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dahab - may 2001

image of camel & fred flintstone with board

So it was decided. We had had the E-mails. We had had the phone calls. We had had the meetings. We now had the tickets. We were on our way to Dahab, somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula.

THE JOURNEY

Neil Bass arrived at my door at 05:15 Thursday morning. He had already collected Josie Newman and we were now heading for Gatwick where we would meet the eleven other Nomads booked on the Planet Windsurf holiday. Mike and Pierrette (the driving force behind the holiday) were driving behind us (but out of sight) all the way and pulled into the Long Stay Car Park as we were unloading our bags: we accumulated more Nomads as we made our way towards the Departure Lounge.

We queued at the Monarch Airline desk and were checked in together. In the lounge, breakfast beckoned on every side and we settled for filled rolls and drinks while waiting for our flight to be announced. Surprise surprise! It's on time! A short bus ride and we board the 757 for the 5 hour flight. A meal, a sleep and some reading passed the time until the Captain announced that we were approaching Sharm El Sheikh where the time was 17:30 and the temperature, a warm 39°C.

The transfer bus was nicely air conditioned and we were soon bowling along the dusty road at a fair lick. These drivers wear lead toe-cap sandals so if it's not flat to the floor on the break (a rarity) it's flat to the floor on the accelerator. Overtaking is achieved by adopting this simple technique; keep foot hard on the accelerator and keep hand hard on the horn button.

The road winds it's way along a valley through red sandstone hills where the occasional Beduin camp could be seen. Camels bedecked in elaborate harness and colourful saddle blankets looked down their noses at these soft, pale infidels who have to have a bus to travel through the dessert. The camel is perfectly adapted to the conditions with hard pads on feet and knees as protection against abrasive surfaces, and the ability to tightly close every orifice in it's body in case of sand storms. Both these features we would all come to envy later in the week.

It was dusk as the bus left the hills and descended towards the collection of hotels clustered around the bay. After dropping off people at the Swiss Inn and the Dahab Hilton, we arrived at our less ostentatious accommodation, the Ganet Sinai. Guy Cribb and Shawna were waiting in the Hotel reception together with Jurgen (pronounced Yurgen) the windsurf centre Manager. They showed us to our rooms and said to meet in the dining room as soon as we were ready. The rooms were small with little cupboard space but, Allah be praised, equipped with a full sized fridge which was soon stocked with bottled water and chocolate.

At dinner, Guy and Shawna chatted about windsurfing, the conditions, the bay, the swimming, the diving and the need to drink lots of water. They didn't talk about the Pharaoh's curse - something we would all experience to a greater or lesser degree. We were eager to get to sleep after a long, hard day and, as I lay on my bed, I realised why Planet Windsurf described the accommodation as 'half board'.

DAY ONE - FRIDAY or FRY DAY.

Up at the crack of dawn to sample the variety on offer in the dining room. Corn flakes and warm milk from some undefined animal; plenty of choice of bread and one type of jam; even a man with a pan to cook omelettes. We leave for the beach loaded with bottles of water. In spite of taking gulps of water every few minutes mouths feel dry; no one is sweating; the heat sucks moisture from the body. The mercury hits the 45°C mark! Ten degrees above normal for the time of the year, this is an Egyptian heat wave. We head for Jurgen's joint (or Yurgen's Yoint) where we handed over our board hire Wouchers (sorry, I get my wees mixed with my wubbleyous). Jurgen is stressed. Some boards are being repaired and most people want a board between 95 and 120 litres so some people are disappointed. It is towards the end of the week that we find out the Happy Surfer next door is owned by the same man and that has better kit!!

Once the kit was sorted it was time for the big guessing game. Fortunately the bay's about one and a half kilometres across. Unfortunately the best sailing is on the far side of the bay, so for the first 500 metres or more you were sailing in the wind shadow of all the other hotels and windsurf centres built on the beach. Having reached the far side of the bay and discovered the 6m² sail is far too big, it's a long haul back for a change down. How nice to find Vaseuni, the centre's Egyptian assistant, willing to help with your rig change. Vaseuni is a real ladies man so he would drop what he's doing if he could do something to help a female.

