Monday, December 10, 2012

The Red Sea

My first walk down the main strip of Sharm El Shaikh had been a surreal and terrifying experience.

I had walked off wanting to explore, get some food and make some bookings for activities.  Instead, I was confronted by the terror of a stereotypical tropical tourist scene.  It wasn't the tourist scene itself that terrified me, rather it was that I no longer felt like I was in Africa or the Middle East.  I could have been in any cliched resort town anywhere along the tropical zone.  I kept feeling like I was walking around in one of either Phuket or Krabi.  The shops looked exactly the same and they were even selling the same mass produced junk.  Even more astonishing was that the tourists wandering around had the same glistening red sun burn and horrifying sense of dress.  I felt out of place and incredibly vulnerable wandering around the souvenir stores and amongst the touts and their wares.  I needed to be here though and I wasn't going to leave until I booked my snorkeling tour of the Red Sea.

I looked for the most reputable company I could find, made my booking and left.  The effects of jet lag were beginning to overtake me and I needed to get out of the sun.

The next day, I woke up early.  My mind and body were still confused about the actual time, but this didn't matter as I was far more overcome by the excitement of some undersea fun.  I was going snorkeling in the Red Sea!  I was a touch disappointed that I didn't have the necessary experience required for me to go scuba diving (not that it mattered, as the timing of my flights meant it wouldn't have been possible anyway), but I was looking forward to getting into the water regardless.
Being out on the water was what I wanted.  Breathing in the cool and salty air, I could feel the stresses of the old job disappearing.  Jumping into the water, I was happy to see an immense variety of colours and animals.  It was truly beautiful.
However, my body was simply not up to it.  As the initial excitement began to fade, the exhaustion of the past weeks and the trip began to take its toll.
As others went into the water for their 4th or 5th excursions, I was more than convinced that I had seen more than my fair share.  Instead, I found myself a nice corner of the boat in the direct sunlight and fell fast asleep.
Snorkeling was definitely an enjoyable experience, but I am fairly certain that it doesn't hold the appeal to me that it does others and I don't think that I will be turning into one of those scuba/diving obsessed travellers that I seem to be encountering in ever increasing numbers.

Still, as the boat turned around and began its trip back to Sharm El Shaikh, I found myself staring out into the distance.  The shimmering surface of the water had an almost hypnotic appeal that I found seized my attention as much as what was beneath.

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