Day 223: No Ray, I Can’t Believe It

Where to begin today’s post? The day was comprised of a failed snorkel trip, filling out insurance forms, a spot of swimming, some Mario kart, and an evening meal. As I lie here in bed I really can’t be bothered to write anymore than that, especially seeing as my Nintendo 3ds is staring at me begging to be played. But I have a mission to complete, there are only 5 days remaining of the “Erratic Ramblings”, and I will endeavour to complete them. Without further ado, day 223 in all its glory.

The alarm rang early this morning 8:00am, although we didn’t need it. For some unknown reason we woke up naturally by ourselves. The reason for such an early start on a lazy island like Lembongan was because we had a snorkel trip planned. We all had pancakes for breakfast, packed a few items into my dry bag, then waited at the beach for Captain Jack to come prepare his boat.

Because of the early hour the tide was in, crashing violently against the brick walls and rocks. It had completely submerged the beach, making it very difficult for us to get aboard the boat. Captain Jack did his best to bring the boat in as close as possible, and one by one we climbed aboard. It was no easy task, Sarah almost slipped over on the wet rocks, fortunately for her there was a staff member from our resort nearby to catch her. We then set off for a 4 hour adventure that would see us covering the perimeter of Lembongan, hitting up all the top snorkelling hotspots along the way.

Sadly we couldn’t do the first spot because of the aggressive waves flying towards the sharp rocks. Wether or not their appearance had anything to do with the full moon the previous evening, I don’t know. Sarah and myself were really gutted by this bad news because that area was where the manta rays were situated. Neither of us had snorkelled with the majestic creatures before so this would’ve been a real treat, but ol’ Mother Nature had other plans apparently. It was really choppy the whole way, the boat had stability bars either side to prevent a side to side rocking motion. The only bumps we felt came in the form of up and down. It was enough to make us feel a little sick, all but Simon, who was well adapted to the sea after so many years of sailing. As we crashed over the top of each wave we could see lots of surfers in the distance treating each one like a playground. After a 40 minute ride we reached smoother waters, and at the same time, our first stop of the day.

Mangrove Point: This place had the best coral we’d seen in our 7 and a half months. It was the size of a football pitch, and more colourful than a parrot fish. In short it was spectacular. As far as we could see there was nothing but tropical sea life. The hardest part about the stop was the constant current which kept pulling us back, but this was something that worked to our advantage. After swimming against it for so long, Captain Jack told us to let the current take us and he’d follow behind in his boat. This made everything a lot easier, we must’ve drifted for about 100 metres at least. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by explaining what fish we saw, as most of them were the same as every other snorkel trip we’ve done. But there were a few exceptions. We saw really big angel fish, so big that we almost mistook them for something else. Usually the ones we see are around 10 cm, but these had to have been closer to 20. I then spotted something I hadn’t seen before, a brown and yellow speckled sea snake. It was slithering its way through the coral just like its cousins on land, I barely got Sarah’s attention in time before it disappeared. We didn’t stay for long at Mangrove point, as soon as Captain Jack caught up to us we climbed back aboard the boat. It was then we spotted another first… a pod of dolphins. They briefly poked their dorsal fins above the water as they swam along, there were about 4 of them swimming side by side. Our captain drove over to see if we could get a closer look, but by the time we got there they’d already gone. The brief glimpse that we did get completely made up for the fact we couldn’t see the mantas in my opinion. It was such a rare sight, that I felt honoured to have seen it at all. After that we moved on to our second stop.

The waves were too much for me after another 10 minutes sailing. The day trip was taking a turn for the worst, so to compensate for how sick I felt I hunched up and led down on my seat. I’m not someone who has sea legs, and I’ll openly put my hands up and admit to that, the slightest bump makes me queazy. It must have been a further 20 minutes before we arrived at our second stop, immediately I jumped out, but before I did, my snorkel broke. Captain Jack gave me a replacement set, but it was no good, the waves were still coming and it was even harder to stay in one place. There was also a second problem, because of the waves it meant the seabed was churned up, making everything underwater a little hazy and unclear. While I was floating around, the others decided it was time to call it quits. All the other stops would be just as bad, and Sarah was as sick as me by this point. I had been dragged so far away that I had to swim a good 30 feet to get back. I then led down for the 30 minute boat ride back to the starting point.

