Friday, January 05, 2007

Last dive

My final dive was at Erg Abu Ramada at about 11.30am. Before each dive, Pia gives us a briefing for the site, but slightly delayed today, Chris stepped in to present on her behalf: ziss dive is not as nice as ze Sisslegorm...over here zere are feesh...

Today brought my dive count up to 29, and cumulative bottom time to about 16 hours (14 / 8.5 respectively for this trip). Chris passed the camera over to me for a while, so I managed to capture the coral tableau etc below, as well as a large free-swimming moray eel sitting under the boat as we prepared for our final ascent.

We had to be back at the marina in Hurghada by 3pm, so it was now time to start rinsing out our gear and hanging it out to dry before packing it away.

After a week of teabags and Nescafe sachets, a few of us were keen to sneak off and get some real coffee. Pia directed us to a cafe just down the road from the Marriott, and over the next hour most of our fellow divers trickled in, gently regaining their land-legs. In Hurghada you only have to glance at the road and a taxi or mini-cab honks their horn, swerving in to see if you need a ride. They are not even deterred if you've just rejected one taxi - the next one just pulls into its position. I even noted that they would try to offer you their services if you had just stepped out of another taxi.

Chris elected to go back to the beach for a plodge, while Andreas, John and I walked into the main part of a town. This was only about a 2 mile walk, but we had to negotiate ostensibly new footpaths that suddenly ended near a sharp curve in the road, or crumbled away into a ditch. Every step of the way was marked by rubbish strewn across dusty building sites or small unattended fires.

The "main drag" brought back memories of trips to Bangkok, or even Kuta Beach in Bali (the worst parts of both), where building had proceeded at a remarkable pace, many buildings abandoned in early construction, and the width of the footpath veered from pleasantly wide to almost unnegotiable narrowness. Essentially the same pattern of T-shirt shops, jewellers and souvenir bazaars was replicated up and down the strip. Most of the non-local denizens appeared to be Eastern European or Russian tourists who had based their wardrobe on New Romantic or Heavy Metal videos of the early years of MTV.

So much of the offerings for tourist appear to be mass-produced pap, rarely offering better-quality products that would probably still be very affordable. A T-shirt is about 20 Egyptian pounds or £2 ( 4-5 times this cost at the airport), and is invariably emblazoned with logos of fashion labels du jour: Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel... It occurred to me that someone with a modicum of design sense could make a killing by providing (culturally sensitive) apparel that didn't make you look like a Russian hooker or overfed sunlover ( so many of the clothes were only available in XL sizes or above).

Bypassing these glorious temptations, and the dubious lure of the Caligula Discotheque (!), we paused for a drink and then negotiated with a van driver for a ride back to the marina.

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