Part 3 – Egypt: Hurghada

PART 3
EGYPT to Hurghada

map 14 Red Sea
Map 14 – Gulf of Suez and Red Sea

Sat 21 Nov 09

Late start today. Three more boats taking off for Wadi Dome to pick up their sailing permits. Roam II has returned after setting out yesterday. They’d had some engine overheating problems and hadn’t had much success yesterday tracking down the fault.

0930hrs: Andy cooks some breakfast of bubble and squeak and rissoles and two eggs each. He forgets the toast.

Roger and I catch a taxi into town for £5. Maurice tags along. Have a successful day shopping and benefit from the experience of trying to send something through the Egyptian postal service.

166 port suez 167 unreal god
street in Port Suez “unreal” gold for sale

First we spend about an hour just looking for a post office. Then they don’t appear to sell any packing envelopes in which I can post a CD with photos so we spend the next hour wandering around shops looking for an envelope. Finally find out by asking someone that the postal service actually does provide envelope and CD covers.

168 Christian Coptic church 169 minaret
Christian Coptic church Minaret

Locate another post office and spend another hour lining up, buying an envelope complete with some bubble wrap, and then waiting while they try to find Australia in their list of countries to send things to. I am concerned it will take several weeks going by ship so must look a bit of a goose in front of the assembled crowd standing there with arms extended making out like an aeroplane. I am politely assured in some kind of strangled English that it will go by air express. It costs £18 so I can only hope that if it does go by ship it’ll get back home before I do.

Walk around the streets trying to dodge the water filled potholes and suffering the few thousand flies that swirl around the legs at choice feeding places, which are plentiful. This place is really, really bad. It’s literally filthy with rubbish and discarded food scraps. The Egyptians absolutely have no idea of basic tidiness let alone cleanliness. Streets and footpaths are littered with rocky rubble. It’s totally necessary to watch where you are walking that you don’t step in something, or worse, twist an ankle. Rubbish mounds in the street can reach up to a metre or more high complete with flies, stench and even in one pile the unwholesome sight of maggots.

170 Port Suez street 171 marketplace
Port Suez street with mixed pedestrians, cars and puddles marketplace view – a cleaner area
172 bullock head and carcass 173 war damage
bullock’s head and carcass parts for sale – no refrigeration and fresh fly-vomit sauce building damage from Yom Kippur war Egypt-Isreal 1973

All this can exist in the same areas where food is being sold. People are dressing beef carcasses in the street with heads of deceased bullocks hanging on a wall looking out on the passing parade of humanity. In other places beef is being butchered with largish puddles of blood in the street. It’s somewhat strange to see well dressed men, women and children walking around unconcernedly in this environment as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Find a small grocery shop where we get a few more items and a dozen cans of soft drink. Catch a taxi and glad to get out of the city. Pay the driver £5. The wind has picked up. Blowing probably 15 -20 kts from the North.

Evening: Several yachties go out for a big fish dinner somewhere for £200. I’m not a big fish lover so don’t go. Wind dies down as usual after sunset.

2100hrs: Andy and Roger return. They’re not particularly impressed by the restaurant venue or the meal.

2200hrs: An Egyptian style pipe and drum show starts up accompanied with female trilling in the breaks. Don’t know what’s going on next door. Sort of reminds me of Turkish or Arab type of music just before Bedouins attack.

Sun 22 Nov 09

0730hrs: Andy is over on Roam II helping to fix their motor problem. It’s traced to a broken impeller, parts of which have lodged inside the oil cooler. Is not going to be an easy repair pulling it all apart.

The Gulf of Suez

0800hrs: Lines in. Mr KarKar releases our bowline from its buoy. Motor out with Esper and O Khayyam – a French yacht.

174 leaving Pt suez 175 sv esper
departing Port Suez and into Suez Gulf SV. Esper

The Red Sea bisects into two separate branches at its northern end; the Gulf of Suez to the left of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aquaba on the eastern side. The Red Sea started forming about 30 million years ago at the same time as the Rift Valley in Eastern Africa was being created. The sea is still widening with some minor volcanic activity on the sea bed in the deeper places. It’s roughly 2,230km long and about 300km at its widest part with an average depth of 500m. More than 1100 species of fish have been recorded. There is about 2,000km of coral reef extending along its coastline which are up to 7,000 years old. There are several theories about why it’s called the Red Sea.

176 west coastLeft: west coast of the Gulf of Suez

0910hrs: Headsail up. About 6 miles out. No speed being indicated. Andy checks the log impeller to find it gummed up. Gives it a scrub and all set to go again. Drop the motor to neutral to test for sailing. Wind too fickle so continue motoring. Toasted tomato sandwiches all round.

1030hrs: Heading slightly west of south, O Khayam a few miles closer inshore, Esper trailing a couple of miles behind. Plenty of whitecaps about. Cloudless day about 20 deg. Roughly 18 miles to go. Ship traffic now more separated. Some fishing trawlers moving about and crossing our path either in front or behind. Put two fishing lures out astern, one a skirted lure and the other a glittering spoon. Slight seas. Wind from astern.

177 landfall 178 resorts
Right: Landfall – Wadi Dome in the Gulf of Suez ahead. New resort buildings at Wadi Dome.

1230hrs: Radio crackles to life. Moody Time at Wadi Dome can see a sail and wants to know if it’s Esper. Listen in. There’s some talk about the “the old hands” on Jenzminc.

1325hrs: The Old Hands tie up at a berth alongside Moody Time in the Wadi Dome Marina. Distance covered 30 miles. Shore power run. A man comes down to check our passports. Andy gathers ships papers to go and get our sailing permit and pay for our berthing tonight. No Wi-Fi network picked up. Expect Esper and O Khayam to be about another half hour. Can see their sails out on the horizon over the sea wall looking north.

Wadi Dome

Rather large marina with duckboard pontoons give access via rusted little bridges to a concrete roadway above on an adjacent sea wall. The pontoons tend to wobble from side to side as you walk on them making access to terra firma a somewhat delicate matter. The sea wall itself protects us against the predominant northerly winds and seas and although the wind moans through the rigging all night the boats are perfectly calm sitting inside the marina.

179 sv esper 180 berths
181 boats together Top Left: SV Esper pulling in.Top Right:Wobbly floats that pass for marina finger berths.

 

Left: From left, SV Jenzminc, SV Moody Time, SV Esper.

Lots of development going on. Many new shops most of which are not completed yet, restaurants, and a huge hotel/resort complex consisting of three buildings connected together. Heavy earthworks are terracing the hills above the coastal strip. Tall mountains behind and above them.

182 marina 183 new construction
marina view from berth new resorts being constructed – believed to be Russian developers

Colin and Patricia from Moody Time berthed here yesterday. Tell us they’ve had to wait for the Harbour Master who hasn’t shown up for work so they can’t get their permit. They were talking to a fellow who just happened to be the Marina owner. When told that only three yachts were coming in at a time, and that the Harbour Master was taking a little holiday he wasn’t a happy man. He immediately got onto his mobile phone and talked rapidly and quite heatedly to someone at the other end, no doubt blistering the listener’s ears. He then said everything would be ready shortly.

Afternoon: Jamie from Esper and Andy go around to the Harbour Masters Office. Sure enough the Harbour Master is in attendance and issues the required paperwork in about 15 minutes. The Harbour Master is ever so nice. The wind picks up even more, ululating loudly through the rigging of the tied up yachts and sending spray crashing over the roadway above.

The other yachts eventually arrive and tie up to a berth. Whilst chatting we toss a little friendly dig at Liz on Esper about her “old hands” comment, although it must be said we hadn’t been offended in the least. Liz assures us it was meant in the best possible way, I assume in the vein of old salts rather than old decrepits.

Late Afternoon: Go for a walk through Wadi Dome. There’s a huge resort/hotel complex consisting of three attached buildings, each one containing several hundreds of rooms and apartments. Very few lights show once it gets dark. Most of the shops are not leased out or even finished yet with windows still painted with a white coating.

Long row of large spas stacked along the front of the hotel waiting to be lifted into place somewhere high up above. Beautiful inside the resort building itself. A waterfall and small canal works its way along the front of shops inside with little bridges over it at convenient points. The supermarket is well stocked. Banks are still open though it’s now dark at 5 pm. Bushes and trees outside line the road festooned with timed flashing fairy lights.

Elsewhere there is new construction going on. A huge steel frame of a bridge module is being assembled along the front of the hotel. Can’t see where it will eventually go though. Lovely restaurants and coffee house, and a colourful stall sits on the wide vegetated pathway selling little balls of fried sweets that smell and look absolutely yummy. Unfortunately the promise of this place is once again jarred by the already accumulating rubbish and rubble out in the street.

