Some people go on holiday, get sunburn, drink too much, catch an STD, buy tacky souvenirs then go home back to their life and their job, and allow the holiday memories to fade, accepting the life they live and not feeling any urge to change it. And some people travel to countries and see how others live, work and play, then find themselves examining their own lives and wanting to change them. My diving towel is still damp, it still smells of the dive centre, it has sand in it, it brings back the warmth of the sunshine to me, I never want it to dry out, I never want to wash it.
I was looking forward to getting the hell out of the UK for 10 days of sun and scuba, travelling with my brother Iain and his girlie Hosanna, and their friends Darryl and Philippa. Gooseberry Central travelling with two couples but what the hell, I needed a holiday. We flew out with Thompsons holidays who projected the image of being a very “young and trendy airline” with their new 757 resplendent with uncomfortable plastic Recaro-branded seats, male air hostesses that were camper than a row of pink tents, and TV screens playing trendy “Yoof” stuff including J-Lo videos , Little Britain, The Office, and the dire “Ocean’s 12”. £3 for headphones if you wanted to watch though, or plug your own headphones in but then you only hear the sound in mono. Food madam? £7 for two sandwiches, or a “meal deal” consisting of individual portions of plastic food sealed in plastic bags or tubs, eaten with a plastic knife and fork sealed in plastic bags – a feast of environmentally friendly food packaging that would take hundreds of years to rot.
Average age of the plane inhabitants was about early to mid-thirties, and most of them were going to Sharm-el-Sheikh to sit by pools and roast themselves during the day, go to meat-market nightclubs to get pissed by night, gamble all their money in the casinos, get a shag from anyone who was up for it, then convince themselves they had a “fooking great time”. Guys wandered up and down the plane aisles in their “Amsterdam Ganja Tour ‘04” t-shirts, and girls wearing their ill-fitting hipsters showing their nice spare-tyre overhangs babbled incessantly about their tans. We were perversely fascinated by one girl who had the strangest-looking plucked eyebrows in the history of eyebrows, she looked like a brunette Penelope Keith but her eyebrows were the shapes of square brackets ], giving her such a strange look I was stopped from reaching for my camera to get photographic evidence…
We landed at Sharm and were told the temperature was 33oC – big cheer from all on the plane, fucking brilliant. Walking out of the plane we were hit by a hairdryer-warm blast of hot air, I felt my skin shrivel immediately, it was glorious – warm warm sun sun sun, I couldn’t wipe the fat grin off my face. Luggage queue, visa queue, stared at by various Arabian men, passport blah blah and we were met by a driver from the dive centre for the hour long journey to Dahab.
What a dustbowl of a journey … sand, dust, more dust, rubble, half built roads, Bedouin camps, camels, sand, did I mention sand? The minibus was boiling even with all the windows open, and I was already sticking to the plastic seats. Craggy mountains rose out of the ground like teeth of the desert, they looked like they would crumble at the slightest touch. The sky was blue, blue, so blue and not a cloud in sight.
The Driving Code of Dahab is pure genius:
* Drive on whatever side of the road you like as long as there’s nothing coming.
* If there IS something coming you can still drive on the wrong side of the road but remember to pull over just before they scream past you with horns blaring.
* If you’re talking on a mobile phone while driving, remember to look where you’re going while still driving on the wrong side of the road.
* When any driver overtakes you or if YOU overtake someone, you have to sound your horn to say “I’m coming so don’t swerve”.
* Take the racing line around corners, even if they are blind bends, and at night time don’t turn your headlights on until you see an approaching driver, when you promptly turn them on, beep as he passes, then turn them off again.
* When in Dahab feel free to grind to a halt in the middle of the road to chat to another driver, and move on when you please.
* Avoid the street goats unless you’re in a rush then just hope they don’t bend your already-bent jeep too much.
* Remember to leer at any passing female Tourist, while not looking where you’re going and trying to avoid goats and street-kids.
