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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Last of the visa runs

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 18 December 2006.

Indonesia, Country 24, Diary entry 5 - 13th Oct 2006, Total distance in Indonesia: 8396KM

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!!! We hope that all our followers have a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year wherever you are in the world. We're lucky enough to be able to spend it with part of my family this year - Mum, Dad and older sister Siobhan are with us to celebrate in Australia. If you'd thought about sending us a Christmas card, then we'd appreciate it if you'd like to spend the price of the card by adding a few pence to the charity instead. Every little helps! Hope Santa brings everything you'd wished for. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

With our flight now re-routed via Surabaya as well as Makassar, it was a perfect solution to getting our visas extended. Arriving in Surabaya we were about to make our way back to Edy and Dewi's house when I received a call from Ainia and Harris saying they were on the way to meet us at the house. Once they found we were still at the airport, they made a quick change of direction and picked us up as they were already nearby - you couldn't have timed it better! Packing away the dive kit after the liveaboard

They took us straight to the immigration office and had kindly agreed to sponsor us so we could extend the visa allowing us to explore Indonesia for longer. Ainia also had a friend who worked there to help us. He took our passports and went off to check the appropriate things, returning somewhat promptly telling us something we didn't want to hear.....'you can't extend the visa's'. The lady who had told us we could had made a mistake so we went to find her to double check what the problem was. Funnily enough, once she saw us again she denied all knowledge of ever seeing us or our passports! Great. After lots of discussions, there was nothing more we could do. Annoyed at the outcome, but at least relieved that we hadn't made the flight there specifically we decided we'd try and get on the flight home that day. Initially we'd planned to stay in Surabaya for 3 days, but with just having been told there was a $20US/day fine for each day you outstayed your visa and with our visa fast expiring, we were keen to get back on the road.

Breakfast is nearly served!

I went straight to the Lion Air office and explained we needed to get on the next flight, which conveniently was in 60 minutes time. We went on to stand by but they said the flight was full and there wasn't much hope. If we went on either of the following 2 days we'd have to pay a large fee for an upgrade, so it would be back to our original flight in 3 days time. Not ideal now. The guy I spoke with was extremely helpful but now we just had to wait. Alex went off to check email on the terminal they had in the airport, all free of charge which I thought was pretty good. I stood in the terminal, waiting expectantly like a patient waiting for news of some terminal disease they might have, wondering what the fate of our flight would be. After a long 40 mins, I was waved over and told we were on the plane. YES! It was last call already, so we rushed to the gate and jumped on the plane. What a lucky chain of events, even if we didn't manage to achieve our goal! We were in Bali by the early evening.

We checked into a hotel for the night to work out our plans for the next couple of weeks. Our visa expired in 2 weeks and we still had a lot of land to cover to get us to East Timor. The next day we met up with Jon from Blue Season Bali diving to arrange a quick splash on our return to Sanur before beginning our drive east over the islands. We spent the afternoon on the internet before driving northwards to Ubud. We didn't arrive till dark, so didn't really get a great look at the place, but it looks rather nice by dark, lots of art shops lit up and restaurants inviting you to dine with them! We stopped at one of these lovely restaurants for dinner and carried on to Gunung Batur to camp as there was nothing around Ubud. Gunung Batur

The next day we had a drive round the area and big lake which was lovely. We chose the lazy mans option to see the views from the top of Gunung Batur and drove up as far as we could to the top. You get some great views. We then carried onto our next destination. While talking with Astawa at the Mimpi Menjangan Resort before the liveaboard trip, we discussed our penchant for wreck diving. He told us about the Liberty Wreck just off the shores of Tulamben, which we said we were hoping to dive. Astawa then told us that he also had another resort in Tulamben and would call while we were away diving to see if they had space for our return so we could dive the Liberty Wreck from there. Wow - another stroke of luck. So, this was our next destination, Mimpi Tulamben Resort.

The resort is a very similar design to the one at Menjangan. A big room with French windows opened up to the bedroom, an open air bathroom and a little courtyard with the chill out lounging area. It was home for 3 nights and a real welcome to chill out, relax and catch up with things. Personally, I probably preferred the Menjangan resort a teeny bit more, purely because I thought it was so decadent to have your own hot tub in one's courtyard - dahrling! These ladies must have great neck muscles!