184 new resort 185 wadi dome
newly finished resort with a somewhat pretentious arch under construction at left “downtown” Wadi Dome with large shopping centre at left
186 canal inside 187 marina restaurant
a canal inside the resort building marina restaurant

To the Australian eye it’s hard to understand what the attraction of this place is for tourists. No beaches – just rock. Water is crystal clear though so maybe it’s the diving. Notice there are lots of good sized pleasure yachts in the marina with several crew appearing to be living on board. We tend to get treated all the while to their indecipherable warbling music whether we want it or not.

Roger makes the point that it’s not really that far from a cold and wet wintery Europe and many Europeans probably only get a couple of weeks holiday a year. I suppose a place in the sun that’s quick to get to and relatively cheap would probably look pretty good to them.

Evening: Roger cooks saveloys, fried eggs, mash and tomatoes for dinner. No toilet or shower facilities so have to use Jenzmincs holding tank for the first time. Early to bed.

Mon 23 Nov 09

0730hrs: Most of the people on the yachts seem to all be up and moving around. Cuppa’s brewed. The Egyptians seem to have developed the intricate art of Horn Beeping. Not for them a boring barp on the horn, it has to be mixed with bips as well. To an ear once trained in Morse Code the various combinations have so far produced dee, c, f, at, and even aaa – a full stop. Decide to cast off and have brekkie on the way

0830hrs: Leave the marina heading ESE around a headland and push out into the Gulf of Suez. Motoring with mainsail up. French yacht O Khayam has already left and is maybe half a mile ahead.

map 15 Gulf of Suez
map 15 – Gulf of Suez

188 wadidome marina Left: Leaving Wadi Dome marina

0930hrs: Motor sailing with both the headsail and mainsail up. Wind light and still heading ESE with slight seas. Just need a bit more wind from the north. Distance covered 5.7 miles at 7.2 kts. Nice day just not cool enough to need a jumper offshore.

1000hrs: All along this coast are resort developments. The Egyptians must expect to draw massive numbers of tourists. Roger thinks that maybe the Europeans will probably buy up these buildings on a time-share basis, and he may be right. Dust is being raised everywhere by earth moving gear. All along the coast the horizon is masked by a khaki coloured dust haze. An extensive wind farm appears right across the area of the headlands stretching for several miles. Perhaps they’ll be used to power all these new buildings.

Caught up to O Khayam which is off to starboard about a mile away but closer inshore under headsail only. Seems to like following the coast this bloke. Turn SE to 150 deg True bringing the wind onto the port stern quarter. Turn the motor off about 10 minutes later and start sailing. Wind variable at 10 kts with variable boat speed around 6 kts. Slight seas. Lots of whitecaps – great sailing conditions.

1110hrs: Beautiful sailing. Cool but not cold breeze. Wind coming around more astern. Headsail starts flapping as it gets blanketed by the mainsail. Drop the spinnaker pole from its vertical position stored against the mast and use it to pole out the headsail. Wind from astern and sails goosewinged – one out each side of boat. Immediately start picking up speed.

Right: Oil rig with attendant ship189 oil rig

First oil rig appears ahead slightly off the starboard bow. Getting up to 7 kts speed in variable winds to 13 kts. Couple of ships in the distance. The sea is more of a deep blue than green with a depth of 58 metres.

1230hrs: Our first fish is caught once past the oil rig, a fine tuna worth two big slabs of red meat fillets for dinner. It had been eating squid and taken our red skirted lure. Bleed it in the cockpit by cutting the gills.

190 tunaLeft: fresh tuna for dinner

1430hrs: Wind drops down to around 4 kts. Motoring again.

1700hrs: Brilliant red dusk sunset to starboard. Black mountains stand out against a progressively red and orange band of coloured sky. Oil fields coming up on the port bow with lights of several of the rigs starting to appear.

1830hrs: Half moon. No wind and calm seas so no sails are up and motoring. Towns glide by ever so slowly as we follow the western coast of the Gulf of Suez. The lights of the towns don’t twinkle probably because there aren’t any trees. Three big glowing bonfires along the coast light up the sky, probably excess oil burns from the rigs or refineries.

1900hrs: Pass the biggest oil rig yet seen which is lit up like a small city. Another of those big bonfire like burns behind it onshore. The wind coming from wafts down on us bringing a pervasive stink like rotten egg gas that lasts several miles. Roger keeps trying to shift the blame for farting, but I’m clean.

An even bigger rig appears ahead off the starboard bow. From a distance it appears to sit like a small hill of white lights in a sea of orange fairy lights drifting across the sea, which are actually the lights of a coastal town called Ras Ghareb.

1950hrs: The big oil rig slides on by past our starboard beam and a second one appears further inshore, which we also keep to starboard. Decide to anchor for the night near Ras Ghareb so make our way slowly inshore keeping a check on the depth.

2030hrs: Anchor down. All feeling pretty tired. Too tired to cook up the tuna patties so just have some soup. Music on.

2120hrs: The anchorage is too uncomfortably rolly so pull up the anchor and motor back out to sea.

2300hrs: The four quick flashes from Ras Ghareb lighthouse sink slowly under the horizon behind. The lights of the town of Ras Shukheir spread out like an uneven wave of white fairly lights ahead off to starboard. Shipping has been quiet for a while but there are now three of them coming up from astern.

Tues 24 Nov 09

0400hrs: A large catamaran of about 120ft with two masts overtakes Jenzminc heading south. It has forward looking lights on both masts and a mainsail up on the back mast. Both masts are lit up. An impressive sight.

0600hrs: Uneventful night. Wind disappears so motor for the night, but pleasant even so. Several ships further out in the channel come out of the horizon haze and steam in a line north towards Suez.

Kind of strange to see all the islands completely bare of any vegetation or at least anything that can readily be seen. There might be occasional tufts of a tough kind of grass here and there but that’s about all. Roger comments that we’ve had mobile phone communications the whole time both through the Suez Canal and since Port Suez. We’re now entering the Red Sea proper with the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula due east off the port side.

The flashing light of Point Bluff is located on an offshore island and is coming up on the starboard side. It marks about 30 miles or so to our next destination at Hurghada as the crow flies, and is a major navigation mark for numerous islands and reefs on this part of the coast.

Andy amends our course to cut through inside the many islands now that it’s daylight. Our original course had been set to go around the outside by night, but we’ll be saving about 30 miles by sea. Heading roughly SW.

0820hrs: Anchor to the SE of Tawila Island in three metres depth. Can see the bottom on the way in at 12 metres. This place is named Port Endeavour on the chart. There’s nothing here except for two old stone house ruins ashore and the remains of an old jetty made of oil drums. Believe the ruins are old fishermen’s houses and there may have been some military activity in this area some time in the past. Hurghada is about 20 miles as the crow flies to the SSE. Distance covered from Wadi Dome to Port Endeavour is 123 miles.

Andy sights fish swimming nearby – big ones. Dinghy goes over the side and he goes ashore to have a wash. Water is a bit cold.

1300hrs: Lots of sleeping onboard. Wind sits at around 10 kts from the north. Brilliant day. Quiet. We’re in six metres of water and can see some black rocks on the seabed off the port side.

1400hrs: Yacht passing by out in the channel now drops its sails and starts motoring in.

1445hrs: It turns out to be Alice. Big hellos and grins all round. Another sail appears over the top of sand spit to the NE.

1500hrs: Full Flight motors in and anchors up. Report they’d had a great day’s sail.

 

191 alice 192 full flight
SV Alice – Alan on bow SV Full Flight

1530hrs: Alan of Alice capsizes his dinghy while climbing into it and takes a dive into the water. Standing applause given when he comes up looking a bit bedraggled.

1630hrs: Alan rows over for a chat. Hailá (pron is actually Harley) is suffering from a back problem. Some discussion on the merits of visiting Sudan and Eritrea. Alan does not intend to spend the entry fees to go there. Says he’s seen most of Africa and that the countries are pretty much all basket cases and filthy. In his view they will undoubtedly be even filthier and poorer than Egypt and their markets usually don’t have much. Given Alan’s experience it’s worth listening to his advice so we’ll have to think about it.

1800hrs: Alan departs. An open fishing boat with four men onboard motors up between the anchored yachts. Comes over the Jenzminc requesting water and produces a 40 litre plastic bottle. We haven’t any containers to siphon some water off so give them 3 x litre bottles of water. One of the men thanks us very politely using quite good English, takes a puff on his cigarette and pushes away not having allowed his boat to touch Jenzminc at any time. Good man.

