Sunday, 22 March 2009

Day Seventy One: Sharm el Sheikh (or we meet Lewis Hamilton – twice!)

Our first day in Egypt started around 6.30am when we looked out of our cabin window and saw sandy hills with darker mountains alongside them so we dressed as quickly as we could (no wash, shave or shower at this stage), rushed to the bow door on our deck and forced it open so that we could get some shots of our arrival at this desert port. With the first important pictures out of the way we made a more leisurely climb up to deck 13 where we could watch the actual docking against the harbour wall. We witnessed once again the man with the rope and the ball accurately throwing it to a workman on the harbour so we could tie our lines and springs onto the bollards and thus keep us safe and sound while we are docked. We were even able to get some photos of the captain and the pilot issuing instructions via walkie-talkie as thrusters and propellers brought us to a complete stop.

The port of Sharm el Sheikh has nothing, i.e. zero, zilch in the way of shops, hotels or even houses that are close to where the cruise ships dock, if you want to see anything at all you have to walk at least 200 yards across a flat deserted landscape to the dock gate where somewhere along the way an official will ask to see you passport. He doesn’t look inside or anything, just easing it out of you bag or pocket and showing him the maroon cover is sufficient to be waved on, so much for security. As you get to the end of the walk and just inside the gate, friendly taxi drivers will approach you to offer their services; some folk ignore these and continue walking into the small town of Sharm el Sheikh while others, like us, look around for someone to share the cab with in an effort to cut the cost. We agreed a price of $20.00US for the four of us to go to Na’ama Bay, a supposedly 30 minute drive away, which we thought was a reasonable deal. Others we learned made the walk into the local town and negotiated from there, the best deal that we learned of was $5.00 for 4 persons for pretty much the same journey – so much for our negotiating skills.

The taxi driver was not only a Lewis Hamilton look alike but he drove like him too, Hilary is convinced that he hit 100mph along the dual carriageway as he swerved in and out from lane to lane overtaking and undertaking in an effort to get us to Na’ama Bay as fast as possible. My guess is that the speedo was calibrated in Km/Hour but that is still pretty fast in heavy traffic. Our fellow travellers were scared out of their wits and the lady threatened to be sick or get out and walk if he didn’t slow down, it had no effect and nor did the pleadings of her husband. We stopped as abruptly as we took off and at first we thought that we were in the middle of nowhere and that we had been dumped just to get rid of our moaning but as it turned out he stopped just a little bit early from the regular stop so that he didn’t have to join a long line of taxis waiting for fares. We were approached almost immediately by a young Egyptian offering directions but also wanting to take us into his shop and we were extricated from that by an English passer-by who happens to work in the town of Na’ama Bay. A few more yards and another decision to make as to which road to take when a Swiss holiday maker came and gave us some words of advice, she showed us which roads to take to get to the beach and also advised us that a local supermarket had clothes and souvenirs just as cheap as the street sellers and no haggling was involved.

We had arrived around 9.45am and few shops were open so when we were approached by a nice young man offering us a ride in a glass bottom boat over the coral reefs for $10.00 each we jumped at it particularly as the ride started at 10.00am and lasted an hour. I think that it was probably the best $20.00 we have spent on the whole cruise, there were no more than 20 people on the boat and we had an excellent viewing platform where we were able to take photographs from the ship’s stern as well as through the glass bottom. Twenty minutes or so of cruising over the coral and watching fish and the operator asked if anyone wanted to snorkel whereupon a man and a Russian woman who had come prepared immediately stripped off their outer clothes to reveal costumes and leaped over the side. The crew threw food to attract the fish and for 10 minutes we had great fun watching these two being surrounded by small and large fish before it was time for them to get out of the water and head back. It was obvious on our return that this Na’ama Bay is a huge dive centre as we witnessed several schools offering lessons in shallow water as we worked our way back to shore. There are several submarines operating as well, including two yellow ones! If you read this Julian then it is a place that you might think about if you want to do SCUBA or snorkelling in crystal clear waters over colourful coral and with brightly coloured fish. The place (I am talking Na’ama Bay here which is accessed via the resort of Sharm el Sheikh) is a holiday maker’s paradise with bars, restaurants (including McDonalds and Hard Rock Café) and shops everywhere. You do have to pay for the beaches and also if you want to have a lounger with a sun shade but we are talking $7.00 for all day here.

