A Travellerspoint blog

Hoga.... Finally :)

Week 2 with Opwall

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My arrival on Hoga wasn’t quite how I imagined it would be. It was raining and so dark that I could barely make out the outline of the island from our boat transfer from Kaledupa. Making my way to my hut was interesting as my hut is in the jungle part of the island and the tracks are tracks (as opposed to the paved pathways that can be found on the other side of the base) and with the rain, these tracks were quite saturated with water and a bit muddy and there were plenty of track-wide puddles a couple of cm deep along the way – which all would have been fine apart from the fact that all my diving gear was in a wheelie bag that I had to drag along behind me, hoping the wheels wouldn’t get stuck in the mud. It was, despite all this, very exiting!! I was finally here, making my way thro’ the jungle to a small wooden hut that would be my house for the following 3 weeks. And the hut didn’t let me down – on stilts with a decent enough sized balcony and a perfectly functional room with really cute Indonesian furniture and 2 beds with mosquito nets hanging over them. There was, contrary to popular belief, an electricity supply to the huts (a light inside the room, a light on the balcony and a plug) but this is only on in the evenings. The mandi (Indonesian for bath or wash or something along those lines) is at ground level behind the hut and contains a squat toilet and a cement tank of fresh water with a scoop to scoop the water over oneself for washing. There is another smaller container with seawater in it – this is for flushing. I was utterly delighted with the hut, and at that point had it to myself as my roomie wasn’t due to arrive til the following day.

Meal-times were an altogether different experience compared with Baubau – which is no surprise considering there were about 30 or so people at the Baubau station, and there were about 200 on Hoga the week I arrived. Food is delivered to the table here, with a maximum of 8 per table, and there’s no such thing as seconds. There are 3 sittings for each meal (apart from brekkie) depending on what your working day is like. Breakfast is better as they have porridge most mornings (and when we run out, I have my own personal stash). Lunch is always veggie (i.e. vegetarian) with a yummy cold juice and dinner is either veggie or fish – there’s not much meat around. There’s rice with every meal, and sometimes noodles as well, with veggies (vegetables, not vegetarians), and there’s usually a bit of fruit with dinner. People generally feel like the lose weight here from lack of enough food. I do find I’m hungry quite a lot, but my chocolate stash in my bedroom keeps me going thro’ the hard times. And I think most of the reason I’m hungry is cos breakfast is, with the exception of de-gas day, always at 6, and the last dinner is at 7.15, and with only one other meal between these times, the time between meals is too long for me. Snacking is definitely necessary.

The dive staff here comes to over 30. There’s a mixture of DMs and instructors, and each week everyone is allotted a particular group to work with. So in Baubau I was on the OW course, and my first week in Hoga I was on science. Science is probably the easiest DM job going. Basically you go out on a boat full of scientists and their equipment and they buddy off in pairs and do their respective work, and you and your DM buddies (typically 3 on each dive) patrol the scientist buddy pairs to make sure everyone is doing their work without risking their own lives or the marine life around them. It means we get to have a look around each of the dive sites too and we get to check out what the scientists are doing. Some of them are using quadrats and counting different things inside them, others are using transects and counting things along them, lots are using photography and then computer software to analyse, for example, coral cover in the quadrats. It’s all very interesting. There are secchi discs being using vertically and horizontally, sediment traps are being laid and picked up at regular intervals, one guy is transplanting bits of sponge to see, well, I’m not sure exactly what.. There are science talks about once a week, and last week they did an overview of all the research areas being covered here, which was really interesting. There are a few PhD and MSc students, and they’re in charge of the undergrad dissertation students. The scientists mostly come from Britain but there are also Americans and two students from Vic Uni in Wellington here. Anyways, back to our DM work – we’re in charge of getting the scientists safely onto the boat, out to the dive site, and back. One of us is the boat leader, and it’s our job to do radio checks back to base when we depart from the shore and arrive at our site. It’s also our job to brief the scientists, altho’ I’m sure they could all give the briefings too as they listen to them so often! There are 5 science dives per day, at 7, 9, 11, 1 and 3. So some days I got to do 3 dives (7, 11 and 3). Another of Opwall’s safety rules is that we all must have a minimum of a 3 hour surface interval, so diving at 9 and 1 sucks, as you can’t fit in a third dive that day. The science dives take place at 3 different dive sites, so I visited each of these more than once during the week. Anytime I was free when a dive was going out that had space on it, I went along on a fun dive – these are the only dives where I’m allowed to take my camera, for obvious reasons!

