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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

The life of luxury with King Snefro

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 22 December 2005.

Egypt, Country 12, Diary entry 14th – 20th Oct 2005, Total distance in Egypt: 5428 KM

Back on the road to the coast we drove for a couple of hours before finding a camp behind an unused quarry, home for another night. After a leisurely start the next morning (with a hot shower!), we carried on the long drive to Sharm. With Alex’s ear becoming more painful by the hour, I wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to dive when we boarded King Snefro III.

We camped just west of Sharm in a very nice little valley. With a day to kill before the liveaboard, Alex spent the next morning servicing bits on the car while I spent the time writing my diary and being his able assistant when required! We arrived in Sharm in the afternoon and after having had pizza in Cairo, Alex was craving it again. We spent some time looking round the old town and then went to find pizza hut! During the meal Alex took a turn for the worst so we walked to find a pharmacy to try and get some more painkillers.

Being the novices in medicine that we are, we willingly bought some painkillers that were ‘very strong’ and as Alex was in a lot of pain, the ‘doctor’ behind the counter told him to take half a tablet. Within 10 minutes, Alex was beginning to feel very strange; light headed, nauseous and hallucinating. I managed to get him in the car to try and find a camp for the night, but I hadn’t driven far down the road before I had to stop so he could be sick. Such a violent reaction in such a short time - it was very strange indeed. We found camp in a nearby car park, which was probably the most disgusting place we had camped so far on the trip! However, when morning came, it was by the far the best night’s sleep we’d had to date! Hani - our very smiley dive guide The next morning we went to find a garage that could fit a new fuel pump for us. Sharomi, the manager of the garage not only fitted the pump in a more suitable location but got his boys to give the car a once over. Within the space of 30 minutes they managed to locate the irritable knocking noise which had been eluding us since picking up the car from Frogs Island……. Very loose nuts (read that as you could spin them with your fingers) on the suspension arm bushes. Another BIG thumbs down for Frogs Island.

With a few hours to spare, we passed time by catching up with emails and then visiting dive shops to see if we could buy some warmer wet suits as our 3mm were not going to do the job in the colder climes of the Red Sea!!! Luckily we found some to hire and then went to have some Mexican food in a nearby restaurant we’d spotted earlier in the day. Feeling much happier with the thought of not being cold on our dives we boarded King Snefro III and were warmly greeted by Petra, the smiliest dive guide you could wish for, Hani and the crew.

Petra had worked extremely hard to organise the trip for us. Emails had been flying for weeks between her and Alex trying to fit a trip into the dates we had available. With everything coming together there had been a warning from Sinai and all Israeli’s had been advised not to travel to the region throwing everything up in the air again. Luckily a group of 7 people had confirmed last minute and we were back on track.Maz contemplating kitting up

We were the first to arrive with the rest of the group not arriving from Israel until the early hours. Petra took us round the boat and then showed us our room. The sleeping area was below deck, the main deck consisted of the living/kitchen quarters, outside at the back of the boat was the diving area with all the equipment and air tanks with the upper deck being a rest area. Very well equipped! For our sins we had been given the main bedroom with en-suite bathroom! :o) A very nice change to our roof top tent with our normal en-suite barren ground for washing! We said goodbye to Petra who we would not see again for another 5 days and went to bed. We slept extremely well and were woken by Hani the next morning for our first dive.

Maz getting ready for a dive Alex by this time was in agony with his ear infection and there was no possibility of him diving.... typical! The routine of the day was to get up early (urgh!) for the first dive, come back for breakfast, next dive before lunch, afternoon dive, night dive then dinner. We were woken about 8am, which wasn’t so bad as the scheduled time had been 7am and I was introduced to the group who had arrived during the night. It was then time to go diving. I had Hani as my personal dive guide as the Israeli group had their own, Eric.