Various first day glitches became apparent in the form of loose screws in boom ends and footstraps. Brian pulled a harness line out of the webbing because there was no knot in it. Geoff was complaining that the sail he chose was too flat, gutless and just not working, however, on his last reach of the day he caught a gust and kept planing the whole one and a half kilometres back to the centre. Sailing over for the day, we headed for our rooms for a shower and a cool lie down. The evening meal was a barby. It seemed like they transported the whole kitchen and dining room to the beach as well as tents, awnings, mats, cushions and the sound system. The only things missing were the belly dancers.

DAY TWO, SATURDAY, SAND GYBES.

Guy starts the day with a Carve Clinic. With board, boom and bottom half of a mast, everyone on the course practices the step sequence and hand movements which are key to planing through the gybe. Not everyone there had booked for coaching so one or two soak up the sun or rig up and go out straight away. Josie was keen to perfect beach starts and was soon reaching out and tacking back to jump off and start again.

Cribby Master Class.

Geoff decides to spend the morning taking photo's from the tower which is built in waist-deep water the other side of the bay. This entails a two kilometre walk round the bay for Geoff, but Guy caries his photo equipment (including tripod) in a back-pack and windsurfs across. The results are well worth it to see what happens when sand gybes are tried on water; Brian almost cracked it first time. Josie's room-mate, Emma Barker Libbinan* (see footnote) was asked what the wind was like. "It's Animal" she said. She was probably thinking TIGER at the time.

Lunch is taken at the Speedy Snack Bar, on the beach right next to the PW centre and run by an cool Egyptian called Tareq. All meals and drinks can be put on the hotel bill by giving room number and name so no need to carry money about. They have quite a varied menu with pizza, rice dishes, fish and, of course, chips. Guy sets up a TV and shows the video which Shawna shot from the tower. Neil decides to go back to his room for a half hour rest, falls asleep for five hours. Is this the heat or the first signs of Pharaoh's Curse?

In the afternoon, Pete Kilner and Simon Coppen spent a lot of time practising water starts. Guy took a group including Ian and Neroli to practice bearing away and staying sheeted in hard; the first part of the carve gybe. Neroli surprised Guy with a really tight gybe which he commented on at the de-brief. Of course there were the inevitable bumps and bruises. Josie had the skeg on leg pattern of bruises but Andy Nyan** (see footnote) had bruises all over. Someone had asked Guy if it was safe to sail bare-foot. Guy said "I always sail bare-foot here and never have a problem." So fate had to intervene and sprinkle broken corral around. Guy, Andy, Ian and others had cuts on their feet before the week was out.

After dinner there was an invitation to join Peter Hart and co. for a party at the Club Mistral hotel. Some of us Nomads and others on Guys course walked along the beach to see what it was all about. When we got there they were still eating dinner so we went into the bar of another hotel and had a drink while we waited. We sat and talked for a while and then the group split up. Some went on to the party, some went back to bed. The Pharaoh really had it in for Neil that night; frequent runs to the toilet, firing from both barrels.

DAY THREE, SUNDAY, REST DAY.

Those of us feeling like active volcanos thought Sunday should be a day of rest. Ian stayed in bed the whole morning but was seen doing freestyle on a Rookie in the afternoon as the wind had dropped. Definitely not a TIGER to-day, more a PUSSY CAT.

Brian had gone out in the morning and his skeg pulled out. The bolt had lost it's thread so Pete sailed back with the bolt to get a replacement. Sounds easy, but that's not the way things are done here. Out goes the rescue boat to bring Brian, board and rig back to the centre so the skeg could be replaced by Vaseuni who screws the new bolt in so tight the bush cries for mercy. This gave Jurgen the opportunity to lecture Brian about sailing in the wrong place! Later in the day, Brian took to his bed, the latest victim of the squirts.

DAY FOUR, MONDAY, TACKING.

