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Today we went off on the Desert Safari that we had booked on Thursday. We were told that this was going to be a visit into the desert to a Bedouin village with some fun and games first with high powered motor vehicles in the desert. Sounded good to me!

We went down to the shop which had sold us the excursion and were picked up by a long wheelbase Land Rover Discovery which was driven by a small guy with a burnoose and traditional Arab headgear driving who didn’t speak much English. This turned out to be our tour driver for the day.

We first drove down the coast on the nice new, sand covered motorway past the Airport to a fenced area which had a large arched gateway with “Safari Land” emblazoned across it. This worried me a bit, because it looked pretty controlled and in a word, tame. We drove up to this building which looked like a Spanish fort from Mexico (I think it had originally been a themed restaurant) got out the Land Rover and noticed a group of about 20 quad bike riders going round in a circle, all with crash helmets and gloves, being trained in the use of the quad bikes . Again my heart sank, as I had done something similar to this in Perthshire at the end of 2006 and although it was good fun then, without the tress and forest tracks I had been on in Perthshire I thought it would too controlled to get any fun in the fairly flat, featureless desert. However, our group of four were lead over to Spider buggies and asked if we wanted to try these first. So, me and Wendy in one K and [livejournal.com profile] dalg in another and away we went. We drove around following a guy on a Quad bike for 45 minutes and I absolutely loved it. It drove like a normal car but the gears were really loose, much like an old Ford Transit van gearbox (showing my age there). I kept trying to put it into 5th gear, which didn't exist and ended up in third. This caused the engine to roar and the buggy to take off like a bat out of hell. It was great. We were both well strapped in so no problems with us bouncing over the terrain. As we were behind dalg and K and the quad bike guide I also dropped back a couple of times so I could gun the engine and try and get some air between the buggies wheels and the ground. We didn't really manage to make it as I couldn’t get up enough speed for the low hummocks of the dunes to properly bump us up into the air and Wendy didn’t really like me trying it that much.  I lost my cap about 30 minutes in, which blew off back onto the radiator behind and above us. So, I thought “No problem, I’ll just get it later”. Then about 35 minutes in, the damn engine just conked out on us; way, way out into the desert, it just lost power and we came to a stop. I suspect that it overheated due to my cap obscuring part of the radiator. I could not get it restarted and we had to sit and wait for five minutes or so until the guide on the quad bike noticed that we had stopped and came back to help us. He, of course, managed to start the buggy first time! Here are a couple of pictures of us at the start of the run.

Once we had returned to the building (Which was currently being used for a quad bike garage) we then got on a set of the Quad bikes and drove around for another 45 minutes. Although Wendy did not come with us as she does not have a driving licence and was a bit worried about what could possibly happen. I think that the Spider Buggies have the edge on the Quad bikes for sheer excitement and sensation of danger. Could not really get the Quad bikes up to any speed due to the roughness of the ground, there was a real danger of being catapulted off the bike which was not there with the spider buggies. With being strapped in, you really felt like part of the machine with them.

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Minor hiccup with timings this morning as I had thought that my phone had sync'd to the local time zone, as it had presented me with a message to that effect after arrival, but when we woke and went down to breakfast at the time we had agreed to meet, it turned out to be an hour after. This meant that we had missed breakfast. Except for the kindness of the manager of the main restaurant room we would not have had anything to eat, but he got the serving boys to find us some pastries and rolls from the breakfast stuff they were clearing away as breakfast had just finished. This formed the hallmark of the good natured, helpful Egyptians we met throughout the holiday. As we hadn't turned up for breakfast [livejournal.com profile] dalg and K had gone down to the beach for a swim and a wander around. We met up about an hour or two later.

The hotel has three swimming pools. One main one in the centre courtyard along with a smaller one for what appears to be water polo and a secret one which few people seem to know about, off a corridor on the first floor which Wendy and K. found on the first full day. We went down there for a quick dip and sunbathe but the sun was actually too hot, even at that time in the morning so we decided to roam around the town and see what we could see. I should say that one of the things I like about the two bigger pools is that the depth starts at about 1.4 meters and goes down to 2.3 meters. This is so much better than pools in the UK which appear to be getting shallower and shallower. I never got the chance to check out the water polo pool.

The hotel room was brillant, we got a family room with three beds, only one a double, so no problems if Wendy and I fell out. This is a panorama of the view out of the window.

Everywhere in Hurghada seems to look like a building site which we think is due to the local regulations of not paying tax until the building is complete. So they just never finish it! 

As we were at the front of the hotel there would have been a problem with the traffic noise. Not the actual sound of the traffic passing, but the horns going at all times of the day and night. It will talk more on this particular subject later. However, we were saved by the air conditioner which we kept on at all times. This effectively drowned out all noise from outside the room.

While wandering about the streets we booked a trip into the desert (Saturday) 'cause it sounded interesting and another to Giftun island (Tuesday) which is not far off the coast and a nature reserve. Dalg and I also booked our first day of diving which he has been planning for quite some time and I was still a bit nervous about. I hadn’t been diving since 1997 when I did an Open Water Diving course while on holiday. The streets were difficult to navigate as everyone greeted you, and the natural tendency was to answer. This gave the street sellers an in and you were immediately invited into their shop. We had been warned about this as [livejournal.com profile] dalg  and K had been to Egypt before. But it was still difficult to compensate.

