Saturday, February 9, 2008

Herb's Beach

The second day of my weekend off consisted of more exciting, fun times. After my daily morning rituals of eating and showering, a group of us decided to check out the beach. We put on our trunks and walked to the opposite side of the camp to the permanent breach in the fence that acted as an entrance to Herb's Beach. Herb is a former U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major who allegedly was part of an Elite Special Forces unit. The 80 year old veteran has been on the Multinational Force and Observer's South Camp since its inception in 1982. Although he owns a house in Florida, he lives here year round, and can be seen in the camp's gym, which also is named in his honor, on the beach, or in the dining facility.

We got to the beach by descending the large flight of steep stairs leading to the break in the rocky coast which houses Herb's Beach. Donning the all black, snuggly fitting Speedo I was given as more of a joke on Christmas morning by my wonderful girlfriend, I found a reclining beach chair and lathered up the sun screen as I laid under the warm Sinai sun. After numerous failed prods at humility and a storm of pictures as evidence, the guys in my squad took to hiking up their swim suits to better tan their thighs. Dozing off, I was startled awake by an unfamiliar voice: "Hey Soldier, you're gonna burn wearing that," was enough to catch my hazy attention. Opening my eyes to the bright sun filled beach, after seconds of confusion and adjustment of my eyes, I found myself looking at my own Command Sergeant Major. I replied with a confused, "Oh, hey Sergeant Major." The seasoned leader deemed it a valiant effort and me a brave soul for wearing the Speedo, then asked if I had been briefed on the swim wear policy... I was dumbfounded, and replied with a no. Obviously if I knew Speedo's were prohibited, I wouldn't have worn it in the first place. It confused me as to why I wasn't allowed to wear it, but at least I can say I wore a Speedo to the beach. Other contingent forces continue to wear their Speedo's or worse on the beach, but from now on I'll be in Speedo swim shorts.

It was all in good fun, and makes for a great story; plus we all got laughs out of it. After Sergeant Major left, I decided to go in the water, since I was disrupted from my sleep. The water was chilly, but nice once I was in. The clarity of the water far surpasses any natural water body I've seen thus far in my life. It was full of wild life. As close as 3 meters from shore I found a school of blue and yellow fish, as well as a few jellyfish and other sea creatures. Because of my smallpox infection (which is almost healed by the way!) I wasn't allowe to submerge that shoulder into the water. Others were enjoying the creature-filled water with the aid of snorkeling equipment; I've decided to add that to my list of things to do. From the coast, about 30 meters from shore, the sandy and stony Sea floor dissipates into an eerie blue hue. This is the shelf, which is reported to drop to a depth of 300 meters. We're allowed to swim well out past the shelf, but only with an escort from a lifeguarding waiting nearby in a sea-kayak.

The "chilly" water we are swimming in is roughly 65 degrees during the winter months, and should reach the mid 80's by late august. The chill is a result of the warm air we are constantly exposed to. Because the water is fairly warm, especially near the coast, we have four sharks that like to congregate near our shoreline. It's because of these creatures that our escort is mandatory.

From the shore, Tiran Island (see image on a Room With a View post) is like 4 miles away. After running into Herb on the beach, I inquired about a fact I had read that was painted on the walkway to the beach. The walkway had stated that Herb's career at South Camp has seen 1,500 miles worth of swimming. Impressive to say the least. I asked him how far he swims out. His reply was that up until a year ago, when a young man was attacked by a shark, he swam to Tiran Island and back (a fourteen hour swim) every other month. Being able to only swim roughly 100 meters before dying myself, I find this to be an amazing feat.

After losing all confidence in my water abilities because of the 80 year old's iron-man swimming abilities, I retreated to land where I joined in a game of beach volleyball. Having enough sun for one day, I returned to my room and showered and changed out of my swim wear.

I then participated in a fantasy baseball mock draft in preparation for the March 22nd seasonal draft. My squad member, Specialist Clegg, has started a Fantasy Baseball League, where other members of Bravo Troop will all draft players to assemble a team for the upcoming season; the individual player's real-game stats will be used to award points to the owner of the team to which the individual has been drafted. At the end of the real MLB season, the owner with the most points will receive the $300 grand prize, followed by $125 and $75 for the 2nd and 3rd place finishers, respectively. It's a great alternative for us baseball fans to keep up on the news of the MLB season with our unfortunate in-opportunity to watch any games this season.

I think that's enough for today's post. I'll add this one as soon as the internet comes back online.

Picture today is a panoramic view of Herb's Beach. Right-click and click view image to get a better view of the picture.