It’s hard to know where to start when describing Dahab. It’s being aggressively developed now and promoted as a major Dive Resort. Hotels are cropping up everywhere and there is already a Hilton on the outskirts of the city, resplendent in it’s pristine white Arabian architecture, with it’s manicured lawns sucking up precious water from the 24/7 sprinklers. So many new developments but as far as I know, no new sewage plant to cope with the influx of Tourist Shit that will doubtlessly be pumped out into the sea via a long pipeline.
I was scared shitless but the build quality of some of the new hotels – we’re talking seriously wobbly-looking brickwork with mortar that looks like it’s been randomly dropped on, patted down with hands, then squashed with another wobbly brick on top. Solid foundations, umm didn’t look like it! Then all cleverly disguised with lovely white plasterwork. How the f*ck do they stay up in a strong wind? But they obviously succeed because I saw no crumbled buildings. However, I’d advise not walking onto any brick hotel balconies in Dahab, specially if there is a fat person on the same balcony – could just be enough to tip the scales, so to speak…
After an hour of dangerous driving and a tape of brash Arabian Music set to repeat, we rolled up to the Marine Garden Bedouin camp, where we’d be staying. A large sandy courtyard flanked by the rooms and a large “Wadi” chillout area, it looked very nice. Our rooms were basic and mine had two single mattresses on the floor, some shelves made of wood cartons, one window, one socket and one light bulb. Someone had attempted to paint stuff on the rough white-plastered walls – stars, a house, some flowers, the faded chipped paint was very “Changing Rooms” rustic, only this was genuine not Linda-Barker fakery. The ceiling was smooth wood planks, each painted a different colour, and sunlight slanting through the gaps. I hoped it wouldn’t rain but I guess that’s stating the obvious … We met Salah, the dude who ran the place, dumped our gear, sat in the Wadi and I had my first taste of Bedouin tea, which is served in a tiny glass, is the colour of a morning urine sample, and is massively sweetened. Er yum!
The toilet block was a seperate building and was kept fastidiously clean by a very quiet guy who kept to himself but was constantly in attendance mopping the floors, emptying the poopie paper bins, and unblocking the loos that constantly blocked with the tiniest of turds - need larger U-bends guys ... the floor was tiled with VERY shiny and slippy tiles, and when wet they proved lethal, so if you were suffering from Dehli Belly and made a dash for the bog you were very likely to go flying onto your back and end up lying in a pool of your own poop with a huge bruise on your head.
Suddenly we were surrounded by Egyptian cats, and even better, about 7 or 8 kittens. Now I still maintain that Cats Are Evil, but after 10 days of Egyptian Kittenry I’ll admit to a soft spot for them – but only Egyptian cats, who are way cooler than fat, fluffy and pampered British cats. Egyptian cats are thin and sleek with small heads, very pointy ears, and a much more laid back attitude. The kittens were fab, a sprawling mass of big velvety paws that gently swatted anything in sight, wide and innocent eyes that never missed a movement, tiny tails that they constantly tried to eat or chase, and best of all, Banzai kung-fu giant “kitten leaps” on top of eachother that resulted in a rugby scrum of open mouths, swatting paws, squirming bodies, and high-pitched mewling. We had our breakfast with them every morning and they fell asleep in our laps, suckled from their mum, slept, then ran off to do some more Banzai kitten-rugby.
We dumped our stuff and walked to the dive centre “Desert Divers” (http://www.desert-divers.com/), a luvvely set-up full of friendly people who all knew Iain from when he worked there last year. I was introduced to too many people whose names I forgot immediately, and who told me that I had the same nose as my brother, which was a bit annoying cos he has a massive conk and I didn’t think mine was that big.
After sorting out our dive gear we went for a walk up the main drag of Dahab sea front. This is a bizarre fuck-up in the planning stakes because for some stupid reason they decided to build all the shops and restaurants right on the beach, then pave over the rest of the beach, leaving only 3m of beach in some areas. Other larger areas of beach have been taken over by the restaurants, who put shades and seating out there, and even build out into the sea by filling it with rocks and sand and putting their tables on there. Um why not build further back from the beach in the first place, and bloody leave some of it there for us to sit on!
