United Kingdom

31th

Beginning to think about packing for the next stage of the trip. I have been seeing friends in the UK at a frantic rate. Saying goodbyes again already (or should that be bon voyage?)

29th

I finished reading A Devil’s Chaplain by Richard Dawkins. It covered a surprisingly wide variety of topics including some stuff on philosophy, post-modernism (boo hiss), “alternative” medicine and evolution. I started on The God Delusion by the same author. If you don’t like reading – check out this interview.

Just come back from visiting my grand mother. It’s good seeing family again after being away.

27th

I have been getting back into the frantic lifestyle of the UK recently. I have dispensed a fair amount of computer technical support and did loads of video editing. The wedding video first cut is done using Adobe Premiere – I will certainly be using that software in future. It is very powerful and not too hard to use so far.

I was in Folkestone yesterday and saw the dolphin which is often below the Lees Cliff.

We had a meeting of Ashford Dive Club yesterday and exchanged news. My regulators are in for servicing at Blue Ocean Diving but there is a problem with the first stage involving creep so it’s being sent back to Apeks. Hopefully it will be ready by my departure.

I received a new digital camera and underwater housing which I will use in my travels (Casio EX-Z1000). Jame’s camera is very similar and I have barely opened the manual.

Day 96: 24th

I have put together a little video of my diving trip. It turned out better than I expected: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_xTZturNk8

I went to see John, Aileen and Trish at their house in London, played some pool (and go) and went to the pub.

I am now going to attempt editing the wedding video.

Day 93: 21st

11AM: I am at Jed’s house waiting to go to the wedding venue. Everyone is dressed and almost ready to go. Since Jed asked me to do the video, I spent the last few days getting the video gear ready. I think we are ready to go assuming my laptop does not go crazy.

9PM Sitting in wedding venue. Jed and Anna married ok. Done lots of video. Old friends James, Andrew and Chris M have turned up and sitting opposite. “But by that time, I was very, very drunk”.

Day 91: 19th

Dynamic Map of Dahab Dive Centres – not sure why but I created it.

Day 90: 18th

I am back and in one piece (I think). I am now turning my thoughts towards Jed and Anna’s wedding. The travel went to plan although it was tedious. I finished the book The Black Dahlia and I am tempted to read more of the authors work.

Dahab, Egypt

Day 89: 17th

I finished the free diving course at the blue hole diving to about 16 metres depth. I still had some equalization problems. Annalie [1], the instructor, had a few good tips for equalizing which will probably come in handy for my scuba instructing.

Yesterday were my last dives in Dahab for this year. In some ways it was a relief to get back to scuba as my scuba skills are far ahead of my free diving ability (I’ve 300 hours+ on scuba in open water). Differences that I find between scuba and free diving (which some my dispute) are:

  • Less overall physical activity in free diving makes it colder in the water even when wearing a hood.
  • It is easy to get competitive in free diving, there is not much to compete over in scuba (which I really like).
  • The preparation before a dive in scuba is equipment based. Free diving preparation is probably longer but more body and mind preparation.
  • In scuba, both you and your buddy are diving together meaning it is more of a shared experience.
  • The drag of scuba gear in the water is high. It’s actually quite liberating going fast under water. This means the wet suit and fin designs are different to scuba (less drag is important).
  • The community of “hard core” free diving is smaller so everyone knows everyone else (so I am told). There are too many scuba divers to meet them all but it’s possible to bump into people you have met previously.
  • I suspect scuba diving is more accessible to average people (I will probably take most heat from that comment but what percentage of people can free dive to 16m even with training? In scuba, almost everyone without a medical condition can be trained to scuba to 18m in my opinion. Also minimum age for scuba is 10 years – again that is controversial, AIDA 2 star is 16 years. Also, just think how many scuba divers there are – I think that is evidence enough!)

On the other hand there are many similarities between scuba and free diving – far too many to list here.

My least favourite part is packing to return home. I have cleared my house but I still need to clean it. I am meeting my land lord at 2PM to do the hand back. My luggage weighs a ton.

We had a fare well mini-party last night because of my departure. It was fun – I’m going to miss them! Chriss was not present for some reason.

This is my last update until I am back in the UK. Expect a major photo update soon! My egypt mobile number will not be active after today.

Day 86: 14th

I am busy with the free diving course (AIDA 2 star, if I pass). We have been busy with yoga stretches, breathing exercises and open water training. I got a new personal best for breath holding on the surface (5min 30sec) – “sometimes I amaze even myself”. In water breath holding personal best is 4 min but I know I can do better. I am having problems equalising fast so I will hopefully get that sorted soon.

I am beginning to tie up lose ends since I only have a few days to go. My flight arrives at 2AM, Gatwick express starts at 04:35, normal trains effectively start at 04:46.

Day 84: 12th

I am starting a beginner freediving course for 3 days starting tomorrow at Desert Divers. I often thought about doing freediving more seriously but the sports culture seems quite different from Scuba. My interest probably comes from scuba training (which contains a tiny amount of free/skin diving) and I can hold my breath for a long time. I recently improved my personal best to 4 min 30 sec on land. Yesterday I was aiming to break it but I did 4 min 25 sec. John was trying for almost(?) the first time and got 3 min 30 sec – thats pretty good.

