Flores and back to Bali

June 10, 2011 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hey everyone, sorry it's been a while.

We left Gili Air and caught a fast boat to Gili T, where we spent an hour or two stocking up on essentials (like snacks, chocolate and ciggies) and then caught the little boat to our livaboard, the Mari, home for the next ten days.  There were nine of us on the first leg of the trip - we were going there and back, along with another couple, everyone else was going to Flores half way through and getting off, when we would be joined by four others doing the second leg of the trip.  The boat was a big wooden thing with a large deck where everyone could meet, eat and socialise.  The cabins were small and basic but with a bathroom attached and were fine.

We met the other people who were in the main divers as well and good people.  Four Swiss people from the German bit of Switzerland, Marcus, Sonja, Rachel and David, who was pretty ill even as we left.  He'd been to the clinic and been told he had dehydration and had been given fluids and stuff to take.  An American, Leif, and his dizzy girlfriend Izzy, and a Spaniard called Ruben who turned out to be one of the funniest people we've ever met.  Jim, a Master Instructor (the second highest level you can reach in diving) was our guide, he was also Spanish.

The boat set off and sailed overnight to Moyo, the first of loads of small islands.  We spent the time getting to know each other, ate and crashed out.  We arrived the next day and moored at Labuan Haji, a little traditional village, and you could either dive or go to the village.  Needless to say we dived, and what fantastic diving it was.  Fabulous corals, so much life, really colourful - a drift dive so you didn't have to do a lot, just go with the slow current and watch the fish and coral world go by.  Jim turned out to be a superb diver.  He wears freediving fins instead of the usual diving ones - they are really long and thin, pretty much like he was actually.  He told us they had taken a bit of getting used to but once he had mastered them, they were so much better and he certainly didn't have to do a lot of leg kicking with them on.  There were at least two dives a day on the trip but because my ears are prone to infection if I dive too much, I was restricted to one a day.  Zuby did them all, and I would spend time on the boat with some of the others who hadn't dived, including David who wasn't getting any better and certainly didn't appear to have dehydration.

We spent most of the night moored at Moyo  and then sailed early the next morning to Satonda, an extinct volcano with a sunken crater lake.  Local people believe it has magical properties, you tie a rock or stone to the trees and make a wish which comes true.  We dived again while some went off to the volcano, again an absolutely fantastic dive, and then went and climbed the volcano.  We did the stone hanging bit and made our wishes then snorkelled around the boat, where we saw sharks and all sorts of fantastic fish which we had never seen before in water that was just so clear.

We sailed overnight for Rinca island, one of the two islands where you see the Komodo dragons.  We took the little boat over and did an hours walk around.  All of the dragons hang around the first bit as you go in, where the kitchen and other accommodation is.  They are pretty big and very vicious, and they can run well fast - you have no chance of outrunning them so we all kept our distance.  But you don't seem to see them anywhere else during the rest of the walk.  There's other wild animals there as well including buffalo and horses, we saw one buffalo hiding in the trees but that was it.  All in all it was a bit disappointing, although the dragons were good to see - they are as unappealing in the flesh as they are on the tele or in photos, especially with all the dribble hanging from their mouths.

We then got back down to diving and moved to Gili Lawa Darat, manta territory although we didn't see any.  The current was like nothing I've ever experienced before and in no time I was being rolled around like I was in a washing machine.  I wasn't the only one - even Zuby was struggling with the current and couldn't get near me, and poor Ruben didn't stand a chance - it was only his 12th dive.  Jim, who is a super strong swimmer, grabbed me and swam me out of the current - Ruben grabbed my other hand and tagged along for the ride.  Once we were out of the current and Zuby and the others had also overcome it and got out, again fantastic diving -  so far it's the best diving we've ever done anywhere.  I'm a sucker for a nudibranch, a sort of colourful small flat worm, and we found quite a few on these dives along with turtles and other amazing stuff.  No-one else was at the dive sites either, which all makes a difference as there's less freaking out for the fish and more space for you.

The crew then cooked for us on the beach and we spent our last night together.  David had got worse during the trip and he and Rachel decided to get off at Flores, along with all the others, and catch a plane back to Bali to go to the hospital rather than take five days to go back by boat.  It made us realise just how lucky we had been so far on this trip as apart from the odd runny nose, spider bite or hangover, we had been very well.  We docked at Flores at a village called Labuan Bajo in the early hours, and spent about six hours there while the crew stocked up on food and stuff.  We went to the island for a couple of hours but it was really not a nice place at all, extremely poverty stricken, colourless and downtrodden, so we made our way back to the Mari pretty quick after a couple of lovely cold beers.  We said goodbye to everyone and then found out that the other four people who were supposed to be joining us for the return leg had cancelled.  So we had the boat to ourselves!  Because the diving was what we were there for, Jim suggested we change the schedule and try diving sites which he hadn't done before instead of going to islands and the usual diving spots.  After a millisecond of considering this suggestion we went for it of course, especially when he told us that one of the dive sights was an underwater active volcano, something I was gagging to see.