By now it was dark and warm and bliss – people ambled, street dogs wandered, stretched, yawned then promptly lay down where they stood, regardless of whether it was in your way or not. Sleek cats frequented the outdoor eating areas, becoming your best friend if you had food on your table, and little kittens bumbled around and amused tourists with their squeaky mewls and their paw-swatting antics. Conflicting music of all genres crashed out at you as you walked along, some of it modern Western music and some of it grating Arabic prayer-music with bashing percussion that set your teeth on edge.
Young local kids, mostly scruffy little girls, accosted us with their plastic bags of anklets and bracelets and things made of beads, their cries of “buy one!” or “I know you want one!” hounding us as we walked by. I gave in and bought a nice key-ringy thing from one of them, she sat right up next to me and blinked up at me with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen, she had skin that would make a supermodel cry and she sniffled thru her bunged-up nose and waited patiently while I looked at her wares. The 0.0004% of me that is maternal said “awww she’s cute” while the other 99.99999% of me that is NOT maternal screamed “stop it, stick to your pet rats they don’t fuck up your life!!”. For 10 Egyptian Pounds/1 English Pound, the keyring was mine, and a fine piece of beadwork it is too. If it helps buy her food then great.
People sat on the main beach wall just watching other people, talking, making friends, laughing. Shops were open late selling a myriad of stuff, some of it horribly tacky and some of it beautifully crafted, their wares spilling out onto the pavements and shop fronts, the owners inviting you to come in and have a browse. The first Arabic phrase I learned was “la shukran” for “no thank you”. However, the shopping was brilliant and so cheap, fooking bargains galore to be had … I loved arguing and bartering with the owners, who always gave you an inflated price to start with, and always ended up selling it to you for under half that price.
The “Restaurant Boys” or RB’s as I shall now call them, were unrelenting. “Ahhhh you come eat with us my frrrriends” they said, while directing us towards their seating areas. We La Shukran’d ourselves to death over the ten days we were there, they never gave up in their quest to lure us into their lairs. “How are you, what are you doing, where you going, where you from, you come sit with me and talk to me” all the time, and if you said “England” most of them went “Ahhhh luvvely jubbuly” or “one banana two banana”, as if they had been taught to say it parrot fashion by idiot tourists, like people teaching a parrot how to say rude words. It got to the point where we took the back streets just to avoid “running the gauntlet” but on the occasions that we had to walk past them, I was always singled out because I was the only one who wasn’t walking with a boyfriend, despite my fake wedding ring to try and deter them. Because I find it hard to be openly nasty to people and say “fuck off and stop bothering me” I was an easy target.
Ahhhh Bibo, Akim, Waleet, Ahmet, Akhmed, they all wanted “dreeenks” with me, to “sit and talk” with me, to wax lyrical into my ear, to say all the things they save up for any other tourist girl they see, only I wasn’t so gullible. It’s fun, you say yes yes nod your head smile, have a laugh, take the piss, “La Shukran” then walk away, and the next day you have to repeat it all over again – with every single one of them. I have to admit some of them were rather tasty treats but I’d not touch any of them with a barge pole.
Right, onto the diving. Utterly fabulous. I can only describe it as swimming into the cinema screen during the coral scenes of “Finding Nemo”, only minus the talking fish and Disney political-correctness and moralising. You’ve all seen those aerial shots of New York City where the camera is looking right down onto the rooftops and onto the streets, as the skyscrapers pass slowly beneath you and the cars look like ants zooming inbetween them … I felt as if I was flying slowly over vast, vast coral cities, with the fish as the cars, zooming inbetween each piece of coral, going about their daily lives totally oblivious to the huge hulking shape of my hovering above them. So many colours and textures I can’t even describe, all blending together to produce stunning natural pieces of pure coral art. How I wished to be freed from the constraints of my heavy tank and noisy regulator and bubbling breath, to swim underwater silently and listen to the sounds of the reef, the snap, crackle and pop of the corals, to escape into the silence from the noisy world above, to never surface.
