Monday, November 24, 2014

Egypt 2014 Video

As I had Daniels GoPro with me on the holiday, I did manage to make a video. It can be found at YouTube. I am not to happy about the quality, it does after all look better uncompressed on my own PC.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 7 Shaab Abu Dabab (Nummber 4)

After a maximum of four hours of sleep we got up and had some breakfast. Was well needed that and after that out to dive. I only have one dive planned for today and the other two also only did one dive. A Zodiac trip to Shaab Abu Dabab number four this time.
We where a rather large group this time and our guide was Hussein again. Some dolphins where spotted in the bay, so they do tend to be a rather common sight here. Got our things prepared and then went over to the jetty to fully assemble and border the Zodiac. Sharky, the donkey of the diving base which has been standing around the past few days, pulled over our heavy gear.
Whilst getting ready a few of us saw the tail fluke of the local manatee come up, so we can ad that to the seen list, even if it wasn't underwater. Driving out in the Zodiac we had no dolphins but at least three turtles catching air in the flat sea (near to no wind). One of our motors failed, but luckily we had a boat which was being driven by two. Arrived at our dive location and once again there was a safari boat there already. Nearly all the rest of the sea is empty and they just by chance go diving were we want to. Dropped of in to the nice cool sea and dived down to the corals on the sea floor. Once again a really nice dive site down there, lots of up, downs and diving around pinnacles of corals. Saw a Moreen eel, a few puffer fish, some blue spotted stingrays and a lot of butterfly fish.
Unfortunately we had two divers with us which didn't seem to care about the corals. Their most important target was to get a good picture, no mater if they destroy decades or centuries of coral work. Johanna and Jon told them underwater through sign language and pointing to stay clear of the reef and leave the corals alone, but they just ignored them and continued. On the boat we got the felling that they really didn't care about what they where doing. Saddening to hear something like that. Every time I accidentally even touch the corals lightly I hate myself for what I have done.
Back on land after that, took a while getting back with one motor. On land we had some lunch and then cleaned our gear before having a relaxing afternoon. That was our last dive of the holiday, as we have to be dive free at least twenty four hours before we take and air plane. Jon packed a bit already, but I left that for the next day. Had some dinner and then sat down with Michael, Uwe and a couple outside, so we could get eaten by the mosquitoes. Johanna and me went to bed rather early, as we had had little rest from the evening before.

Diving time: 62 min.
Diving depth: 17,3m

Friday, November 14, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 6 Shaab Abu Dabab, Ras Jon & Equinox House Reef

