fund the construction, she was "drafted" into military service. Her final voyage in September of 1941 was to take her from Glasgow Scotland to Alexandria Egypt. She was carrying desperately needed supplies for the British 8th Army in North Africa. At that time, the Germans and Italians pretty much controlled the seas and skies of the Mediterranean, so the Thistlegorm had to make a 12,000 mile diversion around South Africa to Suez, where she could go up the Suez Canal to reach Alexandria.
On the 5th of October, the Thistlegorm was in the Red Sea, and awaited orders to move up the canal. Unfortunately, the orders never came. In the early hours of October 6th, a German bomber based out of Crete discovered her, and a pair of Heinkel bombers was dispatched. As the bombers approached the area where the Thistlegorm was docked, the pilots saw several ships in anchorage. Due to their low fuel, they had to pick the first target that they saw. Yep. The Thistlegorm. Two of the four bombs released landed close together, and penetrated the aft of the ship, one directly on the cover of the ships fourth hold where the ammunition had been stowed. The resultant explosion killed the 9 sailors who were sleeping above decks, and ripped away the stern section setting the ship ablaze. The remaining crew was successfully rescued, but the Thistlegorm was forever entombed in her underwater grave.
For many years after the sinking, British ships would lower their flags in respect to those who had lost their lives. For about a decade she lay undisturbed until a young explorer named Jacques Cousteau discovered her. He raised several items from the wreck including a motorbike, the Captains safe, and the ships bell. He published a book about the wreck, but listed the incorrect coordinates for her position. Once again, the Thistlegorm lay "lost" until the early 90s. Now this dive site is legendary in the Red Sea, and arguably the world. End of lesson.
So the first thing Heidi and I do when we get on the boat is sleep. It took about 4 hours, but whats 4 hours when youre sleeping, right? When we get to the spot, there are a lot of other boats moored. Its definitely a popular site!
We will be doing two dives on her, and our first dive starts out with the aft section. The aft section was completely blown away from the rest of the ship, and rests at about 100 feet and lies on the port side. When we go down, we see the huge propeller (covered with about a million glassfish), the main anti-aircraft gun, and a 39mm gun on deck. Heidi and I checked out the 3rd bay, here we spotted 2 different types of boxfish. Very eerie, but impressive. We spotted some tanks, and a lot of rubber boots and soles of boots.
Our second dive covered the fore section of the ship. It was awesome! On our way down the mooring line, I spotted two white-tipped reef sharks, but by the time I could get Heidis attention, they were gone. We went through all of the holds, and saw trucks, trucks carrying old BSA motorcycles, and trains. We even saw a lot of ammunition including an unexploded bomb. And I forgot to bring my magnet too. Shoot! The coral was incredible, on the outside of an old train "container" grew what we consider coral wall paper. It looked like small square tiles with a dot in the center of each square. When touched it was like a sponge. During this dive, the current was picking up, and by the time we got to the bow, you had to hold on, or you were going "flying". It was pretty amazing looking over the bow. At one point, I held on to a metal pipe that was sticking out, and I felt like I was holding onto a tree in a hurricane. Since we were getting low on air, we let the current "blow" us back to our mooring line. I consumed a lot of air on this dive, but it was really an incredible dive. I know that some of your are probably saying, "Crazy idiots!"
It was a great experience, and if were ever in that area again, Im definitely going there!
Me too! (Heidi)
After 2 great dives, and a long trip back to the docks, we went into Sharm El-Sheikh, and got some snacks and walked back to the hotel. Our bed was made up with the blue blanket as the sea, and the brown blanket as an island, with a towel boat and a towel lily in the middle.
Day 7 10/29/97
Our last day diving is in the Straights of Tiran in the Gulf of Aqaba. Go ahead and look it up. Ill wait. OK, now that youre done looking it up (you looked it up, right?). For those lame-os that didn't look it up, Tiran is an island that is just off of Saudi Arabia. There are four reefs in the area, and the first dive of the day is Thomas Reef. It is the smallest of the area's reefs, but has probably the best concentration of color. You name the color, and it's there. The most notable thing about area is the 2 ships that have run aground on the reefs. One is fairly intact with a lot of rust, while the other one looks as if somebody cut the top of the ship off. We were told that at some point that most of the ship had been sold off as scrap.
OK, so on to the dive. This was a great dive! We saw a large turtle, and we even touched it. I snapped a good pic of him. We also saw a monstrous fan coral. I gave our underwater camera to Amr, and he took a picture of Heidi and I in front of it. We saw a number of huge clams and some beautiful Royal Angelfish. There is supposed to be a large canyon, but it is pretty deep, and we didn't have time to see it. Maybe next time.