The dive sites we visited were the Eel Garden, a descent onto flat white sands that is carpeted with question-mark shaped eels that stick out of the sands and catch food from the currents. (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/peter.stensones/photos/photos_big_picture.htm?diving/dahab/new_year_2003/eel_garden.jpg) When you approach them they zip down into the sand again, and if you land gently on the sea bed and wait, they come out again right in front of you and continue feeding – awesome. Also visited Golden Blocks, Three Pools, The Lighthouse, which featured a lovely and massive Gorgonian Fan Coral that was 30m down, and Coral Gardens which was my favourite site of the whole holiday, The Islands, and the notorious Blue Hole – a site that has claimed many divers lives, but is a must see:
Descending from the Bells entry point, we went down a narrow ravine that looked out into the ocean, then at 27m out the ravine to look back and face a HUGE wall of coral and sea life that plummeted down, and down, and down … a yawning, abyssal, uncharted chasm of nothing but blue, blue underneath you, blue on top of you, blue to one side, and a visual overload of corals and sea life on the other. If you looked down for too long you felt that the darkness below you would suddenly suck you into it’s depths, never to be seen again. The lingering invisible threat of “what’s down there?” seeped into my mind and I had to start looking at corals and pretty fish, banishing thoughts of abyssal monsters that would come out and snap at my feet.
At 56m there is an archway and a passage that leads into the sea, it is trying to find this archway that many inexperienced divers have got Nitrogen Narcosis (http://www.scuba-doc.com/n2narc.htm) from the depth, and have lost their lives. Memorial stones are set into the rock in tribute to these divers and also as a warning to any idiots out there.
We saw some divers going deeper than us and as I hung suspended (yep, finally sorted my bloody buoyancy) over the chasm watching them fade away down into the darker blue, watching their streams of bubbles rise slowly to the surface like a glittering silver curtain, I couldn’t help but shiver inwardly – I’d never want to trade places with them. Vern, a smashing retired Aussie bloke and instructor dived the Hole with us and dared me to go down the Bells Chimney head first not feet first, I said yes but only if he dived in the niff – he refused but I still went head first down the chimney .
We also dived The Canyon, an essential dive for all fanatics of caves and cavern diving. A narrow crack in the seabed at 18m marks the main opening into the canyon, which depths reach over 30 metres inside. Snaking its way up from the depths, it emerges in a glorious, glassfish filled coral dome, the Fish Bowl. When the Canyon is full of divers you can hover over the top and watch the air bubbles stream out from the narrow crack, quite a spectacle when merged with the huge shoals of purple-eyed goldfish that are also there. When you’re actually IN the canyon you lie on your back and just look up through the opening at the blue above you and the divers hovering and waiting their turn (http://www.thisisvlad.com/gallery/albums/dahab/mini_IMG_5813.jpg). Some great photos to be had but the depth made my cheapo camera refuse to wind on – arse!
My brother was impressive as a diver, he had gone out to Dahab last year and had started with his Open Water certification then gone right up the ranks to be a Divemaster, then started work taking groups out to the dive sites. His buoyancy was spot on (apparently I’d been 50% overweight with mine for my last 4 years of diving!) and cos he’s a lanky skinny bugger, he looked like a sort of fucked-up bastard love-child of a seal and a stringbean in his wetsuit. Because he has long hair down to his bum he also has to wear a rubber hood to keep it under control, which added to the “Captain Condom” image. He soared slowly through the water with only a flick of his fins, floated upside down looking under corals and pointing stuff out to us, and on one occasion at the Coral Garden, he spread his arms and slowly rotated in an aeroplane “barrel-roll” style as he passed over the corals, seemingly doing so out of the sheer joy and freedom of being underwater and a witness to some of nature’s finest creations.
