Week 3 with Cushla :)
26.08.2013 - 31.08.2013
We arrived in Bali from Gili Meno at a town called Amed on the east coast of the island. Our destination was Tulamben, the next town up the coast, for some diving on the famous wreck of the U.S.S. Liberty (or the U.S.A.T. Liberty, according to wikipedia!). We were diving with Liberty Dive Resort, which had come recommended by an English couple we met diving in Flores, but stayed at Puri Madha Resort as their accommodation was half the price! We had just two nights in Tulamben as I had a flight to catch.. I can assure you, two nights is not long enough! To make the most of my time there, I did a night dive on the wreck the day we arrived – it was fab! There was this one big grouper that followed us around for a lot of the dive – he was trying to hunt in my torchlight! One of the fish he almost ate was very cute, so I made sure he didn't get to eat that guy, but the rest of them I let him off – that's nature! And the kills made for some nice video footage I also saw this really cool slipper lobster – I'd never seen as big a one before! There were also some bumphead parrotfish, settling down for the night, and I saw some soft coral spawning (at least, that's what I assume it was doing), which is also something I'd never seen before. So, it was a very successful first dive.
The Liberty was a cargo ship that was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942 during the second world war. It was beached on Bali, but then due to an eruption of one of the nearby volcanoes in 1963, the wreck slid back into the sea and is now literally just off the coast – you can easily swim to it. It makes it a very easy shore dive (altho' getting in and out isn't the easiest cos of all the rocks and the reasonably sized waves). On our only full day in the area, both myself and Cushla got up at the crack of dawn to do a dawn dive on the wreck. Later in the morning I went to the coral garden with my guide and had one of the best ever, no, definitely the best ever muck dive I've had! My guide was SUPER! He was very good at finding the small stuff and I saw heaps of things. I wanted to see a ghost pipe-fish – I saw about eight of them, two different species! I saw lots of micro-crustaceans hiding in anemones and feather stars and I saw lots of nudis. It really was a FANTASTIC dive – I can't wait to sort thro' the photos! That afternoon I was going to do another couple of dives, but then I realised that this was my last day in paradise – my last day to sit in the sun by the sea and soak up the rays (cos I do that so well lol!). And so I didn't bother diving that afternoon, instead I spent my time reading and relaxing. The following morning we again got up very early, this time while it was still dark, the idea being to get into the water before the sun rose so that we could see the school of bumphead parrotfish waking up... Boy was it worth it! There was a good 20 of them in the school – some really big! And we got there just as they were rousing themselves and starting to swim off into the blue or wherever it is they go during the day. It was a real wow – not quite as wow as the mantas in Komodo, but still a wow. We continued that dive in the muck a little, and then onto the wreck. With Liberty Diver Resort, everyone gets their own private guide at no extra cost, so I always got to say where I wanted to go, and when my guide found me something worth photographing, I could stay as long as I wanted to try to get that perfect shot (of course, I generally didn't do so well and really really wanted a decent underwater camera with a super macro lens on it!). For our second dive that day, as we had time for it, I went to a site between the coral garden and the wreck that was also pretty much a muck dive and was also really cool, and finished off on the wreck. And then it was over... That was my last dive in Indonesia How sad I must say thanks here to Liane whom I met on Hoga, who told me not to bother diving on Gili, but to wait until Bali (and she works on Gili!) - she was right – diving on Bali is great
That afternoon we headed for Ubud in the centre of the southern part of the island. I have to say, my idea of Bali was always that it would be too touristy, and so I was going to try to avoid going there at all, apart from to use its airport. I tend to avoid tourists when I can. And my two brief encounters with Kuta back that up – it's too touristy and not a nice place to hang out. However, on the drive between Amed and Tulamben, and then from Tulamben to Ubud, I realised that Bali is another stunning Indonesian paradise, of lush green vegetation, paddy fields, beautiful blue skies and seas, and lovely mountains. You just have to get out of the southern part of the island, which is really touristy, to get into the smaller beautiful areas to appreciate it Bali is another one to go back to as I hardly saw any of it, and I believe there's a lot more diving to be done there!
Anyways, I digress... Ubud was our next destination, but I was only staying there one night before flying onto Jakarta. Cushla however was spending a week there to do yoga. Ubud is kinda touristy. Apparently because of the book 'Eat, Pray, Love', a lot of Americans now go to Ubud searching for – well, as I've neither read the book nor watched the film, I don't know exactly what it is they think they're going to find there, but in any case that's not important – the point is they go there and now the place is busier than it used be. I wandered the long street near our guest house and found a lot of lovely shops – I could have spent a fortune there. Fortunately for my wallet, I had no space left in my bag and a 20 kg limit, that had already been exceeded, on my flight to Jakarta! I did do a little bit of shopping there however, and a lot of eating of really good food. The place is heaven for those on yoga/health food buzzes. There are a few restaurants with really delicious organic food, the sort that is not even difficult to find in the Europe, and that makes you feel really healthy after you eat it. I really enjoyed my 24 hours in Ubud! But then it was over: beautiful Bali became no more than a memory when I flew to Jakarta the following day, and I had to say bye to Cushla – who knows where we'll next meet, or when..
I had less than 48 hours in Jakarta before my flight back to Paris. I stayed at a really nice hostel, run by an Irish guy, David, and his Indonesian wife. I didn't happen upon it by chance, myself and David have a mutual Irish friend who lives near me in France. It was on her recommendation that I stayed at Six Degrees Backpackers. I didn't regret it. The hostel was well-located, within walking distance of the CBD. And there was a really interesting crowd staying there, including an American who was in Jakarta to do field work for his PhD. My ears immediately pricked up as he told me what his thesis was about and I wondered would it be possible to join him for some field work the following day. I'd no plans for Jakarta, other than a tiny bit of shopping that I got done in a couple of hours. I figured all the historical stuff in the old part of the town could wait – it'd been there for years; it'd be there for a few more. But helping this guy out with fieldwork was probably a once-only opportunity. His thesis, in social science/geography, is looking at the links between rubbish build-up (due to disorganised urban sprawl, especially by poorer migrants to the city) in the rivers, its effect on the flow rate of the river and flooding (the intensity and frequency of flooding in Jakarta has been increasing in recent years). It sounded really intersting and the field work consisted of measuring rubbish/sludge depths at several sites on the main river in Jakarta. He had, sadly, finished his field work for this trip (I should point out that he's based in a university in Singapore and so doesn't travel too far to his field site), but he did have to go back to one of his field sites where a local grass roots NGO operates from to drop back some equipment – they store it for him. So he said I could come with him if I liked.. So, in the morning I wandered to the CBD, past a lot of very big old colonial gated houses, some with security guards outside, to a massive big shopping centre full of the wealthier of Jakarta's people. And in the afternoon I was far away from that, both geographically and wealth-wise, in a neighbourhood that had a lot of much poorer people in it living in slums. Not all of the houses were slums however, as Zack explained, when people migrate to Jakarta, they move into the kampong where the rest of their people are, be they Javanese, Balinese, Papuan etc.. So people cluster by where they come from and not by how big and fancy a house they can afford. Anyways, it was a very interesting day for me all in all.
At 4 am the following morning I had to get up to be at the airport in time for my flight to Paris. Funnily, at the airport I met one of the diving bosses from Hoga with his wife! They were on the same flight as me as far as Dubai! And that was it – the end of my two month trip to Indonesia. Since arriving back in France, I know for sure that once this academic year is over, and my contract at the university is finished, I'll be leaving France and (probably) heading for SE Asia once again, with a one-way ticket.. And I can't wait!