Funny thing happened two days ago.
Sunday we couldn't dive due to strong winds. The wind came from Southwest and we knew the conditions will be out of this world on Monday.
And so it was. Visibility 30m+, water temp 28˚C and lots of sharks. Amazing.
No doubt i would go diving Tuesday too.
So off we go on a doublethink trip as we were down to 2 divers plus myself.
We did the first dive and no matter how intense i looked for sharks, we saw absolutely nothing.
This really grinds me when that happens, but on the odd occasion mother nature just has other plans.
So we sit on the boat waiting to outgas for an hour before we can do our second dive.
Our boat has chafed a leak at the hull and lots of water is entering the hull. Luckily this is not a big problem. Our ducks are unsinkable due to the pontoons right around the boat. It is designed that even if the entire hull is full of water the boat still floats well.
Spike decided to go for a swim and check the damage. So he puts on his mask and fins and glides into the water ever so smoothly.
The good-looking Swiss girl was visibly impressed.
After all, Skipe comes from the sea and nobody is so at home in the ocean water as Spike is.
I don't give it much more thought when all of a sudden Spike comes flying back into the boat with a major splash.
WTF i ask myself.
Without words he just points to the water next to the boat.
A massive 4m tigershark is circling us.
Oh my god !!! We laugh tears.
Apparently as he entered the water he could just see how this massive monster shar is shooting towards Spike out of the deep. The shark comes at a rate of knots and all Spike is left to do is get the hell out.
And that he did like nobody i have ever seen.....
So, all the damn ducks are back in one row and life as we know it can continue.
We arrived home on Tuesday night. Everyday Spike and Steve were out diving with clients but despite a burning desire i could not join them until Saturday.
And the diving has been good, oh boy.
Seldom was the vis less than 20m , the water pleasantly warm and quality shark sightings such as Great Hammerhead, Tigershark, Bullshark was on the daily program.
Yesterday the first 10m of seawater had a temperature of 28˚C. It was so nice that we decided to just keep on bathing once we finished our safety stop. Lovely !!
All indications are that our ocean or at least our beloved Protea Banks is back to normal.
Back to normal means, we see sharks and their behaviour the same way we remember from years back when our ocean and our reef were healthy and happy.
I have a very strong feeling that we will have a very special year this 2020 in terms of amazing shark diving.
We will see and I will definitely report on this one.
So last night at 9 we got home. The drive was hectic in heavy rain.
The following is the summary of the welcome we received :
- 1 x torn up shirt
- 1 x messed up jeans
- 1 x heavy bleeding forearm, right
- 1 x aching elbow left
- 1 x full face lick
Our 5 dogs were truly happy to see us.........
View from our room
We are in our hotel in Dubai at the airport before we take our last flight home tomorrow.
From tomorrow my life on Protea Banks will resume. I am looking forward to it.
So before i get too busy with all kinds of stuff i want to finish my report about our experiences in Georgia.
After my first day on skis the weather turned bad. It snowed all day and the mountains were covered in a thick white blanket of clouds.
This was the ideal excuse to save my mutilated body.
It had been over two years since i last stood on proper skis. Last year Father and i just went cross country skiing, not alpine.
So we just chilled all day. After all, this was one of the main reasons for going on a mini holiday.
The feeding process in the evening was another story. Food was good but the timing was out. Beulah was long finished when my food eventually arrived.
Great, so i had to eat on my own basically. At first i was mad about that, but then we made plans to beat the system.
Or should we say, beat the non existing system.
Next day we had magnificent weather. Sunny and not a cloud in the sky.
No doubt, my brand new ski pants needed to hit the slopes, Valentines day or not.
Lovely Beulah had no problem with that and kept herself busy.
At 11 am i was skiing out the back door of our hotel and slid down to the first lift.
My thighs were burning like hell...
After the third lift station , way up in the ski arena, the burning was fast forgotten.
I skied like a champ.
Loved it, loved every minute.