I was flooded with awe, happiness, sheer open-mouthed-nearly-popped-out-my-regulator-amazement at the beauty that was in front of me, but at the same time I felt a constant sadness that the downfall of these beautiful reefs was already set in stone, the destruction had begun, the roads being built to bus tourists in and the flood of divers trekking in and out of each dive site entry point … the fabulous visual feast and biological diversity that these and other reefs in the world offer is also their death and downfall. Snorkelers were seen walking on the tops of the reef, we spotted snapped coral, found bits of it in chillout areas, collected plastic bags during our dives, saw the inevitable Coke can on the sea bed. There were plenty of respectful divers there for sure, but there is always that small percentage who truly seem to not give a shit, and think that the one seashell they collect, or the one fag butt they flick into the sand, or the one plastic bottle or bag they leave to blow around “won’t make a difference”. But combined with all the other “don’t-give-a-shit” people, it fucking DOES make a difference.
You suddenly feel so small, so insignificant, so fucking inferior when faced with any breathtaking sight of nature in all its glory, there in front of your eyes, living, breathing, growing, teeming, and not giving a shit about whether you are there or not. But at the same time it’s so fragile, so delicate, so easily destroyed by a Tsunami, an oil slick from a careless tanker, a clumsy diver with three left fins, overfishing, drag fishing, souvenir hunters – the power that the small insignificant human being in its multiples all over the world can wield, the power to utterly destroy nature, twist it, fuck it up totally with our mindless pollution and our careless attitudes.
The diving I’ve done in Western Australia paled into insignificance compared with Dahab (well except maybe for Busselton Jetty - http://www.rache.plus.com/img/scuba/jetty/index.htm). I’m not clued up on what all the different fish and stuff are but there were tons of ‘em – most notably what looked like normal Goldfishes, except they had ultra-violet coloured eyes that contrasted fabulously with the bright orange of their bodies and the rich blue of the sea. Baby barracudas, large Napoleon fish, and yes, I found Nemo – clownfish EVERYWHERE, always in pairs, always near an Anemone. I cursed my new digital camera underwater housing, which had broken and flooded on its empty test-run on our first dive – my digicam could have got great pics but I had to settle with a poxy reusable one from the local shop, which takes quite crappy photos. Better than nothing though!
The Jeep rides to and from the dive sites were death-defying feats of bravery – rocky roads, petrol fumes, wayward goats on the street, a close encounter with a camel at the Blue Hole, and shoehorning yourself into the back of the dodgy jeep with half a dozen air cylinders and your dive gear either strapped precariously to the roof or crammed in with you, threatening to burst you out of the back door onto the road at top speed. Not to mention the frantic Arab music always on a loop, always with garish percussion and blending seamlessly with the crunching of the jeeps gears. I’d have not changed a thing though, those bumpy hot dusty cramped rides to the sites were totally part of the entire trip for me. So were the post-dive chillouts at the local Wadis, with pizza and Bedouin tea, camels rocking sedately by, and Arabs staring at the girls in their swimsuits. Iain’s Arabic is very good and one of the waiters who came to take our order was impressed and fascinated at this “Eeeenglish” lad who was so keen to learn and speak the language. He ended up sitting down, offering us all ciggies, and conducting an Arabic lesson with him, his face a picture. Then his boss came out and barked at him and he jumped up, invited Iain back the next day to talk more, then scuttled off to fetch our pizzas.
When we weren’t diving we were chilling out. If you do NOT like lazing around in the sun, doing nothing, and chatting and people watching, then don’t come to Dahab. I sat in the sun for hours on the roof of various eateries, just watching, observing ... the RBs and their persuasive tactics, the cats and dogs, the Arab horses being ridden along the beach, the noisy Japanese tourists talking at the tops of their voices, Ali the incredibly-tanned and rather fierce-looking chainsmoking owner of the Sun Restaurant to-ing and fro-ing with food for his customers, the cheerful banter of the shop owners, the snorkelers, the PADI dive courses trekking to and from the bay to practice their mask clearing, and the tourists – the red, sunburned, impractically dressed, overweight, beer-bellied tourists a big percentage of them Brits, and truly making me ashamed to BE a Brit … it was fascinating and not in the least boring, and all bathed in glorious bright colourful warm happy sunshine.
