sage again.. and changes of plan

sage

we’ve been emailing back and forth w/ sage for the last week or so, trying to figure out how we’d synch up here in egypt. to my surprise, i got an email from her the other day saying that she was not only done w/ her trip in israel, but she had actually arrived here in dahab! so after spending most of the day playing email tag, we finally hooked up w/ her last night! she’s here w/ her friends dave and terra. there is this restaurant alibaba’s that caryn walks by every day on her way to diving. the tout out front has been begging us to come in to his restarant for days and we have kept saying “no” or “maybe” or “some other time”. well today we showed up there, and not only did we show up, but we brought friends as well. the tout was *psyched*. we’ve been a bit nervous about eating fish here cause we were unsure about the freshness, but we ordered a *huge* grouper last night and it was delicious! after dinner, the out convinced us to go with him to this dance bar down the stret and we did. kicked it for a while, and caryn and sage played w/ poi. it was actually quite funny cause this guy kept trying to dance standing under the poi as caryn or sage were spinning. dave got some hilarious shots of this!

change of plans

i dont know if anybody has actually bothered to check the link at the top of my journal to see what my itinerary is. but, according to our intial itinerary, we should be in south africa right now. obviously we’re really behind schedule as we’ve been apending extra days here and there… or actually, pretty much everywhere. i think we’ve stayed longer in almost every country we’ve gone to so far! anyways, after egypt, our plan was to take a flight down to nairobi and do east africa for about 2 months. well, after thinking about it, we’ve realized that doing so would make the weather for a lot of our trip quite crap, so we’ve decided to change our plans. instead, we’re making india our next destination. on the 11th or so of january, we’re flying from cairo to bombay. also, after reading a bit in the india guidebook, we realized that our initial plan to spend 3 weeks in india was absolutely ridiculous. india is way too big. it’s practically it’s own continent. so we’ve doubled our time there. now we’ll be spending 6 weeks there. after that we’re doing the rest of our itinerary (sans africa) as planned: south east asia, asia, russia, and then we’ll tack on the africa portion there before heading to south america. i dont know if any of you are still thinking of meeting us anywhere, but if you are, keep this new schedule in mind…

*v

wrecked

after taking a few days off from diving, i was itching to get back in the water. one of the most exciting dives in this area was the thistlegorm dive. the Thistlegorm was a british navy ship that was bombed by the germans during WWII while it was anchored in the red sea. it’s probably one of the most famous wreck dives in the whole world. while most other wrecks dives are on passenger boats where the most exciting things to see are random civilian supplies etc, this one was loaded down w/ military equipment like army jeeps, ammunition, etc. this would definitely be a unique experience.

since the dive site was so far away, we had to get everything ready the day before. we packed our gear, and set out on a 1.5 hour drive over the mountains to sharm el sheik which is the southermost point on the sinai peninsula. once we got there, we all boarded a boat, set up our scuba gear, and went to sleep while the boat went out to the dive site. the boat cruised all night long, and i got one of the worst night’s sleep ever. the boat was constantly rocking, which made the door to our room swing open and shut, and we would hear the loud slam every 30 seconds or so. ugh!!

the next morning, we were woken up at 7am, and groggily got up to eat breakfast. by 8:15 we were in the water. diving here was divided into 2 dives. the first dive we went down 30 meters (100 feet) and just swam around the wreck, and on the second dive we actually got to swim inside the wreckage. being down there was so crazy! as soon as we got in the water, we could see the humongous damaged ship looming below us. the bomb had blown a huge hole in the middle of the ship, but most of the front and back were intact. as soon as we got near the bottom, we started seeing random bits of cargo. huge rounds of ammunition. military jeeps laying upside down and corroding on the ocean floor. random wheels, tires, steering wheels, and other odds and ends strewn all about.

the whole time down there, i was snapping away w/ my camera like crazy, but unfortunately most of my shots didnt come out too good. it was rather dark down there, visibility wasn’t too great due to the murkiness, and the pictures just didnt do that good of a job capturing the eerie scene. after a while, as we circled the ship, we came across the ship’s huge gun. this thing was massive, and quite a sight 30 meters underwater.

a couple other really cool things that we got to see on the first dive was the ship’s propeller and a huge (4 feet) barracuda.