The tide was still in when we got back, and the Captain wasn’t sure what to do. We drifted between the steps (where we got on) and a gap between some rocks. The Captain yelled out to a friend to help him out. His friend then waded out into the water, and with the Captain’s help, they pulled the boat in as close they could, but to no avail. In the end they pushed the boat back out and went to fetch a smaller one man row boat. This was hilarious to watch as they dragged Sarah, Ann, and Simon to the shore. Sarah’s face looked pale with sea sickness, so she was first to go. Ann’s face was full of fear, her eyes were wide open as she clambered aboard the small white boat and was towed in. I didn’t need it, when I realised the water only came up to the men’s knees I hopped out along with them. The walk in was a peace of cake. They then went back to fetch Simon, which was a sight too funny to pass up on, I had to take a picture. The four of us then went back to our resort where we attempted to pay for the day trip.

Because we hadn’t been out for the full 4 hours we were unsure what was a fair price. We spoke with Jacob who told us he’d have a word with the Captain and get back to us. He then explained it would probably be better to go out in the afternoon when the tides out. After only being at sea for a maximum of an hour and a half, we were back beside the pool. We all got in – including Simon, and discovered the temperature of the water felt closer to that of a bath, when compared to the sea at least. All of us floated about for around half an hour while the cleaners tidied our rooms. When they were done I grabbed a few things from the room, then spent some more time relaxing on a lounger. After a while we all felt peckish and moved over to the restaurant area for dinner. It was here that all the paper work came out for our travel insurance.

Because both Sarah and I had been to the hospital at one point or another this trip, we had the responsibility of informing the insurance company. It was almost as if they didn’t want to pay out, judging by all the paperwork. Names, places, dates, cost, all these questions and more had to be filled out with excruciating attention to detail. One wrong word was all it would take for them to say “forget it”. I had the most to lose out of the two of us, with that injection in my fingertip costing me over £1000 pounds. That’s a whole lot of money, even for someone who’s not backpacking on a budget. That bloody dog, he doesn’t even care, he’s probably added 20 more victims to his tally since then. By the time we’d finished dinner, we’d also completed the forms. Sarah and I then returned to the room until early evening, while Ann and Simon remained at the pool.

We watched the last hour of a film we started the other day, then hours passed as we did our own things. Sarah read her kindle, while I enjoyed my birthday present some more. It was around 7pm before we were forced to stop. Simon shouted across from their hut next door, he said the pair of them were bored and wanted to go out. We told them to give us an extra 30 minutes because Sarah wasn’t hungry, but that time was cut short after only 15. We went to the same area as the previous night for tea, except we ate at a different restaurant. I don’t recall the name, but they sold the best vanilla milkshake I’d hade in a while. I also ate something other than what I like to call “safety food”. Instead of having a westernised dish, I ordered their special from the board. It was pork with mashed potato in teriyaki sauce, I enjoyed every bite. Afterwards, we stopped in the shop next door to grab some post meal snacks, then returned to Nanuk Bungalows. Instead of going straight to bed, what Sarah and her parents did was play a few card games underneath our hut. I was the unsocial one playing on the Nintendo in the corner. They played a few games before calling it quits. Goodnights were exchanged before we returned to our huts to go through the evening rituals. Sarah and I then struggled to stay awake as kindles were read and blogs were written. But would you look at that, I’ve somehow gained a second wind. I think I’ll play some more on my Nintendo, god I need help!!!
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Day 222: Nintendon’t Disturb Me

We were lazy… the end.
– Sarah Duxbury

This is what Sarah suggested I put for today’s blog, and to be honest, it wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Unlike all the other times I’ve said “today we did nothing”, this time around truer words were never said. All day we stayed at our resort, only leaving in the evening to go out for tea. That is unequivocally it! Today will be the shortest post of them all for that reason alone, but I have committed to writing about everything this far, so it would be a shame to quit now.

Sarah and I finally got the lie in we’d been craving this morning, although, the early starts up until now meant we woke up naturally at 9am. It was just a pleasant change of pace not to hear an alarm ringing beside us for once. We led in bed for a further half an hour, watching a tv show, until we joined Sarah’s parents for breakfast.

We were all tired as we sat around the table. Ann and Simon because they were up several times during the night, and Sarah and myself because we were in a deep sleep before coming too. The Bali coffee is really strong, and is the only coffee that actually perks me up. Caffeine is something that doesn’t usually effect me, but that stuff is something else. When we were done eating, Sarah and I returned to the room for a further hour to watch the end of our tv show, before putting on the beginning of a movie. While Sarah’s parents chose to sit in the shade of a parasail beside the pool.

