Chapter 5 - Meeting the rest of the "Wicked" gang and leaving Bira (well, trying to!)
1st November: Just a very quick introduction to the people I'll be spending the next 2 weeks with. Hope I don't offend any of them by what I do (or don't) say about them. Well, actually, I don't mind offending Phil and Howard.
From Germany, there's Uwe, whom we've already met, as he picked me up at the airport. He lives in Denmark. Well, technically he probably lives in Indonesia or China as he manages to spend a lot of time there. Apparently hot weather and the weightlessness of diving are very good for his health problems. Uwe's got it sussed. We also have Jan (pronounced Yann) and Patricia, a lovely couple who met in the Gilis (islands near Lombok) when Jan managed a dive centre.
From Argentina, we have Oswaldo, who's a curly-haired vegan and likes to walk around in the morning in light grey underpant shorts which leave little to the imagination. As I was writing these notes, it was 6am and I was still in bed on the deck. He was standing on the lower deck clearing his sinuses. Ah, these little moments were the special ones.
We have quite a large contingent from the UK. Phil and Howard, who aren't a couple but sometimes share their swimming trunks. Then there's me of course. And two of the divemasters - Steve and Martyn, who are great fun. When I went out in London with some people from my local dive club for Faye's birthday drinks the week before I flew, and I told the group I was going to be with Wicked Diving, they all got excited and asked who the divemasters would be. I had no idea. I was given strict instructions to look out for Pitt and Steve and say hello from "the naughty boys". And sure enough, when I mention this to Steve, he leaps out of his chair in excitement and calls his girlfriend, Pitt, so that I can pass on the message to her directly. Pitt and Steve met in Egypt and, what can I say, the world of diving is a small world! And Martyn, well, it's hard to sum Martyn up really, but his impersonations of Michael Jackson are something else, and his ability to keep his unruly dive group under control was legendary (the poor guy had Phil and Uwe - he was doomed).
From Northern Ireland we have Ricky. I say from Northern Island but Ricky is quite clearly now a citizen of the world, and his accent is almost impossible to place! He is the cruise leader - le bossman. He ran a tight ship with great humour till he left to accompany the kitty doctor (see below) on the first leg of her return to "civilisation", and after that it all went downhill...
From the US of A we have Barb and Bobby, who are a blast. Barb regaled us with her broadcasting skills in Phil's daily interviews, and Bobby made us laugh with her rather flushed reaction to the nutmeg tea and cakes we had on one of the spice islands. More details on the Wicked Diving blog written by Prue... http://blog.wickeddiving.com - you might have to scroll down to find the entries relating to our trip (1-15 Nov 2013, "3000 nautical miles...").
From the mid-Atlantic (Canada/Ireland apparently) we have Terry, who's a psychiatrist. This comes in handy several times during the two weeks. Terry's also my dive buddy. I like to think he didn't need to use his professional skills on me, but then I would, wouldn't I?
From Australia we have Prue, one of the dive guides, who was very focussed on trying to produce some triceps and is a future famous travel writer (http://straightondetour.com), having honed her skills travelling all over South East Asia. We also have Laura, who is actually Finnish but works in Cairns. Laura does Thai kick-boxing and crocheting - a winning combination of hobbies.
From the Netherlands we have Dymphna, aka The Kitty Doctor, a nickname provided by Phil because she's a vet and has lots of cats. And it was better than the rather lazy first nickname, Nympho. Unfortunately, half way through the trip, Dymphna has suspected skin bends, and has to leave us in Ambon to go to hospital. She is back in the Netherlands and is fine again now luckily! We missed her and her infectious (dare I say quite loud?) laugh!
And add to that the crew, with a special mention for Ahmed the captain, who let me sail the ship in Raja Ampat and Ahmed the chef, whom I helped make pasta sauce and initiated him to the joys of balsamic vinegar, which was lying unused in the back corner of his kitchen shelves.
Finally, a little mention for Rambo, the main man for lugging our tanks around and generally making the boat look good with his smile and muscles!
So, onto leaving Bira. Well, trying to.
It's November 1st, and the Jaya has been in port to be serviced, and unfortunately the high tides needed to get it back out of the port have not manifested themselves. We get all our bags out of our respective hotels/guesthouses and meet at Bira Dive, where we all meet as a group for the first time. We end up doing a little visit of the area - seeing the shipyards as described in the previous chapter, and eating a lovely lunch chez Ahmed, the captain. I have a little chat with Oswaldo, and decide he is possibly one of the most negative people I have ever met. After trying to get him to focus on the fact he is in a beautiful part of the world with lovely people, and not on the fact that the start of the trip is a little delayed, I give up and keep saying "yes, it's terrible, yes it's awful" for a few more minutes and then flee.
We go back to Amatoa, the posh bar by the sea, and chill out in its infinity pool with a little beer or two for a couple of hours. Martyn tries to look busy, taking a few phone calls, still trying to work out whether the tide is going to be high enough for the boat to get out of the harbour in the near future. And we all enjoy lazing in the pool, watching the sun go down. At one point, the conversation turns to Miley Cyrus and twerking and a brilliant idea is hatched to do a flashmob twerk when we visit an island during the trip.
Luckily we conveniently forget that idea once the trip gets started. It might have been abit much for the locals. Just seeing a bunch of Westerners was enough of a show in itself. Anyway, twerking becomes abit of a theme for the trip. And I'm not really doing it justice but it will hopefully job some memories for the gang!
We dine in the Warung Bamboo bar/restaurant again and have a little more banter with the Irish girls we'd met there the day before. Phil has done such a good job on Facebook of describing that place, its owner, and the way you have to choose your dinner, that I can't hope to rival this description. "Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?" seems to be his motto. Maybe we can figure out a way of putting a link here.
We stay in a local hotel in Bira which some people think is a dump, and I think is luxury compared to the "rustic simplicity" of the Salassa Guesthouse. I have my own running water and personal squat loo! What more could a girl want?
After dinner I go to bed and sheepishly switch on the TV and watch the King Kong movie before finally drifting off to sleep. Quite surreal.
The next day, we do a couple of local dives, which are fine, nothing special, and finally are able to leave Bira!
I keep finding myself referring to the adventure beginning... so here it is again - a new adventure begins as we embark on our 3,000 nautical mile trip to Raja Ampat!