Friday 16 July, 2004 – Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia
Up early to meet Werner in Tabanan to go diving at Menjangan Island, in a national park off the far NW tip of Bali. Through the hotel I arranged for Wayan to drive me to the rendezvous point where we were joined by Tim and Stephen from Auckland who were just going snorkelling. It was a very long drive, around two and a half hours, on one of Bali’s busiest highways (although it’s just a narrow two-lane road). Cross-island lorries and busses headed from Java to Denpasar, Lombok and beyond, plus constant local traffic, motorcycles, carts and bicycles added to the vehicles that simply stop on the road, for a chat, a rest or a breakdown, as well as regular piles of road materials or other stuff, makes for an exciting, exhausting trip.
We went on a small former fishing boat to one side of the island and dived off the boat along a sea wall with fantastic coral and plenty of fish. It was slightly overcast so colours were not quite as brilliant as at Tulamben, but very good. Bought a small waterproof camera to take some shots.
Lunch on the far side of the island, on a beach of broken coral, mangroves and, infuriatingly, a lot of plastic rubbish that has washed ashore. Most rubbish on Bali ends up in rivers and gets washed into the sea during the wet season, then washes up onto the beaches. No-one seems to have worked out what to do about either better disposal or cleaning it up.
The second dive was off the coast of Bali adjacent to the island and was spectacular. A sea wall dropped to around 60 metres deep. We descended to around 25 metres and swam along the wall. Millions of fish, heaps of wonderful, huge fan-like coral formations. One bug gold-blue fish (Werner later thought it was a bat fish) followed me along for about half the dive. At the end of the wall we ascended a sandy bank past thousands of garden eels sitting up out of the sand, before surfacing to be collected by the boat.
After four dives on this trip I am just starting to relax and enjoy myself and find my buoyancy. Werner has been putting more and more weight on my belt because he was worried about me surfacing too quickly; on today’s first dive I did start to float up like a cork. However I think that was ‘finger trouble’ with the vest (BCD). On the second dive I was definitely too heavy, but I think that’s just a matter of ractice.
Another long drive back, but the NZ boys were good company. Stephen lectures at Auckland Uni School of Art and Tim has a business providing topiary to landscape designers. They’ve been to Bali many times and were spending a month here this time.
Werner dropped me back at Tabanan; I had been expecting to go with him to Sanur but in the morning there had been plenty of transport touts at the roundabout. He dropped me a kilometre or so short of the roundabout near a police post and suggested asking there about transport. Well! The policemen were very kindly, but didn’t know about taxis or speak much English. I thanked them and started to walk to the roundabout. One of them rode up behind me on his bike, suggesting that I might like to go to Ubud on a motor cycle. I wasn’t wild about the idea, as it was some distance, but went along to be friendly.
Back at the police post, a young fellow with a little moto was produced and I was perched behind him and we set off, after handshakes and waves to the assembled constabulary. The bike was small and not powerful and the lad did not speak a word of English – it looked like it was going to be a long ride! And it was starting to get dark. But I hung on as best I could and settle in. Much to my surprise, he pulled over after only a couple of kilometres at the next police post, on the other side of town.
None of these gendarmes spoke any English and were at a loss. I managed to make them understand that I wanted to get to Ubud (‘Taksi – Ubud’). One of the older policemen seemed keen to take me himself, pointing at his little 4WD, but he wrote ‘300,000’ on a notepad. Now I was bargaining with the Indonesian police, whose talent for bribery and corruption knows no bounds! Still, entering into the spirit of free commerce, I shook my head and wrote ‘100,000’, which I knew to be a fair price. The policeman quickly became bored with this, somewhat to my relief. I wasn’t going anywhere with him.
After much consultation among themselves, along with only partially reassuring nods and smiles in my direction, they put me back on the moto with the young lad, stopped several lanes of traffic, and sent us on our way. Now I had no idea where we were going, but at least I was going somewhere, so I hung on for dear life. If my life is destined to end with my mortal remains being hosed into an Indonesian gutter, then so be it.
It was now quite dark and this was one o fthe main and busiest highways on the island. I started to see signs for Denpassar, which was some distance, but at least I know where I was headed. Moto-boy eventually spotted a taxi stand with a few cabs lined up. He stopped and I chatted with the first driver, who spoke some English and could take me to Ubid. I thanked Moto-boy and paid him an amount which I thought was reasonable. He shook his head and indicated he wanted more than double that, which I knew to be excessive. I shook my head, saying ‘too much’ and was preparing to give him another RP10,000, but he smiled and was suddenly happy with the initial amount.
There was more bargaining with the taxi driver, who did not want to use his meter. Eventually we settled on RP 100,000 (about AUD$15.00), which I again knew was about right given the taxis I’d taken around Seminyak. Ubud is quite a long way from Denpasar, around 40 minutes, but I finally arrived back in one piece.