Thursday, March 05, 2009

Off to Ambon

Today was a transit day. We said goodbye to Bali, and headed off to Ambon, where we would meet the dive boat. One of the joys of flying different airlines these days is the varying restrictions they put on baggage. For example, on China Airlines to get over here, they restricted us to two checked bags each, with a weight limit of 20 kg per bag. That's a pretty tight restriction for divers, especially for those bringing cameras and lenses and underwater housings and such.

Then this morning we took our first flight leg from Bali to Makassar (or Ujung Pandang; I need to learn why the place has two names) on Garuda Indonesia. Their limit is 20 kg per passenger. So now we're facing excess baggage fees. Luckily, they discounted a bit, as we were about 10 kg over each, and they only charged us for about 10 total.

Then we had to change airlines to get from Makassar to Ambon, so we got to do the whole baggage dance again with Lion Air. They, too, wanted to limit us to 20 kg per passenger, and again we were over, but again we got a bit of a discount.

At some level it begins to feel like kind of a racket, designed to charge one for the same overage, over and over. Unfortunately, to get to the particular corner of Indonesia we want, we have to take different airlines for each leg, so we have to cope.

Also at Makassar, we met up with the rest of the group we'll be diving with for the next couple of weeks. That includes old friends like Liz and Josh, the trip organizers from Undersea Productions, and also some new acquaintances who will soon be friends, too.

Arriving in Ambon we were told the airline hadn't been able to include all of the checked baggage. This meant that three of the bags for our group didn't make it. Luckily, all of Jan's and my bags showed up. Some other people will be a little short of fresh clothing, or in one case, short a camera housing, until we can get the additional bags in the morning.

Boarding the boat was interesting. We had to take taxis for 45 minutes or more to get from the airport to the harbor. I was quite impressed with the quality of the road the whole way. Ambon is not exactly a major metropolitan center by global standards, but it has a good main road, at least. Certainly better than many we've encountered in some other countries.

And a good thing, too, because midway through the ride, it started to rain. And we're talking major tropical downpour, with water running down the streets, kids floating boats in the gutters, and sometimes little visibility from the car. But it never felt dangerous, despite the closeness of the traffic, including the ubiquitous scooters.

The dive boat was docked (perhaps "wedged" is more accurate) between a cement barge and a tanker of some sort, so they had rigged “gangplanks” (just boards,really) to get us onto the barge, and from there onto the dive boat. It was a bit precarious, especially as it was still raining, but the crew was very helpful and we all made it aboard without incident.

And they greeted us with fresh coconuts to drink the water from. This is going to be great!

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