Plane tickets, chickens and a night dive

Trip Start Oct 03, 2012
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Trip End Nov 28, 2013


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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Monday, August 26, 2013

A frustrating and exciting day today.

The frustrating bit was also really weird. The non-weird part to this is that we decided because of time constraints flying to Ende (West Flores) to get to Kelimutu was better than taking a very long bumpy and uncomfortable bus ride (as we had been informed by everyone). We were still recovering from our Lombok to Flores odyssey! In West Flores is Kelimutu, it is a volcano with 3 very distinct coloured crater pools and this had been on our list (particularly mine) as a must see along with Komodo and the dragons. Taking the opportunity to book the rest of our flights in Indonesia (as we had quick access to Labuan Bajo airport seemed the most logical thing to do. Luckily we could book our Ende flight via Internet with Sky Aviation. Not so luckily we had to book the remainder of the flights with Merpati who's online booking system looks great, but simply does not work for man or beast. So, in the absence of modern technology we traipsed up to the Merpati office near the airport with a shed load of Rupiah and a list of the flights we wanted to book.

The Merpati office was like being transported back in time! A counter and a telephone with old maps on the wall. The concrete building was in a state of disrepair and the decor was literally on a level with the early 20th century. This is where things got weird. Chickens ran through every so often with the odd stray cat making an appearance. Added to that a school kid that looked like a shrunken adult in school uniform. He had a tiny head and a fag on constantly, and held court with the adults who listened tentatively and laughed to his (seemingly less than clean) jokes. This mixed with the staff who were pleased to admit to us they were sleeping on the job (one woman retired for a nap whilst we were standing at the counter) and another school kid using the second of the 2 ageing Merpati computers for homework made this very weird. It took 4 of the Merpati staff well over an hour and a half to book 2 flights. In an effort to speed up the process Kirst went round the counter to point out the flights we wanted on their booking system, which turned out to be a working version of the Merpati Internet booking site! Once they had (eventually) added the detail of the bookings and confirmed the payment details a succession of phone calls to and from the Jakarta sales office took place to reconfirm audibly the details of the transaction! God how slow....! Unfortunately this wasn't the end to the comedy by a long shot. One of the ladies tasked with entering our details on to the booking system had misspelled Kirst's name. Because the name on the ticket didn't match K's passport we asked for the details to be corrected and explained that we'd have to buy a new ticket if the details weren't the same as the passport on the day of the flight. 'No not possible' - our friendly supervisor repeated as we insisted that he correct the mistake made by his assistant (who was laughing in disbelief that we wanted a correction of her mistake...). Eventually, with a role of his eyes and another laugh of disbelief as to why he should bother doing this he called and got the ticket changed - it took 10 minutes to reprint the corrected ticket (only because he reprinted the original ticket again and hadn't checked so had to reprint the corrected one).

Needing a break from the Merpati motley crew we took a stroll to the Sky Aviation office further up the road at the new Labuan Bajo airport to confirm the weight limit for luggage. The airport is so new it hasn't been finished yet and the old airport building is hidden behind the new modern structure under construction.

Strolling back to the Merpati offices to book the last of our Merpati flights we watched a straggle of builders raise a new electricity pole from the ground. It was larger and heavier than the existing ones already in place. Unfortunately, they used ropes and didn't have a crane. The massive pole fell against the existing electricity cables and blew out the electricity supply for the area including the Merpati offices - this ended all aspiration of getting the Flights booked in one day and at the special low rate!!!!! The Merpati staff were delirious with excitement as their day had just got less demanding (if that was at all possible) Frustrating!!!

Luckily we had a night dive to diffuse any sense of frustration. Our first night dive at Angel Island and the final module to our PADI advanced Open Water qualification.

Night dives are completely different to dives during the day for obvious reasons - it's dark. Darkness changes everything - communication with the instructor changes because you have a torch in you hand, and awareness of your surroundings becomes limited. Apart from everything else the wildlife down below changes - fish actually sleep. The colourful array of fish you see by the bucket loads during a day dive are hidden in amongst the coral fast asleep. In there place out come the crustaceans, lionfish, Moray eels, cuttlefish (which at night looking like aliens even more than usual), nudi branches, jellyfish and wonderfully coloured alien like illuminous and colourful creatures. Added to this the bio-iluminescent algae this was a truly magical experience. We knelt down on the sandy floor and hid the light from our torches. Then we waved our hands about releasing thousands of bright illuminated stars around us - it was like we had the night sky all around us.

The journey back to Labuan Bajo was fast and the boat bounced through the surf creating thousands of stars in its wake - mesmerising!
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