After a brief stop in our old home of Koh Tao, Thailand for our friend’s wedding, we caught another flight to a familiar place: Bali, Indonesia. We were on the hunt for work as dive instructors, and Indonesia’s crystal blue waters and challenging dive sites were calling to us. After the customary meet and greet of the local dive shops, we decided to take a road trip up the East coast to properly explore the country – a privilege robbed of me last time due to my hospitalization due to extreme dehydration. We debated motorbike vs. 4x4, a battle eventually won by the jeep due to the ominous clouds threatening a storm overhead. We packed our bags and, after a few false starts in the wrong direction (Bali’s street system is flawed, to say the least), we set up off the East coast.
Driving in Bali – or any South East Asian country, for that matter – is nothing short of terrifying. The only courtesy shown to other drivers is a honk if being overtaken, but besides that, all bets are off. Daring motorcyclists weave between speeding cars and semi trucks, cars overtake each other on blind corners, and indicating turns is nonexistent. The pedestrians that are brave enough to attempt to cross the road usually end up dodging oncoming traffic in a matter reminiscent of the 90’s computer game Frogger, and most of the street signs indicating direction are either broken or obscured by overgrown trees.
After our brief but frustrating tour in the wrong direction, 8 hours later we arrived at our first overnight stop up the east coast. Exhausted and hungry, we allowed ourselves to be led to a nearby hotel that was run down and eerily empty. Too tired to care, we ate an unsatisfying meal at a nearby restaurant and collapsed onto the thin mattress, watching an episode of Family Guy where Brian infects the whole house with fleas, Tommy absent- mindedly joking that this hotel room was probably flea-ridden.
The next day that joke would not turn out to be quite so funny as after a few hours of being awake, numerous welts began to appear on Tommy’s arms. We were back in the car on our way to Amed when we first noticed the itchy, red bumps, even more confusing by the fact that I seemed to be untouched. In mere hours they had swollen to a point of great discomfort, but, never one to complain, he soldiered on. We would soon discover they were the bites of the hated bedbug, and due to his sensitive skin, his reaction was similar to an allergic one. I had escaped scot-free merely because I had no sensitivity to their saliva.
We had planned to dive Amed and Tulamben due to outstanding reviews from friends, so we parked the car outside the recommended dive shop and went in to plan our dives for the next day. We found a nice, wonderfully clean bungalow in which to spend the night, so after dinner we treated Tommy’s wounds and prepared for the next day of diving with our guide. We were the only two fun diving and therefore got the choice of which sites to visit, so we chose the US Liberty wreck in Tulamben due to the possibility of sharks and the Seraya House Reef in Amed. Note to fellow divers out there – once you see an Indonesian woman carrying your tank and equipment on her head, you will never again think you had it rough during your DMT!
The 120 m wreck in Tulamben has become virtually unrecognizable as a boat, and instead had progressed into a fantastic artificial reef. The diversity of marine life was astounding, and we had our first encounter with the Bump Head Parrotfish, a giant, goofy fish with a protruding forehead and buckteeth. Looking very much the doofus of the aquatic world, these fish are surprisingly graceful and interesting to watch. Unfortunately, no sharks paid us a visit on this dive, but the abundance of soft and hard corals as well as marine life kept us happy and entertained. Our second dive on the reef was equally as diverse, and this time we were lucky enough to cross paths with a few turtles as we coasted over the coral-covered ridges. However, the end of the dive was unfortunately marred by ascending into a massive cloud of garbage that had been thoughtlessly discarded into the river. I constantly find the lack of respect for the oceans astonishing as well as how little they understand about its importance to our human survival.
We decided soon after our dives that we would return to our starting point of Sanur before soon heading to the Gili Islands. The farther east we went, the more run down the roads became, and my carsickness was at a very uncomfortable high. So after a fun few days of beautiful views, excellent dives, and delicious local cuisine, we headed back down the coast to prepare for our next adventure.