With the air temperature rising outside it was refreshing to jump into the water. First dive being the check out dive we stayed close to the mainland and then returned to the boat for a much appreciated breakfast. The second dive was at Jackson Alley, where the boat dropped us off upstream and then picked us up down current. You might remember from previous entries that we dived Jackson Alley with Wolfgang when we first arrived in Sharm. This time I didn’t see ANY Jackfish!!! I missed the third dive of the day but did the night dive after we had been treated to a beautiful sunset colouring the sky with a golden light above the sea. The hills of Sinai glowed with a reddish tinge. Darkness soon fell and around the back of the boat schoals of fish appeared, attracted by the flood lights – a great start to a night dive. Alex slept for the whole day pretty much and ventured upstairs only for dinner in the evening. After a delicious dinner we all relaxed chatting. Sick patient sleeping on the deck

The next day was scheduled for more reef dives, but on rising, the winds had died and with the weather being so calm, the captain decided to head round to the north west side of Sinai, to the entrance of the Suez Canal, where the Thistlegorm, a British transporter ship lies. She was sunk by a German bomber during the Second World War in 1941, together with its cargo; land mines, shells, ammunition, Bedford trucks, armoured cars, Bren-Carriers, motorcycles, vehicle spares and rubber thigh-boots to name a few! Two sets of rolling stock were also being carried to be delivered to Egyptian Railways - each comprising an 0-6-0 Railway Engine, one Tender and one Water Carrier - all six items being carried as deck cargo. The hills of Sinai

The Thistlegorm was one of the main reasons we wanted to dive in the Red Sea and with Alex not feeling much better, we had hoped we’d able to dive it towards the end of the trip. However, Alex was not to be beaten and with a concoction of antibiotics and painkillers inside, he decided to try and get down. We twinned up for the dive using nitrox (two tanks on our back for those of you who don’t dive and using a gas that allows us to stay down longer before reaching decompression) as we wanted to stay under the water for as long as possible. In the dive brief we had discussed with Hani that when he either ran out of air or time (whichever came first) he would leave us and we would come up by ourselves.

The normal practice for the dive guide is to dive the Thistlegorm twice, the first time to show the diver the outside of the wreck and the second dive to go inside. Alex and I had different ideas about what we wanted to do and told Hani we’d like to dive the stern on the first dive as it was deeper and then explore the bow on the second dive. We then dived in the water and followed Hani down the port side of the wreck to one of the locomotives on the sea bed.

Once Alex had snapped as many pics of that as he could, we swam to the stern to see the propeller and rudder, home to two huge groupers. The two deck-mounted guns are still in place and make a great picture silhouetted against the sun streaming through the water. We then began to swim forward to where the two bombs had impacted the ship, ripping open the sides of the Thistlegorm. A Bren-carrier lies upside down in the open space, from a distance looking more like a tonker toy, until you swim down to gauge the scale of it, with ammunition boxes scattered all around.

We then swam forward again towards the engine room and on to the boilers. Hani, keeping to his plan of staying outside first dive, carried on ahead of us, while I swam towards a dark hole beckoning me past the boilers. Alex managed to catch a glimpse of my fin as I snuck through the hole and followed. Swimming through an empty coal bunker, we soon found ourselves in the next hold full of WWII goodies…..! The motorbikes stacked up in the back

To save cargo space, the motorcycles had been placed onto the back of the Bedford trucks - three at a time before loading. Having already dived the Thistlegorm some seven years previously, it was still an amazing site to see, a real underwater museum. Having realised we’d lost our dive guide, I quickly swam back to pick him up from where he’d lost us and we carried on our dive. Typically, just as we got to the dark sections of the wreck, my torch ran out! Not long after Alex’s did too! Good planning hey :O) Having already been underwater about 40 minutes, Hani had clocked up decompression stops so waved goodbye to us and left us to it. We swam around the trucks a while longer as our eyes acclimatised to the darkness and then ventured through the next hold to look at the plane spares, boots and rifles.

Having clocked up a couple of minutes decompression stops, we headed back to the bow to ascend. On reaching 6 metres, we were greeted by Hani who was still decompressing. Our computers cleared us to come up well before Hani was allowed….. boys and girls diving, if you weren’t convinced about nitrox before, you should be now! We had over 15 more minutes in the water looking at the wreck than Hani.