They move off some distance and anchor up without showing any lights of any kind. Must have had a cold supper, if any. Later on the wind picks up to probably 15 kts with maybe some higher gusts. Starts to get pretty cool and I think about those guys sitting over there in that open boat. Certainly doing it tough.

Right: Dusk – local fisherman in little dinghy at centre right193 dusk

Jenzminc begins swinging around to her anchor but we’re well sheltered behind Tawila Island and the water is flat. Make up eight big tuna patties from one of the tuna fillets. Delma texts the recipe to me. Have no flour or breadcrumbs but some vegetable soup mix and a couple of eggs helps to hold each pattie together while cooking.

Half moon lights up our little bay. Early to bed. Spend a long night tossing and turning. Too much sleep during the day.

Weds 25 Nov 09

0800hrs: Wind still gusting and Jenzminc swings around but sits flat on the water. The fishermen from last night haven’t stirred. Can’t see any of them so they’re probably asleep. Must be cramped in that little boat though.

1020hrs: Anchor up and motor east out of the anchorage. Wind 17 kts from NW with whitecaps everywhere. Get out to sea a bit then turn SW towards Hurghada.

1230hrs: Andy lands a beautiful dolphin fish of around 70 cm or so, yellow body with speckled black spots and black topsides. Andy calls it the Rolls Royce of eating fish. If nothing else it is a very pretty fish.

194 dolphin fishLeft: Andy with a freshly caught dolphin fish

1300hrs: Hurghada a few miles off our starboard bow. Several motor yachts are anchored or moving about off an island a couple of miles away off the port bow. No diving flags can be seen but I don’t think that means too much here. A really big ocean going trimaran and catamaran are making their way into Hurghada Marina. Quite a lot of smoke is coming out the front of the catamaran. No flames but it does look like there might be a fire inside. As we continue to watch, the smoke clears without any apparent hustle or bustle onboard.

1415hrs: All secured to our finger berth in the marina with our power leads run. Hurghada looks a nice spot at first glance. Boats everywhere with plenty of big expensive motor launches and yachts. Andy and Roger take off to find the marina office and to buy a few things at the local grocery store if they can find one.

195 boat at hurghada 196 view hurghada marina
large pleasure vessels at Hurghada marina view from berth at Hurghada marina

Afternoon: Get the Wi-Fi marina secure internet connection working. Extremely slow even using our new antenna, which picks up several other secured networks with better signals. May have to look into it a bit more later. Check out the marina toilet facilities. There are about four public facilities. The one I look at has one toilet, one shower and two urinals. Looks like we’ll be taking showers onboard and just hope we don’t have to stand in line for the toilet.

Andy and Roger meet up with an Irish couple Liam and Tracy off a big catamaran named Happy Daze that’s been here for a while. They have to leave the boat for three months because their sailing permit has expired so they’re going home for Christmas.

Evening: I’m not really up for socialising tonight so Andy and Roger head off with Liam and Tracy to a restaurant for dinner. I eventually walk across to a restaurant in the marina and order a mixed grill and come back to the boat. Early to bed.

Hurghada – the sekala

map 14 Red Sea
Location of Hurghada on the Red Sea

Two decades ago Hurghada was a just small fishing village with a number of nice beaches. Today it is the most visited destination in the whole of Egypt with something like one million visitors a year and 200 hotels and 150,000 inhabitants. It even has its own international airport.

It’s located on the coast of the Red Sea and is a tourist strip, dozens of kilometres long. One of it’s attractions would be it’s beautiful clear water for diving and lots of coral reefs. Additionally the tourists, predominately Russian but also Greek can easily catch a bus from here to visit Luxor and Aswan on the Nile River. The scale of development along the coast is nothing short of astounding. Literally everywhere you look new buildings are going up.

The boat marina is in the “downtown” area called Sekala and is of international standard with lots of bars, restaurants and souks – small shops. Boats moor to finger berths either stern or bow to. However the marina itself is subject to constant swells causing the boats to rock about pretty much most of the time. It can get to be annoying for the boaties after a while especially when the wind picks up because it can get quite uncomfortable.

There is a Wi-Fi marina network, but it doesn’t seem to have enough bandwidth to cater for the amount of traffic. As a result the internet speed can often be less than 1Kb/sec, or more usually not at all. Found the best time is during the morning when it can be quite acceptable. It’s workable but generally unreliable.

The main road gets busy with both people and vehicle traffic. It’s lined with all sorts of shops and can get glitzy in places given that it’s all for tourists. There is a preponderance of pharmacies, jewellery and souvenir shops selling shisha – large glass bottles with hoses like elaborate bongs for puffing smoke which is usually a fruit flavour. The rest of the place is pretty much like what we’ve seen in the rest of Egypt with unfinished buildings everywhere.

The Egyptians seem to have this penchant for starting out with grand plans for a project then losing interest. Whatever you look at will have a shoddy finish. A classic example is its “finished” buildings. They will go to some trouble making the frontage looks really nice but leave the sides completely untouched with holes showing irregularly through the raw, uneven brickwork.

Thurs 26 Nov 09

Morning: Another beautiful cloudless day. Water in the marina is literally the light blue colour of a backyard pool except not so clear. Pretty much a steady flow of people walking along the quay over towards the big motor launches. These are leaving in a steady flow and packed with tourists heading out through the marina entrance. There’s certainly no shortage of tourists.

Easy morning aboard. Inspected a small yacht berthed nearby looking a little worse for wear. Appears to be abandoned but there’s no sign on it. Owner probably left it here to go home for a while maybe? Take a casual stroll around the marina complex to see what’s around. Heaps of different types of restaurants and shops of all kinds. Couple of bars one of which is apparently Russian owned that supposedly has girlie shows. The Wi-Fi internet is almost useless although Andy manages to have a Skype chat with Jenni.

197 yacht 198 marina
199 marina shops Top Left: Unattended yacht in the marina

Top Right: Marina view

Left: Marina forecourse

Afternoon: Three of us put our backpacks on and walk into Sekala just outside the marina gate. The usual grubby type of town except this one is perhaps amongst the cleanest I’ve seen with one exception. The butcher shops have sheep and goats penned up right beside the shop and slaughter them as required on the spot. Apparently because it’s a religious festival this week. Bits of ribs laying on the ground, carcasses hanging up with a shitty tail still attached and a rich smell pervading the area.

200 hurghada 201 penned sheep
street scene sheep for slaughter during a
religious festival
202 green light timer 203 killing sheep
green traffic lights with countdown timer a sheep being weighed for sale

Do some stock-up shopping and meet with an Irish couple Liam and Tracey of Happy Daze – a large catamaran, while they’re having a beer at the Roma Restaurant and bar. Order Nescafe coffees. A scruffy individual in one of those full length dresses and wearing a towel type turban in the Arab style approaches to tell me that one of my sandals is “kaput”. Indeed, the stitching is coming away from a side flap. He shows me some heavy twine and needles and offers to fix it for £10.

Tracy and Liam immediately jump in demanding £5, which our chap looking from them to me agrees to. He takes my sandal away leaving me feeling a little foolish sitting there with just one sandal on, but returns in about half an hour with it all stitched up. Cost about Aus $1.00. Sincere encouragement from the Irish couple to bargain. About half the price is about what you should end up paying for anything.

Back at the boat Roger tells us that we all need to contribute US$400 and €200 to top up the sailing kitty. That should see us pretty much through the Red Sea to Aden as far as fees and fuel goes at least that we can predict at this time. Check the marina notice board for the location of a bank so that I can get some US Dollars and Euros. Where there was supposed to be a bank turns out to be empty premises. Go back to the boat to find the internet working okay now so go online and check the various exchange rates.

204 traditional yachtLeft: traditional yacht in the marina

Later while taking another walk I find a different bank called HSBC in the marina complex. Withdraw Egyptian Pounds from the ATM and then exchange it for US Dollars and Euro’s at the bank counter for a reasonable price. The only limitation is that the ATM will only allow withdrawals of £3000 EGY at a time (about AUS $600).

Alice has arrived. Say g’day. Tracy and Liam come over to Jenzminc to take a look. They are impressed and express a desire for something smaller than their catamaran which has five cabins. They stay for a quick drink then depart to do some last minute tidying up. They’ll be flying out of Hurghada tomorrow because they’ve had some problem with their sailing permit apparently caused by the Egyptian authorities, and have to leave their boat here. Later in the afternoon Alan and Hailá come around for a chat.

1645hrs: The droning monotony of numerous amplified calls to prayers spreads out over the marina. They don’t seem to be as expressive here as in other places. A rather convoluted boring and loud moaning sound.
205 minaret
Right: local minaret

Evening: Andy and Roger go out socialising. Andy has a long and interesting chat with a Swiss man named Walter Hedinger off Sepia who is an electrical designer and who knows quite a bit about using the SailMail communications software.

