Well, I’m back, but I hate feeling like I’m on the clock when I do these. Of course, I feel like that because I am on the clock, at about $4 an hour, which is a significant chunk of our daily budget down here. Not that I expect the sympathy to flow freely or anything. I think that when I left off we were in Ubud watching some crazy Balinese dancing. Well, the day after that we hightailed it out to the east coast, to Amed, for some scuba diving and fine country livin’. Of course, “hightailing it” is truly a figure of speech around here. We went about 150km on 3 different buses in about 5 hours. Not bad, so I’m starting to learn.
Anyway, Amed is truly a village in all senses of the word, and our accommodations, free with the scuba course, were, how shall I put it, “spartan”, to say the least. However, we did have pretty fine bunkmates, some with wings, some with 8 legs, some with just 4 and a habit of scurrying about at night. The first night, as I made a bathroom excursion (surprisingly, we did have that luxury in our straw hut, but don’t make the mistake of picturing anything you’ll find in “Good Homes”) out of the mosquito net with my flashlight I met one of them up close and personal, a spider about 3 inches across. On the bright side I must have scared him just as much as he scared me, judging by the way he buzzed up his web right over my shoulder. Needless to say, my bladder control has improved dramatically since then. But, as with anything else, we got used to it and were sleeping like babies by the last night, at least until about 5am when everyone in the area gets up to work/play/hammer/yell/spit.
The diving , on the other hand, was incredible. It is truly a mind-boggling experience to be 50ft below the surface cruising around at your leisure. The variety of coral and fish that we saw was simply amazing. Our last two dives were at the “Liberty” wreck, an American ship that was downed during WWII. It was overgrown with coral and absolutely surrounded by marine life. We were able to scoot in, around, over and through the ship itself. Unbelievable. Surprisingly, the biggest problem we encountered while diving was Laynni trying to clear the water out of her mask under water. Apparently, blowing out of her nose and not her mouth is more of a task than one would imagine. She did manage to get the hang of it by the end, though, and it was clear sailing from then on. Our instructor was a German/Englishman named Fred. Picture about 6′1, 140 lbs, blond dreads, computer programmer! He was a great teacher, though, easy going and about our age, so we got along well. The owner of the dive shop arrived the night before we left. He was a very effeminate Canadian covered in tattoos who was adamant in saying “I don’t consider myself from there anymore”. Considering that he’s about 35, and lived in Canada until he was 30, I figure that nobody like him at home but that over here he feels like some kind of bigshot. As you may be able to tell, he got on my nerves pretty quickly. In his defense, that never has been very hard to do.
Moving right along, once we finished our course, a guy named Marty drove us the 2 1/2 hrs to Lovina, a beach town on the north coast, and was kind enough to play us a little music from home (he sang along as an added bonus). We were fortunate enough to be able to listen to Bryan Adams’ Greatest Hits (Live!) three full times through the tape. What a treat! I’ve been singing “Heaven” ever since. People think I’m a hopeless romantic. Or a freak.
We figured we’d relax on the beach for a couple days before leaving Bali. Luckily for us, the place was pretty much dead and we were among the only tourists on the beach and made dozens of new friends, all of whom wanted to find out our life stories before selling us a trip to “see the dolphins” along with whatever their particular specialty might have been (necklaces, drinks, paintings, carvings ………. you get the picture). They were the worst kind of salespeople ……… good ones. Nonetheless, we didn’t bite on any of their supremely attractive offers, and the next morning we hunted around until we found a different hotel, one with cool little tree house bungalows and a gorgeous pool, discounted enough to fit our budget thanks to the lack of visitors. So we’ve spent two great days lying by the pool, with no new “friends” to speak of, and debated staying longer yet. In the end, we decided we better keep going or we might never leave.
So tomorrow at about noon (“about” is very literal here) we take off on a 8-14 hour bus ride to Mt. Bromo, an active volcano on the neighbouring island of Java. Our first grueling bus ride! I can’t wait! I’m thinking about investing in some tranquilizers. This mountain hike better be good, too, because we’re carrying a few things around (i.e. jacket, socks) that are really of no use to us anywhere else around here. Depending on how much it costs we might mail some of that stuff back after Bromo.
After that we’re off to the island of Sulawesi on what is supposed to be about a 26-hour ferry ride. Ooh, the anticipation. Oh yeah, and we are considering a quick excursion to Madura, an island just off the north coast of Java, that is famous for it’s bull races, salt and women. Can you say “paradise”?
Well, that’s about all I can think of for now. I’ll keep you posted at one of our next stops. Go Giants!