We'd arrived in plenty of time to relax by the pool for the rest of the day. We did have a quick dip but it was so bloody cold, it was literally one lap and then out again. It felt colder than the sea. After a spot of chicken curry in the restaurant we retired early to bed as we were knackered. The next morning I found myself in bed with a few more companions than just Alex! Little insects had rained down on us from the natural fibres roof. We managed to change rooms easily and after spending the morning reading and relaxing, we decided to do the same for the afternoon! We have had very few days like this, although I admit recently there have been a few in a short space of time courtesy of the Mimpi resorts and it was lovely.

The next day we ventured down to the dive centre for our first dive on the Liberty wreck, and what a dive. It must be one of the most unique ways that I've ever got to a wreck with my kit. You get your kit ready at the dive centre and then a helper comes along and carries your kit for you by balancing it on their heads! Some of these helpers (a mixture of men and women) could carry up to 2 people's kits and a few extras if necessary - bloody good neck muscles if you ask me. They wait for you to do the dive and then carry it back at the end of it.

A little lunch on the veranda at Mimpi resorts The dive itself was spectacular, visibility 20m plus. You should all realise by now that Alex and I have a lust for rust when we get the chance, to have a good look round a bit of metal and see what holes we can crawl through. The Liberty wreck is not your typical wreck dive. It's a wreck to be really appreciated. She has majesty and a special beauty that few ships have - she's to be explored from the outside, rather than in! Fish flourished round the wreck, all sizes and all colours. Hard, flat coral covered her giving her a base coat with huge fan corals and sponges adding the decoration on top. We swam round starting with the bows in the depths and then working our way up to the shallows. Everywhere you looked exploded with colour and as Alex composed his pictures, I felt like a ballerina pirouetting round a dance floor as I was directed from pose to pose for his shoots. It really is a spirit lifting dive and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. As we left the wreck and came to the very shallows to get out of the water, a huge shoal of jack fish began circling me, half in a clockwise direction, half anticlockwise like they were indoctrinating me into some pagan ritual. What a splendid way to end the dive. For any divers travelling to Bali - the Liberty Wreck is definitely a must.

We then had lunch on the veranda overlooking the sea. It was very pleasant apart from all the hawkers roaming the beaches trying to sell t-shirts, kites and all the other bits and bobs you don't need or want to buy. We braved the pool again and then more relaxing was fit in to the afternoon schedule. :) We even managed to venture out of the resort in the evening and head to a local restaurant for some dinner which was very pleasant. I wouldn't like to try one on my head

The next day we decided to do another dive on the liberty wreck. It wasn't as good as yesterdays as there were many more divers, but lovely to be in the water again. I swam through a semi-enclosed area and turned back towards Alex tapping to get my attention. I hadn't seen the 4 foot Barracuda monster lurking in the shadows and was somewhat shocked as the barracuda smiled at me displaying all 4 of his dog-tooth teeth. Hmm, best not to get too close, but these creatures warrant a full look over, even if it is from afar. We watched the lonely barracuda for a while, before braving the currents that seemed to have come from nowhere and battled to get back to the shore.

We got a late check out and packed up the car ready to get back on the road and to reality! Again, a huge thanks to Astawa and his team at Mimpi resorts for making us feel extremely welcome and for giving us some fantastic resorts to relax in and some great diving around Bali.

We managed to fit a bit of relaxing in between eating We drove round the extremely windy coastal road through Amed towards Sanur to meet up with Jon from Blue Season Bali. We decided to stop at the ferry port to check crossing times to Lombok for the following night. As we drove into the port, we heard that ever fateful sound of screeching indicating metal on metal from the brakes. It seemed like only a few weeks ago that we'd changed them, but it was definitely time to change them again. We'd got less than 6,000km from a pair of apparently 'genuine' Toyota brake pads, and it really has been the bain of our lives sourcing original parts that won't just fall to pieces under heavy load. The next two hours were spent taking off the wheels, along with 20 or so onlookers and one extremely keen helper and changing the rear brake pads.

We carried on to Sanur where Jon kindly said we could stay with him, but first things first, it was time for a couple of beers and a huge stack of ribs at Arena - well needed after the last couple of hours! The food was delicious and the beers went down well. We retired early as we had an early start the next day.