I don't know if we tempted fate by congratulating ourselves on not getting ill.  Maybe it was just fate.  Certainly the hanging stones on trees at volcanoes and making a wish thing was complete crap - I had wished, selfishly perhaps, that my ears would stand up to all the diving.  But whatever, I woke up at 1am that morning with excrutiating pain in both ears and spent the rest of the night awake dosing up with pain killers, so no more diving for me.  Zuby and Jim went out twice early that morning - brilliant by all accounts, best Zuby has ever done, but by the time they got back I couldn't have cared less.  The pain had somehow got worse, which I didn't think was possible, and I had gone deaf in both ears.  

There are very few hospitals in Indonesia except in main cities or big touristy islands, and we were nowhere near any of them.  The nearest place where there was possibly a doctor was back on Moyo, where there is a five star resort, so the decision was made to sail straight there, more than a couple of days away.  It was a long trip for me.  The painkillers I was taking every four hours took half an hour to kick in and then eased the pain for about an hour, after which it came back with a vengeance.  I still couldn't hear a thing and couldn't eat because chewing made the pain unbearable.  I also couldn't lay down for the same reason so spent most of the time sitting up on deck swallowing pain killers like smarties.  

When we got to Moyo we landed back at Labuan Haji.  The captain came to the island with us and found two great lads with motorbikes who were prepared to take us to the five star resort and wait for us to bring us back to the Mari.  The ride was bumpy - there are dirt tracks instead of roads and it hurt my ears like buggery every time we went in a hole, which was most of the way.  My bike then broke down half way there - Zuby and his driver had been ahead of us and didn't know what had happened and they had vanished - but luckily another bike came along and the rider said he would take me instead.  We got to the resort where Zuby was waiting - his driver had gone back to help out his mate.  The resort was fenced off - hardly surprising I suppose for such a swanky place (Princess Di apparently stayed there, which should give you some idea of how swanky it was).  A man asked us what the problem was, we told him and he radioed through to see if we could get permission to go in, which we did.  We were driven in and taken by the owner of the resort to see the resident nurse - no doctor on the island.

The nurse was great.  She couldn't get anything in my ears, which had completely swollen up inside by this time, so rang Java to speak to a doctor.  45 minutes later she had given me antibiotics, anti-inflammatory tablets and a load more painkillers and told us to get to Lombok to see one of the few ear doctors in Indonesia.  We were then driven back to the bikes, where the guys were waiting patiently to take us back to the boat.  I guess having 24 hour medical care is something I've taken for granted up until now, you just turn up somewhere and see someone and expect them to make you better.  It took something like this to happen to make me realise how lucky we are at home to have such a service - residents of Indonesia rely on 'witch' doctors because they either can't get any medicine or more often than not can't afford it.  I also appreciate that I am incredibly lucky that there were so many people who were prepared to go out of their way to help me, a complete stranger - very humbling.

We got back on the Mari and sailed for another day and a half back to Gili Air, getting back a day earlier than we were supposed to, but which meant we could get to Lombok a day earlier.  We had decided before we left to go back to Air for a few days as were knew our American friends, Karen and Mike who we first met in The Philippines and then spent time with in Saigon, would have arrived there and we wanted to surprise them.   We set off to find them - not difficult as the locals seem to know more or less where people are (especially when you've got a photo of who you are looking for on your phone).

I still couldn't hear anything and was still in pain, and of course the problem came up straight away as everyone was having to shout at me to make themselves heard.  Mike came to the rescue (and not for the first time) - we had completely forgotten he had trained to be a doctor.  He looked at the medication I had been given, changed it to much stronger stuff and a longer course, gave me ear drops and all sorts of stuff and started fixing me.  How brilliant is that!

We had, as I say, decided beforehand to stay on Air for about three days then go to Sulawesi but that plan went tits up.  The following morning Zuby walked his foot into the wooden bed leg and was in really bad pain and within a very short amount of time he couldn't walk.  Mike to the rescue again, he checked it and said it was broken, nothing to be done except strap it to the next toe and keep off of it as far as possible for a good while to give it time to heal.  So that was that, we had to stay on Air for longer than we had planned.  This meant we had longer than we thought with Karen and Mike, which was great, and we spent our time dossing at the beach, reading, catching up and watching the stars - it is so clear there that you can see the Milky Way and about a billion stars each night.  And great full moons.

It's funny.  We loved Air from the moment we arrived, a real little paradise.  But even paradise has it's downside and the downside in the main that was the food.  Indonesian menus aren't extensive at the best of times - noodles, rice, chicken, bananas, all cooked in various ways with veg and the odd bit of pork or beef thrown in, but still basically the same ingredients cooked in the same way.  The food on the boat hadn't been great, edible but pretty bland and repeated every couple of days, so some good food was wanted but not got.  We were both going a bit crazy after six days - he was bored with hobbling and not being able to dive, I still couldn't hear sod all and was fed up with missing out on conversations, and we were both heartily sick of the food  - so we discussed going back to Sanur in Bali for a change of scene (and menu).  As it turns out,  Karen and Mike were discussing the same thing - they were supposed to be staying on Air until they flew back to the States several weeks later but were really disappointed at how much Air had changed.  We weren't aware of this of course as it was our first visit there, but they told us when they went two years ago there was only one dive school, not so many bungalows and bars, and there were coconut forests.  The latter had in the main been cut down to build one of the now eight or so dive schools, bungalows and everything else, and of course this meant it wasn't what they had been expecting.

