Friday, November 9, 2007

Diving the North Sulawesi Aggressor

Sorry for the hiatus. Work caught up to me quickly upon my return, and I've been lazy about downloading all my photos!

28 dives in 6 days....hmmmm....I think I got my money's worth.

Muck diving - yes, it's muck! Black volcanic sands and the weirdest creatures I've ever seen. If you don't acknowledge evolution, you need to go to this country and dive here. Matter of fact, just snorkeling would do it. Poisonous lionfish, razor fish, nudibranchs/sea slugs, eels, sea snakes, electric clams, dolphis, turtles, rays, frogfish, cuttlefish, octopus, flat worms, sole and more anenome fish aka Nemo than you can imagine. Darn things will even bite at you if you put your face near their anenome. Can you see the fish in this picture? And no, us weirdo humans swimming around with metal tanks do not count. It changes colors like a chameleon, waddles vs swims, and is super ugly! If you see it, the official name is the Painted Frogfish. For a live viewing, go to and search 'sulawesi frogfish' or 'frogfish feeding'. Just strange is all I can say.

A little history on this trip: The Truk Aggressor (Federated States of Micronesia), which I was on back in April 2005, left for a brighter future in Indonesia at the end of that year. Luckily, many of the crew members stayed aboard. In March 2006, Just Add Water posted this trip scheduled for late September 2007. Believe it or not, I reserved a spot that long ago! Since there was an accidental double booking, the new North Sulawesi Aggressor pushed our trip back 2 weeks into playoff baseball season. But as you read from my previous blog, satellite TV and ESPN do exist outside of the US.

On to the boat - 107' long and 22' wide. A lovely ship. And I was blessed with the upper deck quad for living quarters and no roommate! Easy access to the beer cooler and the hot tub.

Sunsets were awesome, the islands are beautiful, and the locals were super nice. All the divemasters were experts at finding tiny critters in corals or in the sand (pygmy seahorses 1cm max), filling and changing your tank, washing gear, and handing out warm towels and water each time you climbed back on the skiff. And the goodness. Every time we went from skiff to main ship, there was something waiting for us to eat. Cookies, banana breads, muffins, etc. And just like Truk Lagoon, the main meals were outstanding. Pizza, pasta, sushi, thai, mexican, chicken, burgers, roasted potatoes, and dessert every night. Thankfully, I was only up 2 lbs. and I'm blaming that on the Bintang.

After 4-5 dives a day, you would think you would loose weight. Anyway, it was a great week meeting all kinds of new folks and taking in the sites. I also found time (mainly on the dang airplane) to read 3 issues of Nat'l Geographic, several Scuba Diving issues, "Into the Wild", "Shadow Divers" and 2 issues of Business Week. Rising at 5:30 am will allow time for this all this believe it or not. Why can't I do that at home? Maybe if you were waking to this sort of view....hmm.....

Well, I'm glad I went and glad I'm back home to cool fall temps, Frank, family, and friends. I've already been out twice in the kayak and taken 2 work trips. Imagine, I put in 30 hours of FLIGHT time and visited 8 different airports in 6 days!

Off to my next adventure soon, and I'll be sure to blog again. BIG backpacking trip over Thanksgiving. Might even get in some bushwacking :)


Friday, October 19, 2007

Bali and Manado, Indonesia

Good Evening!

Sorry for the long delay, however, you could only imagine how busy I have been seeing the sites, shopping, diving, eating the Balinese food and doing a little partying too. Not to mention the internet connection speed is slow and power can be sketchy.

Well, let's get to it.

Saturday - Sunday: 2.5 hours to Houston, 8.5 to Honolulu, 7.25 to Guam, 5.25 to Bali. Holy crap....I think my brain was mush. We arrived around 9 pm and I think it was Sunday, but I am still not sure. I did find out it was a full 12 hours ahead of home. Yes, I did travel exactly 1/2 the way around the globe. At least my villa was killer compared to the rest of the gang. I was right by the ocean, scored a solo room with a king size bed, an outdoor shower, and AC. More than I could ever ask for! Oh, and in the rush at Guam, our fearless leader, Mike, was detained because he didn't have an open page in his passport that said Visa. Unfortunately, he had to fly to Manila that night to locate the closest US Embassy and then transfer through Hong Kong to Bali. We finally saw him 2 days later!!

Monday: 7 am breakfast and yes I am something wrapped in a banana palm leaf. 8:30 am tour that was suppose to be only 5 hours.....and begin.....Exchange $$ to Rupiah (9000 to $1), see a traditional Barong Dance, travel by bus to Ubud to the Monkey Forest and then shop on Monkey Forest Road. Full out bartering and super deals. I didn't see anything (even silk) over $50 and you start at 40% when making an offer. I could do so much damage here it's not even funny. Take a look around your house and find out how many items are from Indonesia, then take the price at 75%. Then you'll understand where I am at. After this, we had a very good lunch over looking a rice patty. In the early afternoon (way past our estimated 5 hour tour), we hit an off the road wood carving family. We visited their temple (mostly Hindu in Bali) and then bartered some more for killer wood crafts. I bought 1 sandalwood Buddha and 1 Hibiscus laughing Buddha! Finally, when we were all too tired to stand, our tour guide took us to a child labor silver crafter. Thankfully, I didn't have any desire to buy anything and it was a little too overpriced anyway.