The snow was magic, the weather perfect , the landscape second to none and no people in one's way !!!
I clearly noticed that i was doing much better than on the first day. It is like diving.
Whatever one does, the first day is the check day, period.
I feel sorry for all the bucket list tickers !!!
I skied non stop until 3pm. Could have gone for longer but i thought, it is time for a Glühwein and enjoying the majestic view of the Caucasus.
The Top-of- the -Mountain Bar played only music from Queen.
And everything was just perfect. I was in heaven.
Afterwards it was time to see Beulah again. It was indeed Valentines day and although i am not the romantic dude, this day holds a lot of milestone memories for us. ( Beulah arrived in Germany 1885, we immigrated to South Africa 1989, my lovely aunt Verena turned 100 this year and many other events in our lives happened on Valentines Day )
I skied right into our hotel. When i took the skis off and got out of the boots i only realised how broken i was. I think i skied 4 hours on pure adrenalin.
It was amazing.
An the best of all : Somehow i had the distance feeling that my dear father was skiing with me....at superski Georgia
And dinner ?
We simply decided to share whatever and whenever it was served to our table.
This solved the timing problem one shot.
Saturday we were picked up by our driver and taken back to Tiflis.
Like the week before we were booked at the Radisson Hotel.
At reception they told us, they wanted to upgrade us to a business class room.
WOW, we had no words for that privilege.
Same 12th story up but this time a much larger room right at the corner of the building. Wow, wow, wow.
Three sides of our room were sheer glass front with a breath taking view onto the old city of Tiflis.
No joke, i was shitting myself from fear of heights. But after the initial shock i was just becoming part of this unbelievable room.
The view was to die for. It felt as if one flies over the city.
Without a doubt, the very best hotel experience we have ever had....
We just got back from dinner in our hotel. It was edible but nevertheless funny.
Beulah got a plate full of spaghetti plain ( !!! ) and the starter arrived last.
Well, well...i guess we are not here on a culinary journey...
I went skiing today.
Due to the extreme cold temperature at the moment i did not want to ski in Jeans only so we went to the only shop which rents snow suits. The guy wanted my passport for security which i left in the hotel of course. He was not interested in any story and chucked the pants back in the shelf.
Going back to fetch the passport however would cost me more valuable skiing time and as it was, it looked as if the visibility might not stay all day.
So i quickly went to the hotel shop and purchased a ski pants for € 40 which was a 50% discount on a sale. Great. I would have died without this piece of equipment which i was to find out later on.
Skis, boots and sticks cost € 14 to rent and a ski pass for the region € 17
I mention the prices because they are unbelievable. ..
And off i go to hit the slopes.
My brother , the old ass told me that there was an incident in Gudauri where a lift went out of control and ran backwards down the hill. Huge carnage.
He said, make sure you jump off if there is any doubt.
Shit like this tends to stick well in one's mind , especially if one is in an unknown, remote place..
The lifts are all excellent. 6 seaters with safety bars, running smoothly. Made by the famous Austrian Lift manufacturer Doppelmayr. Everyone knows and trusts them.
As long as the lift goes i am constantly looking for jump off spots. How the hell do you get past this safety bar and besides this, the damn lift runs really high between 5m and 10m most of the way.
I can't see a place to jump.
Suddenly the lift stops. I am having a heart attack...
Thankfully after a few long seconds it carries on up...phew...very nervous.
When we reached the station there was another such lift to another altitude.
Same story again. The lift stops briefly, i have a mild stroke thanks to my brother and off we go forward and upwards...
From there it goes even further up. And another one after that. It took me almost an hour just to lift up into this massive ski resort.
I am surrounded by the white beauty of the Caucasus Mountains. Breathtaking in deed.
The facilities here are phenomenal. Slopes and lifts everywhere.
Remember the costs !!! Unbelievable.
The higher up i go the better the view becomes of course.
Honestly, i am really chuffed...
The last lift takes me up to 3200m altitude.
