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.
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.
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.
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.
MORE TO FOLLOW