A very Egyptian weekend: Spearfishing, a run-in with the army, an oil tanker explodes, the AUC protest turns violent (Part 2)

Will, Casper, and I spent the afternoon snorkeling over the small reefs by the resort and Will brought his spear gun so he was on the hunt. He ended up taking an 11-inch parrot fish but he was upset because he thought it was bigger underwater.

More to come tomorrow because I'm too tired. I'm going to just copy this post into the next though because I don't want the flow to be interrupted, so just skip ahead tomorrow!

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We left off at Thursday nightthe boys and I all went to bed around 12:30 because the TV wasn't working and we we're planning to enjoy the morning before everyone else arrived at around 12:00pm. I forgot to mention that we tried to eat some of the sea urchins because they're supposed to be a delicacy but we'd left them out of the water for too long and they'd spoiled. We didn't try a second time because will had gotten pricked by one while harvesting and when we realized his gloves wouldn't protect from their teeth we chose to be safe rather than to investigate raw seafood that could prick you and inject toxins. Will politely declined my offer to pee on his hand, which I offered in jestsinceapparently that's the go-to for aquamarine injuries. In the morning Dillon woke up to watch the sunrise before going back to bed and Will got up, ate early, and was out spearfishing by 8:30, when I got up. I ate and got my gear on and joined Will in the water.

At this point it becomes valuable to introduce a map, which I have keyed for clarity and to which I will refer for positioning. It should help considerably to consult this image because it is nigh impossible for me to communicate the spatial relationships of the events of the weekend without it.

I joined Will at the green circle, or "Staging Cove" because it was our main entry to the water from land. The shore was mostly rocky, and the Swiss Inn had built a path into the water which created a sheltered cove for swimmers and an easy place to put fins on. We had hung around this area, in and around the cove, on Thursday and this time we decided to try to get to the reef I had seen on Google Maps, marked by the purple circle on the map. There is a very strong current, probably 4-6mph heading south along the shore. Will was hunting along the area between the green circle and Fence 1 and was trying to ferret out a couple of larger fish he had seen in the area. We wanted to try to get to the reef, but a big fish under a rock is worth two on an unknown reef, so Will encouraged me to go ahead and scout while he tried to get the fish to come out. I thought he was behind me a little ways, and over the course of an hour I walked from Fence 1 to Fence 2, entered the water, and made my way down to the point labeled as The Drop Off. I took my time investigating the thin coastal reef along the shore as I came down, and it was very much low tide so the reef was almost peeking out of the water and I was nearly chest-to-sand the whole way because the water was 2-4 feet deep on the outside of the shore-hugging reef. I was completely absorbed in the reef on my right and only periodically looked to my left to see if there was a shark coming out of the blue to attack me. When I made it down to The Drop Off I decided to have one of these rare please-don't-be-a-shark looks and discovered that the sand to my left was actually sloping upward, meaning I was in a trough of sorts between the sandbar rise and the reef. At it's deepest point, the water here was maybe 3.5 feet, and I could only see the sand for a distance of 7 feet or so to my left before the rise ended and obscured everything beyond as the seafloor dropped back down. This was a totally eerie sight because I was used to nearly 50 feet of clarity and I could see the crest of sand very clearly, but I had no idea what the floor looked like on the other side of it, or for how far I could see it, and the blue of the ocean above it was so pure that I had no reference for the clarity of the water. I wanted to see what the floor looked like on the other side so I turned toward the open ocean and slowly kicked my way up the rise. Strangely, as I made my way up I still couldn't see the other side. I expected to be in some sort of dip, so when I went to the top I could see the plane of the sand extending off into the distance, but even a foot before the crest I couldn't see the floor beyond. I was in no way prepared for what greeted me at the topimmediately the sand floor plunged at an 80-85 degree angle, nearly sheer, straight to the ocean floor 25-30 feet below. I went from being in 2.5 feet of water at the top of the sand ridge to being over 30 feet of deep open blue in a matter of seconds. I took a second to check and make sure I hadn't been seen by anything lurking in the gloom of The Drop-off and scrambled back to the reef, eager to have a wall at my back and escape the pure vulnerability of floating above open water. I hung around for a few more minutes before I found an area free of sea urchins and swam to shore to begin walking back and searching for Will. I wanted to tell him about my find, and the coastal reef that lay beyond the hotelconstructionsite next to our hotel.

On my way back, as I was crossing the sand bridge marked by the pink circle I passed by some of the construction workers and said good morning to the foreman, who raised an eyebrow at the fins I was carrying slung over my shoulder. I ducked around the second fence and found Will almost exactly where I'd left him, still rooting out some fish in the rocks between the green circle and Fence 1. He came out of the water to talk with me about mydiscoveriesand I saw that he had a 10 or 11-inch parrot fish hanging from the wire hanger he'd torqued into a stringer and hung from his belt. He cleaned the fish and I relayed my finds and we agreed to plunge back in for another couple of hours before getting lunch.