Our second dive was Jackson reef. This was a crazy dive. Due to the speed of the current, our dive guide put is in large groups. Heidi and I were put with five other people, and somehow, I was elected "dive master" for the dive. Prior to actually getting in the water, Amr told everyone to watch his or her depth. With the speed of the current, and the proximity of the reef, there is a "washing machine" effect. Essentially, there are two currents that come from opposite sides of the reef, and when they hit, they can take you deep, or bring you up. It's also possible to get "blown" off of the reef and into the sea.
When we got into the water, we immediately started to have problems. The current was actually pushing us into the reef, and we had to swim a little bit to get the current to push us around the reef. During this time, Heidi was having problems equalizing (getting the pressure inside the ear to match that of the water). I was trying to keep everyone together, and keep track of what's going on. Once we had the current pushing us along, we were going around the point, and that's when things really started getting hairy! I've been in some fast current, but this was amazing. I would honestly say that we had to be going about 5 knots. Luckily, everyone was staying off the reef, because if you were to get pushed onto the reef, it would chew you up at that speed. Needless to say, we were moving so fast that we didn't see much. Once we started to slow down a bit, we hit current coming at us. The whole group was working pretty hard against the current. Heidi got caught in the "washing machine", and was getting pulled up, while I was trying to pull her down. At that point, we decided to come up, since it was too much work fighting the current. So, 15 minutes later, the whole group came up. Definitely a short dive!
When we surfaced, the current was playing havoc with our boat, and three of us missed the rope. We held on to each other for the next pass, and we made it! Whew! Once we got on board, we were a bit dazed, then we started to look out for the other parties. Of the three groups, our group made it the furthest from the entry point. So we had some problems finding the other groups, since they were very close to the entry point. Luckily, we got everyone out of the water. Everyone was a bit shocked. Not the greatest dive, but definitely memorable! I would have liked to dive it again with just Heidi and myself.
After a tiring day of diving, we came back to the hotel. Our bed this time had 2 towel snakes, a lily with a vase of silk flowers in the center, and a towel heart with silk flowers. We cleaned up, and went out for dinner. We decided on La Falcon. It was very clean, and Heidi had a craving for some schwerma (or kebab or doner, or whatever you call it). I had a salad, and some water. Heidi's chicken-in-a-pita wasn't very good, and my salad was a bit plain (no lettuce). While we were in the restaurant, I did see a nifty phone. The "#" and the "*" were reversed. I thought it was cool, so I took a picture. What can I say, I'm a phone nerd. The people thought it was pretty weird too. Anyway, Heidi and I left, and did some souvenir shopping. We walked by one guy's shop, and he said that I looked like his brother. I guess that I should have prefaced that last sentence by saying that with all the sun, my tan was pretty dark. It wasn't the only time that somebody asked if I was Egyptian.
When we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted, so we hit the hay!
Day 8 10/30/97
We wake up, and no diving! We decided to do a "touristy" type of thing, so we went into town and rented quads. You know, dirt-bikes with 4 wheels. It turned out to be just Heidi, the guide, and myself. We had a great time. Our first stop was some camels that were in the middle of nowhere. We stopped, got off the quads, and took pictures of the camel. They are some nasty looking beasties. Anyway, we had our guide, Mahmoud, take our picture, and we were off again.
Once we got into the mountainous area, it was incredible. First off, the mountains were unlike anything I've seen before. They were very steep, and totally void of vegetation. It was like we were on Mars. Our next stop was called Split Rock. Basically, it's a huge rock that's cracked down the middle. Mahmoud told us that the temperature was very cold one night, and that caused the rock to split. He took some pictures of us trying to push/pull it apart. I know, very touristy.
We continued on our journey, and by this time, Heidi and I are feeling a lot more comfortable on the quads, so we start messing around a little bit. We didn't know where Mahmoud was taking us next, but we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. We stopped at a Bedouin tent, and had some tea that a young boy had made. It was great. Here we are in the hot desert, and we pull over to have some hot tea. It wasn't Gatorade, but it was good. The tent was composed of carpets on the ground with palm tree trunks as the back rests. The whole thing covered with a fabric tarp for shade.
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but while we were having tea, I had to go to the bathroom. Bad! I didn't want to disrespect Mahmoud or the other young man, by just going, so I tried to ask Mahmoud where I could go. He didn't understand what I was asking, so I used some gestures and well, you get the idea. Anyway, once he understood me, he waved his hand around, which basically said, "Dude, you're in the desert, go where ever you want!" With that, I stepped away for a bit. That's not the end of the story, however. As soon as I was gone, those two guys sat real close to Heidi and were talking to her. She told me this later, but it's kinda funny. That Mahmoud was a smooth operator: wait for the hubby to go to the bathroom, then move in!