However, away from the bright lights of the main beach strip, the rest of Dahab needs a good sweeping up. Dust, goat poop, litter and rubble line every street, the kerbs are about a foot high and lethal to cars (that would stop the School Run Mums HAHAAA), the street goats hide in the shade and eat unmentionable things, street kids wander around on the boiling concrete barefoot, cars honk constantly, with cries of “taxi??” whenever we were spotted. Camels are tethered to walls, scary smells of God-knows-what waft over you depending on what you are walking past, and local shops offer all sorts of necessities like loo roll, bottled water, and plastic pyramid incense-holders …
Huge camels are ridden around by the tiniest boys you have ever seen, and they seem to keep them perfectly under control too – usually just randomly beating them with a stick seems to convey the correct orders, and the camels gurgle and grumble and get on with it. New buildings are spotted around in the usual scary-brickwork styleee, and there is a conspicuous absence of ANY Arabic/Egyptian women on the streets. It’s either kids, or men, or tourists. It seemed that the only women in Dahab were the tourists. For sure, the only grossly FAT people in Dahab were the tourists, with a few exceptions. I never saw a single fat kid, unless he was a pinky-white sunburned tourist kid. Is this because they’ve not got much food or because they lead much more active lives and eat much less crap than our roly-poly mollycoddled inactive asthma-ridden idle children?
The cheaper cafes in the back streets do brisk business, but mostly with the locals – tourists who may venture in there would be put off by the number of flies that frequent them, but you soon learn that the flies are just a way of life and they didn’t do us any harm. We ate at a few places during our stay and were warmly welcomed, particularly “Captain Condom” and his Arabic. The food was great and bloody dirt cheap, the tables and floors clean, and there were no RBs nagging us to come in, we went of our own choice. A visit to the local fruit shops is also a must, with divine juicy peaches and a huge tray of lush, large, sweet strawberries for the equivalent of 50p – fucking brilliant.
One evening we were driven out up one of the mountains to watch the sun set. A big group of us and friends from Desert Divers took rugs and food and joints, and settled in with a fab view of Dahab as the sun faded. Nearby was a group of tourists being carted around on camels, I got hysterics watching one poor bloke who was jerking back and forward in the saddle, his nads must have been the size of grapefruits…and we all crossed our legs when the camel went to kneel down, shooting Mr Tourist forward onto the pommel and briskly off into the sand, where he got up and attempted to walk in a straight line without his legs crossed.
My payback came when one of the young lads brought a camel over to see us, and while I was trying to photograph it as it loomed above me, it kicked and nearly trod on my bag, then unleashed a torrent of perfectly formed dark round dry poops all over my nearby flip-flops. The young lad laughed, said something in Arabic and left me there, blinking at my poop-covered footwear while everyone wet themselves laughing. I took a pic of the poopy flipflops.
As the sky darkened and the first stars came out, I wished that there was only the five of us on the rug, so that we could all be silent and drink in the sky above, and the surroundings. The guys that had driven us and the others out to the mountain were talking constantly and their mobile phones were ringing with comical Arab polyphonic nonsense, leading to animated loud and annoying conversations. I lay on my back (avoiding the camel poop) and looked at the stars, minus the light pollution of the UK – lovely. Night times were the best, we usually spent them at the Marine Garden camp, sitting in the Wadi surrounded by kittens and talking, reading, getting thoroughly stoned (apart from me, I only passively smoked everyone else’s), or I would go and lie in the hammock overlooking the sea and read my books or plug into my stereo and Artie Shaw. I’ve never read so much in such a short space of time, it was great to be looking at text in a book again, instead of on a bloody computer screen. Or we’d go wandering around the shops, “La Shukran” the RBs, and bump into people that Iain knew and sit around chatting and people-watching. My diet consisted of chocolate, honey and banana pancakes, fruit juices, water, falafel and pizzas. I didn’t have any milk or any fibre or broccoli (shock horror) for ten days and by the end of my stay, my digestive system was complaining…oops.
