Our Trip to the Rea Sea
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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
It all started, as all the best trips do, when my phone started beeping and vibrating to signify the arrival of a text message from His Royal Scaryness. "Call me. I've got an offer for you (ooh-err)", the message said. Intrigued, I picked up the phone and called Scary. Ian and Scary had found what I considered to be the offer of the year, if not of the century - a one-week diving holiday in the Red Sea (flights, hotel and 5 days' diving) for £299. I had only just got back from skiing, but I decided to go for it. After all, I couldn't have Scary doing more dives than me.
Saturday the 18th of February
The trip started for me when Scary and Ian arrived at my house (turn right just before the Langley Implant Centre) in Scary's yellow passion wagon. After a quick can of Wife Beater, we decided it would be a good idea to check how much our luggage weighed. Both Ian's and my bags weighed about 20kg each, but Scary's weighed about 25kg (his ankle weights and Gordy's sturdy bag can't have helped). We eventually got him down to about 22kg by leaving some stuff behind and sticking his ankle weights in his coat pockets.
We then headed up to The India for a curry, which, as tradition dictates, included both Mattar Paneer and Saag Paneer. The portions, as usual, were far too big for us, so I took home 3 curries to freeze for our return. Ian and I were up for carrying on drinking in The Toby. Scary joined us, but had to drink blackcurrant soda 'cos he was driving at 4 o'clock the next morning. It was strange that Ian and I found things funny that Scary didn't!
Sunday the 19th of February
After keeping Scary awake for half the night with my snoring, my alarm went off at 4:50 and we stumbled into the car. Feeling rather hung-over (well, Ian and me anyway), we headed for Gatwick. I can't remember much about the journey and the check-in. Maybe that's because nothing much happened or because I was still drunk. However, things started happening when we went through security. Scary's ankle weights got picked up by the X-Ray machine and he got pulled aside. Ian and I stayed with him laughing and giggling to ourselves. We soon stopped laughing when the guvna swabbed Scary's ankle weights and mentioned something about TNT and calling Special Branch. Fortunately, a second machine gave the weights the all clear and the rubber gloves and handcuffs were put away for another day.
After deciding that 8am was a little early to start on the wife-beater, we stopped for a quick non-alcoholic breakfast (no need for fried eggs 'cos we weren't diving until the next day). Faced with a 5-hour flight sat next to me, Scary and Ian were pleased to find that we had complementary copies of Diver magazine (an excellent chance to ignore me whittering on). In it, there was an excellent article on British divers in the Red Sea and a cartoon that reminded us of Robin.
Maybe it was the remains of the previous night's alcohol or the excitement of going diving somewhere warm, but we spent ages giggling at Scary's "I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with BAV". After a while we gave up and Scary put us out of our misery "Broken Air Vent" he said, pointing straight at a broken light. Oh how we laughed. Still, Scary got his own back by aiming his yoghurt at me while opening it. Great, jism all over my red fleece - that'll be mouldy by the end of the week.
Then we landed and walked into the chaos that is commonly called "Egyptian Immigration". The place was full of Russians. Granted there was some top drawer totty amongst them (cue groinal placement of my cap), but it was generally a bloody nightmare. All we tried to do was jump forward a couple of spaces in the queue and these commies went mad. Scary then tried to get arrested again by taking somebody else's bag off the conveyor belt using the excuse that he thought it was Ian's. A very nice man from Hayes and Jarvis was there to meet us and escort us to the bus. A long wait and a short drive later, we arrived at our hotel.
Both Ian and I were feeling a little bit tired, but we thought that we ought to check out the totty in the hotel, so the 3 of us went down for a couple of drinks at the hotel bar. We had a choice of drinking either Sacara or Stella. Obviously we chose Stella, but it didn't quite match up to the wife-beating qualities of Stella Artois, so we moved on to drinking Sacara. There was no totty at the pool bar, so we headed off to the main bar. Still serving Sacara, there was still a distinct lack of totty in the hotel, but there were a lot of very nice men in tight fitting trousers. Ian described the place in a nice politically correct way: "No wonder it was cheap, the place is full of mincers".