About an hour into the movie Sarah decided she wanted to do some sunbathing. We put the tablet down, then procured a couple loungers. Somehow she was able to stick it out in the sun. I stayed in the shadows going over the previous days blog. When I was done, some two hours later, I hopped in the pool with Sarah. After I had cooled down I led in the sun to dry off, then returned to the room to grab my Nintendo 3ds. I knew there was a reason behind my trepidations about asking for the console. It wasn’t that I was afraid of what people would think of me, it wasn’t that at all, it was in fact my addictive personality. I couldn’t put the thing down. I completely ignored the “take an hourly break” rule that comes with the device. I played it so much today that I ended up having to plug it into a socket to feed my addiction some more. Bye bye social life is all I’ll say. Hours passed as I levelled up my mighty Pokemon, I moved between the sheltered downstairs area of our hut, and the sun loungers, where I simultaneously played and worked on my tan. Eventually hunger came a knocking, and the four of us had dinner at our resort. But after that it was straight back to the world of Pokemon for me. I’m 25 for god’s sake, I shouldn’t even be playing this overly addictive drivel, but I couldn’t help myself. It was 5:30pm before I tore myself away and did something more practical, I Skyped my mum.

I told her the previous evening that I’d phone her during the day so she could see our resort. That plan didn’t work out because the Internet wasn’t strong enough for a video call. Instead we talked for around 40 minutes using our devices as international telephones. As we spoke, I had the pleasure of watching Simon playing table tennis in the background. He was playing against one of the young family members who ran the resort. I don’t know who won officially, but Simon had to call it quits when he began overheating. It wasn’t long after Simon threw in the towel that I finished my Skype call with my mum. In the time I sat downstairs I became the proud owner of 4 fresh mosquito bites. I retired to the room and continued playing Pokemon some more beside my bessie on the bed.

10 minutes later there was a knock at the door from Sarah’s mother. Ann had grown restless of doing nothing all day and wanted to go out for food. It took Sarah and I a further 10 minutes to get ready, then the four of us walked to Mushroom Bay for tea. We had to walk all of 5 minutes along dark paths, using torches to guide us. When we arrived it was like a ghost town. There was nobody in sight, and all of 3 or 4 different places to eat. In the end we selected a place called Mushroom Garden Villas. It was a nice change of pace to receive our food quickly for once. All our meals were tasty and satisfying, but come the end was where it all fell apart. The bill. I handed over 100,000 to cover my 70,000 fee, after that pandemonium broke loose. Sarah always had this gift when it came to sorting out a multi person bill, but this time around she was busy playing on the phone. Ann then started throwing numbers around, followed by Simon, then I didn’t know what way was up. Eventually Sarah joined in, grabbed the tray with all the money, and took it to the waiter to explain we wanted small change. The main problem was non of us had any small notes, had we done it would’ve saved all the confusion in the first place. We got what Sarah requested, left a bill, then left ourselves. 5 minutes later we were back at Nanuk Bungalows to draw an end to our day.

We said our goodnights at the steps of our hut, and encouraged Ann to join us on the snorkelling trip the next day. She was a timid little mouse, and was mainly focused on all the things that could go wrong while we were at sea. I tried my best to encourage her to come along, as its not everyday you get to swim with manta rays. Time would tell if those words of wisdom helped. Sarah and I then got ready for bed, I wrote this post, chatted to a friend from home on Skype, and last but not least, concluded my evening with another helping of Pokemon.
WHAT A LOSER!!!

Day 221: All About The Benjamin

It was finally here, my birthday! And with it came the arrival of my Nintendo 3DS XL, although, I didn’t play on it as much as expected. Today was the first time I’d ever celebrated the feat of gaining another year older, abroad. And it was the first time alcohol wasn’t involved. The perks of getting older and more mature eh! To celebrate the wonderful life of Ben Norris, we did nothing, just the way I liked it. Instead we spent the day beside the pool, visiting our very own private beach, then going out for a lovely evening meal. It really was a great day, and now you lucky people get to read all about it.

Unfortunately, even though today was my birthday, I didn’t get the luxury of a lie in. Nor did in get the immediate attention of my girlfriend. The second she woke up she asked for my phone instead of wishing me a happy birthday. I didn’t mind, as I’d actually forgotten what day it was myself. It took her 10 seconds to realise her mistake, then I got a big cuddle and a kiss. Today saw us leaving Ubud to move on to greener pastures. We were scheduled to catch the first fast boat of the day to Lembongan, a stunning island where we’d all relax and chill out for the duration of our stay. First things first we needed breakfast, so at 6:30am we got up and went about getting ready. Sarah and I packed our final things away, then went to knock for her parents. SHOCKER, we were ready before Ann and Simon, but not by much. We all then went for breakfast. After that we moved our bags to the reception area and waited on our driver. To pass the time we made small talk with the hotel manager.