after spending a bout an hour resting, we dove back down for our second dive. this one was inside the ship, and we swam through all sorts of dark corridors and passages. it was so dark down there that we had to use high powered flashlights to see. i really felt like this was some crazy tv special on “discoveries of the deep” or something. swimming through pitch black rooms, you could just see the sweeping flashlight beams crisscrossing in the dark. with the lights we’d see all sort of stuff in the cargo holds. one room had a long row of 10 or so motorcycles lined up together. another room had a bunch of army jeeps. all of this stuff was still intact. you could look down inside the jeeps and see the steering wheels, ignition, everything!! eventually we made our way up to the captains quarters where there was a small pocket of air. the dive master had us take out our air regulator for a second to tell him how much air we still had. it was so bizarre to be there swimming 100 feet underwater and be in a little air space and *talking*!

unfortunately, pretty much all my pictures from that part of the dive totally sucked. it was sooo dark, and if you used the flash, it would just reflect off all the silt floating around. damn! once done w/ that dive we climbed back aboard and had our lunch, while the ship cruised towards ras mohhamed, an underwater national park. there we did our final dive of the day. due to strong currents, we weren’t allowed to bring our cameras (since we needed to pay lots of attention and be careful not to damage any coral in the national park). this dive was fun and chill. actually we got to see 3 HUGE eels. everytime i’ve seen an eel before, it’s just been the eel’s head poking out from some rocks, but here i actually saw one of the eels swimming around the water. it was really really cool.

after this dive, we were completely exhausted and all i wanted to do was go home and go to sleep. unfortunately though, to get back to dahab, we had to go over a mountain range, and it’s unsafe to go to high altitudes directly after diving. so we had to sit there and wait for like 5 hours until we could go back. what a day!!

here’s the link to all my thistlegorm photos for the day.

*v

sage!!

hey sage!! i dont know if you’re getting my emails, since your emails seem like you havent. if you’re not getting them, we’re still here in dahab. we’re staying at the BishBishi village across from the penguin village (everyone in town knows penguin). it’s south of you on the main strip. come find us! if you do get this, try to meet us at penguins restaurant tonight at 3pm, or if you get this message past then, lets meet at penguins at 5pm.

werd?

-vlad

quake

wow. so, caryn just told me that there was this HUGE quake off the coast of thailand. the quake caused huge tidal waves that hit the coasts of indonesia, thailand, and india. tons people along the coasts were killed including lots and lots of tourists. it’s so insane that things like this can happen. just out of the blue. and we just randomly happened to be in egypt right now due to our itinerary… but really, we just as easily could have been in thailand now, or indonesia. it’s all luck. thank god that we are here and not there, is all i can say. it’s insane to see just how much damage a quake can cause.

here are some photos i coppied from the site: www.soieasy.com

*v

dahab, the videogame

if Dahab was a videogame where you had to maneuver your character around gobbling up milkshakes and picking up scuba tanks for bonus points, what would be the things that your character needs to avoid?

Cats

the island here is completely covered with cats. they’re *everywhere*. wandering in and out of the hotels, running through the streets, chilling on the beach, and doing all that they can to get food. unfortunately, although eating outdoors on pillows is really comfy and relaxing, it puts you on the same level as all the cats in town and as soon as you get served food (and often before) they all come running. in no time at all, you’ll have a crowd of 5 or more cats all swarming around you, begging for food, trying to jump on the low table, etc. and these cats dont take no for an answer. you push them away, or even spray them w/ water, and they just come back seconds later. it gets hard to keep track of them all. to make matters worse, a lot of the cats are really adorable, and you end up feeling guilty for not giving them a little food. you dont wanna be mean.. but there are just so many of them, and even if you *do* give them food, they just want more!! of course, on the flip side, i really am glad that the cats are here. they’re fun to play w/ when you’re not eating, and they definitely add an interesting character to the island. it seems like most of the locals will have one or two favorite cats that they favor.

Bracelett Girls

the other thing that this island has swarms of is little local girls selling braceletts. anywhere you sit, anywhere you walk, there will be groups of these little girls 6 to 10 years old who come up to you and ask you to buy their braceletts. some of them beg and plead while others havent mastered the art of selling and just blurt out “buy one!!” loudly. some will be persistant and sit down with you for a few minutes showing all their wares. others will just walk by and flash the braceletts at you and keep walking. some of them are alone while others travel in packs. we feel really bad for these girls as they are out doing this all day long. obviously they dont go to school or anything. they are probably just forced to do this to help their parents get some extra money. it’s weird though, just when i think that these poor girls have such a depressing childhood, i notice that a lot of them are really cheery and happy. they sit around and play games w/ each other when they’re not selling. they spend all day hanging out w/ their friends. it’s not like they are doing hard labor or working in the fields. they just walk about chatting w/ each other and occasionally flashing a bracelett…

