Delayed diving

I did finally get to go diving today, but not as much as I’d hoped and later than planned. Two of our divers decided to have a lie in so we left Kuta at 9:30 instead of 7am which pushed the rest of the day back and meant it was my turn to be late meeting David. It wasn’t revenge for last night, I promise!

Up at Tulamben we met a honeymooning couple – Putu is taking the hubbie through his Open Water while the wife is already an Instructor with quite a few dives under her belt. To split groups, I was to take her and the two Dutch chaps (father and son) while Putu again concenrated on the student diver.

However, the younger Dutch guy had a slight cold and was bunged up. He opted to give the first dive a try, but had to resurface after barely getting to 3m. He could equalise, but said the pressure behind his eyes was like a knife. A wise decision not to push it. Unfortunately, when I surfaced to make sure he was OK and send him back to the restaurant, I lost contact with the others.

I decided after waiting for five minutes not to chase after them as by that point I’d be pretty much diving solo until I found them. Before checking on the son, I’d made sure the other two had buddied up and they already have a couple of hundred dives between them. They also hooked up with Putu and our student so their dive went well. I’m just peeved at missing out on another chance at the Liberty wreck as it’s a very good dive.

After lunch, I led them around the Drop Off which went well. Plenty of life down there although visibility isn’t what it was back in September last year. Still, there is a lot to lookout for and we saw, amongst other things, plenty of pipe fish, a huge lion fish and an eel trying to hide in the rocks.

As I said, I was late back to meet David so we’ll try and sort something for later in the week. Right now I’m hoping to find a seat at a cheap restaurant for dinner before grabbing a shower then heading up to the airport to meet Leah on her flight in from Perth.

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A lazy day in Bali

Unfortunately, the custome I was supposed to be diving with this morning cancelled at the last minute and rescheduled for tomorrow. Hopefully they don’t do it again…

Instead I’m loafing in the 24-hour Minimart deli on the beachfront with it’s free wi-fi. Of course, I do this on a day when I have next to no email backlog! Bernhard was still asleep when I left the room (at 11:30) although he didn’t get in until 3:00 or something this morning. The annoying thing with the cancellation is that the early morning start for the dive is the reason I didn’t go out last night myself!

Still, I’m out for a quick beer this evening with @dconlisk from Twitter. However I can’t overdo it as – again – I must be up early to head for Tulamben in the morning, then try to make the room look presentable for Leah arriving late tomorrow night.

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Back to Bali

Singing in the street

Singing in the street

I’d had a long and tiring day on the 18th with the bus ride. I needed a good night’s sleep, but courtesy of three of the most selfish dorm-“mates” I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering I didn’t get it.

A Dutch couple were in the opposite bunk and woke at 6:30am, chattering away as if there was nobody else in the room. Then the guy underneath me decided to pack all his luggage shortly after, throwing stuff around on the bed making it shake and rustling plastic bags for fun.

I gave up and just got out of bed for the free breakfast (a couple of rolls and a cup of tea – I guess I missed the deep-fried banana. After chatting to another couple I’d actually seen briefly in the hostel in Dili I did a quick email check at the bar then headed back to the hostel to pay up, grab my kit and head to the airport nice and early.

Only I couldn’t as the ****ing Dutch ****ers had locked the dorm door with the only key and gone out with it. It took the staff quarter of an hour to break into the room and remove the door from the frame so I could grab my rucksack. Fortunately I had time to spare and made it to the airport well before check-in and therefore with no worries about paying for my ticket and getting on the flight.

Our first "hotel"

Our first "hotel"

Ah. But I had reckoned without Merpati Airlines and their completely screwed up booking system which hadn’t actually booked me a ticket at all. See the related post for the full horror story.

I did make it onto the (scruffy, dilapidated) plane and on to Bali where I hooked up with Bernhard and Han (from Austria and Pakistan respectively). We haggled a taxi down to 25000 to get us to Poppies I and began our search for accommodation.

