Thursday: Up again at 7am, coffee in bed! 🙂
Have breakfast, meet up at 8am, drive to the marina, get on the boat and set up our gear. Same boat as before, same instructors with the addition of the lovely Valeria, same crowd with a couple of extras.
We go back to Ras Mohammed National Park and dive Shark and Yolanda Reef again. We dive to a depth of 22.5 meters and our dive lasts for 45 minutes. Amor and I come across a huge Napoleon Wrasse looking for food. There is a moray eel near him trying to find a quiet spot in the coral to settle down in, but the wrasse isn’t having any of it and shoos it away. We are witness to an amazing snippet of marine life. I am loving it. I adore the Napoleon Wrasse. They are so big and gentle. They just swim along, not in any particular hurry, and generally don’t mind divers. I love the colours on them, green and blue. Beautiful!
While swimming I looked down at some coral and spotted what I took to be a Nudibranch, but could also be a Flatworm. They can look similar. I am still trying to identify it and I recall seeing a photo of it in a book, but I can’t remember which one. (update: it was a nudibranch – Chromodoris quadricolor – found the photo in my book, but they look different underwater than in the photograph, the orange ring looks more red underwater!)
Our second dive is at Shark Observatory. We are hoping to see a Whale Shark that has been spotted by other divers on different boats. Amor doesn’t believe they actually exist as he has never seen one. He believes these other divers have been suffering from nitrogen narcosis. I have seen them off the coast in Kenya. I was on a fishing boat. Impossible to be suffering from narcosis on a boat. I saw four, and they were beautiful. 🙂
We went down to 21 meters and our dive lasted for 55 minutes with 60 bar left. Amor was pushing the limit on the dive and the goal was to stay down for as long as possible, which was an hour, and still have 50 bar left. We saw some Tuna, morays, trunk fish and unicorn fish. It was a lovely dive.
I decided not to do the third dive after lunch, so I put my gear away and hung up my wetsuit. The long suit was a good idea as it was keeping me warm and energised. I will be buying myself one as soon as possible. I helped Amor get ready for his third dive and once everyone was in the water, I settled upstairs to relax and chat with the others that stayed behind. It is during these times that people get to know each other better. There is the usual dive chat, but we also learn some personal things about each other, such as where people live and what they do for a living, and how they feel about certain things. Sometimes it can be serious, but mostly we all just have a laugh. I have met many diverse and lovely people through diving. We share a common thread of caring for the environment and marvelling at the wonder of nature. There are a few num-nuts around as everywhere, but most of the people are really pleasant.
I helped Amor after his third dive (no whale shark). It is good to have a second pair of hands to help as the tanks can get heavy and it can be a little difficult getting out of the wetsuits. Dee helped me on shark day, so I thought it would be good to pay it forward. Once everyone was back on the boat, one of the boat hands passed around a plate of sliced melon, and pancakes with jam. Yum!
On the way back to the marina, as I was doing my usual staring out to sea, I was looking at the surface when I noticed a ray. I shouted and this time a few people actually saw it. It was difficult to tell what type of ray it was as it was swimming away at a fairly rapid pace, but it was definitely a ray.
We had a quick beer and a chat with some other divers before going to our room to get ready for dinner. We found this on our bed:
We were going to go to Old Sharm to try out an excellent fish restaurant that we have heard about. Gary, one of the divers on our boat, had eaten there the evening before and recommended it, and Amr, one of our local dive instructors, told us it was the best fish restaurant in Old Sharm. We were advised to make a reservation, but we didn’t.
We were going to take a taxi to Old Sharm. It was about a 20 minute walk down the road, but it was too hot and we opted for the coolest and quickest option. Amor negotiated with the taxi driver and off we went. The taxis have improved since my last visit and I felt a lot safer in a reasonably new car. I am not saying that the driving has improved though. As we left the taxi, a gentleman on crutches tried to convince Amor to reserve a taxi with him for the journey home. As I said in a previous post, Amor is very good with the locals and avoided a commitment.
We eventually found our fish restaurant. Although there were tables outside, it was too hot and the view was not ideal, so we opted to go inside where there was air-conditioning. The restaurant is full of people; locals and tourists. Luckily enough a table was free. From the start, our evening was a delight. Our waiter was absolutely charming and attentive. We had a table at the back of the restaurant and I believe that Amor had one of the best seats in the house as he could see everything that was going on. I got to observe a few people at tables nearby and all the food that was coming out of the kitchen, which looked really interesting and tasty.
