A slightly earlier start today, but again the staff here ensured I had my breakfast before I left and was picked up by the van. Today I was joined by two Dutch guys and a German, Lars, who was to be my buddy for the day.
It was quite a mixed group. One of the Dutch guys had done about 8 dives and was starting his Advanced course. The other had been underwater once, for about five minutes, as part of a discovery course somewhere. Lars had about 25 dives to his name, but had decided to stick with Open Water as he was only interested in enjoying himself and photographing things.
The day was spent assisting Kadek, the Instructor who was taking myself and the Advanced student out. There was a long drive ahead of us to Tulamben over on the east coast – about three hours. I’d had an offer the day before to stay over there and I wish I’d taken it! We got on well, though, and the van was full of chatter for most of the journey.
Rather than whinge about how long the drive was, we took it as an opportunity to get a glimpse of Bali away from the tourist resorts. I’ll tell you, the prices drop a bit. We stopped at one garage and I picker up a Powerade. I misheard the woman when she charged me and handed her IDR12k – she only wanted four! That’s around 25p. The former is what I’d expect to pay at an Indonesian petrol station based on the price-hike fuel stops usually charge. Only I’m used to Kuta/tourist prices. Outside of these areas, things are even cheaper. So if you’re ever in Bali for a while, stock up on this stuff by taking a trip out of town.
Finally we arrived at the resort, which was quite swish. We pre-ordered lunch and got down to sorting equipment out. Porters – women with folded towels on their heads – carried all the gear down to the rocky beach. Amazingly, they stacked two tanks and BCDs on their head for each trip. Pretty impressive.
I took my camera on our first dive which was onto the Liberty wreck. It’s the remains of an old US freighter torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. It was towed as far as Bali and beached rather than sunk. The locals pretty much tore it apart, then a volcanic eruption in 1963 caused it to tilt and slide into the sea, finally being put to rest. It’s a great wreck dive as it’s in such shallow water, making it ideal even for those with Open Water.
Wreck Dive is one of the optional courses for the Advanced certification, which was one of the reasons we were doing it. There were huge shoals of fish everywhere, from the bright yellow to the dull grey. Some enormous species were spotted near the bottom, and Kadek located a very elusive stone fish. As in Lembongan, I found the fish less “shy” than anywhere else. They would all come up and stare you right in the mask before zipping off again.
All too soon, the dive was over and we staggered back up the rocks for lunch. I made sure to coat myself in suntan lotion as my back was pretty scorched from forgetting the day before. Owies. More chat as we chowed down and then got ready for the second dive. I spent a bit of time with Lars and the Dutch chap (I wish I could remember his name – I think it was Chris…!) going over some stuff. Chris had been having problems equalising, particularly his right ear. I’d had something similar when I started diving, only I think it was my left for some reason. He did say it got a little easier with each dive and I sympathised, so at least he knew he wasn’t alone and that it would eventually sort itself out.
Both he and Lars had had problems sinking on the first dive, so we made sure the extra weights they’d been given were transferred to their weight belts. A short distance the opposite direction from the wreck was the Drop Off where we geared up and plunged in.
The visibility here wasn’t a patch on the earlier dive, but the scenery was vastly different. Chris used this dive to do his Navigation, one of the compulsory components which he passed no problem. We then swam gently over some sandy plains for a hundred metres or so until we started to find signs of life.
The fish here certainly weren’t as numerous as at the wreck, but there were still some sights to see. Some spiny fish that would jump out of their coral and “kiss” you if you blew bubbles at them. Pygmy seahorses that looked like tiny lumpy clay models. Some very rare fish that look like leaves.
The last ones we only really spotted as a diver with some serious looking photographic equipment was poised in front of them for ages. The really looked like two thin leaves, or perhaps some kind of grass just sticking up from the ocean floor. But look close enough and they were, indeed, fish.
Chris suffered one of the problems I used to have when I was learning to dive – get to 3m or so and up he popped like a cork. I gave him a hand staying submerged and when we were out I handed on some advice. It’s something I did until fairly recently, and it’s largely an experience thing. Make sure you dump all your air from the BCD by the time you hit 5m or so, and if you do keep rising, don’t panic. You’ll breathe in a lot more which makes you more buoyant and just increases the problem. Instead, breathe out fairly quickly then in slowly so that you sink again.
Back on shore, I haggled a t-shirt off a local for IDR50k. I need a new one as my Blue Dragon one seems to have gone missing in a wash somewhere. I’m gutted as I don’t think it’s replaceable. Ah well, worse things happen etc etc.
We sorted out all our equipment and I had a word with the other ProDive staff about what was coming up. As I wasn’t staying over, tomorrow will be a study day for me to work through the entire Dive Master manual and exercises. On Sunday morning, I’m to take the book to the office and get the rest of the texts I need, and perhaps do some more diving. Essentially, I’m at the mercy of customers – if there are any then I’m to assist the Instructors.
I do have a huge amount to get through to pass the course, though. Exercises, stamina tests, rescue scenarios, knowledge of Open Water technique to demonstration standard as well as all the theory and dive experience to get in.
It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks!
Oh, dinner at the usual place. Chicken steak which was – need I say it – utterly delicious.