On our last night we resolved to get up at about 5.30am and see the sun rise from the roof of the dive centre. However we didn’t get to bed until about 1.45am so that idea went out of the window. I awoke on my last day at about 6.15am though, and refused to lie in bed daydreaming, so I got up and went for a wander with my camera. It was fab, I wished I’d had more early mornings. The sun had just risen and was still low in the sky, giving off a gentle warmth and a lovely golden light. It was dead quiet, the shops and restaurants were only just coming to life, and thankfully, no RBs in sight. Early divers clanged their tanks and hissed their regulators, the sea was mirror-calm, and the dogs were splayed out over the main walkway, scratching lazily and raising their heads to sniff at passing tourists. I went down to the beach and found a big rock, sitting on it and putting my feet in the water. Got some fab pics of this nice quiet time, but the silence was shattered by two of the dogs coming onto the beach and play fighting, spraying me with sand and water as they lolloped and sploshed around near me, finally running off and leaving me slightly soggy. I moved up onto the dive centre roof and watched as more of the restaurants came to life, but thankfully without their blaring music. Guys went for a swim, or sat on the walls with their faces up to the sun, said morning to eachother and chattered away in Arabic as they plumped cushions and raked the sand ready for the days business.
They all splashed water onto the main walkway but they never swept it, so it dried and remained just as dirty as before they splashed it. The walkway is a lovely red paved pattern with a thick snake of black twisting down the centre, and would look fab with a bit of a scrub, but I guess there’s so much dust and sand around it’s kind of pointless. By now it was about 8am and the sun was already getting too hot. In the distance something big arched out of the water three times and then disappeared – the local dolphin, that had come right into the bay with it’s baby a few days ago, and frolicked with snorkelers while we WEREN’T in the water – bugger.
I wandered down to the Blue Moon and had my final choc, banana honey pancake of the day and a fabulously rich strawberry juice. I also sorted out their PC, which had booted up in DiskCheck mode and they didn’t understand what was happening. After a quick Disk CleanUp and words of advice they gave me a discount on their breakfast. Said byebye to all the RB’s, duly collected some email addresses off two of them, ignored their “I’m missing you already” and such tripe, then went back to the Marine Garden to pack up.
Went for a final snorkel and hovered on the surface, just hanging there and watching the coral life, the pinkypurple jellyfish and the shimmering shoals of tiny glass-like fish that swim just under the surface. No dolphin reappearance unfortunately, if that had happened I would have died happy there and then. Divers swam deep underneath me and their bubbles rose up and tickled my face as they came to the surface.
The minutes ticked by towards my Return to the Oblivion that is My Life in England. Dried off, brought bags to the dive centre, had a final chillout and helping of Bedouin Tea, said goodbye to everyone, and tried desperately to hang on to every second that ticked by. I was so glad I’d got up early, it made the day a lot longer. The minibus picked us up from Desert Divers and then it was another maniacal hour long drive to Sharm airport.
We left the sandy warm hairdryer-hot desert and entered the concrete airconditioned hell that is the airport. Shiny polished floors replaced the rough Bedouin rugs we were used to, and the freezing aircon gave us a reminder of what was waiting for us back in Blighty. Passports, baggage, check-in, and a sit down to people watch all the tourists filter into the lounges. We played Spot The Pink Brit, as all the lobster-red fatties waddled past us with their fat kids and their bags full of tacky souvenirs. Penelope Keith with the Awesome Eyebrows also walked past, looking browner but still hilarious. Once again I reached for my camera but Iain stole it from me in the nick of time … many divers were spotted with their huge kit bags, “Dive Now Work Later” t-shirts, and natural non-lobster tans.
Back on the plane I wished I’d put my trousers on, my bare legs were slowly turning to ice from the freezing blast of air that accompanied us all the way home. A baby at the back of the plane screamed and gurgled that irritating sound that only small babies can make, and I got ready to chin Kevin the Air Hostess if he bumped my shoulder one more time while mincing down the aisle. A constant stream of trolleys went up and down, up and down, and we were harangued by questionnaires, charity scratch cards, and a duty-free catalogue containing hideous delights such as chocolate-scented bunny keyrings and fake pink diamond-encrusted watches. Thankfully we weren’t subjected to Ocean’s Twelve again but this time something worse starring Dennis Quaid. I gave up halfway through and went back to my stereo and dreams of what I’d just left behind.