Monday morning there were more fasters than breakfasters. The half empty table bearing witness to the state of the digestive systems of the holiday makers, even Guy is having trouble. Down on the beach there's a better attendance; windsurfing has more appeal than eating. Guy gives us some rigging tips; shame Vaseuni isn't there to see.

As the wind is a little lighter to-day, (only a GAZELLE) Guy's lesson is Short Board Tack. He goes through the foot movements on the beach and emphasises the importance of good footwork. After the coaching, the practice. Geoff practised close to the beach so that Pete could take some photo's.

Shawna & Josie

Someone switched off the fan at about two o'clock (the wind was now a mere GERBIL) so a trip on a glass bottomed boat was organised by Shawna. The boat took us out to where there were several coral reefs and tied up to a mooring. We plunged into the clear water amazed at the brilliant white and vivid red of these goggle-eyed creatures swimming around us: turning our attention from our fellow nomads we made our way towards the reef and the even more amazing sea creatures which inhabit the nooks and crannies of the coral. All to soon it was time to return to the hotel and our evening meal.

A trip to town was arranged for the evening so after dinner we assembled outside reception where our 'TAXI' was waiting. Egyptian taxis come in various degrees of luxury. This was the basic, no frills, economy class pick-up truck. Shawna gave us our first lesson in barter when the driver asked for 3 Egyptian pounds each. "We pay you ONE pound each or YOU go away and we get someone else!!" We went down town for a pound. What a mix of everything you can imagine and more. New (small) supermarkets, old stone built souvenir shops, open air café and, believe it or not, three internet café. The 'Main Street' seemed to be maintained by the shop owners and changed surface (and often height, by as much as a foot) as it passed from one building to the next. The few trees that grew in the middle of the road and the occasional outcrops of rock added to the traffic calming effect. I wondered if Bristol City Roads Department had ever visited here.

DAY FIVE, TUESDAY, MANIC IMPRESSIVE

I knew it would be a good day when I went into the bathroom and saw the ventilation fan whizzing round. It was not plugged in! On our Animal scale, this was a RAMPANT RHINOCEROS. Geoff took Ian's camera and his own round to the tower for some gybing (or wiping out) shots. Guy had sailed out with the back pack. As the sun got higher so did the wind. Shawna urged Guy to get people back to the centre when it was clear that only a few were coping and the rescue boats were fully occupied.

Ian

Simon managed to sail back with many up-hauls. Mike broke a mast while Andy collected several more bruises. Neil was trying to waterstart when he realised that he was drifting towards the coral reef. He decided to up-haul and got going first time. Confucius he say 'Fear concentrates the mind.'

In the afternoon Brian, having recovered from his bowel problem, was now suffering from a painful shoulder, the result of a mega wipe-out. It was lucky that one member of our club is practised in the art of massage and joint manipulation and was able to ease the pain. Brian was worried he might have to go to the Egyptian capital city to see a Cairo-practor.

Brian

Simon and Pete tried to use the same bit of water at the same time. Luckily they didn't injure each other but they did some damage to the kit. They took it back to Jurgen who had had a hectic day with all the rescues during the day and one boat out of action. All Jurgen could say was "I'm stressed. Tell me in the morning."

There is an invitation to a party at the Dahab Hilton (otherwise known as the most expensive wind shadow in Egypt) but most people are too shattered to go.

DAY SIX, WEDNESDAY, WATERSTARTS.

At breakfast Jim announces he has the bug. A little late, but he says he always was slow to catch on. Nevertheless, he battles on with the days activity. Guy gives useful tips on waterstarts, especially on ways to manoeuver the board and sail into position using as little energy as possible. Everyone is keen to try his labour saving methods; sure enough, they work.

By 10:00 the wind is good and people want to get out early in case it gets RHINO again. Guy took Ian and a few others out onto the speed strip, a stretch of water down wind of the sand-bar. The water here stays flat even when the wind is RAGING BULL ELEPHANT. There is no landing area down wind of the speed strip other than a small raft moored in the vastness of the Gulf of Aqaba: if you miss that, next stop Saudi Arabia.

