Wrapping things up

My final full day in Bali wasn’t to be a very busy one. After crashing at around 6:30am, I woke around 10:00 as I just couldn’t sleep any longer. I shook off the alcoholy cobwebs, showered and packed. I had to vacate my room by midday. Even though my flight wasn’t until 6am the next morning, I didn’t see the point in paying for a room for only a couple of hours’ sleep – my lift to the airport would be at 3:30am.

Packing, as ever, seemed to take an age. This is the longest I’ve been in one place for many months and I’d actually unpacked almost everything. OK, it’s only one rucksack and a day bag but it’s a palaver. Once I’d finished I realised that I had nothing else to do. So I sat and read for a bit. Then walked to the internet cafe where I sat for over an hour.

Next I walked up to ProDive, but they were closed. I waited half an hour but nobody came to open up. So I walked back to the hotel. Then went online again for two hours. Then sat and read.

Putu turned up to sort out the Divemaster paperwork which killed a few minutes and 7:00 almost came around when Valerie re-appeared from the beach. Annoyingly, she was in a really chatty mood. Not a bad thing in itself as she’s great company, but I had to be elsewhere. A shame she’d not come back earlier!

So finally on to my appointment with Wayan Batu at the tattoo studio around the corner. I’d dropped my design off the day before so he could get the transfer image prepared. If I’m correct, both the artist and the guy who runs the shop are called Wayan (younger and elder). Wayan Jr shaved my chest hair and rubbed me down with antiseptic and the like as Wayan Sr readied the equipment.

Sketching the design onto my chest in biro took around thirty minutes and already I was liking it. He then sorted out the paraphernalia, showing me the needles in their sealed blister packs to prove they weren’t re-using anything. Their autoclave is pretty impressive, too. Having worked at a vet’s and with a mate who’s a dentist I’ve seen a few of these and the one here is shiny and sparkly. While Sr was working, Jr was cleaning everything down. It’s a very clean and well-kept shop.

The major difference to a UK place was the lack of form-filling. No need to sign a sheet of paper saying you’re not going to sue him if you die or decide you don’t like the permanent picture you have scrawled across your forehead.

Sat in a fairly intimate position, have on Wayan Sr’s lap, I braced myself and let the fun part begin.

It hurt. It was awful. I could barely stand it.

But then the music on the stereo changed and I got some classic Guns ‘n’ Roses instead of Black Album Metallica. The pain subsided.

As for the tattoo, it varied depending on what was going on. As ever, outlines hurt more than the shading. As I was getting a few letters done, this meant short bursts of “owie” followed by a break as Wayan readied himself for the next section.

Overall, it took around 45 minutes or so for him to finish it all up and I’m well pleased with the result. Obviously, the accompanying picture is the finished product. I’ve just got the usual week or so while it scabs up and heals.

With the tattoo covered with some cling film I walked up to Gong Corner II to meet Fabio for dinner. Kind of gross, but as I was eating blood started to leak out of the edges of the cling film. Nice. Still, afterwards I disposed of the plastic and the tattoo’s looking good. As is my chest. Perhaps I should shave it more often.

After thanking the staff at GC, we headed up to Double-D’s to watch the football. Annoyingly they only have one satellite and about 15 TVs. The match being shows is determined by which one starts first, we we got to see the end of West Ham v Bolton, which meant we missed the first 20 minutes or so of Man City v Liverpool – and thus the first goal.

It also meant missing the first half of the Newcastle v Everton game – and three goals. Never mind, at least I saw the fourth and we got a point. Before our game I’d been falling asleep. Astoundingly this feeling ceased as I watched us play. Recently we’ve been having the opposite effect.

So here I sit in a cybercafe, killing time until my transport to the airport in about two hours. Actually, I best be off as I have a small amount of repacking to do.

Next post will likely be from Kuala Lumpur Airport (budget terminal) if I can get my wi-fi working.

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Of all the bars in all the world…

My first lie in for the better part of two weeks and I still ended up getting out of bed at 9:30 as I just couldn’t sleep any longer. I had some plans so that wasn’t a bad thing.

First up, I finished the book I was reading and went to the nearby bookshop to swap it and another I’d finished for one more to tide me over. The book shops round here, in case I didn’t mention, are great. A little pricier than I’d have expected but jam packed with stuff I really want to read. The trade-in prices are quite fair, too.

