week 1 with Opwall
10.07.2013 - 17.07.2013
The Baubau site was not really how I had imagined spending my time with Opwall. It was essentially a resort that Opwall have pretty much taken over for 8 weeks. So the rooms had electricity, air-con, ensuite bathrooms with flush toilets, showers and running water. Some even had televisions! Strange as it may sound, this was all a little disappointing.. I had been looking forward to the basic living conditions on Hoga. I was sharing a room with the instructor, an English guy by the name of Jon – nice enough chap. It was a little strange sharing a room for the first time in year! There were a couple of other dive staff over from Hoga for the week – some really nice people, including an Irish girl called Ciara, who had explained to the rest of the crew on Hoga how to pronounce my name as they were a little lost! Other nationalities included German, American, South African, Canadian and English. The average age was (and is here on Hoga too) probably about 25.
Anyways tasks for the week were basically to get the school group and teachers through their open water course. I was DMing for Jon and the group we had was pretty good. The confined water sessions were done in a sandy area off the beach, and the open water sessions were done either further off the beach on one of the artificial reefs, or along a wall. I have to admit that my first impressions of the wall were not great. There was definitely some interesting life, but the light levels seemed quite low and the vis wasn’t great at all. I hoped Hoga was going to be better.. Also, as the DM, anyone who had problems during the dive were generally my problem – so for example ear problems and running short of air problems – my dives were generally cut short dealing with these. And generally speaking, my ears don’t typically enjoy going up and down a lot, so I had a few ear problems myself one of the days. On the last day, we got to do a staff night dive – this was pretty cool – mostly because I had no students to look after, but it wasn’t the best night dive I’ve ever done. Overall I’d have to say the diving at Baubau wasn’t super. But I really didn’t have enough time fun diving to appreciate it.
The food at Baubau was DELICIOUS!! Apart from breakfast, which is one meal where I’m not so great at breaking away from my western cereal norm. I cannot eat dinner at breakfast time! But they had a toaster that generally worked well enough, and some jam (I avoided the fluorescent-looking pineapple flavoured one!) so that became my staple breakfast. Otherwise, we had lots of rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu… We also got some fruit: oranges, bananas or watermelons typically.
We were pretty much confined on site for the week. Anybody wanting to leave to go to the beach or whatever, had to sign in and out. Safety is paramount around here cos of how far we are from hospitals, recompression chambers etc. All dives are limited to 18 metres (apart from the deep dive that’s part of the Advanced OW course) and 50 minutes – this includes all staff fun dives. The safety stop is 5 minutes, again to be that extra bit conservative. These rules are strictly enforced, with random computer checks carried out just to make sure. Penalties for over-profiling include no fun-dives for a week! And if you over-profile by more than a minute, or more than a metre, you have to abort your dive. Needless to say, a week on an open water course doesn’t put you at risk of over-profiling..!
As part of the safety and admin, there are welcome talks at the beginning of the week. One is basically the “all the things that can kill you” talk. This doesn’t just include the toxic marine creatures, but also the terrestrial ones.. The guys in the room next to mine found a huntsman spider in the room…!! The only exotic fauna I saw was a troupe of about 30 monkeys in the tree next to the building I was in – that was a pretty cool sight. It was at the beginning of the week however, and I never saw them again. He biggest pest for me in Baubau was definitely the sandflies – the little feckers would not stop eating me! Going outside without insect repellent on was not an option.
The weather at Baubau was ok. It did rain about once a day, but it was generally dry for the most part of the day, and the sun came out a few times. I reckon however, that from all accounts from back home, the weather in Ireland was better than in Baubau that week!
Socially it was fairly quiet as there weren’t a hug number of us – we had this great German card game where you have to plant and harvest beans, go to the market and try to do deals with other players for their beans or to get rid of beans you didn’t want. The idea was to make money from harvesting. We had a lot of fun playing that a few evenings of the week. The drinking of alcohol was also limited. Each person can only have one beer per night, apart from Tuesday night, which is party night and then anything goes – Wednesday is de-gas day, so nobody is diving, and hangovers and lie-ins are permitted. The only beer available is bintang, which I have quickly learned is only nice for the duration of the first beer. The second beer never goes down quite as well. And even after just two beers, I knew the following day that I’d been drinking! And no, this is not cos I’m a lightweight – this is a common complaint for most of the “older” people here..
I didn’t mention the kind of times we were keeping there – basically breakfast was at 6 every day, so wake-up time was anytime before 5.45. Typically people were in bed by 10 at the latest. Apart from on party night (altho’ the Baubau party night was pretty quiet compared with that of Hoga as there are far fewer people about).
So, my first de-gas day was basically spent travelling to Hoga. Before we left we spent an hour doing a beach clean-up for the PADI Aware project. We got a little bit of time in a supermarket in the centre of Baubau before boarding the boat – this was great for stocking up on things that are either unavailable on Hoga or cost a lot more out there. It was great to have the guys who had already been to Hoga with us then to give us advice on what things we should buy.. And so I came out of the shop with some porridge, some hot chocolate and lots of herbal tea, among other things!
Baubua had no internet by the way, nor did they sell SIM cards on site, so I was pretty much totally disconnected from everything which was lovely
We took the fast boat to Hoga – I can’t remember why. This is the public boat which doesn’t take as long as the slave ship (as I have since heard it called) that Opwall generally use to ferry people about. The trip was about 6 hours and there was only a short period in the middle when I wondered if the boat would capsize due to the big seas. Most of the time I was able to sleep, altho’ from time to time the screens at the front of the boat would blast out Indonesian top hits karaoke-style, which certainly interfered with sleeping. Towards the end of the trip, we were joining in karaoke-style ourselves – a good way to practice Indonesian pronunciation! The boat first stopped on the island of Wanci, and then it went on to Kaledupa, where we got onto a (much) smaller boat that ferried us across the channel to Hoga. And so finally, after I don’t know how long waiting, I had arrived on the island of Hoga (in the dark and lashing rain lol!).