Other dive team tasks include working in the radio room replying and reacting to any messages that come in over the airwaves (this is the one that kind of freaks me out a little cos in the case of an emergency, the person in the radio room has a lot of responsibility!), working in the dive shed helping to give out the rental gear to the students, and shore cover for any snorkelers that are going out. While working in the dive shed, I try to learn a bit of Indonesian from the 2 guys who also work there. They are unbelievable – they know almost all the students by name and remember exactly how much weight, and which combinations (1 or 2 kg blocks) they use – incredible!! I haven’t had to do shore cover yet, but I suspect it’ll be the most boring task as we’re (again for obvious reasons) not allowed to take a book, or music with headphones or anything with us. We literally just have to sit there with a radio and binoculars and watch to make sure nothing happens to anybody..

Evening times vary. Some people hang out at the DCHQ (dive centre HQ), some in the cabanas (wooden chill-out structures), some go to bed early, the scientists are often off in the wet or dry labs running experiments (there are scientists that have land-based projects and spend all of their time in the lab), some have a beer, but again the rule is one beer only per person per night, apart from party night. The biggest reason for this, apart from avoiding having lots of drunk people around every night, is that the island would be drunk dry very quickly if this rule didn’t exist. All supplies, from fresh water to porridge and beer, are shipped in to the island once a week, with the incoming arrivals. Which is why there is generally porridge and powdered milk for the first half of each week or so, but by the end of the week there’s nothing left..

My roomie here on Hoga is an Italian by the name of Anna, who’s also DMing here. As we’re both up at about the same time every morning (5.30) and neither of us tend to stay out too late (we’re generally both in bed by 10), our living arrangements are working out quite well. The dive team is a very international group of people, with Polish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Irish, English, Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi, American, Canadian, South African and Indonesian members.

Party night on Hoga is a vastly different affair to Baubau. Each week there’s a theme and people have to dress up (remember resources are seriously limited on an island, so imagination is key to a successful costume). During my first week, the theme was Alice in Wonderland. The other thing that happens on party night is that the dive staff get together and dress as the same thing, and turn up to the meal (it’s the only time during the week that everyone eats together and the benches and tables are taken outside to make a dance floor space in the lodge) fashionably late and with a bang. For Alice in Wonderland, we dressed up as the Queen of Hearts’ army of cards (we’re painting the roses red..). Edd, the scientific dive officer and dive safety officer (one of our main bosses) was the Queen of Hearts and we were all divided up into the 4 suits (hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs) with an A4-sized bit of cardboard hanging by string around our necks with our suit painted on it, and the sign of our suit on a headpiece - at some point I’ll add a photo as it will speak the thousand words I can’t think of right now. But we rocked!! Some of the Indonesian dive staff joined us too. About 7 of us helped make the costumes, led by Mike and Josh. It really was a fantastic effort – and of course greased along with a bit of Bintang! We made a massive entrance: everyone else was already eating and stopped to take a look. I wish I could have seen it from where they were! There were lots of Alices in drag that night, and a few Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dees, and there was one super caterpillar who even had his sheesha pipe – people really had been very productive and imaginative despite the lack of wardrobes that most of us have. Dave (one of the science staff who come from Cork) even managed to find an orange wig to go with his Alice in drag costume! I can’t wait to see what the theme for next week is! Party night went on into the early hours and there were plenty of sore heads and late risers the following day. I was in bed by midnight however, not being able to stay up any later after a week of getting up at 5.30 and going all day without a nap. And I only drank 2 beers, as by the time I’d finished the second, the cold beers were gone (limited fridge/freezer space) and warm beer is not something I enjoy. I’m not sure what time the music went on until, but it seemed to go on all night (man, do I sound old!) – the wind must have been blowing towards my hut..!