The driver was running half an hour behind schedule. It was around 8:15am before he showed up, the boat left at 9:30, and the port was a good one hour drive away. Ann, more so than the rest, was paranoid we weren’t going to make it in time. Even more so when Simon asked the driver to stop so he could make a withdraw. The driver spoke extremely good English, and he was asking about what sort of cars we drove back home, he then explained how his son is studying to become an accountant, he was a very friendly and chatty man. I enjoyed listening to him talk because of the way he rolled his R’s. Every so often he’d say the name of a place like Sempur, but when he said it, it came out as “Sempurrrrrrrr”. At 9:20am we had arrived, but narrowly missing the boat was the least of our worries when we saw what waited for us up ahead.

The fast boat we’d be taking across the sea to Lembogan, floated atop the passing waves in an uncontrollable manner. Each wave was around 5 foot high, and forced the boat all over the place. Ann was really worried by this. There were porters whose job it was to carry everyone’s large holdalls aboard the boat, but they expected a tip upon their return. The way people got aboard resembled the two pence machines at an arcade. The ones where the shelve moves back and forth casually pushing any hangers on off the edge. As the tide went out, it was do or die for everyone. I found it slightly amusing as I saw Ann run on behind Sarah, I don’t know why, maybe it was the swaying boat that made everyone look uncoordinated that did it. I climbed aboard after them, but because the wave was going out as I climbed on, there was no issue. The hardest part was walking down the aisle to my seat. When Simon sat down beside me I looked out the window, that’s when I saw it. There was an upturned boat, which had clearly been there a while. Not the best sight to see given the circumstances. Just when we thought we were safe, it got worse. I didn’t learn of this until later on when Sarah told me, as the last few passengers climbed aboard, the anchor rope snapped. The anchor at the back of the boat, which was holding it to the beach, now served no purpose. The only one keeping us from washing up on the shore was the front anchor. As I looked around the boat I could see these worries and scared expressions on the passenger’s faces. At first I wondered what the big deal was, until I noticed the back end of the boat tipping over on itself. Fortunately the wave passed, and the boat levelled, but there was one particular passenger who feared for her child’s safety. She asked a man if he’d mind swapping with her, but you could tell he was also scared. He shouted back at her saying “yes, just give me a minute”. Wimps, the lot of them. There was nothing to worry about, even if the Lonely Planet had printed horror stories of the crossing on its pages. After a nauseous half an hour voyage, the boat parked safely alongside the shore of Lembongan.

When all the bags had been offloaded by the friendly Balinesian staff, we were escorted to a small truck for a free lift to our accommodation. We shared the truck with a cool looking surfer dude, who had with him a really lightweight board. For all I knew he was a world famous surfer, he certainly had the build for it. God I wish I could surf… Sorry, I went a little off track there. Our new resort was just as pretty as the last (which you’ll see in the pics) but for different reasons. Inata had more of a modern meets traditional vibe, whereas Nanuk was comprised of wooden huts, giving off the more authentic island experience. Surprisingly each hut had a/c inside. Up until now, all the huts we’d stayed in were fan only. There was a small pool to cool down in, a restaurant which sold food throughout the day, and lovely grounds to explore. It was definitely worth the price we were paying. We were given a welcome drink each by the staff, and when Sarah told them it was my birthday, they said “we’ll party later” – we never did 😦

After our drinks, the guys told us our rooms were ready and walked us to them. It took a while for everyone to get sorted, but around midday I was finally given my presents. I was like a kid at Christmas. All those items I’d ordered on eBay had gone from digital images to real life tangible objects. For my birthday I received the Nintendo system from Sarah (much to her concern, she feared I’d give it more attention than her… she thought right). I got a few cards from my mum, nan, and Sarah’s parents. My mum also got me a new Starbucks card to replace the one Sarah and I had rinsed. After I’d unwrapped everything and read all my cards, I spent a while playing on my new toy as the others sat by the pool. Eventually I left the Nintendo to charge in the room, then joined Sarah and her parents. After a short time swimming around, we moved over to the restaurant for some dinner.