After a couple of bottles, we called it a night and headed back to our rooms. Untold hilarity when Scary realised that he'd left his ankle weights on the plane.
Monday the 20th of February
This package holiday lark is brilliant. We got picked up right outside our hotel and driven straight to the dive centre. As we were waiting outside the hotel (after having eaten fried eggs or omelettes to prevent us getting the bends), we met two other divers. One (Mat) started as he meant to go on by giving me jip for being bald - bloody cheek. The other (Alex) had a fantastic pair of norks.
Things were looking up! The coach took us right to the dive centre, where we sorted out our kit, handed over our logbooks, and signed our lives away.
We were introduced to our German dive guide (Silke) and the rest of the crew.
Silke pretended to be impressed with my German language ("Ich tauhe ins Rotes Meer. Es ist sehr gut."). Scary and Ian were impressed (with Silke, not with my German). Silke did an excellent dive brief before our first dive. Apparently, it is illegal to do decompression diving and to dive deeper than 30m in the Red Sea. Before every dive, we got a dive map drawn on a white board (remember the blue sand?) to explain what we were going to see. The first dive was amazing. We dived "Fiddle Garden" and, according to my dive log, I got my fins on in super-quick time. First things first, it was time for a buoyancy check. God did I gimmer around on that one. I ended up swimming back to the boat 4 times before I could sink and ended up with half a tank in each pocket of my stab jacket. Scary also had problems with weight on the first dive, because he'd left his "amazing exploding ankle weights" on the plane.
We could see for miles (well everybody else could, I had my old man eyes to contend with - they say it makes you go blind). We saw loads of big colourful fish. The ones that I remember most are the "Coral Munching Guvnas" - even my old man ears could hear them munching away. Silke tried to tell us that they were actually called "Parrot Fish", but I'm not convinced.
While getting ready for our 2nd dive of the day (Nipple Garden), we noticed that Alex was having problems getting into her wetsuit, so Scary and I bounced her into it. The 2nd dive was even better than the first - we saw some piano fish (some people call them Sgt. Major Fish, but we knew better) and some lionfish. What a brilliant day - even the food was excellent.
Anyway, the people on the boat were:
Mat (RAF bloke with digital camera)
Alex (bird with nice jubblies that would make Cat jealous)
Alex's Mum (not diving, but she came on the boat some days to talk, sunbathe and talk some more)
Steve and Nat (nice couple, Steve only went and proposed to Nat under water! Still, can't blame him - she is gorgeous).
The two Geordie boys (Alex's Mum was on the pull here).
Alex (nice bloke who joined us every evening, but mutinied onto another boat on one day - just to avoid DEAD ANTS).
Michael Jackson and his missus, Doris (not THE Michael Jackson, obviously, he's too busy being a Charlie Chester).
Two South African boys who kept on going on about Mr Bean. I can't remember their names, but Ian reckons their surname sounded like Viagra.
Scary, Ian and me.
The crew (VERY helpful and friendly). Scary and Ian were in love.
Then we went back to the hotel for a shower and then off into town for a bite to eat at a fish restaurant. First of all, we got the Hotel Shuttle into town. The bus takes a short cut along some unmade roads. "Bus Safari", the driver shouted. Oh how we laughed.
Getting to and from the restaurant was a challenge in itself - the taxi drivers are absolute nutters. I was bloody scarred, but Alex held my hand to make me feel better, so it wasn't all bad. The restaurant was brilliant and the guvna even fixed the heel on Alex's shoe (bloody high heels). We learnt some new Egyptian words and a bloody barman, cheeky git, accused me of having 4 eyes. He also thought that Scary and Alex were brother and sister 'cos they both had "fuccles" (don't even go there!). Scary and I finished off with a quick pint in the pool bar trying to make Alex laugh 'cos her tits bounced up and down whenever she giggled.
