Masuk Angin. Apparently this word is used commonly by Indonesian people when they are feeling non-specifically under the weather..or “into the cold”. I was told it means to catch a wind..and that there is medicine to relieve said wind, but it was from a very unreliable source so don’t quote me on that. In Canada, our only medicine to relieve wind is known as Beano but apparently their medicine is similar to anti-flu medicine and today is not the day that I will rant on medication for viral illnesses, because today is the day I instead do one of my favourite things…write a travel blog. I usually do this daily while travelling but I really wanted to stay away from social media and my phone on this trip, so one blog post is going to have to do. As I write this post, I cannot help but feel Masuk Angin. You see, today is my first day home from Raja Ampat…or Armpit as my Dad says, and I have spent my day in a constant battle of emotions. It’s not only the 34 degree temperature change, nor the 17 hour time lapse, but it’s the contrast of worries, or lack thereof, that lie ahead for the day, that I’m feeling the most.
I spent the last 2 weeks with my Dad, sister, and sister’s friend Vickie onboard the Fenides Liveaboard. Oh, and Josh too. We were their fifth trip since being built and we got to sail through the beautiful islands of Raja Ampat on this trusty steed for 9 days. It only took 38 hours to get there but that was quickly forgotten when the reality of our trip set in.
On this trip, we were lucky for so many reasons. We had one additional guest with us, but other than that, it was just us five on this boat meant for up to 11 guests. That left room for Moritz, one of the boat owners and a professional photographer, to come with us and document a trip…our trip. It felt like we had our own chartered boat, with our own professional photographer, along with two incredible dive guides and a mediocre cruise director. His mediocre rating was due to only two underwater moonings, neither of which managed to reveal the true pot of gold. His ill-fitted RCMP hat, fiery nature when playing boardgames, horrendous undwerwater tights and shining better half, LaLa, were his only saving grace after this failed underwater shows.
With only one previous liveaboard under my weight belt, I was so thankful we had a photographer documenting all the things we saw, so that I could focus on remembering how to dive and the whereabouts of the floating highlighter, aka, my Dad.
Led by Jack, our fearless dive guide who was an incredible frog fish finder, coral message writer and current navigator, my Dad and I were in a dive group together and we got to experience more life than I knew existed, underwater. I found nemo, lost many sharks who quickly snuck out of view, and got enveloped by a swarm of jellyfish from hell. I had a vinegar shower, followed by a salt rub and saw a ninja oceanic manta ray. I had my goggles fill up with water, only to forget how to empty them, and as a result had my first blind safety stop in a waltz with Jack himself. I got bit by territorial jetty fish, snapped at by ribbon eels and looked at curiously by a sleeping green turtle. I swam north of the equator and then south of it again…on the same dive. I found a juvenile batfish, saw flabellina nudibranch, sat in awe looking at a denise pygmy seahorses and laughed at the ridiculousness of flamboyant cuttlefish. I got pulled up in an up current, down in and down current and sat with a reef hook in a current that me feel what is was like to a bumphead parrotfish braving the current in seeming stillness. With boxer crabs with anenomes for hands, spider crabs with eery similarities to land arachnoids and hairy shrimp smaller than a fingernail, I had my eyes opened to the wonders of the Indonesian ocean.
The trip wasn’t all diving. We did make our way to land for a “trek” or two. Now if you’ve read my past blogs, you’ll recall that in the Philippines we took my Dad for a trek and he tried to bribe a villager to get an Ox to drag him home. We promised him, along with the cruise directors, that this was an easy trek. Perhaps for us. Suddenly the roles were reversed and we were worrying about our Dad constantly. This trek was not quite as bad as the grouse grind, but similar in nature except it was up a mountain that used be under water and was made entirely of coral…a very unforgiving surface. I mean, I guess we weren’t that worried as we did abandon him and leave with him with Jack but he was in good hands. It was only once he got to the top that I recalled his fear of heights, and my propensity for sweating.
The next time we were offered a stop to “trek”, Dad was a little bit more weary. His feet were still raw from the dollar store flip-flops he bought for this trip (who does that?), but he was a trooper.
We spent most of our time outside of diving lounging, eating incredible meals, or playing crib/carcassone while chatting excitedly about all of our discoveries. I’ve said it before on a dive trip, but Hakuan Matata is the only motto for being on a liveaboard. Being on a boat for the entire trip takes away all your worries. No planning food, treks or sleeping accommodations. The dive related fatigue, domthedivegide entertainment and sights above deck make it impossible to think about home and when you are underwater…well…you’re too overwhelmed with the colours, sounds and feeling of the sea to think about anything else. Until you get stung by jellyfish that is. But even that is small in comparison to the pain of the opening my inbox once I got home.
This trip was a great reminder of how important it is to truly get away. To find a way to stop thinking about life in the city, to forget about to-do lists, ignore upcoming bills (eep) and meetings and focus on the here and the now. The refreshing feeling of the water each time you fall off the boat to start a dive, simultaneously escaping the heat and entering your favourite place, underwater. The constant focus on even breathing to keep your buoyancy steady so you don’t disturb the preserved coral and tiniest of skeleton shrimp underneath you…also so you don’t kick your dive guide in the family jewels. The magical feeling of the equator sun warming your skin while an ocean breeze keeps the heat tolerable. The taste of Rendang after a long day of diving. Seeing the way the underwater world seems so much more alive at night…or maybe it’s just the calm waters and your torch that finally allow you spend time focusing on the smaller things. The taste of salt water when you borrow your dive guides regulator to buy more time underwater, only to remember that you not only forgot how to clear your goggles, but you also forgot how to change regulators. Being rocked to sleep every night by the moving boat and being awoken by and watching a sunrise every morning. The taste of glorious french press Indonesian coffee (from Java Vickie). Some of the many things that kept me smiling, kept me grounded and kept me present. It’s these things I am reflecting on with a lot happiness today…while instead of getting caught up on life, I am researching my next diving trip abroad. Oh dear.
Thanks for reading and until my next escape from reality…