Woke up after Jon today again, before Johanna though. Yesterday was a long day. Pancakes for breakfast and then of to the first dive already. Zodiac trips to the reefs today and perhaps a night dive in the evening.
Going out on the Zodiac we found two dolphins swimming in the house reef bay. Rather unusual it seems, especially day times when they normally sleep. We also found Yvonne and their Safari boat out at the reef we where diving at. Another coincident, as the Shaab Abu Dabab is a reef complex of I think up to six reef. Said good morning and then went to dive with Salah. Fell in from the Zodiac and proceeded to dove through a cave right at the beginning. A long cave. I was a bit behind Jon waiting for Michael to follow me and when I looked back to the cave I only saw a black hole full of water. In I went and found Jon a ways in, waiting at the next corner. Out of the cave after hitting it a few times (unfortunately), but that seems to not be to bad, as the walls in there are coral sediments. Should try to avoid touching anything, thought.
Outside the cave we where greeted by a slow current going against us. Not to bad, but you do notice you are working and using more air. Johanna found a huge puffer fish, hiding under a coral and Salah pointed out a pyjama snail. After a while Yvonnes safari boat jumped in, just when we where crossing it underneath. And suddenly the water was full of divers. We had to leave the depths shortly after that as our one hour was running out. Proceeded back to the Zodiac and ignored some dolphins on the way back, seen a lot of them anyway (*sniff*). Had a quick break before Jon, Gerd, Salah and me went back in to do some exploring. As the diving station has not been here for to long, they also don't know where everything is. We where dropped of south of the base after a short trip, only a few minutes and dived down to the sandy bottom at about ten metres. Swam along the corals spotting a lot of rubbish. Apparently about three years ago a flood had come down from the mountain and taken a lot of rubbish in to the sea.
We found some lion fish and took a few short detours out in to the sea grass to see if we could find the manatee. No luck with that unfortunately, but we found something Salah classified as a turtle road. Just a sandy stretch from the open ocean through the sea grass to the corals. Resurfaced after a while, me luckily not having any problems with my cavities this time.
Back to the boat and then bay to have some late lunch and then to clean our gear.
After a short rest Johanna and me went down to have our night dive. Time about 5.30PM, the sun goes down very fast here. Jon wasn't joining us as he is frightened of none existent jellyfish. After gearing up and having our briefing it was Salah we went out with. Waded in to the shallow parts of the beach and assembled the rest of our gear before going under. Darkness all around us, but luckily we had torches with us. Spotted a box crab, basically a shrimp with long hair like sticks of it's body. Also some kind of snail moving in the water a bit away from the reef. Tiny little thing. Saw some glowing eyes looking out from the reef, shrimps hiding in the corals. Also a lot of sleeping fish, the glowing plankton (only a bit, as we didn't switch our torches of) and to the end a sea snake which was resting in about one to two metres depth. We got a bit lost and swam a bit further than intended so we had to walk a few minutes more. Some crabs on the beach as usual, a bit bigger than daytimes.
After that dive Johanna and me had an hour of rest before going to a beach party in the neighbouring hotel complex of Abu Dabbab. Where driven there by two entertainers from our hotel and stayed there till three in the morning before heading back for some sleep.
A map of the local reef site here (not very accurate), we are in the area of Marsa Ghaleb.

Diving time: 58 min. / 61 min. / 50 min.

Diving depth: 18,8m / 13,2m / 9,0m

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 5 Elphinstone, Marsa Abu Dabab & Port Ghalib