So we decided to all leave together and go to Sanur for a couple of days and then visit other places in Bali by car so that Zuby could do as little walking as possible.  So back to Sanur we went, which was the same as when we left it.  We arranged for a car to take us up north to Candicunning to see the temple there, which was in a beautiful setting, then on to Lovina further along the coast.  Lovina turned out to be a very quiet place.  We stayed at Villa Ugung, a really pretty place smack bang on the sea, for four nights but that was enough - the highlight of our day was a trip to 'town' and a game of pool. 

So we moved back to Ubud for four nights and booked into a homestay, Pramesti, a beatiful place in respect of the plants and flowers around our rooms, which was run by a lady called Made (pronounced Mardee).  We had the chance to explore a lot more this time round and it really is a great place.  We were still struggling with the food though - same same but different as they say everywhere here - so Made cooked us a meal.  It is a pity not all Indonesian food is like what she made us, it was fantastic.  She cooked a whole duck in the ground for 24 hours and served it up with  pork sate (but not sate like we know it), chillis, rice and other stuff.  I then finally got the chance to try durian, a fruit which absolutely stinks - you see signs in hotels and other public places that bans it from the premises.  But it tastes so good, sort of like ice cream.  Well, I think it tastes good, Zuby didn't like the taste or the smell.  Anyway, the whole meal was delicious, we ate it in the grounds of the homestay with cold beer and Karen and Mike.

We then left Ubud and went back to Sanur for the last few days before Karen and Mike caught their plane back to the States and us ours to Kuala Lumpur.  Up until he left, Mike was still doctoring my ears, which he says he's never seen the likes of before - some of the stuff he got out of them, well, and apparently the canals go the wrong way, and he had no way of getting right inside to have a proper look to try to find out what is causing the problem to be so ongoing.  He kindly left me with stuff to help them along - nearly four weeks down the line so needless to say they are really getting on my bloody nerves now, especially as I still can't hear properly and they itch so badly you want to stick something in there and give them a good scratch - and instructions to see a doctor in KL.  Karen and Mike then flew out and we flew to KL the following day, and I saw an airport doctor.  My ears are still infected so I'm back on a new course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and once again struggling to hear anything.  Zuby's toe is well on the mend though.

We have decided to go to Sumatra next and fly tomorrow to see Lake Toba, a super volcano which apparently holds the biggest lake in the world - I think that's the biggest lake in a volcano rather than anything else.  Fingers crossed my ears stand the flight.......



Karen, Zuby and Mike at lunch
Grounds at Pramesti
Our meal at Pramesti
Karen and Dina


Karen & Mike:
June 10, 2011
Hey guys,
Glad you are going to Sumatra after all. We are working our way through the jet lag, actually doing better than expected. Zuby, the stairmaster had my name on it this morning and it was a bitch but I only promised to do 50 floors today to ease into it so 15 min, wasn't to bad. Dina, you had better write Mike a detailed email about what the doctor said about your infection as well as your screwy ear canals. What antibiotic does he have you on now?
Give us a shout and tell us the news. Miss you guys already. Pleas tell me you've moved on to something other than Bintang. We can't quit cooking and I am opening a bottle of wine right now, are you jealous?
Cheers... Karen & Mike
June 11, 2011
D & Z:

Great blog but I don't believe there was enough positive comment regarding myself. You can edit your entry, can you not?

Also note that your report of our pool playing would have been more complete had you mentioned the proper thrashing I administered to Zuby on the first day of our international competition. You need not recount day two of the same.

Kind regards,

Mike Richards; SSOA (Snooker Society of America)
Ian Small:
June 12, 2011
Hi Misty.Sorry about your ear probs.I hope it clears up quickly - I'm prone to the same thing and its a total git.Zuby's toe will take about 6 weeks.I broke my finger years ago and they treated it the same way.I was interested in your encounter with the Komodo dragons - scientists think their deadly saliva could help develop vaccines - who knows,maybe one that could protect your ears! Anyway,good blog - keep it up.

Take care

June 14, 2011
Hi guys hope sounds like your having an absolutely fantastic time wish we were with you.

Matt n I are no longer together, so remember me on your welcome home party hey xxx

When r you actually home?

Nic n bobby xxx
June 28, 2011
Great blog, again. Pity about the ordeals but these things are sent to try us. You'll both feel great when you are well again, well, perhaps you are by now. Sorry to be late in reading and responding but I do love to keep up with your antics.
Keep 'em coming and post more pictures
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