After months of hard work, time for holidays has arrived (and this year, I am taking a long one!). Before going back to France for a bit, it was time last week for a little diving holiday. My friend Jo and I had planned to go to South Sulawesi, to Bira, for a week of diving.
(now for some weird reason I cannot put a link here to previous blog posts but if you use the archive to go back to Feb/March of 2013 you might remember I had been to Bira before a couple of times).
Anyway, the holidays started with a day and night in Bali before our early morning flight. Day was spent mainly shopping, night was spend with Cody and Andrew at an AIDS benefit night in some fancy hotel in Semyniak...before hitting the bars in town for a bit of fun. A lot of dancing and a lot of drag queens it was. Bali Beyoncé never ceases to mesmerize me (and I wish I had a picture but I don't!). Of course we went to bed way too late and way too drunk, which resulted in a VERY painful morning the next day when the clock rang at 4 to get to the airport. I was probably still drunk which is not a good thing when you have to fly for a couple of hours and then sit in a car for over 6 hours. Long story short, it was a long journey.
It was made even longer by the fact that we got into a bit of police trouble in Makassar. When we get out of the terminal, our driver sent by my friend Bob in Bira is waiting for us, so we walk down to the pickup area, he goes get the car, we load everything and get in…and then some airport police guy shows up and starts chatting with him, get him out of the car and more chatting follows. In Indonesia, it turns out that the majority of the time, police means trouble. Corruption is not a myth here and as a white-face “bule” you learn pretty fast that police is likely not your friend. Our driver comes back after 10mn, from what I understand in Indonesian the police guy is giving him trouble for picking us up while not being an official taxi (mmm what about picking your friends or family up then?) and he asks us if we can step out of the car while he drives off and goes sort it out. So we did, waited for 40mn in the parking lot, and eventually he came back to pick us up and we left. It will turn out later he managed to get out of it without paying him off because my friend Bob was on the phone with the police guy, asking him what regulation exactly this was and if he could have his name and police number etc. Once more, a police guy sees two white faces and thinks he can get some money out of it…not this time!
We finally made it to Bira, the village of wandering goats and chickens and kids, I got to see my friends again, we went diving pretty much every day despite the monsoon winds and it was good. Several sharks, lots of cool macro stuff. Even better, no one but us on the boat, so we got to pick our dive sites, dive for ridiculous amounts of time (my new record is now a 99 minutes dive), take pictures with no one rushing, and generally have underwater fun. How good it can be to dive with no customers once in a while: no spare weights to carry (and no tank loading!), you can go as slow as you want, you can go into deco in 12 meters because you have been down too long and it’s OK, you can stay down longer or dive in crazy currents while knowing everything is going to be fine. Real delight.
It turns out also that despite the fact that I don’t work on my Indonesian language skills as much as I should, it has considerably improved since the last time I was in Sulawesi almost two years ago. Not that I can sustain a full hour conversation or anything, but the daily getting around and asking for stuff and making small conversation is waaaayyy easier than it used to be.
All in all, a good trip. So long Bira and your lovely people, I am not sure I will see you again but I sure hope that I come back one day...