We walked the beach, bought the souvenirs, the postcards and the fridge magnets before wending our way back to the taxi rank around 1.00pm, it was close to 75F and that was warm enough for us to be out in the sun for 3 hours. At the taxi rank we were surrounded by drivers all wanting us to go with them and the starting price was again $20.00 which if we had four of us would have been a price we were prepared to pay. There was another couple wandering around so I spoke to them and discovered that they were from the Oriana and were looking to share a ride and I was amazed when the man said that they had only paid $5.00 for 4 of them when they came out and that was his stance when we were approached. We settled on $10.00 for the four of us which was half of what we had paid to get there but no sooner were we in the taxi than the driver was trying to change the price to $15.00. He kept saying “$10.00 for the ride and $5.00 tip for the driver,” and each time he said it we told him no and that we had agreed a price of $10.00 for the four of us.” This driver didn’t look like Lewis Hamilton but he sure was another trying to drive like him, once again the nominal 30 minute drive took about half that time and as we pulled up to the gates the driver was still insisting the fare was $15.00. But our travelling companion was having nothing of that and gave him just the $10.00 we agreed and I gave him $5.00 for our share. To say that the taxi driver was pissed off is not an understatement and I am sure that if we could have understood Egyptian we would have heard a few swear words. But we got back to the ship safe and sound and here we are in the cabin with me typing and Hilary on the bed doing her scrapbook. So I will stop here while Hilary adds her bit…..

Tiz I.. Well what a surprise today was! I really did not know what to expect and the view from the ship did not inspire confidence that it would be exciting. But then we went ashore and the adventure started. The first taxi driver was very fast and I couldn’t look out of the window after a few seconds. He was driving on the wrong side of the road at tremendous speed with cars coming towards him! He swerved always just in time so it was OK in the end. I did notice that all the drivers were very young – maybe they don’t live to be old! Julian this area of coastline is diving heaven for scuba or snorkel because of the clear visibility. The colours are bright and I have never seen coral of so many different shapes and sizes and colours. The glass bottomed boat was fantastic, the colours of the coral and the fish were so bright, the sunlight went right down to the seabed and made the whole viewing so clear it was a joy from start to finish. We had picked out this trip from the catalogue of tours before we came away but had never booked it through P&O. Now we are very pleased that we didn’t because we probably saved ourselves about $100 on the difference between what we actually paid and the tour price! We also haggled over the price of a couple gifts which we knew to be well overpriced – Sam has discovered that he actually enjoys haggling. We even got back in time for me to write the postcards and get them into the post-box before the ship closed its doors so all in all it has been a pretty brilliant day. Tomorrow we have to be ready to leave at 5.00am so we can be tendered off the ship to go to Cairo while the ship goes through the Suez Canal. It will be early to bed for us tonight. Before I go I have a few questions. Why is Bex in the Midlands? Have I missed something? Why are you in London Julian? And to answer your question we have 2 huge spotlights on the bow which usually face the front of the ship but since we entered the Gulf of Aden and all the way through the Red Sea the lights have had their covers off and they face out to the side of the ship. Did Hales and Sharon do the Reiki 2 in February? OK that is it other than to say to Sheila and Liz have a great time in Cornwall with Marlene. Take care, God bless.

1 comment:

Hayley said...

Hi Aunty and Uncle.

Beccy is the midlands doing some field work for her MSc. She is still organising her project but has been offered a pHD from her old tutor in Cambridge for April next year and has applied for funding. How exciting.

We haven't done the Reiki yet unfortunately, but we will.

I had a lovely day today. Mum, Dad and Em came up for roast dinner, which we had outside as it was that warm and sunny!!! Then we went for a walk down to Clearbrook and through the woods and back home in a circle. We have had the most glorious weather for the last week, the daffs are all out and the birds are singing. Lets hope it lasts for your return. Mum is going to be here when you come back and i will get the afternoon off so i'm here too. Do you know what time you will be coming back yet? (not that you want to be giving that too much thought i bet!)

Glad you have been having fun, enjoy the pyramids.

Love Hayley xxxxx