But this was a mistake...
I should not have taken this lift...
It just carried on and on and never ended.
Suddenly we found ourselves ( i mean the other people on my seat bench ) in what was sure to be the jet stream...
Man, it blew ice cubes and it blew like hell. The moulds were flying around us and snow was blown all over us at a temperature of - 15
Imagine what would have happened to me if i was in Jeans...!!!
The wind blew so hard that the entire seat bench was blown sideways. We were particularly high up and just snowy rocks below.
If i was scared before, this time was no longer funny.
I held on for dear life, put my head down and just did what i had to do...
Hang in and wait til you get to the end...what else...
The slope down this mountain was not much fun and as i reached the bottom of this particular place, the lift was stopped for good. Clearly too dangerous...
Or maybe the forward gear chafed through...what do i know.
So i skied on the level below which was absolutely amazing.
This made up well for all the crappy food we had to endure.
Gudauri town centre which does not exist
Gudauri ,view from the ski slopes
We have a pretty good picture of our surroundings to be able to say, Gudauri is an absolute disaster. This is not a town, rather a conglomeration of guest apartments and hotels built on a steep sloping road. Town centre has one or maybe two mini superettes like you would find in the Central African Republic's remote region.
We struggled to spend 15 Euros, simply because there is nothing interesting for sale.
They have a row of market stands in the main road where weather and cold worn people sell weird stuff which reminds me of African medicines .
We can't even bring our staff a nice travel souvenir as we always do...
On the first night we ate at our hotel. Beulah ordered Mountain Food and i had some veal.
The Mountain Food was unbelievable. I think, maybe my dogs would eat it ? But it looked rather as if it was already eaten by my dogs >>> Poor Beulah went hungry
Last night we decided to frequent one of the numerous restaurants in town.
As we got down the stairs to the first one, poor Beulah slipped on the ice and went flat down with all four sprawled across the terrace.
Needless to say, we did not choose this place to support.....
So we took the next in line.
The restaurants here are simple rooms with simple town of tables and benches, some chairs. It definitely reminds me of pre- war times ...
My pork steak was served completely deep fried to the very end of its existence. The vegetables consisted of boiled tomatoes, aubergines and stuff.
This would be a lovely place to go on a serious diest !!!
In short, the food was so bad that it was actually funny. The prices here are really cheap, so one can in fact laugh at the bad food without taking too bad a financial knock.
So tomorrow, it is back to our lovely hotel restaurant.
New day, new luck...definitely no Mountain Food for us....
Road to Gudauri
Monastery along the way
Ancient ruins along the path
Base closed for Hundreds of trucks
Church in Gudauri
The flight to Tiflis was in a pipe with wings. This model aeroplane performed pretty well until we flew over an immense ice and snow landscape.
Then it had to be put into 4 x 4. Oh dear....
Our landing is best described as 'bumping into Georgia'....
This plane needed every last spring in its wheels to catch the impact.
We are here now.
At immigration we got a smilie welcome, our stamp and every traveller got a small bottle of wine.
How cool is that !!! We need to send those German fellows there for training !!!
I am not a car fanatic, but our ride from the airport to town was done in a Tesla.
Fully electric, completely silent and fancy all over, starting with the sunken in door handles. I must say, it is an impressive car for sure.
We stayed at the 18 floor Radisson Blu Hotel. Our room was on 12th floor.
As always, Beulah and i are scared of heights. Our window goes to the very edge of the building , at least 50m high. Hell, man. Scary stuff.
Worse is that the elevators run on the outside of the building....
This morning we went all the way up to the 18th floor by mistake.
Can't remember when last i was so scared. I pressed myself against the door and didn't look down.
On top there is a magic pool and a sky bar with views to die for.
If it only wasn't so damn high...
From the elevator too the bar is a narrow passage along the window...eish....
The food last night was out of this world. Asian cuisine of the best.
When we get back on Saturday we will order exactly the same again.