Fri 27 Nov 09

Not much happening today. Many of the commercial power cruise boats heading out of the marina are loaded up as usual with tourists. Earlier in the morning two young Egyptian men stood at the end of the finger taking photos of each other combing their hair and posing with the yachts in the background. European tourists sometimes wander past Jenzminc looking curiously at us. Sometimes we get a smile and a hello.

Lots of sleeping and reading books. Roger and I walk into town which is just a couple hundred metres away and tour the shops. Touts outside almost every shop or restaurant trying to get us inside. One of them outside a cafe/bar where you order coffee or beer asked, “Where you from”?
“Australia”
“China?”
“ Aus- tray-liah” (with more emphasis),
“… China?”
“ Do I look Chinese to you?” (Is my accent that bad?)
“Oh … where you from?”

Sekalas main road is busy during the day but at night it really comes to life. Many of the shops don’t open until the afternoon and work until late in the evening. Lots and lots and lots of shops, pretty much all selling mostly the same stuff; cotton clothes, souvenirs including an abundance of shishas, jewellery that is mostly silver and gold, and chemist shops. Every second shop seems to be a jewellery shop. There are heaps of barber shops too.

206 shops hurghada 207 jewellery shop
Hurghada shops shisha’s for sale

We grab a table in a cafe. Roger has a beer while I get a coffee. He settles in so I leave him there and return slowly to the boat. On the way I find a place selling ice creams in wafer cones at £5 a scoop. I’ll have three scoops please. Back in the marina there’s another ice cream shop which is selling ice cream cones at £10 a scoop. Not a bad mark-up if you can get away with it. Walk around the far quay to check out the large commercial motor yachts. All the gardens are being watered with “grey” water i.e. washing up type water and it stinks to high heaven. The various pubs and night time establishments have a wonderful night
belting out all kinds of amplified music until about 5 am.

Hurghada and the Feast of Sacrifice

Sat 28 Nov 09

1100hrs: The three of us wander up to one of the local marina restaurants called B’s inside the marina. A German couple run it and although there are Egyptian staff there’s another German lady working here. Order breakfasts of various kinds. The two women are quite friendly and ready for a chat. One is from Dusseldorf and the other comes from an island somewhere that I don’t catch.

They come down later to Jenzminc for a quick look around before returning to their restaurant. They offer to supply Christmas Dinner to the rally people for a good price but warn us to book early.

Andy and I go into town and after walking around in circles for a while manage to find a laundry shop. We’d actually passed it earlier but hadn’t noticed. The price is £1 an item. Return to the boat, collect my washing and take it back. The young lad behind the counter named Mohammed simply bundles the clothes into a plastic bag and puts it on the shelf. Now maybe it’s my suspicious character but I ask him, “How much for this washing?”
“Tomorrow”.
“Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow. But how much will you charge me for it?”
“Tomorrow”.
I pull out my wallet and indicate, “Price … what price? You count it”.
Our chap empties everything onto the floor and counts each item. He counts four handkerchiefs as one item, two underpants as one item and one sheet as two items. I nod acceptance.
“Okay then the price is £20 and I’ll pick it up tomorrow?”
He nods acceptance and then, “Tonight … 7 o’clock”.
Okay, at least we’re agreed on a price and there’s less of a chance of it getting jacked up tonight, or tomorrow or whenever I get to pick it up.

Many of the shops are closed today. We learn it’s the Eid El-Adha or Feast of Sacrifice lasting four days and is the most important feast in the Muslim calendar, which concludes the Pilgrimage to Mecca. It commemorates Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son. God stopped him and told him to sacrifice a ram instead. The Muslims believe the son was not Isaac as told in the Old Testament but Ismaiel, the forefather of Arabs.

We’re seeing a lot of animals being killed in the streets. Blood is literally lying around in puddles in the streets. Watch where you’re walking in the street … all the time. The family is supposed to eat a third and give the rest to the poor. It also means visits to relatives, extended families and the graves of relatives, and the distribution of sweets. Gifts are customarily exchanged. We see a group of men standing around a large butcher’s wooden block mounted on legs talking earnestly to each other. On the block is an upturned head of a bullock whose glazed eyes look on dispassionately with several flies buzzing around it.

208 signLeft: A street sign showing the Muslim view of religion compared to the Christian view starting from Abraham

Passing a corner two young boys appear to be sucking the blood from a vein in the back leg of the carcasses of two sheep with the wool still attached, but no heads. A number of other young boys stand around watching or beating on the carcass stomachs, which makes me think they might in fact be trying to blow the skin up like a balloon. For whatever purpose beats me.

Two more yachts come in during the afternoon, Roam II and Full Flight. Wash down Jenzminc with detergent.

Evening: A stage is getting set up as dusk falls on the concourse of the marina. Already there is band equipment being loaded onto it. Looks like a long evening ahead. Have a stew for dinner. Roger and Andy leave for a couple of drinks at one of the local marina restaurant/pubs and meet up with some of the Poms from other rally yachts … no names, no pack drill. At the insistence of one of them they all troop out for a meal of seafood in town. Our boys tell them they’ll go with them but won’t be eating since they’ve already had dinner back on the boat.

The Poms order a meal of seafood including three kg of prawns that on its own costs £560. Andy and Roger end up sharing one of the three bowls of calamari worth £60 and Andy has two of the prawns. The full price of the meal ends up at £890. Surprise …. the Brits want everyone to go shares-ies.

Sun 29 Nov 09

0100hrs. Music in the marina drops off … blessed quiet.

Day: Normal casual morning. Skype calls home. Been expecting more rally yachts to turn up but no sign yet. Two more yachts Divante and Esper turn up. Both boats pull up beside Jenzminc cutting off potential access to Lo Brust of Mistral and his yapping bloody dogs. Everyone troops down to a local pub for lunch and drinkies. Jenzminc keeps a separate account this time, though that doesn’t stop the Poms from wanting shares-ies again. Go out to collect the washing. Talk to young Mohammed the Laundry Man. Am told it won’t be ready until 7 o’clock tonight – he’s said the same thing yesterday.

Andy returns to the boat to tell me that a request has been made for the Australians from Jenzminc to present some sort of show for a proposed variety show sometime around New Year. At the moment we’re sort of thinking about one of Henry Lawson’s poems about a chap who got a spider bite. Some research of course will be necessary. We’ll probably do the corny thing and play Waltzing Matilda. I’ll play the guitar while Andy and Roger flog the crowd and make them sing. If they’re drunk enough maybe they won’t notice the strangled tone of my singing.

Evening: Over to Alice for dinner. The boys and girl crack open a bottle of Egyptian red wine called Omar Khayyam. They all say it’s a nice drop. Never did like red wine. Always tasted like vinegar to me. Hailá has prepared a lovely chicken stir fry. Says she couldn’t prepare anything special because she couldn’t get the ingredients. Needn’t have worried. The meal is excellent followed by a dessert of fruit and cream. Beautiful. Coffees.

Talk turns inevitably to things boating. A beep goes off which Alan says comes on when the fridge compressor starts up. Keeps intending to disconnect the alarm but it’s one of those jobs that never seems to leave the list of things to do. Talk turns to battery charging. Andy announces he’s going to fit a new wind-charger which he has on board but hasn’t installed yet. Seems Stan from Full Flight is some kind of professional stainless steel man who might agree to assist.

Right: A traditional boat in the marina209 gulet

Fairly early evening getting to bed. Blood curdling female screams rending the quieter periods between the rock music but everything’s okay. It’s just a big bungie thing called a Rocket Bungie. They strap you into a little cage then fire you up into the sky. It plummets up and down a few times high above the ground before slowly dropping you back to the ground.

Mon 30 Nov 09

Skype call home. Had received a bit of worrying news by text message from Delma back home during the night. She’s down in Sydney at the moment visiting our daughter Lydia. The news isn’t particularly good but nothing can be achieved by my flying home. Really impressed with being able to use this Skype system. It’s got its problems but for the price – who cares?

Andy spends a part of the morning measuring up and talking to Stan about installing the wind-generator. We then go up to the laundry and retrieve our washing. Andy buys a Canon printer/scanner at one of the local shops and some rope at another place just down the road. Many of them are still shut for the four-day holiday. Back at the boat Roger has been busy cleaning out all the interior of the boat wiping down everything with a cleaning anti-septic spray mix. He’s just finishing up as Andy and I return. Boat is looking good. All the Poms are gathered together in the cockpit of Esper.

