Status Update: Weekend at the Seaside

090628

I’m still working on Part 3 of my holiday with Amor.  Since I came back from holiday, I have been working full time in the shop, locally and at Chiswick.  It is really tough standing on your feet for 8 hours a day and the last two weeks are really starting to take it’s toll.

On top of that, my other two children are back from University.  My eldest son has now finished University and has passed with a 2.1.  He can now put BA(hons) after his name.  I am one proud mama!  All he needs is a job.

My daughter is on her summer holidays and is also looking for work.  She may have something for a few days a week.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Although it is nice to have all of the children at home, it is also disruptive.  They are messy and I am trying to sell my house.  I have become used to having my space to myself.  I am also so tired from working all day that when I come home, cooking, cleaning and tidying up is the last thing I want to do.  Anyone that has teenagers knows how difficult it is to get them to do anything, let alone anything for you.  I may have to resort to drastic measures.

I hadn’t been to the seaside for two weeks since I came back from The Red Sea.  I was missing it and so I went down to the coast again this past weekend.  The weather forecast was good and I had high hopes for the weather.

On Saturday, we rode our bikes down to the shops as I wanted to get a few things.  Unfortunately it was too much for me.  The shops were having sales and it was crowded and there were queues.  I couldn’t cope and started to get impatient and a bit claustrophobic, so I nipped shopping in the bud.  Amor is a dream.  He doesn’t mind shopping.   When he gets bored, he goes out for a smoke.

We went to the beach instead.  It was a glorious day and we were sort of on a schedule as we were going out to lunch and then to meet a couple of Amor’s friends later that evening.  I would have liked to postpone meeting his friends only because the weather was so glorious and I would have liked to have stayed on the beach longer.

We found a spot on a section of beach that was empty.  For a lovely day, it wasn’t very crowded.  I think most of the people were by the pier.  We parked ourselves and topped up our tans that were fading after two weeks of being back in the UK.  I think my tan started to fade as soon as I got on the plane.  It was wonderful listening to the sound of the water against the shore.  The sea was really calm and there was a slight breeze, perfect for sunbathing.  After a couple of hours, we headed off to The Ship for  a late lunch in the garden.  Lunch was lovely and it was great to eat outdoors.  I just love the summer!

After lunch, we cycled down to Favoloso for some ice cream.  I let Amor choose while I guarded the bikes by a table outside.  He came back with Mango Tango and Blueberry for me and he had Pistachio and Chocolate Chip.  It was all yummy.  Afterwards, we went back home to watch some tennis and relax before getting ready to go out.  We fell asleep in front of the tennis.  Must have been all that sea air.

We met up with Amor’s friends at 7:30.  They are really lovely people, a little bit mad, but lovely.  It was a real pleasure to meet them and we had an enjoyable evening out.

Sunday’s weather started out a bit dull, but by the time we were ready to head out to the beach, it brightened up.  We packed a picnic, a bar-b-q, and a bottle of wine.  We drove out to the other end of the beach this time near the boats and the lifeboat station.  The sea was as flat as a pancake.  There were a few sailboats out and a jet ski here and there.  At one point, the lifeboat was called out and quickly dispatched to the sea.  It headed towards the pier.  It must not have been too serious, as they returned fairly quickly.

Amor and I just spent the day lazing around reading the Sunday papers, having a bit of lunch, sunbathing, sleeping, grilling some fish and drinking wine.  There were families out with their children, mad people swimming in the sea, and a group on the other side of us doing some off shore fishing.  There was a magnificent cloud to one side of us, but it was being blown in the opposite direction.  The sky changed about 5pm and created the most wonderful light on the sea.  We stayed out until about 8pm and it was still warm and light.  Bliss!

It was a perfect weekend to a rather hectic couple of weeks.

On Monday it starts all over again!

Advertisements

On Holiday with Amor Part 2: Weight Issues

Up again at 7am and Amor nips out to bring me coffee in bed! The sun is shining and it is hot.  It was over 100oF every day.  We have to meet the others at 8am.  Today we are going to dive in Ras Mohammed National Park at Shark and Yolanda Reefs.  I had dived here the last time I visited, but I can’t recall much of what I saw and really didn’t record anything of interest even though I was down there for 45 minutes.  I do remember that all of my dives were lovely with so much to see.  I think I may have been a little bit overwhelmed the first time I was there.