I treated myself to an McD’s for lunch, then got one of the lads at the hotel to take me to Carrefour so I could try and get a replacement camera. There was only one dealership selling Olympus’s (Olympi?) and it seems that the new version of the camera I have that just broke won’t work in the underwater housing I have. It’s just too big and the buttons are in the wrong place. Great. Maybe I’ll have better luck elsewhere, but in Bali I’m limited to here or a trip to Denpasar.

My next mission was to find a decent, well-recommended and cheap tattooist. I won’t say what I’m getting, but after a haggle over price at one nearby I’ve got an appointment for tomorrow evening. Photos after the event! The guy’s catalogues of past work are impressive, but the clincher was an Aussie family who were leafing through the books. Dad had two arms-ful of work from this shop, all several years old and as clear and colourful as the day they were done. The price wasn’t as cheap as I’d imagined, but still less than back home.

Tonight’s plan is to meet my Brazilian friend, Fabio, for dinner, then to watch the football at one of the nearby pubs. I believe we’ll be watching Arsenal (hopefully) embarass the mackem filth. Tomorrow I may be watching Evertone embarass us, so perhaps I shouldn’t shout too much.

Oh, and beer will be involved. You betchya. I’ve not had a real tankful for over two weeks. I just need to make sure I’m sober by 7pm tomorrow night when some nice man starts jabbing an ink-filled needle into me.


After the fact/beer… We were joined for dinner by Fabio’s Chilean room-mate and a Canadian girl from my place called Valerie. Fabio and I went on to watch the football as planned, and what a turgid affair it was. Come on Arsenal – how can you only manage a point against the great unwashed? Good grief.

To lighten my mood, as Fabio left when the game finished I was accosted by a couple of very tall Irish gentlemen. They recognised me from China Beach around 2 1/2 months ago! I’d played volleyball with them on my little afternoon trip from Hoi An.

They were on their last night in Bali before heading Oz-wards, so I tagged onto their group which also included a lass from Newcastle and two German girls. We made our way to DD’s which was showing the Man U game, then on to another couple of bars and then the Bounty club. I made it back to my room around 6am armed with a large bottle of strawberry milk.

Don’t ask. I just like strawberry milk.

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Divemaster day 16… all over bar the paperwork

I was back at Nusa Penida / Nusa Lembongan today, racking up dives 58, 59 and 60. My companions were the same group from yesterday minus the token snorkeler who opted to stay home.

For the first and last dives, I was buddied with Peter who’s still progressing on from his Open Water. Both dives were modertately tricky – the swell at Manta Point and the fast current for the Lembongan Point drift dive. He did OK, but definitely needs some more dives to get to grips with buoyancy and using his legs instead of his arms! Encouragingly, his air use has improved in just the last two days.

Lunch, for a change, was veg fried rice and some sate chicken. I split mine with the fish as we were “parked” in shallow water. Watching the swim up for the tidbits helped while away the final surface stop.

There was a downside to the day, though. My camera casing flooded at Manta Point and the camera seems to have died. Another one for the insurance. They’ll love me. Annoying as I wasn’t below the depth at which the camera itself isn’t rated as being waterproof. I don’t think it’s still under warranty, though.

The main thing, though, is that otherwise everything went well. I got the 60 dives I need and – bar some form-filling on Sunday with Putu – I’m all passed!

So, thanks to everyone at ProDive Bali. I’ll forget some names, but: Erna, Kadek, Putu, Peter, Robert… and everyone else. I’ve had a great time. And also to all the paying customers – without you I’d have had nobody to experiment/practice on!

I’m looking forward to the next couple of days off. Finally I can wash my trunks and get a lie in. Oh, and have a beer!

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Divemaster day 15

Another new site today. I was picked up early by Peter and driven to join Kadek and a small group for a couple of divers up at Tulamben. After they’d had breakfast, we journeyed back in the rough direction of Kuta to Amed.

It’s a similar site to Tulamben, with a rocky beach and two dive points. The first one we enjoyed was the drop off. I guided the two more experienced divers while Kadek looked after the guy with only a small amount of experience.

As with the dive that followed, we were ferried out to our entry point by a wooden boat. Our BCDs were stocked up at one end and we had to don them in the water.

