BALINESE GETAWAY #3: LOST IN AMED
My friends are all gone now. I still have 5 days of solo exploration in Bali. I decide to return to Amed on an impulse and do some Couchsurfing there.
I’m wishing I could do some scuba diving as well.
So, here am I, back in Amed, on the East Coast of Bali. I decided to use Couchsurfing this time, for it worked so well for me so far being a host in Strasbourg and be hosted in Japan. Plus, I met some amazing people in New Zealand thanks to the Couchsurfing website.
COUCHSURFING IN AMED
A. is a scuba diving instructor and lives in Bali for 7 years now. That looks promising and surely interesting. We even discuss a special fare so I could pass the PADI Open Water Certificate. When I arrive, A. and is girlfriend R. are welcoming me in their house and bring me to some rice fields to enjoy a cold beer and the sunset. What a nice way to meet and get to know one another. I really appreciate it.
I soon come to learn that R. in no longer A.’s girlfriend, even though they’re still living together. They were together for a long time, and they just broke up. Apparently, A. met someone else. Apparently, R. cheated on him some time before. I start to become disillusioned for the atmosphere is more and more tense. There’s a storm coming between them, irony and cynicism are slowly becoming part of the conversation, as well as accusations and blame. And I’m in the middle of it, like a kid whose parents are getting a divorce and I really don’t want to take sides –hi there, I’m the nice Couchsurfer who just wanted to hang out with nice people!- even though, well they are actually asking me to take sides and asking for my opinions about their problems like ‘do I thank that A. is an asshole?’ I don’t dare to say anything but I’m screaming inside.
We’re going to a beach restaurant and I meet Diana there, that German woman I met in Lovina. I’m glad she’s with me for the night is taking an unexpected turn. The ex-couple is still sniping at each other, then A. and R.’s friend are debating about women’s place in Balinese society. They’re both expats, originally from Europe, and they’ve both have a different and very interesting point of views. To be short, let’s just say that women’s place in Balinese society isn’t that much of a desirable situation, even though it’s slowly changing. Okay, the debate is very much interesting, but somehow it made me feel a lot of discomforts. And it’s worse when, back home and a bit drunk, I witness their relentless fights. I go to bed a little bit groggy and a huge desire to escape from here. Not to mention I’m smoking again (by the time I’m writing those lines, I quitted again) and this situation is quite stressful for me. I feel like being back to the old myself, stressed out and smoking way too much, cigarettes after cigarettes, for I don’t know how to calm me down. And I simple disgust myself. I feel lost as ever (but well, you know me, that’s my speciality), I want to come back home, to Te Anau (and it feels weird to realise that I think of New Zealand when I’m thinking of going back home). I want to escape, I want to run away.
After a restless night, I speak up about my desire to leave. R. is feeling guilty and wants me to maintain my scuba diving lessons with A. (of course, she does, I mean, that’s their wage.) Ok. Well, we compromise. I settle myself in a cheap little guesthouse at Kadek Homestay and start my scuba diving lessons. I have a terrace facing the sea, a double bed and a breakfast included.
SO WHAT’S THE PADI OPEN WATER CERTIFICATE?
PADI is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors and offers also diving lessons for everybody. If you want to learn, improve your skills, or pass different diving levels and certificate, PADI is the association taking care of this stuff. There are PADI centres all over the word, it’s like THE scuba diving worldwide community.
As for the Open Water certificate, that’s the first scuba diving level. From 10 years old and older, that’s the basic scuba diving training which is traditionally composed of theory class (with a huge diver manual and 5 videos) and 4 dives as a minimum for the practical exercise. It takes at least 3 full days at the end of which there’s a quick exam, a quiz to see what you’ve learned.
