Day 219: What a Liberty

So today involved a lot of time in the car. Our private taxi driver showed up first thing this morning ahead of time, and stayed with us right through until 5:30pm. We decided that today we wanted to visit Tulamben so we could do done snorkelling. Because we were staying in Ubud it meant a 3 hour drive to reach our destination. Seeing as I’ve already explained countless times how green and pretty Bali is, I will save time by not repeating myself over and over again. Everywhere is green, and rich with rice, and water, and wildlife. There are only so many ways I can say that without coming across like someone with Alzheimer’s. it truly is a stunning place that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s almost as if you enter a world in HD. Now, enough about that, lets get started with the day.

It was the earliest start yet, the alarm rang at 7:15am. I had accidentally set it for the wrong time, as that was when we’d scheduled breakfast to be served. This meant we had little time to get ready and meet Sarah’s parents at the restaurant. I quickly packed a day bag, then we headed over for food.

Sarah didn’t like hers and ended up leaving the majority of it. I wasn’t all that hungry either, but shoved it all down to clear the plate. At just gone 8am, while I was returning to our room, I saw the driver pulling up. Quickly we darted around the room and grabbed the last of our things, before climbing into our taxi for the day ahead.

Our plan was to visit Tulamben, where we could snorkel the shipwreck Liberty. The ship once belonged to the US Navy, and was used to carry cargo. It was torpedoed in January 1942 by a Japanese submarine near Lombok. It was then towed and beached at Tulamben, where its cargo of rubber and railway parts were saved. This was prevented by an invasion by the Japanese, and the ship sat on the beach until the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung broke it in two, leaving it just off the shoreline. Nowadays it’s home to many sea creatures and encrusted in coral, much to many divers and snorkelers delights. The journey to reach Tulamben was very peaceful. There were hardly any tight windy roads like the day before, and instead we had long smooth straight roads for the 2 and a half hour journey. During which time the three of us put the world to rights by covering the various topics of religion, politics, supernatural phenomenon, and many others that nobody really knows the answers to. The reason it takes so long to get anywhere in Bali is because there are no motorways or other forms of fast road. Not that this matters, as you’re never really in a rush to get anywhere, and the views outside the windows are forever captivating. Around 11am, to midday, we had arrived.

We initially stopped outside a dive centre hoping to hire some snorkel gear, only to be directed down the street to a more popular area. One of the guys showed us the way on his scooter, shortly followed by another man when they switched out. The end result saw us parking up in a car park just beside a pebbled beach. Here we could hire the gear from a nearby shop, as well as buy food and drinks from the neighbouring shops. At first we wondered if our driver had brought us to the correct place, because there weren’t that many tourists around. After asking a couple people we found out it was, it just happened to be a quiet day. Immediately we walked over to the shop to get our gear, but were staggered at how much they were asking for. 100,000 rupiah each. Like usual Sarah bartered them down, saying it suggested a price more along the lines of 30,000 in the Lonely Planet. The guy came down to 60,000 after that, and although we weren’t happy about it, we paid. Ann then paid an additional 20,000 when she requested a life jacket. The price for that was also negotiated, as to begin with he wanted another 30,000.