We got on the bus that took us to the marina where we were going to spend the day on the Mondi 1.  As we boarded, we checked to make sure our diving gear was on board, and fortunately mine was all there.  Once we were all on board and we found a spot to park ourselves on the upper deck, we headed out to the dive site. When we got under way, it was necessary to get our tanks and weight belts ready.  Amor thought it would be a good idea to have less weight on my belt and a couple in my BCD pocket.  He was also going to carry extra in case I needed it.  After everything was set up, we had a chance to relax and admire the view before we got briefed on the dive.

Mark and Amr were our dive guides and I remembered them from the last time I was here.  They are both really personable and good for a laugh. They are also very knowledgeable about the dive sites and thorough in their briefing, so we all knew what to expect.  I was excited and nervous at the same time – something that happens every time I go diving.  I know that there really wasn’t anything to worry about and I had Amor as my dive buddy, but sometimes the fear of the unknown can be a little overwhelming.

When it was time to get ready to go into the water, Amor was right there helping me out and checking that everything was ok, and that I was ok.  This was going to be our first ever dive together and I was hoping that it would be a good experience for him.  I felt better knowing he was my dive buddy.

Getting into the water wasn’t a problem, but I think I may have had a mild panic attack when descending, and I started hyperventilating.  It wasn’t helping that I was having trouble descending, so I popped back up to the surface to calm down for a moment and start again.  Amor was right there with me and helped me get down.  This time the descent was fine and we followed the others.  Once I was swimming, I soon forgot about anything other than all of the wonderful sea life that was there before me.

This dive was amazing!  I saw my very first Napoleon Wrasse.  I have heard so much about them and now I finally got to see one.   They are so beautiful, and huge.  We also saw: white spotted puffer, masked puffer, blue and red mouthed trigger fish, blue spotted sting ray, a school of unicorn fish, barracuda, cornet fish, crocodile fish, Moorish idols and yellow boxfish –  to name a few.  There were so many fish, it was difficult to look at everything.  The corals were really lovely too.  We stayed down for 48 minutes and our maximum depth was just over 22 meters.  I had more than 50 bar of air left, but I started to get really cold (I was wearing a short suit) and thought it a good idea to come up.

The worst thing about scuba diving for me is getting up onto the boat.  It isn’t easy hauling one’s self onto the ladder with wet gear and a tank on your back while the boat may be moving up and down.  Fortunately, there are always a couple of boat hands available to help you out of the water and to take your fins off.  Once back on the boat, I had to get my kit off and then set up with a new tank for the next dive.  Once that task is complete, then it is ok to shower, relax and rehydrate before the next dive.  Diving can be quite hard work sometimes! 🙂

In-between dives, those of us on the boat compared notes on what we had seen.  There were a couple of ladies that were very keen photographers and they always took some lovely photographs.  I have some information on camera equipment and will be doing some research for my next camera purchase.  I saw so many beautiful creatures and would have loved to been able to capture a few on a camera.

Amor and I went through our dive and made notes of what we saw.  I was so happy to have him as my dive buddy.  Having him with me made my experience so much better as I felt completely relaxed and safe with him next to me.  I was still getting to grips with my buoyancy and he was there to help me out.  Also, it was wonderful to share something so beautiful with him.  We are creating amazing memories together.

After a rest, we were briefed on our second dive.  We were going to dive in Jackfish Alley.  As before, we went to get our kit on.  When I was ready to put my BCD on, I had noticed that my spare regulator wasn’t how I had positioned it earlier and just thought someone might have knocked it and put it back.  Not giving it a second thought, I got all set up with Amor helping me as before and then we were ready to go.  There were problems from the start.  I couldn’t descend for the life of me and didn’t know the reason.  Amor had to get under me and drag me down.  Once we were down, I checked the pockets of my BCD – the extra weights weren’t there!  Oh shit!  I didn’t want to panic.  I was ok for the moment, but I couldn’t help thinking how things were going to go when it was time to go up.  I used sign language to tell Amor the situation, it took him a moment, but he eventually got the message and took hold of my hand.  We all had to swim through a passageway that I was a little nervous about as I had to let go of Amor’s hand to do it, but I managed it no problem.

I tried not to think about my weight situation, but it was difficult.  Then, to add insult to injury, my mask kept filling up with water and it steamed up.  I had to keep clearing my mask and it was difficult to see.  I forgot to spit in my mask before we went into the water.  I felt a little bit like an idiot.  I went through the motions of diving trying to see things but not really enjoying the dive.  I was also getting cold.  I didn’t want to disappoint Amor, but after about half an hour I had to end the dive as I was really shivering.   As we started our ascent to do our safety stop, I could feel my body just wanting to rise to the surface even though I had no air in my BCD.  Amor got me in a leg lock and kept us floating at 5 meters. It was an interesting position to be in, but I was really relaxed at this point as there was nothing I could do except to breathe normally and wait three minutes until it was safe to ascend to the surface.   I felt really grateful to be in safe hands.