Early morning dive today. Hunting for shark in the local shark hotspot. We woke up at 5.00 o'clock to get to the base at 5.30 o'clock and to get our gear ready.
After that of to Brayka Bay to use their Zodiac as ours still has not received their permission from the police to use theirs. A rather fast drive to get there and we had a packed breakfast from yesterday evening to get rid of the hunger pangs. Arrived there and got our gear set. After that on to another big Zodiac from the local Extra Divers and of we where. A really long drive out to Elphinstone, lots of waves against us. We had a rather large school of dolphins on the way out, so we did a few turns to look at them. Once we arrived we saw four safari boats and zodiacs driving everywhere with divers. Weird bunch, divers. As we had two groups on board, Group 1, which wasn't us, got prepared to go in. I got confused and got ready, but realised soon enough that that wasn't my group, so I didn't accidentally jump in with them. Elephenstone is an only divers location. There are so many shark in that area, that snorkelling is forbidden. The sharks tend to leave divers alone (or are just curious) but snorkellers have I high chance of getting attacked from the bottom.
Dropped in to the water from the Zodiac and dropped under the waves after Salah gave the sign. Jon, Johanna, Michael, Gerd, Salah and me there today, so not to much. Elphenstone can also be rather risky due to strong currents. Underwater we where greeted by a drop off coral in to the depths of the ocean. Diving with a moderate current along the whole way with a wall to our right and darkness beneath us is a different type of diving to what we did till now here in Marsa Alam. Dropping down I noticed a painful sting in my cavities once again, have to get that fixed. Stopped at about 18 metres depth and let the current drag us along. Saw a scorpion fish and some big tuna but that was it for the dive. Nothing really special, especially no sharks. Probably scared away from all the activity going on. I though I saw a silhouette in the distance once, but blue water can be very difficult to tell. Exited and went back a bit disappointed, Elphenstone does have a reputation of having 70% shark chance. Another pair of divers on our Zodiac didn't stick to the reef, but swam out in to the open ocean and found an oceanic shark. Rather large, typical shark looking sharks that prefer the open ocean. Also on our way back we saw another large school of dolphins, seems like there are no dolphins in Dolphin House, the dolphin sanctuary in the area.
Reached Brakya Bay and de-geared before taking the mini bus back and having lunch in the Three Corners Equinox.
After lunch we where rushed by Salah to get to the neighbouring Marsa Abu Dabab reef. Good that we where rushed, as when we left the water there where tons of other divers, snorkellers and swimmers in the water. When we entered we had the beach and water for us. Underwater we dived over sea grass and spotted a total amount of eight sea turtles, a lot. Normally you see a maximum of two or three on a dive, but never eight. All where eating the sea grass. Apart from the huge amount of turtles we also saw a sepia (a type of squid), two lion fish, a crocodile fish and quite a few blue spotted sting rays. Going back to the beach we where greeted by swarms of divers and snorkellers coming the other way. Snorkellers, as the water wasn't to deep. Most of the time we where diving at about five metres. Exited back over the beach and cleaned our stuff before taking the bus back to the base and hanging it up to dry. A nice chat in the setting sun on the porch of the dive base and later back to the room to write the first part of the blog and to sort out the videos of the GoPro.
After that some more dinner and we weren't disappointed once again. Of to Port Ghalib after that, for some time in the town and the opportunity to barter. The ride there proofed interesting, as the whole bus was full of German speaking people. Once we arrived there we walked in to the town and the salesmen where all waiting like hawks on the side of their shops for some tourists to come. I don't like bartering that much, but Johanna and especially Jon seem to enjoy it a lot. Managed to not get anything in the end, as the only thing I would have got was seriously overpriced. Had a drink and after that where strolling back to the bus when who do we met? Yvonne, Johannas dive friend from last year and the person she went diving with in Lake Constant. She and her diving club are spending one week on a safari boat, going down southwards and stopping at reefs on the way to dive. We didn't have much time, so after a short chat back to the bus and hotel for some sleep. Next day three dives planned.
A map of the reefs here, we are in the area of Marsa Ghaleb. 

Diving time: 63 min. / 67 min.

Diving depth: 19,6m / 13,8m  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 4 Abu Saille & Marsa Murrain

Long sleep yesterday night, as I was pretty knackered. Jon woke up early again and had breakfast before Johanna and me, but at 8.30 o'clock we where all ready to go and dive. We had to take a minibus to get to our dive location today as their boat is not completely ready yet. Still some permission missing, but should be ready to go soon.
Arrived at our diving location, Abu Saille and there where already two or three buses full of divers getting ready to dive. Once we where up and ready we had to walk across some sand and rocks to get to our entry point. Dived in to a hole and had to proceed through a canyon to get to the outer reef. Lots of other divers around and it was quite some traffic going on down there. We carried on up north along the coral garden, lots of coral formations and small fish living everywhere. Saw a few puffer fish, but none that had inflated themselves. Not supposed to do that anyway, as it cant be done to many times. Found a hidden lion fish, probably sleeping as they tend to be night active. Hussein pointed out a pyjama snail, really small buggers that have a bright coloration. Back out through the canyon and across the sea floor to get to the car. De-geared and took the minibus back for some lunch and rest. Was felling rather knackered, so I had a lot to eat and drink to get the energy levels up.
Only Jon, Johanna and me today afternoon with Hussein as our guide for the Marsa Murrain reef. Got drive there by Mohammed and had the beach for us once we arrived there. Got geared up and after walking along the beach for a short while we walked across sand into deeper parts, where we could dive. Dived across a sandy bottom which dropped of after a few minutes under water. Really nice seeing that for once, actually. We normally get into coral reefs and get out at coral reefs (or stones) and this was really nice to dive along. We found three lion fish once we got to the corals and dived along those for a while. Turned back around after half an hour and on the way back we dived through another cave. Before that we saw a box fish (small one) and after the cave we had a salad coral full of Christmas tree worms. Once they fell some water pressure they disappear inside the coral in a split second. We lost Hussein after messing around a bit, as we where only about 4 metres underwater and had lots of air left. Raced back to him and got out to get back to the base in the mini bus again. Got back and hung our stuff up to dry and wrote our log books before going back to write all this down and to take the videos of the GoPro.
Dinner after that, once again very good, before we had one or to drinks and then went to bed early for tomorrow.
Map of the area here. We are in the area around Marsa Ghaleb.