Have problems getting the new printer set up. Computer won’t recognise the printer no matter what we do. Re-install the whole thing several times. Download and update new drivers. Nothing.

Have pizzas for dinner. Watch a movie stored on a portable hard drive, on the laptop.

Tues 1 Dec 09

1000hrs: Take the computer back to the shop to find it still closed.

Walk around to a shop selling stainless steel that we’d seen earlier but which had been closed over the holidays. It’s now open. With the language barrier it’s a bit difficult getting through what we want but the bloke seems to know his business at least. We want three metres of grade 316 stainless pipe with a three millimetre wall on which to mount the wind generator. Try explaining that to someone who doesn’t speak much English. The shopkeeper says he can get a piece of pipe in by 2 pm today and it will cost £1250 (about $250 AUS). Pretty expensive. Andy tells him he’ll think about it and leaves the shop.

Return to the computer shop. Still closed. Andy asks a nearby shop where he’d bought the rope yesterday. He indicates the owner is probably sleeping, and that he’ll probably open up around 11 am. Sit down on the steps to wait. Notice the number plates on cars have both Roman and Arabic numbers. We occupy our time by learning Arabic numbers. Some stores take advantage of tourists not being able to read the marked prices on things. You can pay up to 100% more.

While thus employed a middle age man with a heavily lined but friendly face, wearing dirty trousers and with a gimpy left leg shuffles by waving and smiling at all and sundry. Says hello to us. Comes back later holding a piece of paper with the telephone number in Arabic and Roman numerals of the computer store on it. On learning we don’t have a mobile phone with us, rings the number himself. No answer. Gives us the piece of paper, wishes us a good morning and leaves.

Traffic starting to build up. Dust beginning to hang in clouds in the street. Look up and down the length of the street. Filled with dirt piles in the gutters, rocks and brick rubble, litter and plastic bags spilling food scraps and various bits of goat droppings. There is only one large rubbish bin and it’s lying on its side. Dirty washing water is getting thrown out onto the road or vacant land beside the buildings. It’s not hard to feel the stirrings of disgust that people just seem to accept living in this filth.

Within a stone’s throw of where we sit is just one of any number of large unfilled gaps or deep potholes in the bitumen roads everywhere. Those who aren’t travelling too fast tend to slow down to negotiate them. The only rubbish collection I’ve seen this entire trip so far was one man pushing a bin on wheels at Ismailia manually picking up mounds of rubbish.

There is a real feeling of walking through a war zone passing through the back streets. People are living in cement hovels. Scraggy, dirty children playing in the streets. Skeletons of buildings everywhere. Remains of previous building foundations left in place. Haphazard street layouts. Footpaths, once beautifully tiled have large areas ripped up leaving holes for the unwary. I assume someone has taken the missing footpath tiles away to put to better use somewhere else – like in their own home. Builders just throw off-cuts of brick and other materials onto the ground and into the street where it lays discarded. Isn’t a surprising attitude by the population I suppose when there doesn’t seem to be any real effort of council rubbish collection.

With time on my hands to reflect on the squalor all around I suppose it should be kept in mind that water is a valuable commodity and not to be wasted on things like washing down footpaths or advertising signs. And it’s possible that much of the Egyptian national budget is allocated to the military and police. I’m told the Israeli’s allocate something like 46% towards its military given that they tend to have wars now and then with its neighbours. And the Egyptians aren’t backwards when it comes to stirring things up and fighting other people, including Arabs. They do seem to erect some pretty good murals and memorials, even when they get their arse kicked.
So I guess it’s possible there isn’t much money trickling down from the national government, and there can be no doubt corruption is rife at all levels. It’s probably fair to say that whatever government funds are granted is being siphoned off somewhere before it gets anywhere near municipal funding, and what’s left is probably getting skimmed off by local petty officials.

Perhaps the lack of civic services is because the cities simply can’t raise enough funds since the money isn’t there amongst the population. It’s doesn’t take much observation to see there are two groups – the haves and the have nots. It must be said most of the people look to be exceedingly poor.

However this is a rather gloomy close up view of the place. A superficial view of it I suppose isn’t too bad. There’s plenty of new and exciting, artistic looking buildings around to brighten it up. You have to say the Egyptians are optimists. There are masses of new buildings underway and they’re calling Hurghada the “new Dubai”. Unfortunately they don’t seem to ever properly finish anything they start.

1100hrs: The computer shop man turns up and invites us inside. Andy explains the problem. The salesman offers to replace the printer. We suggest he try a different USB cable first. After trying three different cables the printer springs to life. Do a test of the scanner. No problem. We’re now all set or printing and scanning documents on board. If we need extra copies of anything we can simply print or scan them off without having to try and find a photocopy shop somewhere.

Back onboard. Hailá comes over to ask me to have a look at their computer. They have a Garmin GPS which used to communicate quite happily with their old computer but won’t recognise the new computer. With the view that two heads are better than one, spend a bit of time on Alice but can’t get too far with it. Decide to wait until tomorrow morning for a reliable internet connection to find out the meaning of a Windows error code.

Afternoon: Storm Dodger, Moody Time and Rhumb Do arrive and tie up.

1430hrs: The afternoon the regular Babbling Moans as I now refer to them, drift out from the numerous minarets around. Have a power nap.

Evening: Have dinner onboard. Do some computer work.

Weds 2 Dec 09

Late start to the day. Spend most of the morning working with Alan and Hailá on a couple of computer issues. Manage to get one of them solved but the other concerning getting the laptop to recognise the GPS is ongoing.

1400hrs: A group of Brits and ourselves are going to a local brewery at nearby El Gouna, about 4km or so away. At least I think it’s a brewery. Some mention has been made of wine tasting. A chap named Graham is our leader and at the front gate to the marina hails down 4 taxis. He gives each one of them instructions where to go. The fare is to be no more than £10.

Don’t much like the look of our driver. Appears to have the shits about something. Doesn’t look at us or say anything, just sits there with a grim set to his mouth. Takes off suddenly before everybody else. Off we go heading in the general direction of El Gouna. Not too long after he pulls up. Doesn’t say anything so we get out. Pay him his £10 and he takes off. Look around. No brewery. Not a clue where we are. We’re stranded with no idea where to go.

Some locals gather around each offering volubly to take us somewhere, and asking prices ranging from £20 to £100. They think it hilarious when I give them the sign which I think loosely means “get stuffed” in Italian i.e. left hand on right bicep, clench the right fist, raise and lower the right forearm up high repeatedly … but I think they got the message.

With no other real options we start walking. Ask for directions at a Vodaphone shop where the young man pulls out an English to Arabic translator device. Tells us the brewery is on the High Road. Getting further information out of him is a bit like extracting teeth. Graham tells us the next day it isn’t on the High Road. It’s actually in El Gouna about 20 km away and that the Egyptians will tell a lie rather than admit they don’t know. It’s a face saving thing apparently. We were supposed to get the taxi to a bus stop then take a bus from there.

Walking, walking. Get to a big intersection. Still no brewery in sight. Pull over a couple of unhelpful taxi drivers whose only English appeared to be “hello” and “okay”, the latter used in answer to every question. Then one turns up that seems to know where to go. Nods his head wisely when the brewery is mentioned. Says, “Sakara” (with an “r”) which clinches it, as that’s the name of one of the beers here. Should have listened a bit more closely. Set the price which requires me to walk away from him before he relents and we all climb in. Away we go heading back the way we came.

Driving, driving. See a road sign pointing to Sekala. He turns onto it. Then another road sign to Sekala. He follows it. At this point we hadn’t known Sekala is the area where the marina is located. Pull over driver. Pay him his money and get out. Look along the street and there is our familiar mosque landmark, which is just a short distance from the Roma Restaurant and a few hundred metres from Jenzminc a couple of short blocks away.

Order a pizza for lunch, have a couple of beers or coffee, then spend a bit of time looking around the shops before returning to the boat.

Evening: Roger cooks dinner. Early to bed.

Hurghada – Is this your sex?

Week Thurs 3 to Weds 9 Dec 09

The days are starting to blend much the same as each other. Andy and Roger attempt to go to the brewery again. I think it’s their intention to stock up with grog for the trip ahead. In any case they learn that the place is booked out and arrange to go on Sunday.

Andy picks up his stainless steel pipe at the reduced price of £1035 (I think) plus a couple of 24mm stainless support tubes. He also arranges a welding shop to get a couple of stainless steel brackets made up.