After breakfast we set off to Gudauri. A 2 hour ride to this amazing winter paradise right in the Caucasus Mountains.
The road was much better than expected, in fact just a normal road which goes all the way to Russia.
The people seem pretty poor and live a simple life. It is visible that they have to work for a living...
Everywhere there are dilapidated apartment blocks. Probably government housing from the old Soviet days. For many such blocks the term dilapidated is way past..
Hundreds of trucks are lining the road. All standing on the side. Our driver tells us, they are all on their way to Russia but the pass through the Caucasus is closed for 5 days.
Base closed....don't we just know that one !!!
We have no troubles getting to Gudauri.
Gudauri is a fast growing ski resort town. Lifts and slopes are right outside our hotel.
Beulah and Teresa booked us in at the Marco Polo Hotel.
Nice one !!!
There is a car in front of the house with a sticker : Heli Ski
My heart beats higher...
Tiflis by Night
Tiflis by Day
Our room at the Radisson in Tiflis
Tiflis from our room
Tiflis from our room
So, we arrived in Tiflis yesterday. The trip took 12 hours with a few short stops.
I did not sleep well the night before as the plane left early at 7h15 the next day and i was worried to be late.
At the Munich airport the security people tried their best to make us miss our plane.
Every single person was searched despite their fancy metal or whatever detector.
Once we got though this drama we were held up at the immigration point by a snotnose little passport stamper who let us stand in front of his booth for no less than 5 minutes while he talked a hole into his clearly irate colleague.
Eventually i asked him if i could help him. That seems to have been the clue we all waited for and he meticulously stamped our poor passports. Asshole.
Of course all this cost us valuable time and already we heard the announcement that the gate will be closed shortly.
Stress, for nothing !!!
We did make it and flew to Turkey. The new airport at Istanbul is very nice. Their duty free and culinary sections however need to still be improved.
Someone should be sent to Dubai on a course !!!
I was going to tell Edrie, also that it was time now to take down the two massive Christmas Trees at the airport. Time to hide Easter eggs everywhere.
But for some reason Erdogan didn't come through. Or maybe we just missed each other.
Guess i could send him a WhatsApp sometime
Our time at Mother's has come to an end. As always it goes fast.
Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad all the time so we could do very little.
Soon we developed a lazy routine and did a bit of computer work and a lot of chilling.
Somehow we feel, we don't get enough rest.
Mother complained that i am always on the computer, but i can't help it.
Got to do my job, i guess.
Most days it was raining pretty hard. 2 x 2 days we had lovely snowfall. I loved driving through the snow when i could hardly make out the road ahead. Magic.
We visited aunts and relatives as well as neighbours and people who help look after mother.
They are getting really old now all around us.
One of my aunties is 92, the other turns 100 next week !!!!!
They are so happy whenever Beulah and i take a bit of time and visit them. It is such a pleasure talking to them about the good old days...
And then came Thursday, the day i meet with my friends in the pub. Somehow i look forward to this day all week.
We got pretty motherless last week . Just like in the olden days when booze flew freely. This Thursday we took it easy. Beer and Schnapps did not want to flow properly. A sure sign that we all have aged ( a bit )
Nevertheless, we had a great time laughing about last Thursday and talking shit as usual.
Yesterday we said Good Bye to mother with a heavy heart. She is alright and will live another 20 or 30 years... She just feels terribly lonely.
Now we are in the Novotel in Munich and spend the day chilling and catching up with work before we fly out to Georgia tomorrow .
A quick stop over at Erdogan's place. Maybe he'll come over for a quick chat ?
Then it is on to Tbilisi. There for the night and off to Gudauri, a ski resort town 2100m above sea level.
I have a feeling the trip to 2100m is going to be something else.....
Watch this space
We are pretty quiet this time of the year but we are diving a few times every week.
Spike, Karen and Steven are holding the fort.
Whenever they dive, they send me a dive report.
It seems as if the hammerheads have taken a break. None around for some time now.