There’s some cool wildlife on the island – the most cool for me are the monitor lizards, altho’ I haven’t seen that many of them. There are also snakes, which fortunately I have only seen underwater, where they don’t freak me out.. At night on the way home, my torch light picks up lots of pairs of eyes looking at me. A fair few are at ground level and they’re some sort of reasonably sized spider – I’m not sure what type exactly, but I generally tend to keep my distance. There are also kingfishers, but I haven’t managed to see any. Whenever it rains (a couple of times a week , altho’ in general the weather is a lot better now that it was before I got here), there’s this shell-less hermit crab who comes up the drain system and into our toilet.. I feel quite bad for him – it can’t be too pleasant down there. In fact, as the only time I’m likely to see him is when I actually need to use the toilet, I try to get him out first and put him back in again afterwards! Whenever I put him back in, he disappears pretty quickly back down the drain – I’m not sure he’s actually keen on being in our mandi – he must just get lost each time! The other evening, on the way back to my hut from checking out a really cool fluorometer and the work that was being done with it in the wet lab, I came across this big hermit crab who’d made his home from a bit of plastic, like a large bottle top. God love him he was far too big for it. Clearly he’d gotten stuck in it and couldn’t change when he needed a bigger home. And there was no way he was going to be able to hide in it as hermit crabs normally do in their shells. I felt really bad for him too – what an awful life growing inside something that’s too small for you. Nice work with the plastic pollution us! Oh, another very exciting thing for me was on Tuesday of the week when some bluebottles arrived in. This is the name given to the Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, which is definitely something to be avoided at all costs. But I’d only ever seen them in photos before, so I spent a bit of time on the jetty taking some photos and watching them drift by. I didn’t see any of the really cool nudibranchs that each the bluebottles unfortunately – I’d love to see those.. Maybe we’ll get another bluebottle swarm drift by before I leave. Of course, bluebottle in the water in any small densities (like 5 individuals in 100 square metres) means all diving in that area is cancelled, such in the toxicity of their sting. So nobody really likes to see them as everybody would rather be diving. During the week that I was in Baubau, all dives were cancelled for 2 days due to bluebottles – not a good thing when you’re trying to get thro’ a diving course or collect samples for a science project.. But that’s nature for you!

Anyways, I’m not sure I can think of anything else to report right now, and I have a feeling that this already doesn’t read particularly well as it’s just whatever bits came into my head as they came in.. So I’ll stop now.

Posted by niscratz 20:28 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

A week in Baubau

week 1 with Opwall

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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!).

Posted by niscratz 20:48 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

From KL to Baubau

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The journey from KL to Baubau was long and slow, but pretty uneventful. First I flew to Jakarta, as it’s easier to get a visa extension if you have entered Indonesia via Jakarta or Denpasar (in Bali) than Makassar (on Sulawesi ), even though I then had to fly from Jakarta to Makassar (and direct flights from KL exist). I spent a lot of time in Jakarta airport eating rubbish expensive Indonesian food and reading. In Makassar I had chosen to stay in a hotel close to the airport rather than in the city itself as I had a flight pretty early the following morning and the city was over 20 km away. Unfortunately, while my hotel was lovely, the nearest local eatery was a fair enough walk along a main road away, and it was pitch black outside and raining torrentially (Indonesia is not having a particularly dry dry season this year it seems), so I went to bed hungry. The following morning was the flight from Makassar to Baubau, on the island of Buton. Planes had been getting progressively smaller as the journey went on, and this was the smallest with only 2 people on each side of the aisle and propeller engines! Luggage allowance was down to a mere 15 Kg so I had to pay quite a bit in excess luggage. About half of the passengers were European, mostly British by the sounds of their accents, and in and around the 20 year old age mark – clearly Opwall volunteers. There must have been about 20 of us in all and we were met at Baubau airport (about the size of Galway airport) by Arni, part of the Opwall organizing committee. She ferried us in the various directions we needed to go.

Baubau is a central transit point for Opwall Indonesia, with some people arriving there to go to the jungle site in Lubundo, others arriving to go to the marine site on Hoga, others moving from the jungle site to the marine site, and of course others on their way home from both sites. So after a couple of false starts chatting to really nice people who were not in fact going in the same direction as I was, I eventually worked out which people were also going to Hoga. Most of them were undergrad students embarking on 6 weeks of marine research for their final year undergrad projects but there was one other dive staff member (Catherine) who was there with her husband (Mark - part of the medic team) and their two adorable kids Olivia and Hannah. We had the afternoon to chill in Baubau before the night boat to Hoga, so we visited a local beach and an old fort from colonial times that was where the Dutch used to try to protect their spice boats from pirates. Transport around the town was in these small van things that had the back doors permanently opened and very dodgy music (depending of course on the taste of the driver) blasting out of them. It was difficult to know how the drivers even drove safely as most of their windscreens were covered in stickers and there were all sorts of stuffed toys hanging out of the ceiling.