210 oil change210 oil changeLeft: Andy changes the engine oil

Have dinner at the Heaven Bistro on Friday evening, which is just a short walk from the marina. Germans run this place as well. Have Weiner Schnitzel which is quite good. Go uptown alone to see if I can get a new battery fitted to my watch. Prices range from £40 to £60. Wary of the ones that want to know where I’m from. What has that got to do with anything? The bloke at Festival Jewellery offers to fix it for €20 but finally agrees to £50. Wander along the street for half an hour.

Watch a scraggy looking European girl with unwashed plaited long hair doing some kind of pseudo fire dance in a side street. Reminds me a lot of the hippy looking people you’ll often see at markets in Australia. She’s swinging these little fiery balls around and leaping about. Must admit she’s reasonably graceful about it. Corny really but at least the young Egyptian males and some tourists standing around seem to like it. Maybe it’s the hairy armpits.

Walk up and down looking for the jewellery shop. There’s so many of them and I can’t find it. Eventually spot the guy standing outside on the footpath having a smoke and he indicates the watch is ready. This is the place. Asks for £100. Give him the £50. Asks for £5 for himself. I’m relieved enough to have finally found the place that I give him the £5.

211 goat packsRight: Incomplete buildings and goat packs are common.

Saturday – Andy’s birthday. Spend part of the day looking for other fittings to mount the wind generator, and a little bulb for the oil temperature sender light which has blown. Early evening a group of yachties assemble at his favourite Roma Restaurant for drinkies and a celebratory feed.

Sunday – Roger, Andy and Maurice head off to El Gouna for a wine tasting at the Egyptian Brewing Company. They own a company called Cheers which distributes their beers and wines. The wine maker and his wife present a good tour with an interesting history of wine making in Egypt going back to 3,100 BC. The grapes are grown at 3000 feet in Alexandria. There’s something like about 20 different varieties of wines.

213 haircut day213 haircut dayLeft: Haircut day

They then travel to Abu Tig just up north a bit where Andy has a satisfying chat with a man who runs the SailMail system in that area. Andy’s had some concerns about not being able to access SailMail from Abu Tig. Back in Sekala Andy is able to obtain some more parts for his wind generator system.

In the meantime I visit a supposed medical laboratory, which is a grand description for two small rooms filled with small shelves, but am not successful in getting a new sleep apnoea mask. Oxygen mask – yes. Sleep Apnoea – no. Told I won’t be able to get one in Egypt. They didn’t even seem to know what it was.

Monday – The boy’s supplies of beer and wine arrive. They’ve got Egyptian Sakara and Luxor beer, Egyptian or Arab Auld Stag blended whiskey, Lebanese Kesrouan arak and Egyptian red, white and rose Shahrazada wines. They say they now have enough for the rest of the trip. Roger spends the day going from the seat to the toilet having caught a stomach bug. Esper returns having been away for a few days anchored out somewhere south of Hurghada with visiting family. Andy spends some time looking at assembling the mounting for the wind generator.

Tuesday – Long discussion between Andy, Alan and I in the cockpit on electrical issues installing the wind generator – length of wire and wire gauge, meters, fuses, switches. Plan slowly coming together. Roger almost over the stomach bug but not quite. Gets some pills from one of the many pharmacies.

Wednesday – Roger still has tummy problems. Andy too tired to bother with dinner so I go uptown to find a bite to eat. Order Mexican Chicken with Fries at a footpath table in front of a hotel, an order which somehow translates into Crumbed Calamari with Fries. Thought the chicken was a bit soft and rubbery at first until I realise. It’s quite good though with a nice sauce so just accept it. Am learning here that whatever is on the menu is exactly what you get … if you are lucky. And you don’t get vegies or side plates if they aren’t on the menu.

As I’m paying the bill a well dressed, neat looking bloke probably in his mid-thirties is sitting on a bicycle in the street and calling out, “Hello”. He gives me a curious kind of wave. Look around to confirm it’s me he’s waving to. Politely give him a wave back. Seems pretty intent so I wonder what he wants. Probably trying to sell me something so decide to ignore him and start walking up the street. Trundles up on his bicycle beside me.

“Where you from”?

“Australia”.

Extends his hand, “Welcome to Hurghada”.

“Thank you”, I said taking his proffered hand to give it a shake. He doesn’t let go. Starts giving it little squeezes. He mumbles something almost unintelligible. I think I catch the word “room”.

“What”? Am starting to get uncomfortable.

“This is your sex”? he says, still gripping my hand giving it little squeezes and looking everywhere but at me.

Revelation! “No. Not at all. Gotta catch a bus”. Retrieve my hand and get away from him, somewhat amused by the experience.

Back at the boat Andy says the crew of Divante have returned from a trip to Luxor. They say it wasn’t a patch on Cairo. Roger and Andy propose to go to Luxor from Port Ghalib further down the coast. The distance to Luxor is likely to be less from there than here. Sounds fine by me. The loose plan is still to visit Luxor, catch a train to Aswan then take a boat down the Nile back to Luxor, or the other way around.

Thurs 10 Dec 09

Thursday Andy wants everyone off the boat so he can run the cables for the wind generator. It’s going to mean stripping beds and things out to get to the hull. Roger heads off into town while I decide to check out the Red Sea Aquarium. I’ve got no idea where it is other than it’s about 5 km or so north. The security blokes at the front gate are helpful. They pull over a cab and tell him where I want to go and to charge no more than £15. Away we go. Friendly enough driver. After several kilometres I’m starting to get a bit concerned until I see the Red Sea Aquarium sign. I’d been told it was just across from the Hurghada General Hospital and there it is.

Pull out £15 – thank you very much. A look of amazement on the driver’s face, “No – £50”.

Try to haggle him down but he’s quite adamant. Probably mistook 15 for 50 in the translation from Arabic to Arabic. Give him the £50, tell him he’s rude and get out. Shit – ripped off again. There’s no doubt they’re good at it. He’s already leaning over to grab the door in case I slam it. I don’t. But perhaps he’s learned from experience.

Walk inside the premises with the Red Sea Aquarium sign. A few blokes standing around. Some cleaning the place. No sign of any fishes or tanks. Go out the back. Follow a red sign down some stairs and around the back of the building. Here it is. A lady in an open faced burka is absorbed reading the Koran. Have to wait until she finishes a particular passage then takes my £15 entry fee. Maybe a dozen or so tanks mostly with various angelfish, puffer-fish, wrasse. There were also a small collection of moray eels, stingrays, turtles and white tip reef sharks. Very colourful fish and the displays are nice, though a bit limited. Wonder why it reached the exalted pages of an old Lonely Planets Guide.

Go back upstairs. After this small anti-climax it looks like I can get some coffee here while I consider my next move. Speak to a bloke with disconcertedly crossed eyes standing behind the counter and order a Nescafe. Waiting, waiting. We’re on Egypt time. I think they’re boiling the water. Am about to leave when I’m told, “One minute”. Waiting, waiting. Eventually it comes. Remove the muddy looking frothy stuff from the top but find the coffee itself seems to be okay. Vivid recollections of Roger sitting on the toilet for the last two days but am distracted by a highly affectionate tabby pussy cat who intimates herself onto my lap, thoroughly enjoys a scratch then looks up to stare deeply into my eyes and meow at me. No … I can’t take you home.

I’ve only got a £50 note for the £7 cup of coffee and they can’t give me change. One of them goes outside and starts hailing down taxis with no apparent result. Finally returns having cashed it somewhere. I just ask for £40 change and still keep a little bit of evil satisfaction for them taking so long.

Walk along the footpath for a while. Am on the lookout for some sox which I can’t seem to find anywhere, and a light jumper or sweater. Also forgot a cap so might as well get one with “Hurghada” on it while I’m here. A tout calls me into his shop after I indicate a cap. Manage to buy a cap but all the sweaters have Diving or Puma or some other Americanised writing on it and in any case, they want too much. They try to sell me some white sox. They’re stretchy but way too small, like half sized. Despite that they keep trying to sell it.

“Hello … it’s around the ankle, it fits okay?” demonstrating by wrapping his hands around his own ankle.

“ Not where I come from sunshine”, I tell them. It must be pointed out that the use of “hello” is generally to attract attention to something, not used in a derogatory sense.

My penance for not taking enough care with the taxi driver is to walk back to the boat. Besides I need the exercise. Along the way an instant family of a male and female dog trot along happily beside me for a kilometre or so, occasionally nudging my pockets looking for a titbit. But after reaching the end of the beach section where I was walking, they promptly drop me and attach themselves to some tourists walking the other way. A taxi pulls up next to the tourists and the dogs run out, bite the tyres and bark at the driver as if to say, “This one’s mine – piss off”. Even the dogs have an angle.

