Hendro was supposed to drive me out to the airport at 8 to catch my flight to Sorong, but at ten after I got a call from Ibu Min saying sorry, they were all at the airport already picking up Renny, who was coming back from a month in Makassar and should be landing soon, and if I just held on til they got home I could take their cab back out. In Indonesian time, ‘landing soon’ could be any second, or in half an hour, or maybe an hour, who knows. Fifteen minutes, maybe, for her luggage to show up in the big shed that serves as an arrivals hall, then the 20-minute drive back home, get me in the car, another 20 minutes back out. By now it was 8:15; my flight was scheduled for 9:20. Maybe not. Luckily Fr., back from her two weeks on Yapen, was willing to give me a ride, saving me having to find an ojek, and I made the flight. The plane had arrived from Jayapura, heading via Manokwari to Sorong and then Makassar with a full load of passengers, and with no computers at the airport they assigned me to an already-full seat, so rather than my window view I ended up in a middle seat next to a man who could really have used a primer on proper use of deodorant in the tropics. 35 minutes later, we landed in Sorong.
|One hell of a front yard.|
In the airport I was met by a representative from Papua Diving, and along with three Austrian men who’d been on my flight was dropped off at a local hotel, where we waited in the restaurant (I drank sirsak juice, they drank Bintang) and made awkward conversation for four hours until the next set of guests landed. It must’ve been a big day for resort transfers; I haven’t seen that many bules in one place since Bali. (I don’t think I’ve seen that many bules total since Bali.) Around 3:00 we finally collected the other couple and headed off to the waterfront for the boat to Kri.
Honestly I’m surprised no one got a concussion. It was a cloudy, windy day, and the seas came at us in 3-foot swells so that we’d ride up one side, continue past the crest, and then – WHAM! – slap down on the trough below. Every ten seconds or so, with varying severity, for just over two hours. I turned on a podcast, put on my neck pillow to cushion my head from the jolts, braced my feet on the floor, and turned towards the window to watch the flying fish, who seemed to be enjoying the weather rather more than we were.
The waves let up as we got close to the island, and gave us a chance to catch our breath before we pulled up to the dock. The resort was made up of a series of thatched cabins stretching back along the wooden jetty and along the beach: ten or so huts, divided into two guest rooms each, a veranda with lounge chairs facing the sunset, a wall-less dining room, the offices and kitchens, and the bathrooms on shore. The only other thing on the island, besides the forest, was another, more upscale hotel with the same owners, just around the cape. I was in Room 2, in one of the huts on the jetty, raised over the reef on stilts. I looked out my window into the water and immediately saw a pair of crocodile needlefish swim by. Then I pulled out my Kindle, set up the hammock, and watched the sunset til dinner.
|Shrimp on an anemone. (Disclaimer: I didn't take this|
photo, but I did see these shrimp and they're awesome.)
On the way to breakfast my first morning, after being woken up at 5:30 by all the birds, I saw a baby black-tipped reef shark swim under the jetty. When I mentioned it nobody even looked up. That should give you a sense of the kind of place this was. As it turns out, you have to see six of them chasing each other around – as I did one night – to even get a reaction out of anybody.
The point of the trip, of course, was diving diving diving, and dive I did, three times a day. We were assigned to boats with a dive guide for each buddy pair – traveling without a buddy, I had my own guide – and headed out twice each morning and once in the afternoon to various spots in the area. I only skipped two dives during the week: on the second dive of my second day, still vaguely mystified by my dive computer (first time using one) and distracted by the manta rays swimming overhead, I stayed too deep to long and had to sit on the sand at six meters for a few minutes to decompress. I took the afternoon off after that, thinking an extra-long surface interval to let off some excess nitrogen might not be a bad idea. On Thursday I signed up for a night dive, and figured that even though I now had a much better grasp of what those numbers on my wrist were telling me, four dives in one day might be a tad much, so I skipped the afternoon.
|Manta ray. (Didn't take this one either.)|
|I mean, seriously. (This one either.)|
|Under the jetty.|
|Feather star & giant clam. Yes, that red thing walks.|
I tried to take photos (during the day), but my underwater camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, so instead of point-and-shoot it’s guess-point-pray-and-shoot. A lot of my videos have something interesting swimming just through the bottom-right corner of the frame; apparently I err high and to the left. (If the idea of a camera without a viewfinder sounds like a stupid idea to you, that’s because it is; luckily for $75 they’ll send you a plug-in one, so I’m getting that ASAP. My pictures may still be gray and fuzzy, depending how effective the new flat lens casing and red filter turn out to be, but at least I’ll be aiming at the right thing.) I do, however, have about 430 pictures posted here, mostly of fish and sunsets – the sunsets were beyond spectacular – because my normal camera is waterproof to 10 feet and I took it snorkeling, and some people with better dive cameras gave me copies of their deep-water photos.
|Red cenderawasih. (Not my photo.)|
Saturdays there’s no diving, so instead I got up at 4:15 to go see some cenderawasih, the red bird of paradise. I figure living on Cenderawasih Bay I should probably get a glimpse of them at least once. Two of us showed up for the boat to Gam island out of the 7 who’d signed up, and after 20 minutes’ hike we arrived at a tree on top of a hill with a flock of cenderawasihs fluttering around the top. The man with me, one of the Austrians, had a good camera with a zoom lens; I took some videos. Gorgeous birds, if a little far away. On the hike down we saw some kookaburras too.
The rest of the day I read and snorkeled and got a bit of a tan. The boat ride back to Sorong on Sunday was uneventful aside from some dolphins. So was our wait in the hotel – we’d gotten to town in time for the Americans’ 10:30am flight; the last three of us didn’t eave til 1:40 – except for a small
(unintentional, and it’s sad that I have to clarify) bug in the tofu hotpot I ordered for lunch. (The Meridian, just across from the Sorong airport, in case you’re wondering.) My plane left an hour and a half late (so more or less on time). And now I’m back in Manokwari, enjoying a salt-free mandi but missing the sharks.
|Sunset at Kri.|