today i dove down through The Bells to the famous Blue Hole here in Dahab, which is an absolutely spectacular dive. coral walls dropping down into infinity, schools of neon-colored florescent fish parting just in front of my mask, giant fish with iridescent markings, even an octopus. just amazing.
when i came back up and was stowing my gear on the truck, i felt increasing twinges in my right side, where i'd been having pain since a fall from horseback a few days ago in cairo. let me explain...
4 days ago i was galloping on horseback (although not in the most heroic of styles) across the giza plateau to the pyramids at sunset, thanks to a sketchy connection to a horse/camel tour company whom my taxi driver referred me to. my guide on horseback gained us access to the normally forbidden-to-enter-at-sunset plateau by the application of baksheesh to the guard at the back gate near the bedouin compounds. we were making great time to the great pyramid in time for a good photo op, when the saddle (which wasn't properly secured, as it turns out) on my horse started sliding to the right, and i was suddenly (and very briefly) riding at right angles to my horse while he was continuing to gallop.
i fell off of the horse onto the desert, and somehow managed to avoid breaking, spraining, twisting, getting trampled, dragged, or having anything happen to me other than getting the wind severely knocked out of me. i even managed to not fall on the side that contains my camera, which has been damaged, repaired/patched, and survived more times on this trip than would seem possible for a piece of modern consumer electronics.
after i recovered from the shock of getting dropped on my side several feet onto the desert floor, i thought everything was ok, and we rode on across the plateau to get the photo ops as dusk settled onto the plateau. however, that spot on the right side of my chest had been bothering me ever since.
after i started getting increasing pain in that spot after this morning's dive, i headed to the local dive doctor to be sure that the additional pain wasn't related to my dive, and maybe figure out just what the source of the pain actually is while i'm there. after arriving in a gleaming, brand-new dive medical facility, complete with decompression chamber (only 3 months old, according to the doctor), i saw a doctor who diagnosed me as not having any decompression-related problems (always a relief!), but sent me over to the local hospital to have a chest x-ray to inspect the rib.
by contrast, the dahab local hospital was severely impoverished and understaffed. the walls were stained with ancient drips, the doctors were too busy to deal with me, the administrative staff were nonexistent, and the technician in the x-ray room was getting ready to pocket the money from my x-ray without logging it in the actual hospital books. i couldn't help but think that this is the standard of care that the people receive here who are even lucky enough to afford medical care, and that i really need to think about doing something to try and improve the situation of other people in this world, rather than just cruising along as a western tourist who is normally shielded from anything other than high-quality tourist medical care.
after i returned to the divers medical center, the doctor, who really was an excellent, well-spoken professional, peered at what he could make out of my blurred chest x-ray, and diagnosed a bruised rib, prescribing me muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs for the next few weeks, in addition to no diving for the next 2-3 weeks, and no lifting heavy objects. (i'll do a followup with another doctor in tanzania in 10 days to see how the healing is coming along.)
not diving is easy to do. not lifting heavy objects is difficult when you're backpacking with two heavy backpacks.
stop. think. re-evaluate my plans.
i was planning to go to luxor tonight (via the bus from dahab to sharm, the ferry from sharm to hurghada, and then the bus from hurgada to luxor), so i could have 3 days seeing the museum at luxor and the surrounding tombs before heading on to tanzania. did i really want to be wincing under my backpacks in another pollution-and-noise plagued city trying to see every site in egypt in the shortest possible time? or did i want to slow down for a while and just give this thing some time to heal?
healing is good. resting is ok. not seeing everything is ok... it's a long life ahead, and i already have a long list of things i want to do in future trips. visiting luxor may be one of those things.
and for gods sake, i'm in one of the best backpacker beach resort towns in the world. even without doing more diving (thank god i got a chance to dive the blue hole before getting denied on more diving), there's plenty of opportunity to lie out in the sun, snorkel over fantastic reefs just off of the shore, and generally enjoy lazing about and taking it easy while my rib heals up.
so here i am, still in dahab, watching orange county projected on a massive screen with the english soundtrack along with arabic subtitles for the evening's entertainment in the back of the Tota bar, eating chicken shish at a beachside restaurant next to a portable bbq filled with burning wood to keep the evening chill at bay, and walking down the moonlit beach. i think i'll stay here for a while longer, and just figure out my new plans a day at a time.
and as it happens, that is what dahab is all about.