We left a few things with our driver in the car, then Ann began trying to put in her contact lenses. This was something she’d not had much practise in, and it took a good 10 minutes before the first one was in properly. It involved a lot of blinking, eye watering, and frustrated attempts before it stuck to Ann’s eyeball, but we all cheered her when she accomplished the task. It’s not an eat feat, but like anything, it gets easier with practise. The hardest part is always remembering to remove them after a night out. With Ann’s contacts in, and our gear in tow, we went to the beach. It was here that I wished I hadn’t left my flip flops behind. The pebbles were all different sizes, and this made for an extremely painful experience as I walked across them. Sarah and I were the first to get our fins and snorkels on, and went on ahead. By the time we were 20 metres out, Ann and Simon were still figuring it out on the shore. Instantly we saw all the usual fish we were familiar with, angel, parrot, clown, trumpet, as well as many others. All of which were minding their business sucking on rocks, a sound that could be heard anytime you put your head under. As we swam out a little farther, that’s when we saw it, the two pieces of the shipwreck Liberty. Surprisingly the individual rivets on each panel of metal were still visible. Just as promised, all around it were different types of fish swimming in and out of the many clusters of coral. Deep down, near the bottom, were divers. As we snorkelled about on the surface, every once in a while their oxygen bubbles would float to the surface and tickle our stomachs. It was amazing to see a ship wreck up close, and have it be so near to the surface. Usually people would have to be advanced divers to get this experience, I was happy because it meant I now wouldn’t have to pay an additional £200 to upgrade my divers license. I could tick “explore a shipwreck” off my bucket list and be happy about it. Sarah and I couldn’t have been at the wreck for any more than 5 minutes before I told her to stop looking, and instead pay full attention to a far greater sight. Ann was now making her way into the water. In an uncoordinated manor she began walking backwards whilst wearing her fins, all the while Simon was walking forward holding her hand and guiding her. It was like watching someone who’d had one too many drinks. You knew she was going to fall, you just didn’t know when. Every few steps Ann had to regain her composure before advancing a couple more steps. Eventually Simon left her to it, and she stumbled down in. Sarah and I then made our way back towards her, where she became an even more uncoordinated mess.

Because of Ann’s life jacket, it made turning from her back to her belly damn near impossible. She then said the other reason she didn’t want to turn over was because she didn’t want to get her face wet. Like the timid little mouse Ann is, she feared the water would get under her mask and she wouldn’t be able to see. Sarah helped roll her over, and held her hand as they began swimming out. At first she kept her mum in the shallows to build up her confidence, then when she was ready, Sarah guided her over to the wreck. There was a constant current throughout our visit which made staying in one place very tricky. When I saw a group of divers at the bottom of the ship I swam down to say hello. It was so deep that I almost feared I wouldn’t make it back, I had to clear my air spaces 3 whole times before I reached the bottom. I grabbed a handful of sand while I was down there, then when I looked up, I had to have been a good 20 foot down at least. Quickly I began swimming back towards the surface, and I gave Sarah the ash like sand as a gift. She was also scared I wouldn’t make it back to the top. Sarah and I were the only ones to be constantly stung by the sea lice, every so often we kept feeling quick sharp stabbing pains whenever they touched our skin. After a while we’d had enough, and decided to go for dinner.

It was a trickier process to get out of the water than it was getting in. Eventually we all managed it, but because of the current, we ended up farther away than planned. I was the first one back, so I threw Sarah her flip flops, followed by Simon’s and Ann’s, then we returned to the car park to shower off. We would’ve liked to have visited Ahmad after lunch to snorkel some of the coral there, but our driver told us it was too far away to go both there and back to hand in our gear later on. Instead we told him not to worry about it, then found a restaurant on the main road. The food was great and hit the spot, the only qualm was the amount of flies around us. Every two seconds they were pitching on our skin. When everyone had eaten we returned to the waters.

This time however, we weren’t there for long. Probably around 40 minutes. Simon sat on the beach the whole time, while the rest of us went to see what we could see. By now the current was moving in a different direction, and we allowed it to take us on its current, observing the coral reefs as we went. Ann was fortunate enough to see both Nemo and Dori during our time there, and there were also giant starfish of various bright colours. I grew tired and bored after a while, because for me, nothing’s been the same since the Perhentian islands. We saw so much there that I’ve spoiled it for myself anywhere else. I left Sarah and Ann to swim around and returned to Simon, but ten minutes later they’d also had enough. I found it quite difficult to get out, but nowhere near as difficult as the others. Sarah had her toe pinched by a crab. She screamed so loud that it set of some nearby dogs. Whereas Ann could barely move two centimetres before she looked as though she was going to fall over. It took them about 5 minutes, but eventually they reached us. We then returned the gear, and showered and dried off, before getting in our drivers car. I think he was happy because we decried to leave earlier than planned, this meant he would get back in good time to do his chanting at the dance show later on that night.