Almost five hours later, we gave up. Han headed for another part of the island. Bernhard and I left our luggage with the nice people at the bungalows I stayed at last year, then went out for the night. When the last club shut at 4am, we grabbed one last McD‘s and slept in a shop front around the corner.

The weather in Bali

The weather in Bali

Our original plan had been to crash on the beach, but I’m glad we didn’t as it chucked it down in the early hours. Still, we managed 2-3 hours’ kip before the staff had to open up (they’d actually told us earlier we could sleep there which was nice of them).

We had a nice breakfast in the Treetop Cafe on Poppies I, and started hunting again. The second place we tried – opposite where our luggage was – had a room for 66000 for two. Not as nice as last year’s abode, but it will suffice for a couple of nights.

So now it’s the 20th. Today’s been easy and will continue to be so! Email’s up to date, lunch about to be had and I’ve been up to Pro Dive to see the crew. I’m off up to Tulamben to do the wreck dive with a group of Open Water students and Putu tomorrow. Aces!

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AVOID MERPATI AIRLINES!

Sorry for the screaming caps, but I wanted to make this one stand out.

Regular readers may recall I mentioned that you can visit the Merpati office in Dili where they’ll book your flight for a $2 booking fee. No money changes hands, you simply take their printout to the airport in Kupang, hand over your cash, get your ticket and hop on the plane.

No. You don’t.

You turn up at the airport where they tell you that your booking is in status “XX” which means “cancelled”. It’s been cancelled because you didn’t pay for the ticket within three hours of making the booking. Or maybe it’s 4 days – the person I spoke to on the phone (after waiting 2 hours) seemed to change her mind partwat through the conversation.

I was told I would have to pay the short notice fare to get on the flight – twice the fee I booked at. I point blank refused and the guy at the counter kept saying “manager” and then failing to get said supervisor.

Eventually the little oik surfaced and proceeded to have a go at me for not following international air regulations (or some such utter crap) by not paying for the ticket within three hours. I pointed out that as I had booked the ticket in Dili and been told I had to pay in Kupang, this was physically impossible. This was Merpati’s fault, not mine, and I refused to pay for their mistake.

Only apparently it was my mistake – he kept repeating – for not following their rules. How, I enquired, could I follow their rules when the ones provided to me by their staff were incorrect? I asked for the rules, I was given some rules, and they were wrong. At what point was this my fault?

At this point he told me that he didn’t care about my problems and I think this is where I lost it and started yelling at him.

This seemed to work, especially as there were other customers around, and he hand wrote my ticket at the price I’d originally booked then tried to shake my hand. I just stared at him and walked off.

Thing is, I know at least one other person still in Dili who booked her ticket at the same time and who may have the same problem. I’m hoping my email to her gets there in time for her to check her booking.

Oh, and the plane was bloody awful as well. Broken seats, creaky overhead compartments, worn fittings, scratched paintwork… you name it. Most routes serviced by Merpati can also be reached by Garuda. If you have the choice, use the latter.

Just avoid Merpati.

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And back to Kupang

Ouchies

Ouchies

There had been a bad crash outside our hostel overnight. At a guess it looks like one 4×4 had been overtaking and gone head-on into another at speed. I’d suspect someone had been at the palm wine. Both cars were being lifted onto a car transporter by a crane when I got up.

Not a lot else to write about the drive to Kupang. Inside East Timor we passed a fuel truck that had gone off the road and rolled down a steep hill. Locals were siphoning out the petrol into plastic bottles – one or two with lit cigarettes in their mouths. Mad.

The journey took around 12 hours despite a burst tyre just past the Indonesian border. Nothing serious, just a very fast flat which the driver changed very quickly.

No smoking, please

No smoking, please

At the Lavalon bar I met Mariella, the Spanish girl who had been at the hostel in Dili. She had arrived the day before by motorcycle and was booked on a ferry to Flores the next morning. I had some nice fries and a decent steak sandwich (far too much onion for my taste) the price of which I justified by not having eaten all day.

There was some confusion at the hostel as none of the staff available spoke English and nobody seemed to be expecting me. Thankfully there was still a dorm bunk free which was all I needed.

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