Mid journey

6:45 am, Dive boat to mining camp.

All the jetties on the harbour were smashed in a storm a couple of months ago, so we have to wade off the boat on a makeshift gangplank. The stones are sharp.  Hati hati, caution the boys, our dive boat crew and guides, as they have throughout our trip.  I apologize to Saldi for inadvertently getting him into trouble with his boss the other day and tell him he’s a wonderful guide.  He smiles huge.

8:00 am, mining company Twin Otter to nearest town with an airport.  We’re circumventing a 5 hour drive and a 1 hour boat ride.  I regret the boat ride a bit, the driver stepping lithely over our piled luggage with simian feet, inevitable cigarette dangling, on the journey out my first real sense of indonesia.

They weigh our luggage and our persons for the plane.  We had to pay for 3 seats because of our excess baggage.  I’m happy the scale is in kilos, which are a blur to me. We watch a briefing video, in Indonesian with English subtitles.  The survival kit is not a toy.

The mining company airstrip has tiny skinny cats, and one of the insignia-ed security guys feeds the cats the leftovers of his breakfast — fish, cabbage, rice — wrapped in brown paper.

8:30 am.  Landing in Ternate, we have to drag our luggage up improbable hills and ramps, in through the out door of the smoke-socked grungy baggage claim/  No smoking signs are everywhere, but the place is steeped in an acrid aura. The hour until our next flight is eaten up by a glacial slow check in process, a wrangle over the airport tax.  Both the tax collector and the guy manning the security gates have improbably long fingernails on their thumbs and forefingers on one hand.  I try not to associate this with the local practice of bum-washing with a hose instead of using toilet paper.  I fail.

About two hours after taking off.  We land somewhere else, somewhere in Indonesia, some transfer point in Sulawesi with a name that won’t stay in my head.  I find Magnum bars — first ice cream in two weeks — and Finch finds good coffee.  And our first wifi.  The coffee shop is abutted to a glass enclosed smoking box. A smug, portly man sits inside, smoking his way through his duty free, one after the other.  I ask the coffee shop man to close the door, but it’s a losing battle.  The smoke stays in my nostrils long after I leave.

Another two and a half hours later. We’re still in Indonesia, unbelievably.  We have several hours, so we leave the airport and take a taxi to a nice hotel and have a steak and a glass of wine. The cab driver asks Finch his age, and when he discovers Finch is older than he is, develops quite the boy crush on him.  He keeps making the hand gestures for nice muscles! and pulling on his hair and saying very good!  He seems to particularly like his nose.  I think he wants to take him home and show him off, but I want my glass of wine.

The lodge wasn’t exactly dry, but the insipid local beer was the only thing on offer.  The slightly sour australian red is delightful.  I almost lose my footing on the marble staircase and nearly tumble down.  Before the wine.  I’m losing my equilibrium here.

We cadge a ride on the hotel’s shuttle back to the airport, and check in for our next flight, which will pop us out here and there and eventually to London. The clerk weighs our bags solemnly, and we argue — they’ve been weighed many times today — and announces that we are 17 kilos over, even with the diving “allowance” of an extra 5 kilo each.  He sends us off to the cashier, who tots up our overweight charge — of $1092.  $65 per kilo or something like that.  We argue, we look for ways around — can we pay for an extra bag? Surely they want people to visit Indonesia to dive?  Does he understand this is the cost of the whole ticket almost?

Another guy gets involved, and Finch finally hits on the strategy of asking them to “be flexible” while counting out rupiah on the counter.  The guy goes to Ask the Boss, and comes back and says it’s okay.  Finch slips him the equivalent of $50, and we board.  We try to figure out if the first guy will get any of that, or just had to endure our wrangling.

About four hours later.  Another airport, still in Asia.  We have wine and bad sushi and I try to keep my eyes open and not think about the fact that we still have a 14 hour flight to London and then my 7 hour flight home to deal with.  I try to close my eyes and remember the diving but it’s too easy to see the end of the week, with the calendar that’s actually shifting in front of my eyes as LZ makes adjustments to my schedule that were made necessary by my business partner’s dad’s death this week.  I try to imagine sleeping sometime in one of those flights.


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