214 hurghada hospital 215 para sailing
Hurghada General Hospital Tourists parasailing off one of the resort beaches
216 new resorts 217 creeping desert
New resorts being built everywhere The Sahara Desert comes right up to the coast
218 hand built 219 innovative design
Most construction is done by hand Building designs can be innovative

The sun is just going down and it’s starting to get quite cool when I get back to the boat. Andy and Roger are enjoying the first of their sundowners in the cockpit. Andy tells me the cables from the battery charger to the battery run a different path to what he thought, and he’ll have to try and run the wind generator cables again tomorrow.

Week Thurs 3 to Weds 9 Dec 09

The days are starting to blend much the same as each other. Andy and Roger attempt to go to the brewery again. I think it’s their intention to stock up with grog for the trip ahead. In any case they learn that the place is booked out and arrange to go on Sunday.

Andy picks up his stainless steel pipe at the reduced price of £1035 (I think) plus a couple of 24mm stainless support tubes. He also arranges a welding shop to get a couple of stainless steel brackets made up.

210 oil change210 oil changeLeft: Andy changes the engine oil

Have dinner at the Heaven Bistro on Friday evening, which is just a short walk from the marina. Germans run this place as well. Have Weiner Schnitzel which is quite good. Go uptown alone to see if I can get a new battery fitted to my watch. Prices range from £40 to £60. Wary of the ones that want to know where I’m from. What has that got to do with anything? The bloke at Festival Jewellery offers to fix it for €20 but finally agrees to £50. Wander along the street for half an hour.

Watch a scraggy looking European girl with unwashed plaited long hair doing some kind of pseudo fire dance in a side street. Reminds me a lot of the hippy looking people you’ll often see at markets in Australia. She’s swinging these little fiery balls around and leaping about. Must admit she’s reasonably graceful about it. Corny really but at least the young Egyptian males and some tourists standing around seem to like it. Maybe it’s the hairy armpits.

Walk up and down looking for the jewellery shop. There’s so many of them and I can’t find it. Eventually spot the guy standing outside on the footpath having a smoke and he indicates the watch is ready. This is the place. Asks for £100. Give him the £50. Asks for £5 for himself. I’m relieved enough to have finally found the place that I give him the £5.

211 goat packsRight: Incomplete buildings and goat packs are common.

Saturday – Andy’s birthday. Spend part of the day looking for other fittings to mount the wind generator, and a little bulb for the oil temperature sender light which has blown. Early evening a group of yachties assemble at his favourite Roma Restaurant for drinkies and a celebratory feed.

Sunday – Roger, Andy and Maurice head off to El Gouna for a wine tasting at the Egyptian Brewing Company. They own a company called Cheers which distributes their beers and wines. The wine maker and his wife present a good tour with an interesting history of wine making in Egypt going back to 3,100 BC. The grapes are grown at 3000 feet in Alexandria. There’s something like about 20 different varieties of wines.

213 haircut day213 haircut dayLeft: Haircut day

They then travel to Abu Tig just up north a bit where Andy has a satisfying chat with a man who runs the SailMail system in that area. Andy’s had some concerns about not being able to access SailMail from Abu Tig. Back in Sekala Andy is able to obtain some more parts for his wind generator system.

In the meantime I visit a supposed medical laboratory, which is a grand description for two small rooms filled with small shelves, but am not successful in getting a new sleep apnoea mask. Oxygen mask – yes. Sleep Apnoea – no. Told I won’t be able to get one in Egypt. They didn’t even seem to know what it was.

Monday – The boy’s supplies of beer and wine arrive. They’ve got Egyptian Sakara and Luxor beer, Egyptian or Arab Auld Stag blended whiskey, Lebanese Kesrouan arak and Egyptian red, white and rose Shahrazada wines. They say they now have enough for the rest of the trip. Roger spends the day going from the seat to the toilet having caught a stomach bug. Esper returns having been away for a few days anchored out somewhere south of Hurghada with visiting family. Andy spends some time looking at assembling the mounting for the wind generator.

Tuesday – Long discussion between Andy, Alan and I in the cockpit on electrical issues installing the wind generator – length of wire and wire gauge, meters, fuses, switches. Plan slowly coming together. Roger almost over the stomach bug but not quite. Gets some pills from one of the many pharmacies.

Wednesday – Roger still has tummy problems. Andy too tired to bother with dinner so I go uptown to find a bite to eat. Order Mexican Chicken with Fries at a footpath table in front of a hotel, an order which somehow translates into Crumbed Calamari with Fries. Thought the chicken was a bit soft and rubbery at first until I realise. It’s quite good though with a nice sauce so just accept it. Am learning here that whatever is on the menu is exactly what you get … if you are lucky. And you don’t get vegies or side plates if they aren’t on the menu.

As I’m paying the bill a well dressed, neat looking bloke probably in his mid-thirties is sitting on a bicycle in the street and calling out, “Hello”. He gives me a curious kind of wave. Look around to confirm it’s me he’s waving to. Politely give him a wave back. Seems pretty intent so I wonder what he wants. Probably trying to sell me something so decide to ignore him and start walking up the street. Trundles up on his bicycle beside me.

“Where you from”?

“Australia”.

Extends his hand, “Welcome to Hurghada”.

“Thank you”, I said taking his proffered hand to give it a shake. He doesn’t let go. Starts giving it little squeezes. He mumbles something almost unintelligible. I think I catch the word “room”.

“What”? Am starting to get uncomfortable.

“This is your sex”? he says, still gripping my hand giving it little squeezes and looking everywhere but at me.

Revelation! “No. Not at all. Gotta catch a bus”. Retrieve my hand and get away from him, somewhat amused by the experience.

Back at the boat Andy says the crew of Divante have returned from a trip to Luxor. They say it wasn’t a patch on Cairo. Roger and Andy propose to go to Luxor from Port Ghalib further down the coast. The distance to Luxor is likely to be less from there than here. Sounds fine by me. The loose plan is still to visit Luxor, catch a train to Aswan then take a boat down the Nile back to Luxor, or the other way around.

Thurs 10 Dec 09

Thursday Andy wants everyone off the boat so he can run the cables for the wind generator. It’s going to mean stripping beds and things out to get to the hull. Roger heads off into town while I decide to check out the Red Sea Aquarium. I’ve got no idea where it is other than it’s about 5 km or so north. The security blokes at the front gate are helpful. They pull over a cab and tell him where I want to go and to charge no more than £15. Away we go. Friendly enough driver. After several kilometres I’m starting to get a bit concerned until I see the Red Sea Aquarium sign. I’d been told it was just across from the Hurghada General Hospital and there it is.

Pull out £15 – thank you very much. A look of amazement on the driver’s face, “No – £50”.

Try to haggle him down but he’s quite adamant. Probably mistook 15 for 50 in the translation from Arabic to Arabic. Give him the £50, tell him he’s rude and get out. Shit – ripped off again. There’s no doubt they’re good at it. He’s already leaning over to grab the door in case I slam it. I don’t. But perhaps he’s learned from experience.

Walk inside the premises with the Red Sea Aquarium sign. A few blokes standing around. Some cleaning the place. No sign of any fishes or tanks. Go out the back. Follow a red sign down some stairs and around the back of the building. Here it is. A lady in an open faced burka is absorbed reading the Koran. Have to wait until she finishes a particular passage then takes my £15 entry fee. Maybe a dozen or so tanks mostly with various angelfish, puffer-fish, wrasse. There were also a small collection of moray eels, stingrays, turtles and white tip reef sharks. Very colourful fish and the displays are nice, though a bit limited. Wonder why it reached the exalted pages of an old Lonely Planets Guide.

Go back upstairs. After this small anti-climax it looks like I can get some coffee here while I consider my next move. Speak to a bloke with disconcertedly crossed eyes standing behind the counter and order a Nescafe. Waiting, waiting. We’re on Egypt time. I think they’re boiling the water. Am about to leave when I’m told, “One minute”. Waiting, waiting. Eventually it comes. Remove the muddy looking frothy stuff from the top but find the coffee itself seems to be okay. Vivid recollections of Roger sitting on the toilet for the last two days but am distracted by a highly affectionate tabby pussy cat who intimates herself onto my lap, thoroughly enjoys a scratch then looks up to stare deeply into my eyes and meow at me. No … I can’t take you home.

I’ve only got a £50 note for the £7 cup of coffee and they can’t give me change. One of them goes outside and starts hailing down taxis with no apparent result. Finally returns having cashed it somewhere. I just ask for £40 change and still keep a little bit of evil satisfaction for them taking so long.