We walked back down past Fence 2 and dropped in on the rocks in an area I'd scouted to be free of the sea urchins which blanketed most of the area in a treacherous black carpet. We made it in safely and worked along the shore for close to an hour, finally coming to and exploring the drop-off and then briefly continuing south. For a few minutes in the bay we could hear a pod of dolphins hunting via echolocation when we dove under the water. We went on shore just past the two houses near the red circle in order to scout the bay and try to determine by sight exactly where the reef was located. We suspected it was directly across the bay and decided to tackle it after lunch.

When we got back to the Swiss Inn we found that the group from AUC had arrived and we ran to the restaurant to beat everyone to the buffet lunch while they we're moving in. After lunch Will wanted to take a nap because he'd gotten up early to go out and tends to operate at 100% or 0% energy, but not in between. I, on the other hand, tend to operate between 80% and .001%, but I have a few reserve tanks and can run on fumes for each of them, so I was going straight back into the water. I recruited five friends ho'd come with AUC's buses and we started walking back toward the reef. As we neared Fence 1 we could see there was a man from the hotel staff standing at it and we could anticipate his feelings about ustraipsingso cavalierly across resort lines. Instead of run into that obstacle we all piled into the water with the intention of getting out at the sand beach bridge you can see by the pink spot on the map. I stayed back to help Casey get into the water and avoid urchins while the four others went on aheadnot everyone had fins and I expected to catch up with them. Casey took a bit to get ready and the other four we're bobbing in the bay of the sand bridge when we finally met them. They reported that there was a man on the sand bridge who wouldn't let them cross. I looked up and (at the position marked by the pink spot) I saw a man in a grey galabaya (the long robe worn by some Arab men) waving us off. I sighed and said I'd go talk with himhe was the foreman I'd greeted when I passed through earlier in the morning. I swam freestyle up onto the sand and puled off my mask to meet him on the shore. The following conversation took place in Arabic, his dialogue is italicized:

"Good morning!"

"Good morning."

"Is it possible for us to go from this sea to that sea over this, in this direction?"

"No, you cannot come here."

"We don't want a problem. Just to cross to look at fish."

"You must go around the island!"

"The island is big and the way is long and very hard. The water is strong and hard, but if we go over it is easy and no problem."

"You cannot come, it is not possible."

"Don't you remember me from the morning today? I said good morning and you said good morning. I was looking at the fish."

"I don't remember."

"I crossed here this morning and it was no problem."

"I remember but you cannot come here."

"Please, we are tired and it is easy. We won't stay, just to go to the other sea. No problem."

"He bowed his head and nodded."

"It is okay?"

"Okay, okay. No problem."

"Thank you, thank you!"

I turned back to everyone and said it was alright to cross. I later found out that as soon as I had left they had agreed that they had no confidence in my ability to convince the guy, and we're thusflabbergastedwhen I had done so. When we got to shore I told everyone to walk as far as we could until he got angry, at which point we'd duck back into the bay and swim the rest of the way. He became preoccupied with an inflatable raft of men that had somehow washed ashore on the other side of the beach bridge (where we we're supposed to reenter the water) and we slunk across the construction site to Fence 2. I posed the optionstothe group of going in here, where there we're few urchins, and continuing along the thin coastal reef down to The Drop-off where we could inspect that and continue on to the main reef further down, or walking beyond The Drop-off and scouting there, then following our attack plan to the Target Reef. They chose to go in here and we piled in and went along the reef. We could see puffer fish, some angels, parrot fish,anemones, clown fish, and lots of other fish I don't know the names of. When we got to The Drop-off the tide had come in considerably and we we're in about 6 or 7 feet of water, putting the drop a good 35-40 feet below. We dove as a group down to the sandbar and crept along it to the edge of the drop so that they could experience coming upon it as I had at low tide. After this we met at the surface to discuss the sight and catch our breath. As soon as we popped our heads above water I heard a shout from shore. I turned and saw 5 men standing on the rock beach, two of them in fullcamouflagewith Kalashnikov automatic rifles. Their location is the red circle on the map.

Oh, jeez. This will be interesting. I thought.

"Come here!" one yelled, motioning us to the shore.

"What?" I yelled back, buying a little time.

"Come here!" he repeated.

A couple of the members of our group suggested swimming back to the Swiss Inn, at least 1.5 miles against a strong southern current, and began doing so. Casey was closest to me, and he's done some traveling and gotten into tight places before, and I looked at him with a "You know we can't do that." with a displeased half-smile.

"We should probably I'll go with you." He ventured.

"I mean, we have to. They could pick us straight out of the water Let's go."

I announced that Casey and I we're going to go to shore and talk with them and waved to the men on shore that we we're coming. A couple expressed that they thought going to them was unwise, but I countered them that we could be shot out of the water if we didn't parlay. They found my logic sound and we're happy to tread water while Casey and I acted as delegates. We swam in, careful to avoid the urchins which the tide now carried us over, and removed our fins. I immediately went up and shook hands with the two men in uniform, and then a third man who reached in between them to greet me. Again this conversation was mostly in Arabic, their dialogue is italicized.

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Posted in Moving and Relocating Post Date 08/23/2021






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