There are plans for an evening meal at a typical Egyptian restaurant for those not too cream-crackered or squirty. Reports of the meal were mostly very good but some people had reservations (I thought only American Indians had reservations). It turned out the restaurant was off the main road, down a lane, into an alley and round a corner. It was a low building with cushions to sit on and low tables; there was no air conditioning so things got pretty hot. However, most people enjoyed the experience.

DAY SEVEN, THURSDAY, HALF A DAY ON THE WATER, THEN SAY GOOD BYE.

Up early and a quick breakfast before dashing down to the beach to grab your favourite board and sail. The wind is up early too, force 5 ish already. Geoff rigged a 5.4m² and Vaseuni carried it to the water while Geoff changed and put his harness on. Vaseuni tests the outhaul tension, decides to extend the boom an inch and re-tie the outhaul, carefully checking the tension again. Geoff now has an inch gap between the clew of the sail and the inside of the boom.

As usual, Simon and Ian are last off the water; Neroli was wondering if they would have time for lunch but eventually they came in. With all the wet gear laid out to dry we ate our last Egyptian meal and posed for photo's of :-
"The Class of Two Thousand and One".


All that's left is to stuff the damp windsurfing clothes into the luggage, buy a tee-shirt or two and wait in reception for the transfer bus. Handshakes and hugs and "see you on the waters" echo round when the bus comes and we are soon on our way to Sharm El Sheikh. Nearing the airport we noticed that there were men lining the route - one each side at about 50 metre intervals. Our driver told us they do this when an important person is going to or from the airport. No, it was not for Guy and Shawna but for a Sheikh who was flying in.

The flight home was as good as the flight out - left on time and got to Gatwick early, wicked.

Can't wait for the next Nomadic Foreign Holiday, that'll probably be West Wales. See you there.

Footnotes:

* LIBBINAN - acronym for Lives In Bristol But Is Not A Nomad.

** NYAN - acronym for Not Yet A Nomad. Andy is a friend of Pete Kilner who is living away from Bristol at the moment but is going to join the Nomads soon when he moves into the area.

ANIMAL SCALE OF WIND SPEED:

  1. GERBIL very gentle, no use whatsoever.

  2. PUSSY CAT mostly still, some movement at meal times

  3. BADGER strong but shy, nocturnal wind, comes out after you've gone

  4. GAZELLE always on the move and capable of speed.

  5. ROTTWEILER moody and unpredictable, fast when roused.

  6. TIGER comes roaring in unexpectedly

  7. KANGAROO a gusty animal, always up and down.

  8. WILDEBEEST constantly moving, heavy and fast

  9. BISON as above but heavier

  10. RHINOCEROS high speed, rips you up and knocks down

  11. BULL ELEPHANT mega heavy, knocks you down and tramples all over you.

TOP TIPS or WHAT THE NOMADS LEARNED from GUY CRIBB:

Brian - On a short board in light winds, keep your front foot pointing forward and up close to the mast for better balance.

Pete - When waterstarting, keep your arms straight and let the wind lift you. Don't try to pull yourself up by bending your arms.

Simon- When setting up your harness lines, the back part should be one third from the front of the boom. Make fine adjustments with the front part.

Josie - Use lots of Mast Foot Pressure when sailing and practice the correct foot movements for tacking and gybing

Jim - Trim the board correctly and use Pelvic Thrusts (swing your hips in to compensate for lulls and swing out for the gusts.

Geoff - When the rig falls with the clew pointing into the wind, pull the mast in line with the back of the board, get your body weight on the front and kick your legs. The board and rig will turn the right way round for a waterstart.

Pierrette - Set the boom higher. When tacking, keep the body low and carve the board into wind with the front foot by the side of the mast.

Neil - Look where you are going. If you are tacking, look upwind; gybing, look down wind.

Mike - When flipping the rig, throw it forward and look where you are going.

Neroli - Don't stand up between eight and nine (ask her)! And it's nothing to do with alcohol.


Geoff Pook

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