Diving time: 57 min. / 63 min.
Diving depth: 23,8m / 21m

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 3 Shaab Ruhr Abu Dabad & Talala

Second day diving today, and what a day it was. Was woken up by a mosquito in the night a few times, but otherwise I slept until about seven. Jon woke up earlier and went to breakfast before Johanna and me so we had it a while later.
Diving was in the Zodiac today. To get to it we had to walk along the beach for about ten to 15 minutes, the beach being full of small crabs that run away once you get to near. Also some moving stones. Got everything geared up and then carried on to the Zodiac. Rather a long drive out, but with the waves being a bit high we had a form of entertainment. Reached our diving position and after getting everything on, which proofed to be a challenge on the small boat with nine other people, we tipped back in the water and where ready.
Dived down to the floor of the reef where the first mayor thing we saw was a sunken reef where everything was overgrown with corals. A blue spotted sting ray was resting under the reef. Carried on along and swam over and around some super boulder-like reef formations. Really have to understand buoyancy to have a lot of fun with flying down there. Went from one sandy inlet to the next and spotted a load of clown fish with their anemone. One being a really vibrant red colour, nearly neon like. Carried on and Salah pointed out a baby white tipped reef shark, hiding under some corals. It was moving around a bit but rested again shortly after we had found it. Looked at it a bit closer, but was told by Salah to stay a bit away as it was only small and wanted to probably sleep. Continued on and where led to the entrance of a canyon which we dived through after Salah asked if we where OK with diving under corals and through tight spaces. I felt bad going through there. Not because of the space, but because every time I squeezed through a tight spot I would hit something. Luckily no easy damageable corals, as it was the rock type, but still. After coming out we resurfaced and I unfortunately dropped a piece of led on the way up. Salah dived back down to get it, as I didn't have my flippers on any more. Once Ali's group had been picked up as well we went back to the base, Johanna spotting a lot of flying fish on the way. Back on the peer we just changed our bottles, went to have a tea and then back on to the Zodiac for the second dive. This time to Talala. On the way we spotted a shoal of dolphins and a rather large one as well. So the dive was postponed a bit and as we where the only boat around we jumped into the water for a few minutes of diving with wild dolphins. They disappeared after a short while and we where left in the blue before being picked up to get back to our diving location. Going down I noticed some really painful stings in the cavity of my nose so I did a small break and carried on down after a while. The pain stayed with me for about the whole dive but it was bearable most of the time. We saw a murrain ell and some monstrous (probably) sting ray which had it's tail cut of. We had to check that once we where back in the base, as not even Salah knew what it was and Ali's group didn't see it. Back in the boat without a hitch this time and then we where back to the base for good today. A sea turtle resurfaced at one point on the drive, but disappeared again very fast. Got our things of the boat and cleaned before writing to log book entry’s and having some late lunch. Got a bit of a head ache, so we will probably not do the night dive today.
Back from dinner now, managed to have a lot again, energy for tomorrow. The food here is actually very good and we often have a lot to eat.
Of to sleep now to hopefully get rid of the light headache.
A local reef map here, we are in the area of Marsa Ghaleb.

