Sunday 8 March 2009

Benny's report from Egypt - part 1

Hi bison fans, it's Benny here. Those of you who are friends with Sally on Facebook might recognise me from such adventures as, Benny goes traveling around America, and Benny goes skiing. There was no Benny goes to Prague, WAS THERE? Yes, bit of a sore point there, sorry.

This week, it's Benny goes to Hurghada, on the Red Sea. The flight over was quite uneventful, although delayed, and Sally insisted I travel upside down in her handbag and kept putting her socks on my belly, so I was mildly annoyed by the time we got to Cairo. Then things seemed to get very busy. We stood in a queue for a long time while Sally chatted to someone she told me afterwards was her PGCE lecturer, in Cairo on History business. Small world! Then the Egyptian dude with the stamp got quite irate and made Sally go back to the bank desk to get a visa. She was wittering on about how she wished the rep had told her but I think she was just being her usual feckless self and hoping everything would fall neatly into her lap.

Anyway, once we'd got the visas (I don't need one apparently) we were rushed at top speed through to the other terminal by a couple of sweating reps who thought we were going to Sharm al Sheikh and were on the point of missing our flight. When they realised we had an hour to spare it all got a bit calmer and I had a nap, and by the time I woke up again we were in the hotel room.

And very swish it is too! I thought Sally had been stiffing me on accommodation and staying in swanky places like this before, but she seemed as awestruck as me. We'd not been in the room long enough to pick room service food when a very eager young man showed up with a bowl of fruit, a kettle, a big bottle of water, a bottle of wine (no corkscrew, but I offered to get the cork out with my horn) and a plate of cakes. Here I am trying to graze on them, but as you can see the plate has already been massacred.

The beds were very comfy with very soft linens and there's air conditioning and a lovely sea view. Consequently, we all slept very well overnight. Sally and Mother Hand got up around 10 and went for breakfast – Sally said she had something called babba ganoosh, whatever that is, and French toast, and was very impressed by the number of sparrows holding their own against the big black and grey raven type birds. Meanwhile I had a bit of a stamp around the room and a room cleaning guy came in to make the beds and played with me for a bit, finally leaving me on the bed like this. Sally thought that was very funny.

Then it was time for the pool. Mother Hand has a great bison-carrying bag. Sally set me to graze under this palm tree for a while and one of the big ravenny things came over, all interested like. We tried to have a chat but the bison-bird language barrier quickly became a problem, and he went back to bathing in the shallow end of the pool and rolling around on the grass. Then a small child came over and started playing with me. Sally didn't look very happy but I think she must be a bit scared of children because she didn't say anything. The child tried to force me to graze and said I was a cow, in German. We had a couple of shepherd dogs from Germany back in Yellowstone so I understood enough to be offended. I tried stamping my hooves and huffing a bit but it had no effect. Once the child had gone Sally put me on the end of her sun lounger and we napped in the sun all afternoon.

And that was about it for day 1. Sally and Mother Hand went to dinner at some Italian place and then came back and did some more reading. I wish I could read, it must be fascinating – neither of them have really stopped doing it since we arrived.

In fact, day 2 passed in much the same way – reading, and sunbathing. Today we went to the private beach owned by the hotel and both of them went in the sea for a bit, leaving me to relax. Sally had a go with a snorkel, it makes her look really funny, and there was a bit of a commotion at one point when a big school of white fish came very close to the shore and Sally wanted her camera to take underwater pictures of them. Big deal, they’re only fish.

Some extremely pumped up guy came over, I’d noticed him yesterday wandering around carrying a clipboard, and it seems he sells massages at the spa attached to the hotel. Sally and MH decided they were going to go for a Cleopatra massage that very evening and then went back to their hotel room and promptly fell asleep for most of the afternoon, as if to prepare. Sally was trying to read a book on the Great Wall of China, but she’s frowning most of the time so I don’t think it can be very good. She said it was a present from her headmaster, who forgot to come to a lesson observation that had been calendared, and she thought she had better try and read it just in case he ever asks her about it. She’s such a brown noser, that girl.