In these class, I learn to name, understand and take care of the scuba diving gear, from the mask to the BCD, the wetsuit, fins, snorkel, cylinder, etc. And most of all… I learn how to scuba dive. To breathe underwater (what a blissful feeling!), move, equalise, communicate with signs. To remove and put back again the mask under water, exchange my air regulator with someone else while underwater without panicking. To use a compass, remove my vest and my BCD and put in back 8 m deep without shaking nervously and know how to put it back. I learn the sentence ‘Bruce Willis Ruins all Films’ to remember how to check the BCD, Weight, Release, Air & Final Check of my diving buddy before any dive. I learn how to make an emergency ascent, find the perfect buoyancy to be neutral and move perfectly without using my arms or legs that much, without breathing too much. To calculate how much nitrogen I have left in my body in order to know how much time I can stay underwater on the next dive…
I was learning a lot. And gazing. I learn how to look. All around me. Without making sharp movements in order not to damage or frighten the marine fauna and flora.
The Open Water Certificate also allows you to dive until 18 meters deep, solo. And obviously, it’s kind of rare to be confident enough or to have all the gear you need to scuba dive without any instructor, but when I think of it… Well, I could dive like a big warrior girl if I wanted to!
BEYOND THE SEA
I would truly love to open my brain right now so you’d be able to witness the beauties I’ve seen down there. Stingrays, little Sharks, Sea Turtles, and crazy fish with crazy exotic names like Parrot Fish, Ribbon Eel, Mantis Peacock Shrimp, Sea Cucumber, etc. After every dive, A. is showing me the fish we saw in his fish dictionary (okay, I would like a fish dictionary for Christmas, guys!) and I keep a record of it in my diving journal. Obviously, the names are the English ones (as well as all my classes) and I’m getting more and more confident and proud as I learned some complicated notions and words for my non-scientist brain… In English.
The days are exhausting, with two dives a day, some videos to watch in between, and on evenings I’m learning with my diver manual at the nearby restaurant. I learn again how to live alone, for I’m learning alone, eating alone, strolling alone. My only social interactions are with my diving instructor, A., who’s not very talkative when he’s not teaching me anything.
For my last dive, after passing my exam (WOOP WOOP!), A. is finally taking me to the USS Liberty Wreck, that famous wreck that makes scuba divers from the world coming here in Amed. The USS Liberty was an American cargo which was torpedoed by the Japanese army during World War II. It was brought back to Tulamben’s shore, on the beach. I even remember reading there were no casualties. But when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, the boat kind of slept into the ocean, sinking until where it’s now located, at a depth going from 3 meters to 29 meters deep. The place is just unbelievable. It’s flitting with marine life, corals are vivid and covered almost the entire wreck!
Now I can really feel that I’m moving in 3 dimensions, flying between the up and the down, with wanders everywhere. Barracudas, Triggerfish, Turtles, Stingrays, Lionfish, Clownfish, Scorpionfish, Pufferfish. It’s bursting with colours, like a moving painting. I surely can’t get enough of fish.
On the last day, very early in the morning, A. is bringing me on a little escapade with his scooter. We’re going to enjoy the morning freshness to trek on a little path in between the rice fields, then through the forest. We hike up a little, and then the view on Mount Agung is amazing from the top. We can see the surrounding rice fields and the sea. It’s so peaceful here.
A. explains to me that until very recently some of those villages didn’t have any access to water, nor electricity. Most of the villagers don’t have a job for they’re living too far from the city, here in the mountains. That’s a true cultural shock. Because just a few kilometres away, there are comfy hotels with giant pools for the tourists.
We hike up a little, and then the view on Mount Agung is amazing from the top. We can see the surrounding rice fields and the sea. It’s so peaceful here.
I can now say goodbye to Bali. I’ve done here more than I ever guessed, I challenged myself. Bali is a land of contradictions, a land of contrasts, a land of goodbyes. I both hated and adored Bali and definitely the first time I have this kind of feeling while travelling.
Bali, you’re an enigma. We definitely have to see each other again.
LET’S GO THERE! :
HAPPY MANGO TREE, Jalan Bisma No.27, Ubud
UBUD PURI LUKISAN, Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud
KADEK HOMESTAY AMED, Purwakerti, Abang, Karangasem, Amed
GREEN LEAF CAFE, JL Raya Jemuluk, Amed