Diving time: 62 min. / 60 min.
Diving depth: 16,2m / 18,4m

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 2 Marsa Abu Dabab

First time diving today for this holiday. Also the check dive for Jon and me. Johanna dived in lake Constant this year, so this wasn't a check dive for her per say. Got all the gear, signed some papers with Mohammed and then we where of. Checked our Nitrox bottles and got geared up before going out in to the ocean. They don't have a jetty here so we walked over sand and stones to get to the deeper area. Seven people in total, six divers and one guide, Salah this time. Two of the six divers took ages getting in. The rest of us (four, Salah was helping the two) were chilling at the bottom of the ocean, as we had no idea where to go. After 15 minutes the rest finally arrived and we did the checks and set of towards some sea grass areas. Swam across sand and sea grass looking for the local manatee but no luck. No luck in seeing anything at all, actually. We took a left turn to the reef and spotted a huge sea turtle, with a diameter of about one metre. Carried on and also saw two spotted sting rays and a lion fish. Apart from the fish the corals are really nice here as well. The two who slowed us down before where running out of air, so whilst we where heading back Salah supplied them with air. Reached the top, walked back to the base and cleaned of our things with freshwater, wrote our blog and proceeded to lunch. Lunch being rather spare, as there are still only about 50 people here.
Back to get the GoPro up and running as the waterproof casing passed its test in the morning. Last years mistakes would not be repeated. Into the water with Michael as my diving buddy again and this time of to a faster start, me being the last one in. Started of along the reef strait away this time seeing a sea turtle towards the beginning. Smaller version than last time. Carried on along the reef with the GoPro on a pole, a lot better than on ones arm, I think. Can get close to a lot of fish without having to fear the consequences. Managed to get a few close ups of lion fish that way. The air consumption went up a bit as you have to concentrate on one more gadget you're taking with you. We steered away from the reef at about half point, after passing to through corals in a small canyon like arrangement. Back across the sea grass looking for the manatee again, but no luck once more. Ali arrived just today morning, went diving and spotted it strait away, lucky person. We met the group he was diving with and Salah took two stragglers with him which where lagging behind the rest and had little air. Got back to the beach and departed to clean our gear and to write our log books. After saying good night to the rest of the dive base of for some dinner and then had a long talk in to the evening with Uwe and Michael. Uwe being from Sonthofen and knowing Jon actually.
A local reef map here, we are in the area of Marsa Ghaleb.

Deepest depth: 14 metres / 16 metres
Diving time: 64 min. / 69 min.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Marsa Alam: Day 1 Journey

Back of to Egypt for a week again, once again with Jon and Johanna. Marsa Alam this time, as the diving base that used to be in Sharm el Sheik moved to here, probably because of declining tourism. Mohammed has got the management of the base now, as Tanja has moved to Switzerland.
Woke up at 3 o'clock in the morning and packed the few rests of my gear into my already stuffed suit case. Johanna and Jon picked me up at about 4 o'clock (after I fed the cats) and we set of towards Stuttgart airport after somehow getting my case and me in to Johannas small VW Fox.
Spent a while on the A7 motorway and had to find a way around a bypass on the road. Got lost in the fog a bit, but found our way thanks to the navi.
Arrived at our parking space and caught a shuttle to the airport, where we managed to get through check in and security after repacking some stuff of mine in to Johannas and Jons suitcases. I had overfilled mine a bit with to much diving gear and electronics.
Got on to the air plane without a hitch and spent four and a half hours flying to Marsa Alam. Had a small snack to eat on the way and 100ml of water but nothing else.
Landed and where hit by 27°C air temperature when we stepped out of the doors. Managed to get to the hotel with our suit cases fixed to the roof of our bus and where greeted by a friendly reception. The hotel (The Three Corners Equinox) had just been opened a week ago and was still being repaired from its previous neglected state. Had a drink, some cool towels whilst filling out our details for the hotels. Found our rooms, got a few things unpacked and went to the diving base to say hi to Mohammed, Sala and the rest of the crew. After that Johanna and I abandoned Jon to office work, whilst we went to swim in the sea. Mohammed commented it as being cold, at 26°C water temperature. Saw four fire fish, a puffer fish and a flute fish just whilst snorkelling. Got out, went for a shower and had some drinks before eating. Ate a super meal in the evening, thank god they renovated the hotel and had some more drinks with a shopping spree and a game of checkers after that. Back to the room for the blog write.
Looking forward to the next few days.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stubai Glacier

