March 15-22 I spent in Sestriere, Italy, together with Patrik, Jesper, Casper, Bo and Martin – Team Holst. Thanks to Casper that arranged the trip through Slopetrotter.
We flew Air Berlin to Torino and SAS home from Milano. 1,5 hours transfer from Torino to Sestriere and 3 hours the other way. A “memorable” moment on Air Berlin was the free “sandwich”…
Sestriere is located at 2035 m. above sea level, 17 km from the French border. It is a part of the ski area Via Lattea (milky way) that has around 145 skiable pistes, that adds up to approx. 400 km.
Landmarks in town are the two round hotel towers that was built in the 1930’s by the FIAT family for the employees at the car factory in Torino to spend their winter holidays. It is still a popular winter resort and the population goes from the 800 inhabitants to approx 20.000 during the winter holidays. In 2006 Sestriere was a part of the winter Olympics.
We had 6 days with sun, blue sky and warm weather. First couple of hours during the day the piste was hard, “wash boardish”. The next couple of hours it was nice and soft, sometimes a bit of spring snow. Some slopes turned a bit too slushy in the afternoon.
Easyjet from Kastrup to Gatwick. Hold luggage only, no check in. One hold luggage really means ONE, no camera or “man purse” on the side. I had booked the tickets with Ingo Johansson and that what it said on the boarding pass. It says Ingvar Johansson in the passport, not smart. It cost normally DKK 720 to change it but the assistant was very nice and changed free of charge, thanks a lot for that!
Took the regular train, Southern, from Gatwick to Victoria Station (when we finally found the right platform and train). Takes little longer than the Express but is half price. Buy a train ticket that include day pass on the tube. Approx £15/pers. Continued with the underground from Victoria to Oxford Circus and then it was only a few minutes walk to the flat at Dufours Place (had problems finding that too, tip: get a proper map from the start ;-).
Booked the flat via airbnb.com. It had two bedroom, two toilets, a large living room area incl. kitchen and a balcony. Prime location:
1 min. walk to Carnaby Street
2 min. walk to Oxford Street
5 min. walk to Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and China Town
10 min. walk to Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery
15 min. walk to Buckingham Palace
20 min. walk to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye
The resort doesn’t have a “normal” beach. It has a couple of jetties sticking out over the coral reef and end at the reef wall. A stair leads down to a fantastic underwater world.
The “beach” area is built up in levels with beach beds and umbrellas. It’s a rustique, marine like style that I found suited the area well.High heels and other walking obsticales could be a challenge with many stairs, sand and cobble stone.
I was surprised that even since the hotel was from ’97 the reef was ok “healthy” with lots of colorful fish and coral. A life guard on each jetty was also efficient to whistle when people didn’t behave and went outside marked area etc.
The pool area was big with a “lazy river”, a 300 m long “river” that was “running” in a circle around the pool area.
We took the hotel shuttle bus to Naama Bay one afternoon and walked around the main street and board walk.Very loud and busy with the different bars competing who could play the worst music as loud as possible. The Egyptian sales men are VERY eager and like glue to you. Learned that you shouldn’t even say “no thank you” insted totally ignore them…Had dinner at restaurant Dannaneer, that was recommended by the guide. Nice and cheap steaks.
Tuesday was Jeep safari. Offroad through the dessert with an exciting driver that preffered the off offroad.First stop was a Bedouin graveyard where the guide, Rasmus, told some stories. For instance how marriage works: From when the daughter is 13 years old, the father puts a green flag on the door. Interested men visit the home. The daughter make and serve tea to the man. If the tea is sweet he is approved, if the tea is bitter and strong it’s a “no go”…
Second stop was Dahab where we should pick up snorkeling gear to the ones that didn’t had any.These houses the government built for the Bedouins some 4 years ago. Many of the Bedouins prefer to live their own life in tents and home made sheds like they always had. Half of the houses are empty and the area is not finished and looks like some sort of ghost town.
Third stop was a camel ride to the Blue Hole.One of the myths about camels is that the camel stores water in its hump. The truth is the hump is a fatty deposit that provides energy when food is scarce.The camel stores water in its blood stream. It’s capable of losing forty percent of its body’s weight before becoming distressed and is able to go five to seven days before having to drink. The amount it drinks can add up to 80 l. in about 10 minutes.The camel’s mouth is tough and rubbery so that thorns and branches won’t damage it. The thirty-four sharp teeth allow it to bite off tough bites of almost anything, and when forage is short a camel can subsist on meats, skin and bones. Camels have three stomachs. They don’t chew their food but eat by swallowing their food whole and allowing it to be partially digested by the stomachs before being chewed as a cud later.
The Blue Hole is a very special place. I thought it was out in the sea but no, it’s just a couple of meters off the beach. A coral reef formed as a circle with a 120 meter hole in the middle.In the middle there is a rope across where free divers train and try to get as deep as possible. Some succed some doesn’t. On the cliff wall there are signs with the names of the ones that didn’t come up again and is still lying on the bottom of the hole. It’s has the nickname “Diver’s Cemetery”.We passed the signs and walked around the cliff on the image. There we started the snorkel tour. Ended with circle the Blue Hole and on the right side there is a underwater plateau that was beautiful.
Last stop on this adventures day was The 3 Pools just out side Dahab. also here the reef was just of the beach. One of our favorites was the “tower corals”. Highrise coral reef sticking up from the bottom. Lots of activity and fantastic colors.
Thursday we went on a snorkel/diving boat trip with Colona Divers. Leaving early in the morning to Sharks Bay were we entered the boat that should take us out to 3 different reefs in the Tiran straight.This image is from Gordon reef where this russian ship collided with the reef some 11 years ago coz the captain had too much vodka.We also visited Jackson reef and Raz Gamilla. At the last one we had a drift snorkel tour that was a fantastic experience. We jumped from the boat at one end of the reef while the boat still was drifting. The current took us floating along the reef for an hour and all we had to do was to “steer” so we didn’t hit the reef. We saw Barracuda, free swimming Moray eel (apparently very unusual), giant Puffer fish and lots of other fish.