We got up very early. At Nesima we packed all the gear in to trucks then climbed in to the jeeps. An hour's drive south got us to the end of the road. There we transferred all the gear to camels. Each camel had a very full load - four tanks, two sets of gear, plus a person. Both Stacy an I decided not to ride. She felt guilty about the loads. I've been on a camel before and don't need to do it again. Besides I figured I'd walk there and if I'm tired after the dives I'll ride back - then the camels load will be light as well (tanks empty, food eaten). The walk only took an hour and a half along the coast line - it was very pleasant. Also it just felt good to get out of Dahab!
At Gabr El Bint Stacy and I sketched the shape of the reef and paced off measurements on shore setting up piles of rocks every 50 meters so we could see the markings from the water. We justified our being on the trip by deciding to do our map project on the reef there. We threw our equipment together, suited up, and got in the water. The rest of the group was going to do two dives, the first to the right of the reef and the second to the left. Since Stacy and I were going to map the reef we chose to dive the left side on our own twice. The reef is shaped like a long finger straight out to see maybe 30 meters. then there is a steep wall parallel to the shore which runs about 100 meters with a sheltered lagoon shoreward of the wall. We snorkeled out to the end of the "finger" then dropped to about 30 m / 100 ft and followed the wall. The visibility was very good (40+ m / 130+ feet) there are some excellent large gorgonian fan corals. We'd just got to a collection of the gorgonians surrounding a rocky hollow full of glass fish (my favorites) when my regulator started to flow. It wasn't quite a free flow, but I was definitely loosing air fast enough that I stayed very close to my buddy! I kept trying to clear the secondary regulator thinking that maybe a piece of sand was stuck in it, but nothing worked - it just kept getting worse. So Stacy and I started to ascend. At about 10 m / 30 ft it started to get better then suddenly fixed itself. We spent the rest of the dive exploring the shallow lagoon and my gear performed perfectly.
Out of the water we had lunch then I had to decide whether to take the back up regulator which I've not used before and is in unknown condition, or take my regulator which is currently working. I decided to stick with my regulator since I know it's working, and we'll just be careful, so that if it fails again Stacy will be close. The current was very strong on this dive. We tried to get back to the glass-fish hollow but the current was too strong to get down in the fans - we would have risked breaking them. We really didn't get to explore much because we were to busy taking notes and marking depths since we had to get all the data on this dive. I had no equipment problems which was a relief.
On the way back I chose to ride a camel. As soon as we started I was reminded of how uncomfortable they are. I looked at my watch and resolved to ride for at least an hour before making the camel kneel down so I could get off. Luckily for me my saddle started to slip so seven minutes after getting on I was able to get off. Th trip back was the reverse - walk, unload camels / load trucks, ride back to Dahab. At Nesima we unloaded and cleaned the equipment then had a very nice beer at the pool bar. Talking to Mick it sounds like my regulator problem was probably the valve in the first stage getting unseated by the jostling and bumping of transport by camel - so everything should be fine now that it's reseated itself. Stacy and I went to this little Italian restaurant that had been recommended. It was a lot more expensive that we thought (and in fact more than double what any other place we've been to in Dahab has cost), but it was delicious - probably the best meal I've had since leaving Australia. And really it's only relatively expensive the meal still cost us less than $10 each. Back at the hotel I was absolutely exhausted. The good news is that in Egypt time changes tonight - that means we have an extra hour of sleep tonight!
[Written from notes October 20, 2000]