Restaurant Touts

the whole coastline here is covered w/ cafes and restaurants so there must be some crazy fierce competition for business. because of that, every restaurant will have a guy standing out front and they try to stop *every* paserby to come into the restaurant. so basically you walk and get stopped by a guy who walks along with you for the next few meters in front of his restaurant, as soon as you get to the border of the next restuarnt, the guy from the other place walks with you. so walking down the coast, you will be talked to by like 15 or so different guys in just a few minutes! they’ll say anything to you to get you to come in. if you say you’ve eaten, they’ll say that you should just have a drink. if you say you’re not thirsty, they say to just come in and sit by the fire. or they’ll ask you to just come back later. they have an answer for anything you throw at them. as i said earlier, the only thing i’ve seen work on these guys is to have some koshary in your hands as you walk by!! at times, when you’re in a hurry to get to diving for instance, and you have all these people pestering you, it can be a bit obnoxious, but usually it’s just funny. the thing is, unlike many other places we’ve been, all the touting here is usually very relaxed, good natured, and funny. everyone in town seems to be perpetually happy and always joking. sometimes you’re just as likely to get a “hi how are you!” or a “have a good day” as you are to have someone ask you to come to their shop. it’s actually really really fun to interact w/ the locals here. i think this is partially cause a) sunny beachside towns put people in a good mood. and b) these people have a fairly easy life. if given the choice of living in busy cairo where you make very little money selling stuff to egyptians, or living here by the beach and raking in tons of money from the well off tourists, of course they’d enjoy this choice! it’s also nice that we’ve been in such a small town for 8 days. people are starting to recognize us… my barber will wave each time i pass his window, people will yell out “hey, california!!” to us, and others just give us a handhskae or slap us 5 when we pass.

Flies

so, this is the one annoyance that really does suck. there are soooo many flies around here. it’s practically impossible to sit still without a bunch of them landing on you. they constantly attack your food, your drinks, and your body. they’re so disgusting!!

heh, so all of these “annoyances” are really mild and only annoying at times. in all other aspects, dahab is great. we’ve been having such a good time here. such a nice relaxing environment… so many friendly happy people…

*v

christmas in dahab

it’s christmas here in dahab and everything is decked out. there are christams trees everywhere, all the restauarants have christmas decor and “merry christmas” written in colorful materials, restaurants are selling turkey christmas dinners complete w/ stuffing and gravy, there are random people walking around wearing santa suits, we saw a huge 2 story tall inflated snowman, and we’ve been wished a merry christmas at least 40 or 50 times today. of course, the locals dont celebrate christmas whatsoever, but dahab is a town that mainly caters to tourists, and they know what makes the tourists happy. the funny thing is that the people around here are so friendly and fun, that they seem to be just as excited about christams as we are. it’s definitely been a fun and cheery last couple of days here! and who wouldn’t be cheery when christmas is celebrated among swaying palm trees and sandy beaches?

for the last couple of days, after exhausting myself diving, i’ve been taking it easy and just kicking it. hanging out, reading books, drinking *delicious* chocolate milkshakes, and eating good food. the turkey dinner caryn and i had the other nght for christmas eve was actually really good, despite our worries that egyptians couldnt make a good turkey. the other really good thing here is this stuff called Koshary. it’s this mix of pasta, lentils, fried onion and sauce. you can buy it in this one restaurant, but the best place to get it is from this one guy who rides his bike around town yelling “hash! cocaine! ecstasy!!”… cause allegedly this stuff is better than drugs. and the people around here, go absolutely crazy for it. when we bought some, and were walking down the street with it, everyone got SO excited. people from all over would shout out to us “You eat Koshary??!! Good Good! best egyptian food!” seriously, i haven’t seen people this excited in a while! they were just SO pleased. even the restaurant touts that usually hassle every passerby trying to get them into their restaurant… usually these guy wont take no for an answer. but if you have koshary in your hands… “oh!! koshary!! GOOD!!!” and they just let you go by. they know they can’t compete w/ the koshary!

after just lazying around for some time, today i finally decided to go out and do something. i’ve always been curious about windsurfing, so finally i got a lesson today. sheez, it’s damn hard!! i’m absolutely terrible. one and a half hours later, i was still constantly falling in the water, unable to steer, and couldnt keep my balance at all. also, because of my complete inability to direct myslef, i kept ending up hella from from shore and kind of unable to get back! i was a bit worried that at somepoint i’d just end up in the middle of nowhere.. adrift and with no land in sight… but luckily, that didnt happen.