Once we surfaced, and while waiting for our boat to come for us, I explained things to Amor and told him how sorry I was that I had to end the dive so early.  He was so sweet about the whole thing and was more concerned about how I was.  When we got back on the boat, I set up for the third dive and then went up to lie down and get warm.  I wasn’t feeling well at all.  I felt very tired, a little bit queasy, and cold.  Amor made me a cup of tea and had me drink a lot of water as I couldn’t face having lunch, even though it looked and smelled so good.  I managed to doze off and eventually warmed up.

After lunch and before the third dive, there was a young man on board talking about his dive and how he had on the wrong BCD with weights in the pockets – and he didn’t need any weights at all.  So that’s what had happened to my kit!  He just picked up the tank with the BCD marked medium (mine was a women’s medium though).  When I went to check my tank and put it on, the reason I didn’t give it a second thought was because it was the only tank by my kit box and where I had set up previously.   There were no other tanks set up for diving.  This young man had set up his tank next to mine, even though his stuff was on the other side of the boat, and he took my kit by mistake.  There was some mild hilarity once we worked out what had happened, and we made a mental note to remember to double check everything.  Fortunately, no harm was done.  In my opinion, it is better to have too much weight than not enough though.

Because I had been cold earlier, Amor talked to one of the dive instructors to find out if there were any long wetsuits I could hire.  It turned out there was a spare pair of a sleeveless long suit (that I could wear under my shorties) available.  How did we get that information while on the boat?  Mobile phone!  All it took was a phone call.  How amazing it that!  It seems that nowhere is sacred that you can’t get mobile phone access, even if it is in the middle of the Red Sea.

I opted out of the third dive as I was quite tired and still not feeling great.  Amor buddied up with someone else.  While he was diving, I slept some more, drank a lot of water, and got to know a few of the people left on the boat.  Diving people come in a variety of shapes and forms with interesting vocations and ideas.  I was feeling better by the time everyone returned from the dive.  Once everyone was on the boat and dry, one of the deck hands brought around some cake and fruit – a sweet treat to the end of a lovely day.

On the way back to the marina, I was looking out to sea at the back of the boat and saw a splash.  I gave a shout when I saw a large fish jump out of the water.  I could have sworn that it was a dolphin because of the shape of the tail, but we never saw it surface again.   Fortunately, another young lady saw it, otherwise, the others would have thought I was just imagining things.  If it wasn’t a dolphin, then it must have been one gigantic tuna (which had been seen later in the week).  I thought it might have been a dolphin because of the size of the tail.  We will never know for sure.  I do know that I saw the back end and tail of a very large fish that looked like it could have been a dolphin.

When we got back to the hotel, we dumped our things into our room and found this on our bed.

DSCF1496

I love it when the porters make towel art.

We went to get my long suit, and after the obligatory beer and dive chat, we got ready to go out to dinner.  I was feeling better and very hungry as I hadn’t had any lunch.  We went across the road to have dinner at Picasso Café where we had dinner the night we arrived.  I was in the mood for one of their amazing salads.  We had an enjoyable dinner and talked about our day and first dive experience together.  I didn’t think it was great enough for Amor, especially the second dive, but he insisted that he had a good time and that he was with me was enough. How sweet to say that.  I couldn’t have enjoyed myself half as much if I hadn’t had him beside me.  This holiday was turning out to be better than I expected.

After dinner, Amor and I went back to our air-conditioned room.  We were tired after a long day and had another early start.  After being reassured that the second dive wasn’t a disaster and that sometimes these things happen and that the most important thing was that I hadn’t panicked and that no-one got hurt, it was time to go to sleep.

No sooner did I close my eyes, the bed began to sway.  One of the after effects of being on the boat all day and something that would continue throughout the rest of the week!

On Holiday with Amor: Scuba Review

SharmAs mentioned in my previous post, I was going on holiday with Amor and I was slightly apprehensive.  It seems that he was as well.  Holidays can make or break some couples and both of us wanted to have a good time.

I am usually the type of person that has to be in control of things.  I know I have control issues and have been dealing with them for years.  I put my control issues aside when dancing.  I have learned how to defer in certain matters and I decided that I would let Amor take the lead on this holiday.  After all, Amor is a qualified dive master and has over 400 dives under his belt.  This is his third scuba diving trip this year.  I haven’t dived in three years.  It wasn’t going to kill me to follow his lead for a week.

