Fanastic Flores and the Dodgy Leg?

Trip Start May 06, 2008
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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, September 12, 2008

Labuan Bajo is the town on the West Side of Flores Island where the island connects to Bali by air and to Komoddo and other islands via the town's port. My visit to Flores was purely for diving and for 3 very short days. There is so much more to Flores but it takes such a lot more time to see it and so I wouldnt be able to...not on this visit at least.

On arrival at the airport I agreed a price to the town with a taxi driver of 10000 Rupiah. We hit town and struggled to find somewhere for me to stay that was half decent and available. We had to drive about for 10 minutes but we found somewhere. I thought I better give the driver a little extra so handed him 25000 Rupiah. He refused to take it because he didn't think it was enough. The owners of the hotel told me just to give him 10000 and sod him. To be fair though I told him that he should take it given the extra 10 minutes we spent looking. This guy was in a major huff and walked out of the hotel leaving all the cash behind. He followed me about for the next 30 minutes........ everywhere. Even following me into the dive shop where I was arranging the following few days diving. He got the shop staff involved and they had the same advice for him as the hotel staff...take it and be grateful. This was beginning to irk me now and it wasn't what Id hoped for as a welcome to the town. In the end I asked if there was a police station or local magistrate that we could ask to mediate. That did it because he took his money and left. Fortunately he was the only person like that I met here. Having sai that though the place was a mixture óf really friendly locals and those that seemed a bit hacked off that they had to have tourists around. Certainly I felt a little unfriendliness in some quarters because I was only visiting for a few days and not venturing beyond diving. In thinking about it this may be because the diving operations seemed to be run by foreigners and thus locals wouldn't profit however having said that all of the operations employed locals so that was something at least.

The town itself was dirty. There is a lot of rubbish strewn everywhere and what buildings there are are not great. There is a fishing port nearby and plenty of tourism so I wouldn't have thought that it should have looked that way.

Anyway on to the main point of me being here, the diving and the wonderful island scenery off-shore. The first day I arrived I met a bloke staying at the same hostel as me called Peter who was from Oz - Perth I think. He was a good down-to-earth kind of bloke and we both wanted to get out and experience the water before the next day's diving. We got a small boat to take us to an island about 45 minutes away and got some really nice snorkelling in. The trip over afforded us some lovely views of the dozens of islands in the area. Peter and I dived with different companies but we would meet up in the evenings for a sun-downer and to discuss the relative merits of our day.

The next day I went out with Bajo diving and enjoyed a couple of decent dives. Unfortunately a couple of people in our group had just bought a camera and were stopping to take photos of everything of interest to them. In that scenario the group moves at the pace of the slowest. We had 1 DM leading 8 divers and she didn't want the group splitting. Like I said the dives were nice enough but we didn't achieve the aim of the dive and surfaced before hitting the spot of best interest.

The following day was a different matter altogether and we hit 2 or 3 of the most famous dive sites in the Komodo National Park in an area close to Komodo Island. It was a good 2 1/2 hours boat journey but Bajo Divers has a lovely boat and the trip is very much part of the day. On our last dive we saw Manta Rays surfacing near the boat and hurried to get kitted up so we could get in amongst them. I had never seen one and really didn't want to miss out. This dive site was popular with the mantas because of the strong current washing through a channel between 2 islands and our DM went to great lengths to emphasise that once in the channel we had to really go for it to the right otherwise we would end up being drawn away to open water and a distance away from the boat. We searched everywhere for those mantas but they were not to be seen. At the point where we had to fin hard right we stopped and made a grab for a coral outcrop. We had seen 5 sharks lying together in the current. I have done some decent drift dives and been in current before but clinging onto that rock by my fingertips was hard work. I had to bite down on the reg to keep it on and look directly at the current so my mask wasn't ripped off. I could have let go and gone with it but we were enjoying looking at the sharks and the current was fun too. Eventually we let go and were pushed into an area of calmer water to the right just as the DM had directed. We were approaching the end of the dive when just to my right the most graceful and perfect manta glided into view. It was about 5 mtrs away and 2 mtrs above us and probably 3 mtrs in span. We finned hard and swam with it for about 15 seconds but sadly it was soon gone and so effortlessly too. We were all pretty chuffed. I think we had all resigned ourselves to only seeing the manta from the surface by that time in the dive and it was a great way to end the dive and my diving around Flores. We enjoyed a beautiful trip back to land and some decent drinks once we got there.

During my 2 days diving I had a number of equipment failures. 3 times I dived with a depth gauge that was faulty but far more worrying was a fault with the first stage filter on my regulator set. I as at about 15 mtrs and breathing normally. I had just checked my air and all was good at 100 bar (half of what I entered the water with). Suddenly I took a breath of air and it felt like the last one in the tank.....you get something but not a full breath. I checked air again, saw it was good so immediately switched to my spare second stage. I was already finning towards my buddy and by the time I got to him I just ripped his spare second stage out and replaced mine. Once I had been able to get a few normal breaths I tried mine again whilst monitoring my air. If I sucked really hard I could get something but the needle on the reg set was swinging from 100 to 20 bar which is not a good sign wheras the lack of air from the reg is generally thought to be quite a serious problem for humans underwater. It served as a very good lesson in why diving with a buddy (that you can get to quickly) is critically important. Lesson learned here thanks.

During the last few weeks since Borneo I had been suffering with a similar problem to the infection I had suffered in Samui on my leg however this time it was on my other leg and I knew for sure it wasn't a bit. It was just a little spot that formed and then got much much worse and painful. On my last day in Flores my knee was swollen and my leg hurt from the knee up to my groin. I have to admit I was a little worried and began to think that 6 weeks of taking chemist administered anti biotics instead of seeing a doctor was not wise. I resolved to visit a doctor as soon as I got to Bangkok...now that was another matter!
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