I was almost talked out of doing it by people at the dive centre for various reasons including:

  • It’s a crazy sport
  • You would better spend your time doing technical scuba training

In the end I want to do the freediving course but if I come back to Dahab I would just focus on scuba. It’s now or never!

John did his last dive yesterday at the Canyon. We popped down to 40 metres and went about 20 metres further in than before. It was spectacular and I was surprised to see the exit of the Reverse Canyon below us about 25 metres away. I was a bit concerned on the dive and was constantly checking my depth and John was ok. I got my reg hose around a rock which was annoying (especially at 39 metres).

John is departing later today to go back to London. We had a good time. I only have 5 full days remaining before I also go back to the UK. I am looking forward to getting back. Things I am missing are:

  • Friends and family
  • UK food, cups of tea, a loaf of bread
  • Not drinking beer every day (hard to imagine I know! lol)
  • Crossing a road without getting beeped at or almost run over. Its almost as bad as crossing the road in Rome!
  • Using software and engineering skills – its true! (that will have to wait for a few months yet)

I started reading the Black Dahlia, so far so good.

Day 82: 10th

John and myself went sport climbing today through Desert Divers. The climbing routes were in a canyon opposite the oasis in Wadi Gani. John was getting into it by leading up routes from 5A to 6A+ (although John seemed doubtful about the route gradings). The hardest route was something like a 7C (the sand stone rock looked almost polished flat by rain). I did the 5A in my sandals since I did not have anything more appropriate to wear. I did borrow a pair of trainers that were much too small and started up the 5B route. I stopped about 40% up because my feet were painful. I got a few cuts and scrapes as well as getting cramp several times. It was a good day though and perhaps next time I will get some climbing shoes. I had my video so eventually I will put a video together.

John went horse riding yesterday but was not impressed with the health of the horses. It was pretty cheap but as he said “you get what you pay for”.

Tomorrow is John’s last full day. We plan to do one or two more dives.

I finished my book The Body Farm which was good but perhaps predictable in plot (in some ways). John was really impressed by The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy and has agreed to lend it to me.

Day 81: 9th

John finished is Advanced Open Water course dives. He still has the theory to do. John booked horse riding for both of us today but I (more or less) refused.

I finished reading Frenchman’s Creek which I was worried it would end predictably but it had a few twists and turns at the end. I am currently reading The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell.

Tomorrow we are going rock climbing – I will let you know how that goes…

I took a photo to show my hair colour change progressing lighter and lighter.

Day 79: 7th

Yesterday, we did a desert safari to the White Canyon and the Coloured Canyon. The meet time was 8AM but I turned off my alarm and woke again at 7:55. We rushed down to find the car was also running late so we had time for a quick breakfast. John was not feeling so good that day and I was concerned that a desert trip would not be a good idea. There was also a Swiss family on the trip.

I remember the White Canyon from my visit in 2001 and is worth a visit. We had an hour and twenty minutes drive off road to the Coloured Canyon. I was getting quite annoyed and uncomfortable. The whole way we where thrown around the inside of the 4×4. It was a jarring experience.

When we arrived at the Coloured Canyon we had lunch and set off on the walk. I think it was the first time I had seen this canyon. It was like a miniature Grand Canyon. The rocks had been stained by the water seeping through and depositing minerals on the surface. Again, I need to get the photos from John to put on view. The trip was (just about) worth the drive.

On the way back, the car had mechanical problems and we had a quick stop in Nuweiba. We could see the coolant steam escaping from under the bonnet. That was “fixed” in about 10 minutes.

Today we had a late start. John is looking around for wind surfing prices.

Day 77: 5th

James has departed for Munich so I saw him off this morning. We had a good time (I think). We had several days diving, quad biking, nights in town, etc. Next time I might visit him in Munich. Unfortunately Oktoberfest in Munich is a long time away.

John lent me a copy of Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner which I finished in a few days. I agreed with several ideas he had and was even thinking along similar lines myself. He was right when he quoted another guy (can’t remember the name) saying (perceived) Risk = Hazard + Outrage. Often public panic and worry can be related to media (or other cause) when there is little actual hazard. Like terrorism for example. I worry about less glamorous subjects like education and health.

I was talking to Jed about the wedding. Mark cannot attend so he cannot help me with the video. We will see if one of the ushers can help me with the video.

I am now reading Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier. Not sure what to make of it at the moment…

We went quad biking after John’s suggestion. I was thinking about it myself and was eager to try it. It was a wonderful experience. We had about 70 minutes on the bike going up Wadi Gani at speeds up to 55 kph. I was expecting full automatic gears but we had semi-automatics. This made it a challenge – any easier and it would not be fun. I was wearing my sandals but they managed the gears well. John and James were wearing their Bedioun outfits which looked hilarious on the bikes. I have to get the photos from James. We each paid 150LE each which is less than 15 UK pounds – crazy price!

Day 75: 3rd

We have been busy doing loads of diving. Today we were at Gabr El Bint which the first time I have visited that site. John and James were out until 2AM last night so I began to doubt they would want to come along. We had a good time. The trip back on the boat was rough because we were heading directly into the wind.

Tomorrow is James’s last full day in Egypt. We are planning to do one dive in the morning and quad biking in the evening. John and James have purchased traditional Bedioun robes and head scarf so they look like oil barons. Hopefully I will get a picture of that soon.

Now I think I need an early night…. (with insect repellent).