Saturday, 22 September 2007

Africa at Last

Just a quick one - We sailed (or drifted) into Egypt yesterday afternoon, enduring the bewildering customs processes late into the night. More about that soon. In Dahab now, planning some more diving, and to watch England vs Samoa this afternoon!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Red Sea Adventure Divers

Last recorded coordinates:
29º 25’ 22” N
034º 58’ 42” E

Distance travelled so far (odometer): 10100 miles (approx 16250km)

Diesel used: 1637 Litres

Distance from London (as crow flies): 3800km

Maximum recorded tent temperature so far: 53.3ºC
Minimum recorded tent temperature so far: 4ºC

Having just spent our ninth night camping at the Bedouin Garden Village just south of Aqaba, we feel like we are now part of the furniture there. It is by far the longest we have stayed at one place since our extended sojourns in Kerswell Green prior to our departure from the UK. It has been quite a convenient place to base ourselves while we wait for our new carnet to arrive. It is on the Gulf of Aqaba, and the coastline here is a marine reserve with coral reefs, wrecks and plenty of fish to amuse us.

Catkin mentioned last week that after looking at various options we decided to apply for a new Carnet that would enable us to drive through Egypt. This process has taken time, but we are hoping that our new documentation will arrive at the DHL office today, which will mean we can finally move on.

Catkin also mentioned diving. Since then she has completed the Open Water Diver course, with all the instructors commenting on how good a diver she is. After her first day I was able to get my hands on her manual and refresh myself on everything I had forgotten since I did the same course in 1995. Having not dived in 10 years I’d forgotten just about everything… Luckily it all came flooding back quickly. The next morning I sat in on Catkin’s lesson for a quick skills refresher in the pool before starting an Advanced Open Water course. I completed the course after five adventure dives (peak performance buoyancy, navigation, deep dive, wreck dive and search and recovery), and it has been great to get back into scuba gear. One of the dive centre staff bore a striking resemblance to Manuel from Fawlty Towers, but luckily for us, he was an excellent dive instructor and a great guy also. We are hoping to keep our hand in with dives on the Sinai coast and elsewhere in Africa, as well as Australia later in our trip.

Aqaba is inevitably a bottleneck for overlanders. We had seen no one up until 10 days ago. Then, on our first day in Wadi Rum, we saw a French family in their Land Rover campervan. They were in exactly the same situation as us, having been unable to obtain transit visas for Saudi Arabia. Since then we have spent a lot of time with them, as they are also staying at the Bedouin Garden Village awaiting a new Carnet (it’s been touch and go to see who gets theirs first, but it looks like we might win). Their planned route is very similar to ours, so we might be seeing a lot more of them in the next few months. Their eldest son, Jeremie, has already been around the world with his parents in a Land Rover, and his eye for detail is evident in the excellent picture he has given us of our vehicle, set in Africa.

We have had another couple in a four wheel drive camp here as well, plus another overland truck which came in off the ferry early one morning, woke everyone up, and then left later that day. A German couple in a 4x4 truck stayed the night before last, and they are also travelling a similar route so we hope to see them along the way too.

As well as our diving adventures, we have been able to spend a bit of time doing all sorts of jobs that you don’t get a chance to do when you are travelling every day. Catkin has cleaned out all of the kitchen crates and the fridge and stove, as well as giving the Camel a good clean inside and out. I’ve fixed a few little bit and pieces I’d been putting off, as well as getting our air conditioning going, again, after it stopped working, again. Our stove has been playing up a wee bit, so that’s been stripped down and cleaned, and reassembled (after a trip to find a supplier of rubber O rings in Aqaba). It’s still a bit on the temperamental side, so this may not be the last you hear about the stove… And on top of all of that I’ve had plenty of time to count the grey hairs in my beard.

The Garden Village has a swimming pool too, so it’s been great to be able to cool off in the water and watch the sunset behind the Sinai across the gulf.

So, we still haven’t quite escaped from Aqaba yet, but hopefully by the next time we can update you we will finally have made it to Africa!