Late that evening, we took those small dodgy vans on a 2 hour drive across the bottom of Buton to Pasarwajo to join the boat that was going to take us to Hoga. The idea was that we board the boat late in the evening, sleep on it, and then at about 5 am, when the seas are typically at their calmest, the boat departs and sails the approximately 6 hour journey to Hoga. So we boarded, found places on the boat to sleep (there were 40 of us at this point): most people chose the deck. It was quite windy that night and the boat was rocking quite a lot. Chris, the country co-ordinator with Opwall, reckoned that the chances of us actually leaving were quite slim due to the wind. In the early hours of the morning it began to rain. The tarpaulin covering on the deck had been taken off, so all those sleeping on the deck woke to raindrops falling on their heads – not a very pleasant experience for anyone, and half of them had just spent the previous week in the jungle getting pissed on and wading thro’ mud the entire week. Needless to say these guys were not too impressed by the situation on the boat – 10 of them were a 16-17 year old school group from England with their teachers who hadn’t had dry feet for a week! Anyways, the boat crew got their act together and put up the tarpaulin in case the rain started again (it had only been a shower), and people tried to get back to sleep. I found a space in the wheel house with a nice breeze blowing thro’ and a roof over it – being a staff member can have its perks! The following morning most people woke (those who had actually managed to sleep that is) after 6 to a boat that was still docked at the pier. It wasn’t looking good – the wind was still up and the boat was still rocking and we were in the sheltered harbour. Out on the open sea we could see big white horses – this was not a boat made for big seas. So, for the first time in all his years (about 13) working for Opwall, Chris cancelled the trip on the advice of the captain. We all packed back into the small dodgy vans (after unloading all our gear) and spent 2 hours travelling back to Baubau for another day.

At this point, the two school teachers and Chris decided that it wasn’t worth their while going to Hoga, cos if the weather didn’t die down, the boat may have been cancelled again. School groups typically spend just 1 week in each site, so time wasting/loss is not really an option. Opwall also have a marine site just outside Baubau, opened up just this year especially to cater for school groups. So they decided to go there instead. As all the students plus the teachers were going to do their open water course, this meant that they were going to need extra dive staff at the Baubau site, 2 instructors and 2 divemasters. As myself and Catherine were divemasters, we were told we would be staying with the school group at the Baubau site that week, and there was another dive staff member due to fly in that day who happened to be an instructor – so he was also going to be staying in Baubau instead of going to Hoga. And the dive ops manager at the Baubau site was also an instructor, so he was going to be spending his week instructing along with his usual managerial tasks. A week at the Baubau site had always been a possibility for me at some point over the 4 weeks, and now it had become a reality for week 1. This meant that my arrival at Hoga was “postponed” by yet another week, and that I was only going to have 3 weeks on Hoga – it seemed so much shorter than the initial 5 weeks, but what of it – I was staying in Baubau and that was that.

Posted by niscratz 02:58 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Plan B in action...

semi-overcast 30 °C
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So, by the Tuesday of that week, 3 days after I was supposed to leave, I finally felt good enough to go ahead and re-book my flights. I called up the lovely Rose at Emirates and managed to re-book my flights for that Friday (July 5th). My destination changed from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpar as there were no seats left to Jakarta. My 12 hours in Dubai changed to just 4 - no more open-top bus tour around Dubai. I had 3 days to get myself ready (having done pretty much nothing for the previous week). My internal flights couldn't be easily changed, so I had to go about re-booking those, only to find that lionair no longer accepted either of my credit cards for online payments. We would like to inform you that for online reservation we could not accept overseas credit cards, reported their customer care team. Bullshit I replied, I've already booked lionair flights online with an overseas credit card without any problems. But something on their website had clearly started functioning properly, and I was unable to rebook the internal flights I needed. Last minute bookings can be stressful. Airasia's prices go thro' the roof (relatively speaking) when close to the day of departure. It was a real pain in the ass to have to go about re-doing all of my itinerary that I had so carefully put together in order to least suffer from the effects of jetlag while taking full advantage of stops in different cities and towns on the way. But it had to be done. And hopefully my insurance company will cover the extra costs...