They had tigers regularly and bulls on every dive.
Vis seems to pendle around 15m and water temp 24˚C.
I must admit, i am missing it ...but i can wait another week or so until i am back.
Hopefully then we will have good vis, warm water and lots of tigers.....
What a nice date it is today. It feels really nice... not that anything else is so great here. The weather is shitty as usual and life is very uneventful.
We are working on our show inquiries, watching movies and relax.
We needed this quiet time.
For two days we had white winter which was amazing. The only other thing a i like as much as watching snow fall is watching the moods of the ocean.
Lovely seeing everything dipped in a while blanket. Unfortunately the temps rose to 15˚ and turned a winter wonderland into a dreary old misery...hahaha.
Thursdays is the day when i go see my old friends in the pub. It is a very important day. So much so that i even planned to arrive in town before the expo. The excuse was to pick up the decor but i was most happy that i could do this on a Thursday and combine it with a visit to the boys night.
Anyway, last Thursday we had lots of fun. The fun level always depends on the blood alcohol level.
So we were draining the pubs stocks slowly and got louder as time went on.
Someone in the group always remembers an old anecdote from our wild and disastrous youth. We were almost under the table laughing so much.
Shortly after midnight i got home. Still walking straight.
The next morning i took my rental car and drove to the bakery for breakfast bread.
Later that day when we went to the supermarket, we noticed that the car stank of booze like hell. It smelled like a barrel of beer was poured into the car. And yet, i did not use it on Thursday to the pub , only on Friday to the bakery.
By Saturday the car still honked just as bad.
We decided to leave all four windows open for a few hours and see if that helps. The weather looked pretty stable.
We went for an afternoon snooze and just as i fell into a deep slumber mother stormed into our room and said, i urgently needed to go downstairs and see Peter.
Peter is our neighbour. He and his family immigrated from Russia quite some time ago. Probably 5/6 years ago they bought my grandmother's house next door and renovated it into a perfect home again.
I run downstairs two storeys and see the door open already. I know now what the problem is.
It is raining like hell and my windows are open. Great.
Then i see Peter how he stands next to my car totally drenched in water.
He is desperately holding a plastic sheet over my car protecting it from rainwater .
A strong wind makes his job complicated. Peter is wet, man. Completely wet.
The wind is icy cold, but he manages to keep my car dry.
I jump into my car and close the windows.
How do you thank a man like this ???
My mother is lucky to be surrounded by neighbours of Peters calibre. It surely does enrich one's life if one cares for each other.
In my eyes, Peter is an asset to this country an asset to this community, a hero.
I really hope, that bottle of whiskey warmed him up nicely...
We are back at mother's in Southern Germany.
The BOOT Show in Duesseldorf was amazing. It has been our tenth time. This year they put all divers and photographers into new halls. Instead of halls 3 and 4, we were in halls 12 and 13.
Our stand was thankfully in a prime position. This was not guaranteed as it is quite a challenge to position everybody in a new place. Lots of people were really unhappy with their stand.
Unbelievable how tiny, small things would influence a stand position. Like our friend Gerhard was in a long, unobstructed passage. One would think, this is a freeway for people. Couldn't be better. Yet he noticed, all people were focussing at the end of the road and missed everybody along the way. Other friends were perfectly hidden behind the walls of other stands.
But as i said, we were the lucky ones this time.
Because everything was new, we didn't know where who was. Unlike all the years before when we got used to knowing pretty much where everyone was. Often we got asked for directions and earned a head shaking in disagreement..
What nobody knew is that we struggled to leave our own stand in fear of not finding home again.... JJ
We also think there were more visitors than in recent years. I found it difficult to break away for a good German Wurst for lunch at 2pm.
Really , really wanted to buy myself a present but i just never found the time to get away looking for something interesting.
And once i found what i felt i couldn't live without anymore - an underwater scooter - the good wife reckoned expense could threaten our retirement...
There goes my desired toy...