Before we ordered we spoke with Jacob, he was one of the staff members who spoke excellent English. Jacob told us of the many day trips to do on Lembogan, and reinforced my decision to snorkel with the others rather than do a dive. He told me it worked out cheaper to do it as a group, and because I was the only one with a diving license it meant I’d have to pay double the price for the privilege of going under. When we learned all there was to do we had dinner, followed by a walk. It was a hot day, but a nice kind of hot, either that or Sarah and I had well and truly acclimatised. Poor Ann and Simon hated it, the pair of them nearly melted into blobs on the floor every few feet. The first beach we located at the end of our resort was kind of dirty. This was because all the boats were docked there, the fuel and oils stained the water. Instead of going there, we located a hidden gem off the beaten track. It was stunning. The beach was guarded by two colossal mountains at either end, the sand was white, and the sea was crystal. The best thing was, because it was hidden, we had the whole thing to ourselves for the length of time we were there. After a while Ann found the heat too much, and had to sit it out in the shade. Sarah and I took a final stroll up and down the shore, then we all left together. On the way back I spotted the most adorable calf I’d ever seen, its eyes were so big and shiny that I just wanted to give it a cuddle, but I didn’t think mummy cow would have been too pleased with that, so I settled for a picture instead. Back at the resort, Sarah and I got back in the pool to spend some time floating about, before getting out to dry off in the sun. Every year on the 24th of May it’s always sunny, and today was no exception. Until around 4pm that was. Out of nowhere the skies filled with grey clouds, making Sarah and I come to the conclusion that staying on the sun loungers was probably a redundant idea. That’s when Sarah came up with a brilliant idea, to get some beers and return to the room.

Just as we were about to climb the steps of our hut, we saw Sarah’s parents in the chill out area below, so we did the same. The huts were divided between an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs housed the bedrooms, downstairs had two chill out beds to relax on during the day. This is when I began playing on my new toy. The 3d effects were great, if not a little disorientating. It came with warnings to take breaks every 15 minutes when using the 3d, but what do they know… Just kidding, eye care is a very serious matter. After an hour or so, Sarah and I returned to our outdoor bathroom, tucked away behind our hut, to shower. We had plans that evening, which had been arranged in advance during dinner. Sarah really wanted it to be perfect for me, so she went online to reserve us a table at a fancy restaurant which had 5 star reviews. When I was dried and dressed, I told sarah she’d have to hurry up if she wanted to see the sunset. In the end she told me to go on ahead and she’d catch up – she didn’t. Instead I went with Ann and Simon. There was nothing to see though, the sun was now masked behind the large dark clouds, and one ginormous thunderhead. That made for spectacular photos whenever I caught a lightning bolt tearing through its dark colour. After that we returned to the resort, where only 15 minutes later our reserved restaurant’s shuttle had arrived to pick us up.

The restaurant was amazing, everything was top notch, from the look of the place to the quality of the food. The only downside was the time we had to wait for it to arrive. Although there were storm clouds overhead, it still wasn’t raining, instead there was a nice cool breeze. Our drinks arrived in reasonably good time, but when you get through a milkshake and a jug of water before your food arrives, you get a little irritated. After a while the rain just couldn’t hold off any longer and began falling all around us. It wasn’t fast, or heavy enough to warrant moving tables like we did, but after seeing others beginning to evacuate the outdoor area, we did the same. It took over an hour for our meals to arrive, and all I ordered were the ribs. It was a good job the salad was an all you can eat sort of deal, otherwise we’d have started eating the decorative table arrangements. The food was lovely when it finally arrived, but because of how long it took, it made Sarah feel bad. She kept apologising on the restaurants behalf, but there was no need, I wasn’t bothered at all. I was just frustrated by how long they took to serve us. At just gone 9pm we were able to get the free shuttle back to our resort, where I then spent the next hour and a half skyping my mum and nan. Because it was so dark out, it was difficult for them to see me. Disturbingly, the only place they got a good view of the birthday boy was in our bathroom. The lighting was slightly better beside the toilet, so at least I got to sit while we spoke. Whilst I was there, I figured I’d introduce them to the greatest bathroom gadget of all time.. the bum hose. This device cracked them up to no end, mostly because of how powerful it was. If you weren’t careful you could do yourself some real damage, I’m pretty sure it was capable of cracking the porcelain, it was that powerful. I thanked my mum and nan for my birthday gifts, then said my goodbyes. I was so tired by the end, yet I still managed to write the days blog. Even on my birthday I didn’t give myself a day off. To conclude my evening, I went on Facebook to see if anyone had wished me a happy birthday – they had. Even as I checked it, the wishes kept coming. At last count I had over 35. I truly am loved, for all those who sent your kind words, I love and miss you all.
Happy Birthday to me.
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