We went for something that I have never eaten before – shellfish. Pork and shellfish were forbidden (and sinful) foods when I was growing up and I have pretty much stuck with that throughout my life. I have on occasion sampled shrimp, lobster and crab, but I didn’t really like it. I have eaten pork when served to me by people that didn’t know I don’t eat it. I didn’t really like it. When Amor agreed to go to LeRoc with me, I agreed to do something for him that I hadn’t done before…eat mussels. The thought of eating them would make me feel squeamish. He took me to a Belgian Restaurant where I did try them and surprisingly I really liked them. They aren’t my favourite, but I would eat them again if there wasn’t anything else on the menu that I wouldn’t like better. We ordered the seafood platter for two. Our waiter brought out plates of different mezze for starters: tahini, humous, beans, a potato salad, and a basket of pita bread. Once we finished our mezze, and me thinking that I may not have room for the rest of our meal, our waiter put this platter in front of us:
We had grilled lobster, clams, king prawns, crabs, calamari and a local fish. Amor had to show me how to eat everything except the fish. It is fun to tear apart and eat food with your hands! There was even a box of tissues at every table so that people could wipe their hands. Even though I found the taste and texture of the various crustaceans to be a bit weird, it wasn’t bad and I would eat it again. I guess it is just what one is used to. While we were waiting for our Egyptian coffees to arrive, a youngish (30’s) group of four local gentlemen sat at the table next to us. They all ordered the same thing, a seafood soup. The soup arrived with a crab on the top of each bowl and bits of octopus tentacles artistically arranged to hang over the side of the bowls. It was a very impressive looking bowl of soup. Each man attacked their crab in their own individual way. As we were admiring the soup, one of the gentlemen told Amor that he should have some as it was very good for men’s things. Hmmm! Not considering the amount of seafood we consumed, I wouldn’t have thought that was anything Amor need worry about. 😉
Our coffee arrived. It was the first decent cup of coffee we have had since we have been in Egypt as the coffee in our hotel is pretty bland. It was strong and sweet. Our meal, including coffee and mezze was just over 200 Egyptian pounds – about £20. Not a bad price for a lot of food. I don’t think we could have eaten in London for that price. They do not serve alcohol, just soft drinks, water and hot beverages. The hospitality, food and ambience were excellent at Fares Seafood Restaurant and I thoroughly recommend going there.
After our meal, we took a walk around Old Sharm. It was hilarious. While looking at the myriad of shops selling tat and other items for consumption, there was a running dialog between the shopkeepers and Amor:
Shopkeeper 1: Please come into my shop.
Amor: No, thank you.
Shopkeeper 1: Please come. Why you not come? We have very nice things.
Amor: No, thank you.
Shopkeeper 2: Please come into my shop.
Amor: No, thank you.
Shopkeeper 2: Where are you from?
Amor: No, thank you.
Shopkeeper 2: You are from no thank you?
Shopkeeper 3: Please come into my shop.
Amor: No, thank you.
Shopkeeper 4: Come into MY shop.
Amor: No, thank you.
Man handing out flyers: Here, have one of these.
Amor: Already have one.
Man handing out flyers – to his friend: No he doesn’t.
It just went on like this while we walked around. I daren’t point at anything that I might like for fear of being dragged into a shop when I actually didn’t want to purchase anything. We came full circle to where we were dropped off by our taxi. The man on the crutches was still there. As we were walking past, he says to Amor, ‘I remember you!’ Amor tells him with a smile, ‘I know you do!’ (You had to be there.)
Negotiating the return journey was interesting. The taxi driver quoted an outrageous price. We object. His ploy was to ask us what was our offer rather than coming up with another figure. We tell him how much, he protests and then he accepts when he sees we might go to someone else. We offered him the same amount as the driver who brought us there. He takes us to our hotel and we don’t have anything smaller than a 100 Egyptian pound note. The fare is 20. When he gives Amor the change, it is crumpled and he tries to hurry us out of the taxi. Amor looks at the note. Instead of a 50 pound note, he gives Amor a 50 piastre note, which looks similar, but it is worth about 5 pence. This is a very common scam. Amor wasn’t having any of it and told him so, and after a little argument, the taxi driver gave Amor the correct change. I think he realised that he couldn’t get one over on Amor and conceded gracefully by apologising and saying he pulled out the wrong money. Nice try. They all do it at some point.
We have an ice cold beer at the bar in the hotel before we retire to our room. The seafood platter is working its’ magic. Or maybe it is just being with the person you love and having spent an amazing day and evening with them?