The first day of the holiday was spent mainly travelling.  It was pretty uneventful.  Up very early, drive to the airport, check-in, and hang around until our flight was ready to board.  It was a long flight and the food was rubbish.  We arrived.  It was hot and sunny.  Amor got our visas and navigated us through immigration and to collect our luggage.  There was a long wait for our luggage.  We got on the coach and drove to our hotel.  Amor checked us in.  We went for a beer while one of the porters pushed the beds together.  Our hotel does not have double beds.  It is a 3 star hotel attached to a 5 star dive center.  Many scuba divers travel alone or share a room with a friend, hence the single beds.  There were three in our room!  Most of the one’s time is spent all day on the dive boat or lounging by the pool.  The hotel is very clean, but basic.  At the end of a day’s diving, all I care about is having a shower, air-conditioning, and a clean, comfy bed to sleep on before I have to get up at 7 in the morning!  Oh, and an ice cold beer wouldn’t go amiss.

It was slightly strange being back at the place where we first met.  There was a sense of déjà vu.  Before, we were strangers who became friends.  Now, we are friends and lovers.  Diving people are generally very friendly and it turned out that some people Amor met in March were back again.  I was introduced to Dee and instantly made a new friend.  Dee is a crazy diver.  She actually dives in the North Sea!  Not surprising since she lives in Hull and it’s the closest body of ocean.  Too cold for me!

After our ice cold beer, Amor and I went across the road for some dinner before heading off to bed.  We had an early start.  A diving holiday, although relaxing in it’s own way, does not allow one to have a lie in – plenty of time to have a snooze on the boat in between dives.

We woke up bright and early, 7am.  As our room was practically next to the dining room, Amor nipped out and brought coffee to the room!  What a star!  Coffee in bed!  We had to meet at the dive center at 8am to find out what we were doing that day.  We had booked a six day dive package that included two dives a day, plus an optional one if enough people were interested.

After filling in a bunch of paperwork, I was going to have my scuba review (I hadn’t dived in three years) in Naama Bay and Amor was going to do some local diving.  When we arrived at the dive center in Naama Bay, I was handed a test where I was required to answer questions on scuba diving.  There were four of us doing the scuba review and I was the only female.  When we were finished, our dive instructor graded our test and he reviewed the questions that we may have gotten wrong and made sure we understood the correct answer.  This wasn’t a pass or fail test.  In fact, I got most of them correct and there were only a few that we needed to review.

After the test, we organised the rest of our diving gear.  I needed to hire a wet suit, BCD, and regulator.  I had my lovely new fins and boots that Amor bought me for my birthday, my mask and snorkel.  Once we all had our kit together our instructor explained in detail, with diving sign language, the tasks we were required to do under water.  After going through all the exercises verbally, we went to get our kit on and go into the water.  Getting our kit on wasn’t a big problem, but walking down to the beach and getting to the section of beach where we could enter was a bit of a palaver.  I am not a big fan of offshore diving and having to carry a heavy air tank on my back is not much fun.  Fortunately the water was calm so it wasn’t too big a deal putting on my fins in the water.  Besides, that is what a dive buddy is for, to help you.

Once we were all ready we descended to the sandy bottom to do our exercises:   (1) We were going to have to take our regulators out of our mouth for a moment.  While the regulators were out, we had to breathe out (make a sound like oooooh) as it is dangerous to hold one’s breath underwater.  Then we had to put them back in and clear them with a breath before we could resume normal breathing.  (I can imagine the look on some of your faces if this is unfamiliar to you!)  (2)  Then we had to do it again, but this time purging the regulator before taking a breath.  (3)  The next exercise was to take our regs out and drop them, all the while going ooooooh, and then find them and put them back in, purging before taking a breath.  This is a good exercise to know in case your regulator gets knocked out of your mouth for any reason.  (4)  Then we worked on mask clearing.  We had to fill our masks half way and then clear them with our nose.   I did a lot of this during the week as my mask for some reason, probably because of my hair, kept filling up. (5)  The next one was to fill up the mask completely and clear with our nose, and finally (6) we had to take our masks off completely and put them back on and clear.  (7)  The next exercise we had to do was to pretend we were out of air and share air with our buddy.  This involved giving the signal for being out of air which is to draw a line across your neck, at which point your buddy will put his hands up to allow you to grab the emergency regulator so you can put it in your mouth and breathe from it.

