Hurghada – Is this your sex?

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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.

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