We then went back to the hotel and hung out beside the 1st floor pool reading and occasionally taking a dip and then went down and drank at the reception area bar. Basically we had a hugely lazy day, just right for a chill out holiday. We (or rather the girls) found a little clothing store beside the hotel entrance where we heard some excellent Egyptian music and met Fathy and his musician brother Shahed in their shop June (Don’t ask me why, they didn’t seem to understand either). They were really nice and we spent a long of time with them in the evenings over the next few days.
We originally ventured in there to get me more shorts and they were not too bad on the hard sell. So we used them a lot when we needed things.

We went down to the beach later at Triton Empire beach resort which was part of the same chain as the hotel and we had full access to (along with free drink) where we swam in the Red sea for the first time. Later on in the bar we saw someone pass out from heat stroke which was a bit disconcerting on your first full day on holiday. We (rather [livejournal.com profile] dalg  and I) drank lots and lots of Orange (which turned out to be Fanta) and Lemon (which turned out to be Sprite). The Orange was a virulent, bright Orange colour and has so much sugar in the carbonated water that it started rotting your teeth before you managed drink it. We coined the name “toxic Orange” and started to ask for it by that name by the second day.

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[livejournal.com profile] dalg , K, Wendy and I, after our great success of going away together in August last year to Paris and not actually killing one another decided to try a longer experiment and go off on holiday together to Egypt. All arrangements were in the hands of K and [livejournal.com profile] dalg , so without further ado, we left on a jet plane, today in the middle of the afternoon.

We flew with GlobeSpan. A four and a half hour journey from Hell with one of the original Witches of the Gorbals sitting just two rows behind us giving everyone on the back half of the plane the benefit of her huge experience of Egypt and by the way what she thought (which was astonishing in itself) of Globespan. All nicely delivered with a voice which could cut glass without effort and easily ward off any boats heading for Beachy head on a foggy night. One could not help noticing that she appeared to be talking with a throat full of broken glass. I also discovered that this was the woman who had the most remarkable way of blowing her nose in such a fashion that it sounded like she has just covered one nostril and blew hard. I hope that was just that it sounded like that, because otherwise I suspect she had just managed to spread swine flu throughout Hurghada and most of Glasgow once we returned. She did not strike me as a very nice person.

I forgot to mention that we kicked off with an extra £52 charge for our luggage to go with us which our travel company had not bothered mentioning to us or paying for. Something for K. to get her teeth into with all the relevant companies once we get back.

Once we arrived at Hurghada Airport we were ferried to the arrival hall by bus. The arrival hall itself was strange. The Police guards outside the door held their berets to their faces and other airport personnel had face marks on. We then discovered we were at the back of a queue which had a woman in a hajab and medical facemask at the front taking the temperature of all passengers with an electronic ear thermometer, presumably checking against swine flu, but nothing was explained to us.

We were cleared for visas very quickly as it appeared our hotel had a specific hotline for the visa distribution. We then joined a queue which we thought was to change money, which seemed reasonable at the time as these were all bank booths. It turned out that these were also for visas which caused the guys who were waiting for us to clear immigration and customs great confusion. I could almost hear them thinking “What are the stupid foreigners doing?”

Interestingly most of the rest of the people in front of us in the immigration queue were Russian who appeared to have come off the plane immediately before ours although K. said that she had heard several Russian speakers near the back of our plane, which is a bit puzzling, why would you fly all they way to Glasgow to transfer on to Egypt?. Once we had waited in the queue for immigration to let them check that we had just bought our visas (?) we handed off the form we got for the ear examination to the next guy in line and finally collected our luggage from the long stopped carousel. I began to think that the stories about the amount of bureaucracy in Egypt were true.

We had one mini adventure when K. found this guy who just said to her, “this way” and naturally she started following him before [livejournal.com profile] dalg  pointed out that he wasn't from our hotel or package company and actually had nothing to do with us. Minor embarrassment all round as we had all dutifully started following him and K. assuming all was well.

We got to the Hotel by minibus which appeared to be for us only. Just us four guests and the three staff sent to pick us up, very strange. When we dropped off one of the staff the others apologised profusely because he could only speak German. By this point we just smiled.
The Hotel; Empire Three corners, is great, It turns out that we were booked on the all inclusive option, presumably because we booked so far in advance, which was a surprise to Wendy and I (which is the good kind of thing which happens when you let someone else do the booking) and meant that all food and drinks in the hotel just need signed for and we are not charged! Brilliant!! To mark us as having this option we were given white wristbands with the name of the hotel chain emblazoned on them similar to the kind of identification bracelet you get when you are in Hospital. We wore these for the next seven days which became a bit of an irritation at times.

With a quick meal in the restaurant off we went to bed to wait and see what would happen tomorrow.


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March 2012

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