Anyway, by the time they’d woken up from extended nap time it was time for their Cleopatra massages. Bison not welcome. Humph! There’s a surprise. They both looked very relaxed when they came back, and smelled of coconut. Apparently when the two meassage therapists were helping them to undress, they asked what their names were. “I’m Sally,” replied….well, Sally. “An Egyptian name!” said one of the ladies. “Well, Sara really,” said MH (who always has to complicate things). “Another Egyptian name!” replied the lady. Sally said it reminded her of the Indian man from Goodness Gracious Me. I think she forgets that I haven’t been living in the UK long enough to get these little references of hers.

It seems that the massage consisted of a sauna, a rub down with some coconut and a facemask, a shower, a steam, a plunge in the cold pool, a whirly spa bath, and a full body massage. Phew! It sounds exhausting. I’d settle of having my horns polished and my back fur fluffed up a bit, but apparently humans like their comforts.

Sally had a bit of a sore forehead when she came back and it quickly became obvious that something had noshed on it, because it swelled right up and she looked a bit like Eddy Munster – though only on one side. This effect lasted until the end of Tuesday, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at her a bit.

It was also on Monday that the pair of them tried to go shopping, which left Sally in an extremely poor temper, thanks to all the taxis honking their horns at them as they walked down the street, and the men running out of shops to try and sell them things. In the end they returned with some milk and water, and some snacks to keep them going through the effort of being massages (ha ha) and a tin of tuna, which had to be opened by the hotel kitchen. Sally was put in an even worse mood than this (she’s so mardy sometimes) because she imagined the room would be charged. Everything here seems to incur a charge. Don’t they realize that she’s spent all her money on the holiday?!

Tuesday passed without much event, mainly because Sally gave up with the China book and started the next installment in that historical fiction series she’s become obsessed with. She finished the last one at Christmas but said the end of it annoyed her so much she didn’t want to find out what happened next. Evidently, that problem is passed because she was motoring through it. In the evening they went out and left me (again) and came back looking very cheerful, having had a very nice meal in a very nice fish restaurant.

Wednesday was trip day. They had an early breakfast and then we got onto this very lovely minibus, which had been decorated in many interesting and colourful ways. Here I am having a look at it all. Evidently the driver took great pride in it. We picked up loads of other people, mainly from a place called Holland, and then we arrived at a marina and everyone got snorkels and flippers. Sally said they had none to fit me, and I was quite relieved because I’m not a very good swimmer. I spent the day on the boat and tanning on the beach while Sally spent the day snorkeling around, taking pictures of the fish underwater and getting very annoyed with her snorkel, which, it seems, would only allow her three of four breaths before filling with water. Even Mother Hand had a go – very brave of her, since she told me privately beforehand that she didn’t like putting her face in the water. The man on the boat was very helpful to her, though, and stayed with her the whole time. She was particularly courageous because she skipped snorkeling off the beach and instead went off the boat, into deep water. Sally said she much preferred this, even though she has a bit of a phobia of swimming in deep water.

When we got back to the hotel it was clear that Sally had been very foolish with her suncream – ie, she had not applied any until lunchtime, by which point she’d been snorkeling face down in the water for an hour and a half. She was a very bright shade of red, and looking quite sorry for herself. She never learns, that girl. She is headed for skin cancer if she’s not careful.

This sunburn put pay to almost any activity on Thursday, because she couldn’t go outside in the sun, so she just stayed in with her head in that book she was obsessed with. Mother Hand did some water aerobics and managed to score herself some milk for her tea, and then in the evening they went back to the fish restaurant for dinner. I still didn’t get to go. It’s lucky I’m a stuffed toy, or I’d have died of starvation by now.

Look out for the second installment - coming soon!

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