After the tea, we got back on the quads and started to head back (at this point feeling very comfy on the quads and we were kickin' up plenty of dust). On our way back, Mahmoud took us to a cool place completely surrounded by the red rocky mountains. I didn't understand what was so great about the place until he whistled really loud, and it echoed and echoed. It was totally cool. So we yelled and whistled our heads off for about 5 minutes. Once again, we got on the quads, and rode for a little bit. Mahmoud got off of his bike, and picked up some fruit/vegetable things off of the ground. Basically, he indicated that this fruit (I'll call it that 'cause it's easier to type than vegetable), could be used for rheumatism. The idea being that you cut it up, and apply it directly to the skin. When Heidi asked him if it was edible, he was very emphatic that it was not for eating. He also said that we could sell them in town for about a pound (Egyptian) a piece. So instantly I'm thinking, "Yeah! I'll be a millionaire if I sell about a billion of these things. Yeah, right!"
Unfortunately, the trip had to end, and when we were coming back to our starting point, we saw a lot of people heading out. It was a ton of fun, and we took some cool pictures. When we were through paying, the head guy told us that he was going to take us back to the hotel. He walked up to a Jeep Wrangler, and indicated that this was the transportation. So I hop in, and I'm waiting for the guy to get the keys. And I'm waiting. Well, it turns out that we didn't take the Jeep, and I guess that I looked so disappointed that Heidi took my picture. (I wouldn't have put this last piece in, but Heidi would have put it in anyway, so it's better that I describe my humiliation in my own terms.)
Once we got back to the hotel at 11:30am, we had to pack our bags, and checked out by noon. You'll notice that I didn't say that we showered. We didn't. We jumped in the pool. Heh, heh. I know some of you pool owners are shuddering, but oh well. Anyway, we layed around the pool for a few hours, then decided to get something to eat. For dinner, we went into Na'ama Bay. We walked around a bit, and the restaurant we wanted to go to wasn't open yet, so we found a place next to the beach, and we lounged around and talked for awhile. We went to a great steak house, and we both had great meals. I had peppercorn steak, and Heidi had top sirloin. It was an awesome meal. Afterwards, we asked our waiter to take our picture. We'll definitely hit that spot if we come back. We decided to go back to the hotel and wait for the bus to take to the airport.
When we got back to the hotel, everyone was waiting for the buses too, so people were just walking around the complex. Heidi and I figured that since we're waiting why not beat the crowd and wait at the airport. So we got a cab, and went to the airport. The cab we got was a big time junker! You had to carefully close the door or the entire car would fall apart.
That, and we had to stop for gas. As we were pulling into the gas station, there was some commotion between our cabbie and some other driver, and they had angry Egyptian words. We didn't understand the words, but they had 'em. We also found out how much they pay for gas. I probably shouldn't tell you, but it's amazing. They pay a little under 1 Egyptian pound per liter. That works out to about 16 British pence per liter, or about 75 cents per gallon (we pay close to 70p/Liter). Does that just make you want to cry? Well, after that nice little calculation, we were back on our way to the airport; after the driver push started the car. I told you it was a piece of junk!
At the airport, I was thinking that we would have to open our bags, and have customs people go through our stuff, but luckily, we breezed through, and got some decent seats. We got some snacks, and waited, and explored the airport. There wasn't that much to explore, so we looked at some trinkets, and other stuff that was for sale. We were there awhile, and then everyone started coming in. I was so glad that we came early.
We had been there a couple of hours, and I noticed that even though we should be boarding soon, there was no plane to board. Once again, the plane was late. At that point, we decided to lay down, and take a nap. The airport had very cold marble floors, so our nap wasn't the best. After we had sufficiently warmed up our slabs, it was time to board the plane (some 2 hours later). Heidi and I got on the plane, fell asleep and we're on our way home! As a quick sidenote, it's weird thinking of London as being home, but that's where it is.
After an uneventful flight, we landed, and picked up our baggage. We went outside, and it was COLD (minus 4'C about 26'F)! We were on a tube back to our flat, and people were giving us some strange looks. I guess it's only appropriate, since it was about 7AM on a business day. We got out of the tube station, and Heidi wanted to take a picture of me blowing my breath. She took the picture, but it didn't turn out too good, since there was condensation on the lens. I told you it was cold.
We were glad to be back home, but we were not home for more than 5 minutes before one of us asked, "So where do you want to go next?"