*v

diving in dahab

a couple years back i got my open water diving certification while i was in thailand. i was so excited to be certified, but since then i haven’t been anywhere w/ good diving so i haven’t made use of my certification at all. i’ve been hearing for a while now that dahab has some of the best diving on the whole planet, so i was totally looking forward to coming here and trying it out! i signed up for an advanced scuba course, that would include 6 dives in just 2 days! that’s a hell of a lot of diving for such a short time and by the end i was utterly exhausted, but so happy. also, caryn had given me a underwater case for my camera, so for the first time i was able to take photos of stuff i saw while diving. thisa totally added a new dimension to diving and was hella fun. unfortunately, it took me quite a while to get used to it (it’s difficult due to low light, fast moving fish, etc) so most of my photos are pretty crappy… but there are a few decent ones.

to get your advanced diving certificate, you have to do some dives that have certain qualities to them. mainly, yoou have to do one night dive, one deep dive, and yoou have to learn how to navigate underwater…

Dive 1 – refresher

because it’s been so long since my last dive, i had to do a refresher dive to test my skills and make sure i remember how to do stuff. i thought this was gonna be really boring and that all i would do was sit around underwater and show that i can unflodd my mask, and find my regulator, but it turned out to actually be a pretty fun dive. after testing my skills, we spent another half an hour just swimming around and checking out fish.

Dive 2 – underwater navigation

for this course, we had to learn how to follow a compass underwater, judge distances, and be able to get our bearings underwater. unfortunately, i’m pretty crap w/ directions, so i was a bit nervous about succeeding here. one of the tasks we had to do was swim in a square underwater by using a compass. well, 3/4 of the way through, i somehow got totally disoriented and went totally the wrong way. my square, ended up not being a square at all! but i was able to succeed the next time. for one of the other tests, our instructor took us out fairly far from where we strated, and after swimming in circles for a bit, we had to find our way back to the beginning. it was pretty hard, but we succeeded. phew!

Dive 3 – Night Dive

i’ve always wanted to do a night dive, but have always been a little nervous about it. i dont particularly like the dark, and the thought of swimming underwater in the ocean where who knows what was lurking around me in the blackness was quite unnerving. after the sun set, we set out into the dark waters w/ just flashlights to guide our way. diving at night turned out to be incredibly fun. yes, it’s eerie.. but the eerieness just adds to the excitement of diving. in the darkness, it kind of feels like you are floating through space out there and you point your flashlight at different things as fish flutter by. there are all sorts of really beautiful fanlike corals that come out only at night, and the rocky reef walls that we had been swimming next to earlier were now alive and full of brightly colored neat looking plants.

Dive 4 – Deep Dive

when you get yoour basic open water scuba license, you are only allowed to dive down to 18 meters (about 60 feet) which is pretty deep if you think about… but to get your advanced, you have to do a deep dive which takes you down to 30 meters (100 feet)!! there is this thing called nitrogen narcosis which is where tiny nitrogen bubbles somehow affect your brain, and you get slightly loopy down there. actually, it affects different people differently, and some people can go kind of crazy for a while like trying to swim w/out their air regulator or whatnot!! luckily, nothing like that happened to us. this dive was in an underwater canyon, so basically you start off on top of the canyon at about 20 meters deep, and then plunge down into the canyon another 10 meters down. it was so crazy to be down there, 100 feet down, in the middle of a canyon, pering up along the canyon walls at the blue of the ocean above. here are a couple of photos looking up through the crack of the canyon.

after swimming at the bottom of the canyon for a bit, we had to swim out through a side opening tunnel, that was pretty narrow and you could barely fit through it with all of your gear on. heh, it was like i was rock climbing down there, but inverted! as i scrambled through the tunnel, i thought about how crazy all this was compared to the diving i did for the basic class. i’ve gone from swimming around in open water at 60 feet, to scrambling through underwater holes and crevices at 100 feet down!