Yesterday biking, today skiing. Not a lot of places you can do that on the planet.
A few weeks ago, two fellow ski teachers asked if anybody from the ski teachers wanted to go skiing on the Stubai glacier today. A few said yes and some went during the week, but in the end it added up to being three of us. Set of early in the morning, whilst the night was still present and made our way to the glacier. Stopped at a bakery for some breakfast on the way and carried on. No traffic jam on the way, as we where so early. Normally it is the norm getting towards and in winter that the pass roads are blocked.
Changed, got our tickets and took a lift up to the glacier where we had sunshine, blue ski and not to many people for the whole day. There where a lot of people there, but due to the glacier being such a large ski area, it was distributed nicely across the pistes. We skied of piste a few times as well, but that didn't end up to well for our skies, as there seemed to be an abundance of rocks and hard ice there. Had a short stop for something to drink and then carried on skiing until lunch. As everybody was hungry at that point, the restaurants ended up being rather full, but we found a place to eat none the less.
More skiing after lunch but Christoph noticed his lack of sleep from the day prior and Marnicq was starting to fell the toll of skiing the whole day, too. After a few more runs we set of back home and got home fairly fast.
A weekend full of doing stuff and next week of to Egypt with Johanna and Jon. 
More pictures at Picasa.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grüntenhütte & Alpe Rossberg

I had not biked up the Grünten in a long time, especially to the Rossberg Alpe. It snowed for the first time about two weeks ago and as biking up in metres of snow isn't possible I needed to get it done in the near future.
I asked dad to come with me, so early in the morning (about half past eight) we set of towards the Guardian of Allgäu (a nickname of the Grünten). As it is November the morning was rather fresh, but most of the way going was uphill anyway, so we where warm. I also had a few layers of clothes on, planned to be of use when we bike down the Kranzegger Steig. Going past Wertach we only saw people with dogs out and about, no other people or bikers (cars don't count). Took a different way down the Kranzegger Steig, the old pass road. Reaching the bottom of the valley we turned left of the main road and started biking uphill. Biked up the north side of the Grünten, so it was the “colder” side, but going uphill you really don't notice. All around us the trees where in autumn bloom, lots of reds and yellows. Saw another biker and a guy working on a house, a near suicidal project on the first of November here in catholic Bavaria. Everybody is supposed to go to their relatives graves and not do anything else. Also saw more and more people walking up the Grünten (probably tourists) and another biker behind us when we where further up. Getting towards the Grüntenhütte was a challenge in itself, as going up the front is one of the steepest climbs I know which is still bike-able. If it weren't tarmac I wouldn't get up there. Reached the Grüntenhütte a bit before dad and had a chat with the biker in front of us on the way up. He was looking for a way to get around the snow field in front of us.
Dad and me had a rest at the hut, something to drink and some freshly cooked Wiener and Maultaschen. After that further up through snowy fields and melt-water streams. More and more people where appearing on the mountain, all on their way up to the war memorial. Dad and me turned away from the main route a bit further up and went down the backside of the Grünten towards the Rossberg Alpe. Along avalanched tracks and across snowy fields, Dad biked rather a lot and I got wet feet. Arrived at the Rossberg Alpe and had a nice long chat with Gabi and two friends of hers whilst having another drink and some cheese on bread.
Back down after a while along a interesting path in the forest, which was snowed up. Dads front wheel slipped on some ice under the water in a stream, but he kept control and biked on (I pushed once again, snow and me on a bike don't mix well).
After that a long run home around the Grüntensee, where all the people had appeared to take a walk.
Track at GPSies and pictures at Picasa. Dads blog here.