I can hear you all thinking ‘bloody heck’, but there is more.  We next had to work on our buoyancy, which I had trouble with the last time I dived.  We eventually got the hang of it.  I can’t remember every single exercise we had to do, but there were about eleven and we just did them.  We were underwater for 52 minutes at 5 meters before we had to head back to shore and for a lunch break.

The worst part of the scuba review was walking back to the dive center along the sand with wet gear and a heavy tank.  It was good exercise for my legs, ha!   After our break we had to suit up all over again and walk back along the beach again!  It was a relief to get back into the water as it was very hot outside and to take the weight off my back and legs.

We had just one last exercise and then we were going to explore with our instructor.  We just had to pretend we were out of air and do an emergency ascent, except that we didn’t actually ascend, we had to swim along a line at the bottom, all the while saying oooooooh, without taking a breath, until we reached our marker.  This is not as easy as it sounds, as when one is actually ascending the air in one’s lungs and BCD is expanding, which allows you to do ooooooooooh relatively easily and without feeling you need to take a breath.  What we were going to do in our exercise was to take a deep breath and then swim, slowly exhaling all the way as it is dangerous to hold your breath underwater when using a regulator.  I am afraid that I had to take a breath just before my mark, but I passed anyway as that is quite hard to do.  Normally, we would do this exercise at the end of the dive, or in a pool, but our instructor seemed satisfied with our skills.

We followed our instructor to a small patch of reef that was near the shore.  There was some interesting coral and a few fish swimming about.  Nothing I hadn’t seen before or worth noting, such as a couple of trigger fish and parrot fish.  Pretty, but quite common.  After half an hour of swimming around, we started to head back to shore.  On the way back I caught sight of a couple clown fish in the coral and went to have a closer look.  I tried to stay very still as the larger of the two started to come up to me.  Eventually, he swam right in front of me and looked me straight in the eye.  How cool is that!  I hadn’t been eyeballed by a clown fish before.  I must have been too close to his home.

After our 3 minute safety stop, we headed back to shore and to the school.  All I could think about was that this was going to be the last time I had to walk along the shore with a heavy tank on my back in the heat.

There was a section of beach we had to walk past with the sun loungers for the hotel.  The first thing that greeted me was a very thin woman with a massive pair of exposed fake boobs.  I couldn’t believe it!  We were in a Muslim country for goodness sake. I found that extremely rude, considering that right next to her was the hut where a guard was sitting to stop the riff-raff from using the sun loungers.  Jeeze!  Since we all had to walk past this woman, she was the main topic of conversation while we were waiting for the bus.  The consensus was that she was Russian, but when I saw her with her top on and talking to her child, it was clear that she was English from her accent.  I think that if one is travelling to another country, it is a good idea to respect the codes and traditions of that culture.

Our bus arrived and we went back to our hotel where I caught up with Amor and a nice cold Sakara beer.  It is a tradition among divers to meet at the bar and compare notes on each other’s diving experience.  The big things to see this week were dolphins, manta rays, hammerheads, and whale sharks.  Amor doesn’t believe whale sharks exist as he has never seen one before.  (I had, in Kenya :-))  I met a few new people as I was going to be on the same boat with them the next day, with Amor being my dive buddy.  After a couple of beers and light hearted banter, it was time to get showered and ready for dinner.

Sharm4

We decided to eat in the hotel that evening as they were going to have traditional food and there would also be folkloric dancing.  I had been to this the last time I was here and was incredibly impressed with the young man that performed thewhirling dervish.  This time, the dancing was a bit different.  I didn’t feel that the people performing some of the folkloric dances were actually into it.  Apart from one young man, the rest looked pretty bored.  The belly dancer this year was better than the last one, though.  I was a bit disappointed with the whirling dervish.  This time it was a young lady and to her credit, she danced well, but not as well or intensely as the young man I had seen before.

After dinner, Amor and I went for a walk on the other side of the road of our hotel to see what was there.  Amor is very good on these little walks.  Inevitably, we will be asked if we want a taxi or if we want to buy something and Amor just knows the right thing to say.  The last time I was here on my own, I pretty much got dragged into the perfume store, even though I told the young man I wasn’t going to buy anything.  I was happy for Amor to be in charge and be manly.  One less thing for me to think about.  I was starting to like it.

We had a reasonably early night as we had a relatively early start.  I had a wonderful day and I fell asleep in Amor’s arms, happy and dreaming of a clown fish looking me in the eye.