It took longer to get back than it did to arrive because of the weather. An hour in, the skies turned black and the rain began to fall. It took about 3 hours, most of us were tired on the way, so conversation was scarce. Our driver asked us at one point if we wanted to stop at a silk factory to see how the locals made it. Inside, the factory looked how I’d imagine a sweat shop to look. It wasn’t, it was all above board and belonged to a local family who all worked there together. The silk products were created using wooden machines which weaved tiny strands of thread into beautiful one off items. These varied from cloths to scarves, which we got to see in the shop upstairs. After a 15 minute stop we got back in the car and returned to Inata resort.

When we pulled up at the entrance the staff ran to our aid with umbrellas in tow. Simon made the joke that they didn’t need to worry because we were from England, and such weather was a normality. We each selected what we wanted for breakfast the next day, then returned to our rooms. We needed a shower to help warm ourselves up, as the rain had left us feeling somewhat chilly. There was so much rain in fact, that it caused the road outside our resort to flood. The showers were cut short when Ann showed up at our door requesting help with the removal of her lenses. I tried my best to pinch them from her eyeball, but she squirmed to much for me to get a grip. I gave her instructions, then she returned to her room to try again. I spent the rest of my time watching films, while Sarah took the phone to her parents room to FaceTime her sister and niece. After an hour or so, everyone was ready to go out for the evening.

We caught the shuttle into town and got dropped off in a different area of Monkey Forest Road. Sadly, in the area we were dropped off, most of the shops were closed. I say sadly, what I actually mean is thankfully. Because of this, we spent what time we would have used visiting those shops in a supermarket instead. It was worse than I’d thought, after collecting the usual toiletries and snacks, Sarah and Ann spotted an upstairs section, and like moths to a flame they went towards it. The upstairs section sold such items as clothes, shoes, sunglasses, and my personal favourite… knock off toys. They looked identical to their authentic counterparts, but had much more exciting names like “super warrior”, and “robot terminator”. After finding nothing to spend our money on, we headed back downstairs to pay for our goods, followed by finding somewhere to eat. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but the food was served twice as fast as the previous evening. Although the food wasn’t the best, at least we got to listen to the truly unique sounds coming from a woman in a nearby temple. No, I’m not talking about hymns, chanting, or prayer, instead this woman was hocking up something from 5 years ago. At least that’s what it sounded like. Every 5 minutes, just as we were about to place a forkful of food in our mouths, we heard the attractive sound of “harrwwwkkkkkkkk”, followed by the even more attractive sound of it leaving her mouth. It was the perfect soundtrack to our meals. After we settled the bill, we got the staff to phone our resort requesting them to send the shuttle to pick us up. I barely had enough time to grab a bottle of water before it arrived.

The driver and Simon spent the whole journey back talking about football, and as we neared the resort the roads had worsened. The mud and water together had created a murky river floating across the surface. Fortunately for us we were in a 4X4 and it didn’t slow us down at all. When we got back I just managed to catch my mum on Skype before she headed out to work, then I got to work on solving one of life’s biggest mysteries… “Who is Red John?” For those of you not in the know, Red John is the name of a serial killer on one of mine and Sarah’s favourite American tv shows. For 5 series now the viewers have been kept in the dark, as the stories protagonist “Patrick Jane” tries to figure out who the murderer of his wife and child is. It’s a brilliantly made tv show, and does a great job of keeping you guessing. After an hours research I am still led to believe my first hunch, that Patrick Jane himself will turn out to be Red John. It’s just an idea, but there is evidence to support it. Obviously this means nothing to those of you who don’t watch the show, but to those of you who do I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Drop me a message on WordPress if you like, or add me on Facebook (Ben Norris) and together we’ll solve this mystery. After my detective skills led me back to what I already believed in, I got to work on the blog. It took forever and a day to complete, and my eyes are on fire from the constant battle between concentration and fending off sleep. It’s been a long time coming, but now I’m truly ready to catch some Z’s. Maybe in my sleep I’ll solve the Red John case once and for all.

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