And so, on Friday night, I flew from Paris to KL with tickets thro' to Jakarta booked, and the overnight ferry that makes up the last leg of my journey to Hoga paid for. But with a small gap between Jakarta and Sulwesi to still be filled in.. I arrived in KL on Saturday night and made my way to Chinatown where the lovely little hostel I'm staying at is situated. I've had 2 days in KL and the first was filled with a long sleep-in and then a search thro' all the travel agencies in the Times Square shopping mega-mall to find one that could get me my internal flights cheaply.. Incredibly, none were able to! Some were clearly not with it, never having even heard of the airline. Others were unable to find a way to get a price in Malaysian Ringit (only in Indonesian Rupiah), and so didn't know what to charge my credit card.. Others were shut as it was a Sunday.. In the end I gave up, getting slightly frazzled at the thoughts of how much I was going to have to pay for a flight booked the day before departure, and went for a beer! Today I headed out to the airport (an hour bus journey each way) to the official lionair booking people and there I was able to book all the internal travel I intend doing over the next 7 weeks (well, all of those that I'd decided on the dates of!) for a ridiculously cheap price given that one flight was for tomorrow and another for the following day - Long Live Lionair: they may have crashed in Bali earlier this year, but nobody died, so not only are they cheap right up to the last minute, but they are also good at crashing safely...

The hostel I'm staying at is filled with a very interesting mix of people. Last night I was hanging out with a bunch of Palestinians - granted none of them have lived in Palestine in a long time, if ever, but 2 of them just arrived from Syria last week. When I asked what they were planning on doing in Malaysia they told me just escaping the war.. Needless to say, it kind of put my blocked ears and delayed departure into a certain perspective.. There's also a Pakistani who's in KL to do an interview for a Masters program in engineering in Finland...! Finland has no embassy in Pakistan, so this guy had the choice of being interviewed in Nepal, Thailand or Malaysia.. Then there are the regular assortment of backpackers, including 2 English guys that I'm going for dinner with this evening. I was hoping to catch up with 2 Malaysian friends that I met here 5 years ago, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen at this stage - pity - they were great craic and knew all the best Chinese places to eat in.

Tomorrow morning is an early one - my flight to Jakarta is at 10 am, but it takes over an hour to get to the airport, so I'm going to go pack now before dinner.. I'll be in touch again whenever I next get online.

Posted by niscratz 03:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Plan B!

Playing it by ear... lol!!

So, the best start to a trip ever!! 10 days before departure I pick up some sort of head-cold like viral thing. Unfortunately it heads straight for my ears, blocking them completely! This doesn't worry me too much as I think I still have heaps of time for it to clear. I go to the doctor to get the prescription for my malaria meds, and he checks out my ears: slight infection present - in light of the fact that I'm very soon to embark on a 4 day (the slow route) journey, he recommends antibiotics to make sure it doesn't get any worse. If I hadn't been going away, he wouldn't have given them to me. Great I think, that'll do the trick - along with the recommended decongestant nasal spray. I'm all the while dosing myself with vitamin C, hot lemon, orange, ginger and garlic drinks, echinacea - the works! And I'm steaming my head over a bowl of boiling water to try to clear my sinuses. All to no avail! Yesterday, the day before I'm due to travel, I go back to the doc and tell him that some diving buddies of mine recommend steroids as a quick-and-easy (albeit tough on the tummy and probably not to be recommended as usual run-of-the-mill treatment!) sinus-clearing solution, but it requires a prescription - he, somewhat hesitantly I must say, agrees to give me the prescription, along with a cert saying I am unfit to travel on the 29th - to whom it may concern. And I continue my chemical testing for the week with a 6-day treatment of steroids! Are they working? Well, yes, my ears have shown definite signs of improvement since yesterday, there was even one moment last night when both were clear at the same time - great I thought, maybe I'll get to go after all.. But alas no, this morning both ears were again completely blocked and I hadn't the energy to even finish my packing. There is just no way I would have been able to equalise at take-off and landing (I was apparently born with ears that are super-sensitive to pressure changes, and so even in a pressurised cabin, my ears pop 2 or 3 times between ground level and flying altitude). On top of that, I lost my appetite two days ago and have been sleeping really badly cos this situation was stressing me out so much, and have had very little energy since Thursday. So, I called Emirates this morning and have put my flight on hold. No point in booking another date only to have to change it again - I'll call them when I'm fit and healthy for a long journey followed by intensive diving. Hopefully that won't take too long - it's been 10 days so far, the virus must be almost done with me, wouldn't you think?! The stress has disappeared altogether too - I no longer have a date that I have to be better by - I'll be better when I'm better!

Disappointed? Dreadfully! But, it could be worse, I could have something wrong with me that would mean cancelling the trip altogether, as opposed to just postponing the beginning of it.. And I'd far rather be sick in the (unusually) cool temperate climes of La Rochelle, than in hot tropical Indonesia where I have no support network etc. etc.

So, to all of you who pray to someone or something - spare a thought for my ears ;) I'd like to get on my way!

Posted by niscratz 11:07 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

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