Walk along the footpath for a while. Am on the lookout for some sox which I can’t seem to find anywhere, and a light jumper or sweater. Also forgot a cap so might as well get one with “Hurghada” on it while I’m here. A tout calls me into his shop after I indicate a cap. Manage to buy a cap but all the sweaters have Diving or Puma or some other Americanised writing on it and in any case, they want too much. They try to sell me some white sox. They’re stretchy but way too small, like half sized. Despite that they keep trying to sell it.

“Hello … it’s around the ankle, it fits okay?” demonstrating by wrapping his hands around his own ankle.

“ Not where I come from sunshine”, I tell them. It must be pointed out that the use of “hello” is generally to attract attention to something, not used in a derogatory sense.

My penance for not taking enough care with the taxi driver is to walk back to the boat. Besides I need the exercise. Along the way an instant family of a male and female dog trot along happily beside me for a kilometre or so, occasionally nudging my pockets looking for a titbit. But after reaching the end of the beach section where I was walking, they promptly drop me and attach themselves to some tourists walking the other way. A taxi pulls up next to the tourists and the dogs run out, bite the tyres and bark at the driver as if to say, “This one’s mine – piss off”. Even the dogs have an angle.

214 hurghada hospital 215 para sailing
Hurghada General Hospital Tourists parasailing off one of the resort beaches
216 new resorts 217 creeping desert
New resorts being built everywhere The Sahara Desert comes right up to the coast
218 hand built 219 innovative design
Most construction is done by hand Building designs can be innovative

The sun is just going down and it’s starting to get quite cool when I get back to the boat. Andy and Roger are enjoying the first of their sundowners in the cockpit. Andy tells me the cables from the battery charger to the battery run a different path to what he thought, and he’ll have to try and run the wind generator cables again tomorrow.

Hurghada – Goats Next?

Fri 11 Dec 09

Work continues with all hands installing the wind generator. Biggest job is running the 25mm thick four-core cable from the batteries through the boat and up the mounting pole, the latter taking the most time fiddling about. As usual some last minute problems with the steel mast supports needing more parts and most of the shops are shut.

220 wind gene workLeft: Roger working on the wind generator installation.

We all go uptown for dinner looking for an Irish restaurant but finally settle on an Italian one. On the way back try not to stare at a man shuffling along the street on his knees, except that his lower legs lay flat on the ground in front of him. He isn’t begging although there are a few of them about. It’s sad to see women in burka’s sitting in a gutter with a small child on their lap trying to sell small packets of tissue paper.

Sat 12 Dec 09

Roger won’t give the boss a beer until the wind generator is finished. It doesn’t happen until 4 pm with the device starts spinning and pumping valuable amps into the battery banks. In the higher gusts the only sound is the blades whipping through the air with a quiet, low swishing sound. Almost no vibration through the pole and none on the boat. Andy is a happy man.

The rally is officially now all located in Hurghada. Up until now it’s been at Abu Tig marina just a little south of here but I know immediately when Lo Brust of Mistral arrives. His yappy dogs are sounding off at everything that moves, and to a moving boat that’s everything. Barks have been echoing around the marina most of the afternoon as Lo’s dogs set off the few quieter dogs on other boats.

I cook a curry tonight and it’s bloody awful. Way too salty. We discuss progress of the rally as we sit around the dinette table. We’re all dissatisfied with it and fed up with sitting around doing nothing so we agree to leave the rally and head off on our own. The new plan will be to leave Hurghada around the end of next week, then travel to Port Ghalib and officially clear out of the country. Once cleared we’ll sail for Aden and then Oman. All up it will be roughly 1100 miles to Aden. Along the way we’ll be doing some overnighter anchoring along the coastline, but decide against going to Sudan and Eritrea. Entry costs are too steep and from all reports there’s not much to see anyway, and not much in the way of food. We’re also hearing rumours of some kind of troubles in Eritrea though that’s not substantiated.

We’ll probably be spending Christmas in Aden or be somewhere close to it. By New Year we should be in Oman. From there we’ll probably head for the Maldives, then possibly Sri Lanka to reach Thailand by approximately the end of February 2010. That will cut off the overall length of the trip by a month.

As soon as I can arrange it I will be taking off to Luxor and Aswan to do a train trip and maybe a boat trip. Roger and Andy aren’t all that fussed about going and will be staying on the boat.

Sunday 13 Dec 09

Try to pass the latest decision to our various families by Skype this morning but it’s useless today. The Wi-Fi connection signal only shows two bars into the marina network. Have a chat to a few of the yachties of other boats who are all looking to go to Luxor, but all intend going later rather than sooner. Maurice of Cobble will be having a tooth extracted on Monday so he can’t go.

Head uptown to find a travel agency and am able to arrange a round trip to Luxor and Aswan. Will be bussing it to Luxor at 3 am on Tuesday morning, touring around Luxor before catching a train to Aswan. Will spend the night at a 4-star hotel then tour around Aswan Wednesday before returning by bus via Luxor to Hurghada.

Right: An arab with his camel in downtown Hurghada221 arab n camel

After making the trip arrangements it’s time to head off and do a little bit of shopping for trinkets. Taking the trouble to learn the Arabic number system pays dividends. While looking at a light jumper the shop owner said the price was £170. The tag said £160. He’s terribly sorry of course.

222 hurghadaLeft: Downtown Hurghada

Early evening some tension erupts on the boat, though it’s probably not surprising. I think most boats will inevitably have character conflicts between individuals when in close contact over time. We’ve been onboard for almost seven weeks now and we’re all getting a bit irritable with sitting around doing nothing for the last three weeks. Isn’t there a saying to the effect, “Idleness breeds the devil’s work” or something? My couple of days away should do us both some good.

Monday 14 Dec 09

Andy goes over to tell Lo Brust the news about our leaving the rally. He’s disappointed but gives Andy a copy of a reply from the Australian Foreign Affairs. It says the official advice is that Somali attacks on all forms of shipping, including yachts near the Horn of Africa are increasing in frequency. In 2008 there were 111 attempted attacks and the number has increased this year. The pirates are now using motherships to attack shipping further than 600 miles i.e. 1100km from Somalia and extreme caution is advised.

Head uptown to Ultra Tours who are arranging my tour to Luxor and Aswan. Am told everything is okay. Shop for a few souvenirs. Note several work parties out and about today cleaning up the streets and gardens. Would probably do a good job too if they actually moved a bit. Mostly they just sit and stare.

Early Evening. Some of the Brits who left Hurghada a while ago to go back to the UK have returned. Esper is hosting Blue Vine hot toddy sundowners. I head off uptown for something to eat. Get outside the front gate and am met by a taxi driver.
“Taxi?” he asks.
Shake my head.
He gets out of his taxi and walks besides me so I ignore him. He’s talking sotto voice I think in Russian, but I’ve no doubt he’s trying to pimp me for a lady of the night. Don’t look at him, just keep walking. He eventually drops back and leaves me alone. Am learning that men out by themselves are a target. What next? Goat sex?

Find a likely looking footpath restaurant and order a mixed grill, making sure vegetables are actually served with the meal. I’d once ordered a mixed grill in the marina and just got the meat and a few small saucers of dips. It’s nice enough but not a proper dinner. Also ask for one of those lovely guava fresh juices. Waiting. Plenty of time to watch the passing parade of tourists. Feels kind of strange to see all these Caucasians walking amongst all the dark Egyptian faces. Kind of expect them to be talking English but they’re almost always Russian. It’s not unusual to see Russian women both young and not so young, hanging off the arm of a dark young Egyptian “prince”. Some of these fellows are quite slick looking too. I’m sure there must be a good gigolo industry going on.

Lovely looking meal arrives. Comes complete with a little fat-bellied tomato and raw onion head man held together with a tooth pick sitting on the side of the plate … and cooked vegetables. Joined at the table by a scraggly looking pussy cat. First become aware of him when I see just his eyes peering over the rim of the table. Finally gets his courage up to sit in the chair. Has an awful wound in the throat showing the inner workings of his neck. Just the thing to see while you’re having dinner. Chase him away but then take pity and gave him a small piece of chicken.

Christmas and New Year’s are coming to Hurghada. The streets are being festooned with glittering lights. Full sized Santa Clauses are appearing in shop windows and footpaths and on posters. Already some of the resorts have large neon New Year’s signs flashing. A skinny old man with a dark and heavily weathered face, wearing one of those black smocks and towelled head is pushing a bin and holding a broom. Obviously a street sweeper. He stands absently scratching his backside while he stares wearily through sunken eyes at the glittering world and the hustle and bustle about him. Probably missing the camel dung fires back out in the desert or something.

Get the usual three-scoop ice cream in a bucket on the way back. Still need to pack and get to bed. Have got an early start in the morning to Luxor and Aswan.

END PART 3

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