Snorkeling in Scuba Gear

The Red Sea is apparently a very popular destination for divers from all over the world and home to many international dive schools. Peter had done his PADI (a divers certification) a year prior, and I’d always been curious what it was like to scuba dive. Since I was a swimmer, I am very comfortable in the water, so I was quite confident. How hard could it be, right? Well, the answer is VERY hard, I learned.

We were dropped off at the dive school to meet our instructor and to gear up. The instructor gave us a brief introduction tutorial as to how to breathe and equalize the pressure in our ears, etc. Then we were given equipment, a full wetsuit, oxygen tank, water shoes, flippers, a mask, and a weighted belt to keep us underwater.

Since it was my first dive, the instructor had to always be near to me to control my oxygen tank, but Peter was free to do a dive alone. So we ventured into the 3 foot deep water so that I could practice breathing before going into deeper waters. But I knew after about 5 minutes of trying and failing to breathe properly that I would not be going into deeper waters.

I tried, I really did, but I just could not coordinate my breathing. My mask would quickly fill up with water, my eyes were irritated by the salt, and I would have to empty my mask and coordinate breathing, and it was just a mess. But in order of the show to go on, I went with Peter and the instructor to the deeper waters, but I stayed on the surface, and therefore so did the instructor.

Literally my oxygen tank was not submerged at any point. I was essentially snorkeling in scuba gear, and I wasn’t even using the oxygen tank to breathe. I would pick my head up out of the water, empty my mask, take a breathe, and put my head back underwater. No underwater wild life was worth this kind of suffering!! So I turned back so that Peter and the instructor could at least enjoy their dive. Plus, I was much happier waiting for their return at the dive school than underwater struggling to breathe.

So I’m checking diving off the bucket list, but this truly was a once in a lifetime experience…by choice!

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Stuck in the Desert

Outside of Fayyoum is desert full of “balls”, or giant fossilized fish eggs, which apparently is not a sight to be missed. So we hired Mostafa to take us, and Peter and I kind of looked at each other when we saw him pull up in a Toyota Prius, but we climbed in and away we went. Maybe it should have been a red flag that we passed at least 3 Land Rovers double the size of the Prius driving into the desert…

It turned out to be very windy that day, but despite the chilly weather, we were ready to explore. Apparently, the desert had a different agenda. The wind had blown sand over the one lane road through the desert, making the drive precarious. Mostafa kept going though, continuing to speed up when he felt the car losing grip in the sand.

And then it happened. We were stuck. This little Prius was like the Little Engine that Could trying to drive out of this desert, and it just wasn’t happening. We were stuck. No matter how hard Mostafa pressed on the gas, our wheels were spinning. We weren’t going anywhere.

All three of us got out of the car, stood there in disbelief. From horizon to horizon, there was nothing but sand. Peter and I turned to each other and just laughed, there was nothing else we could do! Meanwhile, Mostafa started to dig.

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Peter’s really taking initiative and helping Mostafa come up with a solution.

Not sure why his bright idea was to literally dig the car out of the sand, but the more he dug, the more obvious it became that this was not the solution. So then he started letting air out of the tire that was stuck. Peter and Mostafa pushed the car while I pressed on the gas, but it didn’t move. So he released more air. We tried again, no luck. More air…no luck. It was getting dangerously close to the point that not only would we be suck in the sand, but we’d also have a flat tire!

And then, out of nowhere, four men emerge from behind a sand dune on their motorbikes with their headscarves and galabayas blowing in the wind. It had to have been a desert mirage, or at least a movie, because this could not be real life.

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The four men stopped to help us push the car out of the sand, and with the extra force, we were free and back on the desert road in under half an hour. We continued on to the desert balls, which were very impressive. They were massive, and it was so impressive to think that the the land we were walking on was once buried under water.

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We finished the trip on the banks of Qarun Lake, where we made a fire and drank tea before heading back to Tunis Village. As we walked back to the car, Mostafa threw the keys at me, telling me it was my turn to drive. I was a little hesitant given our prior mishap, but I had always wanted to drive in Egypt so this was my opportunity! I got behind the wheel and drove us 40 minutes through the desert back to the village, safe and sound.

Takeaway of the day: A Prius is NOT a suitable desert car.