Tuesday the 21st of February
Today was going to be a long day because we were signed up to do a night dive in the evening. Before our first dive, Silke taught us a new song:
"What's that thing in the reef, with the big shiny teeth? It's a Moray." - to the tune of that famous Dean Martin song if you haven't guessed.
The two day-dives were absolutely amazing and the night dive even better. We got to see all the guvnas hunting and eating the fish that we pointed out with our torchlights. I started off on a life of crime by going to 30m (I had to go that deep so that I could look into the canyon that everybody else could see from our maximum planned depth of 26m). We saw a turtle, but it only appeared once Ian and I had got on the boat. Got to perve at Alex snorkelling in a skimpy little bikini.
It's quite difficult to remember what we did day by day, but I think that I ought to quote some entries from my dive log:
"God the vis was good. Billy was going very deep, but I
could still see his lovely face!" - Scary.
"Billy is a repeat offender at judging depth. He is a very naughty Guvener" - Ian
"Brilliant Dive, Billy (was a) Gent throughout. Was amazing - better than day dives. Loved it. Very late back to boat then drank beer" - Alex "Bouncy Tits" Jamieson
We had agreed on a maximum dive-time of 45 minutes for the night dive, but Ian wanted to do his first 60-minute dive, so Silke agreed to let him and Scary do 60 minutes. At 65 minutes, they eventually surfaced. We knew it was them because we heard Ian saying "GUVNA"! To which Silke replied "JAN (pronounced Yaarrrn) - GET YOUR ARSE ON THE BOAT".
Can't remember where we ate, but I'm sure that it involved plenty of beer.
Wednesday the 22nd of February
Another top day. We did 3 dives again today and I was well behaved with my depth on the first two (Ian had threatened that Scary would take my anal cherry if I went below 30m again, and I didn't fancy that). We saw a shark on the first dive (a bit of a blur to me though, I really do need to get some more lenses for my mask) when we were diving Shark Reef and Yogi Bear reef. We also saw some stripy guvnas, gropey guvnas and a blue-spotted guvna.
There was only an hour between the first dive and the second dive, so I didn't bother getting changed out of my wetsuit. This meant that I wasn't last to kit up. I was near the front of the queue to jump in the water standing around all kitted up and then realised that I didn't have my dive computer anywhere near me - why do I always manage to gimmer around? Anyway, when I eventually got into the water, we had a lovely dive including a nice little swim through.
I was a little bit naughty with depth and air on my 3rd dive because Ian wasn't there to keep an eye on me. I surfaced with about 30 bar, but got a nice 60-minute dive.
Got back to the hotel for a bite to eat at the poolside bar's Egyptian night. The food was great, but the wind was a bit strong and we all felt a little cold. Went to the inside bar for a quick one (ooh-err) and then called it a night at about 10:30 because we had a 4 o'clock start the next morning.
Thursday the 23rd of February
I don't think that I've ever got up at 4 o'clock in the morning, but we were diving the Thistlegorm (or SS Thistlegorm if you're talking to Ian), which is reputed to be the best wreck dive in the world. Have a look for yourselves - it's amazing. Have patience with this site - it's often not available, but it's worth it). I was a little bit concerned that I might have problems because I hadn't had my usual fried egg sandwich that morning. Fortunately, the crew did us scrambled egg for breakfast.
It was about a 4-hour journey by boat to the dive site, so we settled down for a sleep on the boat. After about 2 hours, the boat stopped and then hooked a lift with another boat for a while. That boat gave up towing us and we let the anchor down. Apparently, the guvna had come away from the twirly thing. We waited there for about 2 hours for another boat to come from the base to pick us up and take us the Thistlegorm. It was a nice sunny day, so we didn't really mind too much. When we eventually got to the Thistlegorm, we were not the first boat there, but the last. It didn't really matter; we had two brilliant dives and our boat was the last boat to leave, so we still ended up with the wreck to ourselves. I even sat on a motorbike without falling off. I also managed to continue my life of crime and managed to kick Ian's mask off after he helped me through a door. Aren't I nice?