If getting up at 6.30am wasn't shock enough to the system, we'd been told the water temperatures were going to be about 21 degrees! Alex managed to slip into Jon's wetsuit and I decided to use one of the shops 5mm wet suits (XS I'd like to point out!!) as ours probably weren't up to the job. We waded out to Jon's boat which easily stood out as the best boat amongst the dilapidated dive fleet bobbing about the shallows and before we knew it we were skimming across the blue waters out to our first dive of the day - Sentle. Bracing ourselves for the shock of the cold water on our faces we were more than pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen. The water temperature was actually 26 degrees. Much more civilised. We descended a steep slope and kept our eyes open for the sunfish which is the thing to see round here if you're really lucky. Unfortunately, it wasn't our time and the dive passed with out event of even a hint of one. On surfacing we were told that was the check out dive and therefore not much chance of seeing one! Always good to keep the suspense high I reckon. The excellent accomodation at Mimpi

The brief for the next dive was for a more taxing dive with difficult currents pulling you in every direction - we were prepared to be challenged. Well, as is synonymous with difficult drift currents, there wasn't even a whiff of one in sight! It was a nice dive with a few large marbled sting rays. We descended down to the first one which was nearly as big as me. Alex was gesturing for me to get closer but with the shocking news of Steve Irwin, I wasn't particularly keen - not that it stopped Alex pestering me to get even closer. I was close enough and if I'd got any closer I would have been able to snuggle up and 'spoon' with it! It didn't seem to mind and just lay there happy to have its photo taken with me. We slowly meandered to the shallows which was full of fish and nice corals to finish the end of the dive on.

We had a delicious lunch on the sun roof of the boat after the second dive and then moved round the bay for the last dive of the day. It was time to ask the question..."WHO PUT ICE CUBES IN THE WATER?!?!?!" We had been lulled into a false sense of security with the first two dives as the water temperature for the third was a shocker. Plummeting to a ludicrous 18 degrees, it was hard to concentrate on anything apart from trying to keep yourself warm. The viz was excellent and there were lots of fish life on the beautiful shallow corals, but that's all I remember. I think the cold water had somewhat numbed the brain!

Just a few of the Blue Season Bali team Not only had it numbed my brain, it also numbed my computer. As I was ascending from the final days dive, I was steadily rising, keeping an eye on my ascent rate when the screen suddenly went blank. Fantastic, just what you want a dive computer to do when you're diving. How strange that mine died 5 dives further down the line than Alex's. Now we would have to solely rely on our spare - which I probably wouldn't class as reliable (we never thought we'd have to use it in anger) as it has a very bad habit of turning itself off when it's submerged in salt water! Still whether it was the cold water or the battery that gave up the ghost, it's always good to have a reminder of how nice it is diving in warm water, or rather that you need the proper kit to dive in colder climes....we've been tortured enough, bring back our drysuits!

Conveniently on the other side of the world we had the cunning of most cunning plans.... Our good friend Chrissie was indeed sorting that out for us. Having flown over from Australia to Paris for work, she tagged on a holiday home to see the folks. Knowing how she likes to travel light, I suggested to her that maybe she'd like to carry a small bag back to Sydney for us, as we would be staying with her when we resided in Australia after the trip. OK, maybe it wasn't such a small bag; 2 drysuits, the fluffy suit we wear under it to keep us warm, 2 sets of fins and some hoods and gloves, it actually weighed more than her whole luggage together. However, Chrissie does have this wonderful smile and one flash of it at the check-in attendant, the bags were checked in and she was soon sitting in the business lounge with a glass of wine, completely forgetting that she'd lugged a 20kg bag from Guildford to Heathrow. Thanks Chrissie! Thanks also to another great friend Marion, for going up to our loft, twice, (as I couldn't quite remember where I'd packed our kit in the last minute rush to get the house organised) to get the stuff in the first place for Chrissie to pick up. You two are stars.