Dive 5 – Multilevel dive

the next dive we had to do was one where you track your progress starting from a deep level to several less deep ones. basically, the more time you spend underwater, the more likely you can harm yourself, especially at deeper depths, so there is only certain amounts of time that you can spend at each depth before yoo need to head higher. i was super excited about this dive because it would be along bells walls and then continue on to the blue hole. the blue hole is unique because it’s this gicantic hole near to the shore. the whole goes down to about 300 meters(!!!) and then continues downward into the abyss. as you swi through the hole, there is nothing but blue nothingness stretching beneath you as far as you can see and it’s quite a phenominal sight. actually, the blue hole is also famous because it is one of the dive sites that have claimed the most lives. there is a dive that you can only do if you are an extremely advanced technical diver, where you dive down this crack near the hole, and then swim out through an archway into the hole. all of a sudden, you’re completely in the blue with nothing to orient yourself to, and at that depth, people have gotten nitrogen narcosis, and instead of swimming up an out… they’ve swam downward, never to be seen again!! luckily, the dive we did was similar, but much easier and less dangerous than that one.

we started out by bells walls. just a few yards from shore, and only a few meters deep, you swim down head first off a rocky cliff, and plunge down about 100 feet, before you swim under this arch and out. this was so spectacular!! you just swim down, down, and more down for what seems like eternity! and swimming through the archway was pretty cool too. after this you are to the side of the cliff wall that yoou had been standing on, and you swim along the wall checking out the fish that swim along the wall.

this whole time, you can see nothing but blue below and to the side of you. it’s quite a crazy feeling. eventually, we ascended a bit, and eventually swam into the blue hole. unfortunately, the visibility was quite poor that day, and instead of pure endless blue below, it was a kind of cloudy blue that yoou couldnt much see through. oh well, it was still really cool!

Dive 6 – underwater photography

for the last dive of the course, we could choose what we wanted to do, and since i had an underwater camera, i decided to to the “underwater photography” course which meant i just swam around and took pictures. easy! we went to a dive site called the islands, which was this huge area with tons of coral. at one point, all the coral was toppled over and laying in shambles on the ocean floor. i guess there was this huge earthquake here about 5 years ago and lots of the coral collapsed. it’s odd, somehow i never thought of coral as something that could collapse in a quake. this dive was really cool, cause it was so easy. i didnt have to worry about using a compass, or how deep i was or anything… i just swam around, and enjoyed seeing fish and took photos of them. lots of fun! i even saw a couple of tiny eels during the dive.

finally, after the 6th dive i went back to the place we were staying completely exhausted and burnt out. it had been a long long two days, and i definitely needed a rest!

here are the photos i took while diving

and here are a couple that i liked in particular:


pufferfish


lionfish


blue tang (nora from finding nemo)


clownfish hiding in anemone (nemo from finding nemo)


lionfish


eel

*v

tropical island vacation

over the last few days, we’ve really been enjoying our tropical island vacation in Dahab. although, instead of being in the tropics, we’re actually in Egypt. and instead of being on an island, we’re… umm.. well… in Egypt. ok, well, other than the fact that we’re in egypt an not on a tropical island whatsoever, we really may as well be. Dahab is a small town on the sinai peninsula and is on the red sea coast. the town is mainly made up of a bunch of small restaurants that are on the beach where you sit and lean on pillows on the ground, eat off of low tables, and just chill out. every single one of them has music playing, a view of the sea, great juice an milkshakes, hookas, and about 20 some odd cats. in fact, cats practically rule the town here. every time you sit down to a meal, within seconds, you have a bunch of cats running up to you, climbing in your lap, sticking their heads out from under the table, and basically doing whatever it takes to get at your food. other than the restauarants, it seems like pretty much the only other thing in dahab is internet cafes and dive shops.

we got here just a couple of days ago, and it’s been a wonderful several days. other than 2 days worth of diving, which i’ll write more about later, we’ve done nothing but just kick back, sit around, and enjoy the town. we’ve got about a week here, and it’s nice to just chill out and enjoy the laidback vibe around here. i still haven’t decided for sure, but i think that i might try windsurfing or something else while i’m here. prices here are pretty cheap compared to anywhere else, and other than diving, we’ve been able to get by on about 20 bucks each per day.

also, i’ve been desperately needing a haircut. i’ve been putting it off more and more, and honestly, i was a bit worried about what kind of a haircut i’d get here in a small town in egypt. but since i’m not sure the haircuts in asia would be any better, i decided to just go for it and get one here. it turned out to be not too bad actually. not only that, but while i was at it, i got a shave as well. i’ve never gotten a shave at a barbershop before, and was defintely nervous to have some random stranger wielding a sharp razor near my throat. luckily, i survived… but the process didnt end there. at this point, the guy gets out this long string and holds one end of it in his teeth. using the other end, he somehow does this weird twisting thing while he pulls on the teeth end, and he starts plucking hairs from my eyebrows and cheeks! it was all quite odd, but half an hour and 6 bucks later, i walked out of the barbershop a new man.

ur current plan is just to kick it here for the next few days until the 26th, and then to head up to cairo to celebrate new years there…

*v