A good description of the Thistlegorm appears in my logbook:
"It was a supply ship going to supply troops during WWII. In 1941, some dodgy German pilots couldn't find their intended target (a troop transport ship with 50,000 troops on board), so blew up a supply ship instead. Bloody good job. With the extra 50,000 Aussie troops, we managed to win the war (and the World Cup in 1966) and the Thistlegorm is an excellent dive."
Ian's comment was far simpler, but expressed similar sentiments: "AMAZING....."
Ian, Alex and I ended up on the shot line together after the last dive (Scary stayed down with Silke and was a very naughty boy!). After the usual 3-minute safety-stop at 5m, we started to continue our ascent. By the time Ian and I had got to 4.5m, Alex was on the surface. By the time we'd got to 4m, she was on the boat. On the way back to land, she said that she had a headache and tingly arms earlier on, but didn't want to say anything!
Beer and a Spicy Camel burger in the Camel Bar followed by more beer.
Friday the 24th of February
We were set for another 3 dives today. We saw a turtle twice on the first dive and some of the guys saw a shark (my old man eyes let me down yet again). We dived the two reefs that we'd dived on Wednesday again. I was also concerned about the lack of fried eggs this morning. Fortunately, the Geordie boys saved the day - their hotel had given them hard-boiled eggs in their packed lunches.
Our second dive of the day was the Dunraven. Not as good as the Thistlegorm, but still a pretty good dive. Scary, Ian and I all continued my life of crime, not only did we go to 30m, but we did a decompression dive (Scary was only keeping up his naughtiness from yesterday). The wildlife was amazing, as was the boat. We swam down to the deep part and saw the propeller. We then swam inside the boat along the prop-shaft to the boilers. We then swam back along the boat and saw the Crow's Nest. Although we did go into decompression, it didn't really matter because the 2nd half of all the dives we did involved gimmering around at about 3-5m looking at all the beautiful colours.
During lunch, we were discussing what to do for our last night in Egypt. Steve and Nat were responsible for several drinking songs, a very confusing drinking game and (my all time favourite) DEAD ANTS! Silke decided to do the dive briefing just while I was getting changed, so I was naked while she was talking - cue another gag from Matt ("Look! It's like a willy, only smaller!").
Our third dive of the day was one for the record books. We'd just been given our brief (although Ian and Scary were more interested in doing some de-briefing) and told that we ought to start kitting up in about 10 minutes. That, of course, was my signal to start straight away. Even with a 10-minute head start, I still needed people to stop and wait just so that I could be kitted up first (cheers Scary for keeping everybody under control). So there I was, all ready to jump in the water and Silke started singing to me. We all joined in after a while. We then got half way through Bohemian Rhapsody before the skipper threw water all over us. After that, I jumped into the water. Yes, believe it, or not, Billy was the first one in the water. It won't happen again!!
There was a small area of sand on this dive, which meant that we were actually allowed to touch the bottom. I had Matt's digital camera because he wanted some shots of him diving, but we managed to miss all the hilarity that the others were having. There was underwater running (fins off), rodeo impressions astride cylinders and just general tarting around. Although I missed all the fun, the pictures looked excellent.
My Picture Album has more pictures of underwater madness
Back at the dive centre, Silke was telling us a little story about some trainees having problems checking their air properly. It involved her doing a deep breathing impression. I think that Scary's comment sums it all up. "Silke's breathing impression was almost pornographic. Heavy breathing and everything! God damn those horny Germans!"
More beer was drunk at the Camel Bar followed by a wonderful curry (with Paneer cheese, of course).