There’s a lot to see on this dive, and the way the wildlife is separated is interesting. Rather than one long flowing ecosystem (visibly, at least) there are many small clusters with fish fighting territorially between them. I did spot an eel, but it shied away back into its hole as I tried to take a picture. I drifted off and looked behind me in time to see it zap out of it’s eel-hole and grab some prey.

After an hour’s beach time, we were taken out by our boatman and took the plunge into a nice, relaxing drift dive at a lower depth. Again, a lot to see including a cute yellow squid that zipped off before I could get a photo.

As lunch was served, the divers decided that two dives was enough. They were a little too tired for a third one which leaves me with just tomorrow to make the 60 dives I need for my Divemaster.

The traffic on the way back was a nightmare with it being Ramadan. It’s usually bad, but the queues as some junctions were unreal this evening.

So hopefully one day to go…

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Divemaster day 14

Change of plan – I’m getting used to these. As I helped sort out the gear for the Singaporean group I was due to dive with, another bus arrived crammed to the gills with Americans on a Discover SCUBA course. Eight completely amateur divers and two staff wasn’t the perfect ratio so I was switched from Tulamben to Nusa Penida.

Actually, I was fine with it. A larger group is usually more fun and it also meant I’d not be away from “home” for the night. OK, the fact that seven of the eight Americans were very attractive women may have had a slight bearing on my feelings, too. Also, I’ve not supervised a “Discover” class before and it sounded like a new challenge.

I have to say it ended up being one of the best days I’ve spent here so far. The group were great – chatty, friendly, full of questions and keen to learn. Harold, the only guy in the group, was a great person to talk to for the boat trip over. Coming from Iowa and living in Khazakstan, he’s obviously got some stories of his own. The girls all (as far as I could gather) live in China, doing various things.

The purpose of the day was to give these people – barring one with an aging Open Water certificate – their first ever experience of SCUBA diving. This is why we needed three diving staff as well as a boat handler. Anyone who’s learned to dive must remember their first time.

There really is a lot to deal with all at once. Controlling the BCD; breathing underwater; equalising ear and mask pressure; all those hand signals; and the biggest problem – maintaining buoyancy. It takes a good few dives to work out how much weight you need, how to dive level and so forth. First attempts usually end up with beginners doing good impressions of a cork in boiling water – up, down, up, down. Oh, a cork with waggly arms. And randomly kicking legs.

Some people get the knack sooner than others, and the task at hand was to guide those who’ve not quite grasped it. The best way to learn is to be under there, and this is also a discovery course – not a lesson. The group were here to experience the diving, not to learn the skills as such. So we kept tight-knit groups, and those who could just about manage the buoyancy thing swam nearby while those with trouble were escorted with a secure hand on the BCD.

I ended up escorting one of the girls who was struggling a bit. I remember all the same things from when I was doing my Open Water. Relying too much on the BCD for changing my buoyancy rather than using my breathing. By halfway through the second dive, I think she got it. It’s quite a challenge maintaining your own buoyancy while controlling someone else’s using just their BCD and a bit of pushing, pulling and so on.

As the dive progressed, she became more level and her positioning improved. She stopped using her arms to swim and used her legs less as she learned to go with the current. Towards the end of the dive, I was swimming near and around her and only rarely nudging her in the right direction. As with so many things, the best way to learn is to do.

I’m really glad to say that the whole group left with big smiles. Harold even said he reckons it’s possibly the most amazing thing he’s ever done – and at 48 with five children I’m sure he’s seen some pretty amazing things!

The waters were clear, the swells stayed down and the sun was hidden by cloud just enough to help stave off sunburn.

A great day, marred only by my smacking my head on the rear van door as I was packing the equipment away. These things are built for Indonesian height requirements and I have the bleeding head to prove it. Ow. Still, no stitches required and I don’t feel concussed…

As I walked back to my hotel, I dodged the usual cries of “transport?”, “sunglasses? Cheap shirt?” and “massage”? I was almost curious at one point as I was offered “sexy massage? Banana massage?” I really, don’t think I want to know what a banana massage is, but I’m keeping that term for use at a later date.

Tomorrow I have yet another early start to join the group I was due to be with today up at Amed. Putu reckons this is his favourite dive site so I’m really looking forward to it.

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