Having worked up an appetite, we returned to the boat for breakfast. With more than enough to eat, we tucked into eggs, cheese, meat & bread. After a surface interval we got back into our dive kit again and descended into the depths once more. This time we went straight into the holds to have a better look around. The motorcycles are in full view on the starboard side of the wreck, whilst the same is found on the port side, the top of the hold is bent downwards and with the presence of the water carrier, perched somewhat menacingly over the edge, you tend not to venture towards them! We then moved forward to find more trucks before exploring the chain locker. We had a final swim round the bridge before it was time to come up, then pulled ourselves along the wreck to the bow as the current was now quite strong. Two superb dives and definitely worth a return visit when we can! A couple of Bedford Trucks

The rest of the gang then did another couple of dives later, but as we had already spent nearly two and half hours under the water, decided to relax for the remainder of the day. Alex began feeling unwell and very cold. I wrapped him up in bed and gave him hot sweet tea to sip to try and warm him up. The crew were brilliant and kept bringing more blankets and tea whenever I needed it. This was a bit of a déjà vu, as last time we dived the Thistlegorm Alex got mild hyperthermia from staying underwater for such a long period of time….. I think it might have all been too much for him as he hadn’t fully recovered from his ear infection! Luckily for us we had a doctor on board and Bernie came to his rescue to give him a once over. Alex then slept for the rest of the day with Dr. Bernie and nurse Mazley checking on him from time to time.

A colourful sunset as a backdrop for a night dive The next day Alex was feeling slightly better and we dived the Dunraven, a steamer which sank upside down after striking a reef in 1875. Bare of everything except the engine, propeller and hull, it is still a nice dive with a lot of fish on it. We later dived Small Crack which is a reef that leads out to the open sea via small passages in the coral wall. After diving to 19 meters you swim up a spectacular coral wall with intricate fern and tree like corals. On reaching the passages, the current sweeps you out into open water where we were met by our boat. One obligatory night dive later we returned to the boat where I was taught the finer points of backgammon by Tsvika, Tamir and Raphi! Wouldn’t like to brag too much that I beat Raphi first game, but I have to admit I did have just a little bit of help :o) Maz & Alex kitting up for a night dive

Our final days diving was at the infamous Ras Mohamed where we dived Shark and Yolanda Reef. The current was so strong on the first dive that we didn’t actually reach Yolanda reef, but we managed to see 3 large barracuda that hung around for a while for Alex to photograph. We had to make an emergency assent as Alex noticed some water in his camera lens. The current had been so strong that water had seeped into the lens. :o( The second dive was finished off by swimming round the remains of the Yolanda cargo, which fell off the wreck before sinking to its resting bed in the depths below. With it now being law in Egypt to have a dive guide with you, we had been a little concerned that the dives might be hand held, but Hani was brill and let us do our own thing all trip while guiding us round the reefs to see the best bits.A quick game of backgammon inbetween dives

We spent the rest of the afternoon washing our kit down and relaxing before being dropped back on land. In the hectic session that followed taking all the kit back to the car, our clothes bag was mistakenly put with all the bags heading to Israel. Luckily I spotted it missing before they drove off (just) otherwise I’m not sure what we’d have done!! We said our goodbyes to Petra and the team and thanked them for the great time we’d had and their generous donation of the proceeds of the Nitrox used on board to Care International. The gang on deck relaxing

Alex was feeling better after a good nights sleep and we ventured over to Wolfgangs dive shop to see if the ‘Dive for change’ was still on. Unfortunately they couldn’t get enough people interested so it was canned. Martin decided to dive anyway and Alex and I spent a fruitless day trying to find camera shops to see if we could fix the camera lens and met up with Martin after his dive. It was time to prepare ourselves once more for the Egyptian authorities and we began our drive North to Neweiba.

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Comment from Mandy
Hey, sounds ace, dont suppose you could bring back some of the painkillers and the rubber boots!!;)
23 Dec 2005 @ 08:45:46

Comment from Marion C
Hi Maz,Alex and Martin,

Merry Christmas to you all. Weather is lovely and sunny here in Ireland and it is very mild. The temperature is 11 degrees today. Hope you are enjoying India.

My dinners nearly ready so cannot wait for the turkey and ham :-)

Love Marion
25 Dec 2005 @ 13:14:03