Back in Indonesia, we worked into the evening on the internet, stopped off for a pizza in town and then crashed back at Jon's for a second night. The next day we met Willy, a neighbour of Jon's and had a chat with him about the trip. Having mentioned how much we loved Indonesia and that we'd tried to extend our visa with no luck, he was under the impression you could extend the visa, had a friend at immigration which just happened to be down the road and could take us there to check. For one last time, we thought we might as well see, but didn't hold out much hope. We met Willy's friend who said it would be no problem to extend the visa!! All we had to do was leave our passports with them and it would be sorted within 5 days...... One of the nicer looking dive shops

Hmm, well, not one to normally be a pessimist, but with all the promises we'd been given before, we pushed a little harder to double check every detail we'd been told previously. 5 days further on if they had made a mistake it would really screw up our timings for getting out of the country. The man went to double check with the superintendent and returned with his head bowed in shame as he apologised profusely saying he'd got it wrong and we couldn't extend the visas as we'd already had 2 months. Thank god we'd triple checked! It was time to move on. We'd already intended to overstay our visa, but with the 20 bucks fine a day it wasn't going to be for many days.

We returned to Blue Season Bali to pack up our dive kit and had some lunch with Jon. We'd like to say a huge thanks to Jon for letting us stay at his house as well as giving us some great diving (less of the cold next time please! :)). Hopefully you shouldn't be receiving any more parcels for us, but if you do, let us know and we'll give you the next 'post restante' address to forward on to! Thanks it was great meeting you.

After an afternoon on the internet again and stocking up on food from the supermarket. Alex went to change some money ready for all the dollars we'd need on entering East Timor as we weren't sure how easy it would be to get from here on in. Having to change pounds to rupiah to dollar across two different money changers and seeing as $500 dollars is approx 4 million rupiah, he was a little distraught to find he'd been somewhat short changed by the first changer. He returned to said money changer prepared for a pitch battle but the guy surprisingly was most apologetic and gave back the extra rupiah missing. It appeared when Alex had reduced the amount he was going to change both he and the money changer has knocked off the difference, an honest mistake and thankfully easily rectified. These people really are genuinely tourist friendly.

Alex supervising dinner procedings It was time to make our way to the ferry port to get the boat to Lombok. We dined on some delicious barracuda and mahi mahi while waiting for the ferry to arrive. Typically the ferry was late, so we just had to hang around until it was time to board. There must have been a change of staff since Martin had passed through, as all the guys around the port were extremely friendly and helpful, participating in banter and cheek as it was intended as we tried to sneak on another ferry going to Lombok we weren't allowed on as they were 'special'! Even if we weren't allowed on the 'special' ferry, we were allowed to jump the queue of 100 trucks or so to get us to the front. The time eventually arrived and we boarded the boat, promptly put up the tent and caught up on a few ZZZZZ's.

It was only a short ferry ride and after 4 hours we'd arrived in Lombok. We tried to find somewhere to continue our ZZZZZ's but weren't successful, so decided to drive across the island and make use of the little traffic around heading for the ferry to Sumbawa. Unfortunately the O/D light reared its ugly head again, although switching the engine on and off didn't really help the matter, it was a lot more persistent this time. What, oh what could the matter be? We didn't see much of Lombok but the streets were becoming busy with the dawn prayer faithful. It was only just 4am and the majority of the population were on the move like spectres in the night, carrying their prayer mats, dressed in white and gravitating towards the mosques. Quite an unusual sight. It only took 1 hour and 40 to cross the island, 5 minutes to buy a ticket, drive straight on to the ferry that was waiting for us and put up the tent for a few more ZZZZZ's. The sun was just rising; it was going to be another beautiful day. Alex had been feeling unwell most of the night and had a slight fever, so managed to sleep for most of the journey, which was good as he felt much better once we'd arrived in Sumbawa.

It took about 8 hours to drive the length of Sumbawa. The scenery was a stark contrast to Bali. Barren browns stretched across the mountains and valleys with lush green fields pushed to the side. You even noticed differences across the island. It was so remote compared to the hustle and bustle of the towns we'd been in the previous week and horse and cart were the main carriage of transport. After double checking the ferry times and trying to find more information about the ferry from Flores to Timor, we found a great camp in a dry river bed and had a relaxed evening. Knackered from the drive through the night, I crashed early and left Alex writing a diary.

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Comment from Katherine
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

When are you coming to visit me???

19 Dec 2006 @ 06:14:12