Tuesday: 5:30 am swim, breakfast and off to a bar to see the Indians play. Our hotel was in Kuta Beach about 1 - 2 miles from the Bali Bombings. Everyone is very, very nice and thankfully there are few street vendors. 6 of us decided it was 5 pm somewhere and bar crawled through the rest of the game! Great fun! Then I got a $17 hot rock massage, relaxed, and went to dinner at a lovely Italian place. 1 liter Bintang beer and an 8 piece pizza was $7. Nice! Off to the hotel bar, late night swim and beer, and bed.

Wednesday: 5:30 am beach run (tide in a night and out in the AM), swim, breakfast and off to Ubud for some serious shopping. In 2 hours I believe I finished Christmas shopping and I'm only down $150. And the extra suitcase better stretch....yikes! Since we are traveling with a guy who use to export goods from Bali, we had an expert local. He took us to Cafe Wayan (Cafe 1) where we sat on the floor for lunch and ate the most flavorful food. Stuffed to the gills, my bill was $120,000 R = $12. On our van ride back to our hotel, we took pictures along the way of wild cows, a gas station, and stopped at a market to buy Ramadans (hairy red fruit). For dinner it was Thai and Bintangs.

Thursday: 6 am swim, breakfast and once again back to the airport. Garunda Indonesia = 2 checked bags not over 66 kg and 1 carry on not more than 15 kg. Let's just say I wore something 'girly' and smiled A LOT. I did have to pay $20 US for the heavy dive bag but got away with murder on the carry on. Our plane was a Boeing, but it looked like the wings had touched the runway a few times in the past. Whew! 1 transfer later and we made it to Manado, North Sulawesi by 1 pm. Back on a bus and into the jungle. After 1 hour, we arrived at Kima Bajo.......AMAZING place. We are on the side of a volcano, 8 degrees from the equator, and we are on the ocean.

Friday: 5:30 am swim, breakfast, diving...hmmm.....liking this so far..... 45 minutes on a skiff north to the equator. Mandolin Wall = macro life galore, jacks, triggers, nudibranchs of all colors, leaf fish, pipe fish, puffers, etc. All the sand is black as night from the volcanos and the viz is around 60 feet. During our surface interval, we visited Banaken Island, which is the National Park/Islands in this area. Completely 3rd world. The locals were selling t-shirts 3/$100,000 or about $10. I even had to stand in 2 family photos (camera phones only) - white girl in a flower bikini and braids. Not a site to see in this part of the world everyday! How flattering! Our second dive we were also on a wall. 1 turtle the size of a dining room table, 2 smaller turtles swimming, nudibranch, 2 eels, sea stars, crabs the size of a dime, banded shrimp, pipe fish, parrots, file fish, and a whole bunch of stuff that I can't identify! Less current the dive 1 and this one was called Lekuan I. Another 84 degrees of paradise.

Right now, I'm off t0 dinner. I hope the darn Indians get their act together! We are off to the Aggressor tomorrow afternoon and won't be connected to any outside news for 1 full week.

Enjoy and miss you all (I think I do anyway!)

Friday, October 12, 2007


Well, here I go. I've never imagined myself posting my own blog, but I do enjoying reading others, so it was just a matter of time. I have about 18 hours before I depart Cleveland Hopkins to a destination unknown to all my friends and family - Indonesia. Being that this country is the world's 4th largest population and the 1st largest Muslim population, you can only imagine it's scary and tempting all at the same time.

I feel that I'm completely prepared for this trip. The US Consulate has my Passport information and itinerary, I've had the Hepatitis B series, I'm packing a 0,3 micron water filter, enough dried or dehydrated food for several days (and believe me I could stretch it if necessary), and Judy Osters lit a candle for my safe travels at the St. Stanislaus church last weekend during their awesome Polish Festival. Really...what more could I ask for? Of course, I've made tons of packing lists too :)

Additionally, I hope to explore true 'muck' scuba diving or the black volcanic sands, shop like a rock star, get a hot rock massage, take a traditional Iyengar Yoga class and maybe even relax and read a few good books while I'm there. Yes, yes....I will 'blog' too, but that is only if a computer connection is reality.

This adventure was placed on my lap through Just Add Water, my local dive shop, in March 2006. As you can count, I've been waiting for this day for a LONG time. We'll be spending 1 week at Santika Resort ( in Bali, a few nights in Kima Bajo ( in North Sulawesi (yes just like the coffee) and a full week on the North Sulawesi Aggressor ( All tolled, I will be off US soil for 16 days and earn about 25,000 miles with Continental, and bank over 50 hours of air time. Another surprising fact that I just learned was that Bali is 11 hours ahead of Ohio and just 8 degrees south of the equator. And believe it or not, they are included in the Asian continent. Hmmmm....5 down, 2 to go! Who knows me well enough to guess which 2 I have left? Check out the poll below!

Well, wish me luck and Go Tribe!

aka MM