Saturday the 25th of February
The last full day in Egypt and we were going to make the most of it. Three more brilliant dives. To be honest, all the dives were so amazing, but they all merge together into one wonderful experience. All very beautiful and peaceful (except for several DEAD ANTS moments).
Nothing much to report on the diving front, but a new song
"What's that thing on the boat? Like a big hairy scroat. It's a Billy" - courtesy of Steve.
Since it was the last day in Egypt, we took Silke out to a fish restaurant and then carried on drinking until about 3am. First of all we got the hotel shuttle bus into town. Very convenient, but the "Bus Safari" gag was wearing a little thin - it made my gags sound new and funny.
Silke was up for it (ooh-err) even though she doesn't eat fish because she could still have a steak. Scary had been looking forward to this seafood meal all week and what did he end up eating? Steak - exactly the same meal (starter and main course) that Silke had ordered. Isn't that sweet?
We then headed back to the Camel bar for drinking games and nuts. Scary ended almost doing a dance when he fell over in all the peanut shells and I ended up doing the Full Monty on the bar when "You Sexy Thing" was played. The guvna stopped me just before I got my pants off. No drunken DEAD ANTS moments that I can remember.
Can't remember much else about that night, except for Ian eating the note that the nice man from Hayes and Jarvis had left us in the hotel reception. Scary wasn't with us at that point. Having given up on pulling Silke, he'd disappeared with Margaret. She's such a nice girl - far too nice for Scary, she wants a nice man. Slightly balding, 5'8" tall 31-year-old should do her!
Sunday the 26th of February
No diving today because we were flying back home that evening. We just spent the day drinking beer, eating, packing, perving and writing postcards. Quite a relaxing day. Matt cracked yet another gag: "They're old enough when they leave school - and round here that's 3:30!"
Bit of a bouncy flight on the way back and Alex's mum spent ages gimmering around trying to buy a watch on the plane. Bloody woman keeping me awake.
Scary didn't get stopped by customs at all today, but he never did find his "amazing exploding disappearing ankle weights" again. He dropped me off in Slough at about 11pm and the Ian and he continued their journey back to Bath.
Monday the 27th of February
Well, I guess I had to get back to work at some point. I spent most of the day with a headache that just wouldn't go. I put it down to withdrawal symptoms from not having had any beer that day. However at about 4:30, I felt a pounding in my left shoulder, followed by aching in my wrist and elbow and pins and needles throughout my arm. I also had slight backache and a neck-ache. I called the Navy's Duty Diving Medical Officer. He agreed that I probably had a bend and suggested that I get over to St. John's Wood and get into "the pod".
The guys there were wonderful. I spent about 4 hours in the pod on Monday night, followed by a night in a private hospital (woken up by a sexy Irish nurse) and then another hour-and-a-half on Tuesday morning. Very scary at the time, but I'm all cured now.
That led me to question the ability of Egyptian eggs in preventing the bends, but then remembered Billy's "Lesser Known Rule II of Bend Prevention". I've always maintained that when we're on Bath Tub after a dive, the nice cold windy British wind that blows through our hair isn't only making us question the sanity of diving in Britain, but it is also blowing some of that nitrogen out of our blood. Now the problem is that while the others (who had no problems with the bends) were sunning themselves at the front of the boat, I was hiding out of the sun. This meant that the others were experiencing the nitrogen releasing properties of the wind, but I was not.
It's official - Egyptian eggs are safe!
On a more serious note, why did I get a bend? Yes, we were drinking every night, but we didn't drink to excess (except for Saturday night and we weren't diving on the Sunday) and drank plenty of fruit juice and water while on the boat to make sure that we were hydrated. The main two things that contributed to me having a problem were the intensive diving (3 long dives a day for 6 days without a break) and flying a fairly long-distance flight about 26 hours after diving. Had I taken a break on either Saturday or during the week, then I would have been far less likely to have had a problem.
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Created on: 27 Feb 2003. Modified on: 27 Feb 2003.
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