A woman on the seat opposite me was reading a UK newspaper, I tried not to look but the headlines drew me – murder of a 14 year old, election misery, Howard resigns, NHS waiting lists, Jacko and his kiddy fiddling, more inflated libellous cases, mindless celebrity gossip, z-list slags getting their tits out – I just looked away, I didn’t want to know, I’ve still not switched the telly on since I’ve been back, it’s just too miserable to do so.
Due to turbulence pockets we took a slightly different route home and we missed out on seeing the Giza Plateau again (I missed it the first time round too, wasn’t near a window). The captain cheerfully announced that the forecast in Britain was approximately 9oC with projections of rain for the rest of the week and a top temperature of a roasting 16oC. Joy. I watched the plastic waste mount up from the airline food, Darryl and Philippa were forced to pay £7 for two sarnies cos they were starving, and I resolved to eat my own arm for food rather than pay such vastly over inflated prices. How dare they charge £3.50 for two slices of bread and some salad, it’s taking the piss that they are normally about £2 in the shops, but what the fuck is the difference just because you are a few thousand feet in the air?
During the five hour trip I pondered where my life was going. I guess everyone gets depressed when they return from a brilliant holiday, but they generally accept the life that they go back to, and just get on with it. I’ve been sick of my direction in life for a while now and I was NOT looking forward to returning to my flat full of stuff that I’ve accumulated, some of it useful, some of it a waste of space, but yet I’ve not thrown it out. I’d spent ten days living so simply and having so much spare time because I had no possessions to fill up my time with and to spend time faffing with, no computer to spend endless hours on, no TV to suck my brain dry. It’d be great to just shove everything into storage and do something completely different for 6 months, then to come back here and try to start again, doing something I enjoy.
But I feel so chained because of my rent, my bills, my accumulated possessions, the cost of storing them, the cost of finding another place to live when I return then finding a job that’s enough to pay the bloody bills again. Part of me is the Sensible part, wanting to have a secure financial future and not have the money worries, to have the pension, the savings, the house etc, and another part of me is the “Fuck it and enjoy life while you can” part that wants to just wander the world and experience it. People tell me “just do it”, tell me it’s simple, and it is simple because countless people have done it, but I’m so entrenched in a rut it seems like a Blue Hole-type chasm I need to climb out of, in order to just get started. I have to do something before it’s truly too late and I will never be able to do anything. I’ll start by having a major de-clutter of all my shit, downsizing, then taking it from there. In the meantime, my brother may be revisiting Dahab in September and I may hopefully be joining him again. I also have to get used to flushing my loo paper and not chucking it into the nearest bin …
I’ve just been to Lidl to buy some food, I fitted in with all the Chavs that were shopping there, with my unwashed airplane hair and bags under my eyes, but I didn’t care. I stood in the queue of lifeless people with my broccoli and Bran Flakes, and waited for the checkout lady to ignore me while she scanned my food … looking at them all, I was dying to tell them that 72 hours ago I was hovering over beautiful corals and fishes, bathing in the sun, teasing kittens, and scoffing chocolate banana honey pancakes while being hassled to “buy one, buy one” by scruffy little girls – but they’d probably not believe me, they’d assume I was drunk or on drugs. Stuck in traffic driving home, the greenness of the trees looked out of place, too lush, too green. A fat girl walked home from school eating a bag of crisps while her little brother kicked a plastic bottle along the path, out into the gutter, then walked off and left it there. Something has to change! Only I can make the changes, I have to get started.
If you can swim, then LEARN TO DIVE. If you never dive you are missing out on such a huge percentage of life, so many beautiful things that you would only ever see on your TV screen, they are waiting for yout under the sea. But if you dive then HAVE SOME RESPECT for the reefs, the fish, the water, the beach, every aspect of your surroundings. Watch your buoyancy, stay clear of the corals, do not touch or take anything off the reefs, do not leave litter at the dive sites, and most importantly, leave each site with a new found respect for nature, and make sure you are more conscious of the impact your life has on the environment and this world that you live in. And if you see any pricks defaming the reefs or marine life in any way, get over there an' fookin' chin em