The Graduate Semporna Part 2
Last dive instructor you would ever want
Crocodile Fish, with the prettiest eyelashes you will ever see
|I love nudi-time|
It’s official. Everything we own is clean including the dog pee bag, the gum from the bottom of James’ day pack (by the way I think a new rule should be “the one who puts their bag IN the gum has to clean if off…..but those free toothbrushes I can’t help but collect came in handy), all our toiletry bags, my day pack, random mesh bags, the kitchen sanitized (I’ll explain the kitchen later) and all clothing. I’ve done a face scrub, a foot soak, hair treatment…..I must admit I am a bit bored. I slept in today, read, watched tv, had 15 coffees and all before noon!
The only thing that seems to keep me entertained is the usual travel booking frustrations. I am trying to get a few things booked seeing as though we have decent internet but am having no luck. We decided to do a Raja Ampat liveaboard. When doing research in Korea we thought it was too expensive but know we will regret it if we don’t. It’s a pain to get to and we are going to be so close…..do we really need a place to live next year? Anyways, we had to rearrange our route a bit and add flights and another Indonesia VISA and of course if we are going to be in Sorong….why not pop over to Nabire and Ahe Resort to see whale sharks (number one on James’ must see list) and…well to make a long story short we added a few extra weeks to our time in Indonesia and I have managed to fill pretty much every day. But we’d need a few flights and reservations for places that fill up. So I sit, patiently waiting for people to get back to me so I can send them money. UGH!
Not a bad island to spend a day on
|A couple of frogfish and a cute crab|
Sipadan! It was a bumpy 1 hour boat ride but after we signed in as the Dutch couple who cancelled (the permits had already been sent in before they cancelled) we were jumping in. The dives were great (and I can’t believe I am saying this) but not quite as good as the first time. I think it’s because the currents were a bit stronger, which I think prevented us from skimming over the coral garden in shallow water where ALL the turtles slept, and the schools of fish weren’t quite as big, but an average day at Sipadan is a still an amazing day.
|Some highlights of Sipadan dives, and proof for a couple of skeptical kids that it is actually us down there|
I was supposed to go to Tawau tomorrow to get our Indonesian VISA’s but as it turned out the owner of the dive shop who lives in Tawau decided to have the speciality class there today. So no local bus for me! Interesting though, James and I figured we hadn’t been in a moving vehicle other than a boat in about a month (the longest we’d both likely ever gone) and got a little car sick.
We were taken to the Yacht Club where I caught a cab to the consulate. I have never been so pleasantly surprised. I was a bit concerned right when I got there because there was about 5 signs saying no short pants (I was wearing shorts – Travel Hint: Keep in mind in strict Muslim countries their consulates have dress codes!) but they smiled and welcomed me in. After answering all my questions, by the way you cannot get a multi-entry VISA as a tourist; they took my forms and asked me to sit for a few minutes explaining I’d have the VISA’s in a few hours. Seriously? I had read it was that quick but did not for a second believe it was true. Getting VISA’s in other countries is usually a hot, sweaty, drawn out for days event. I sat reading until my name was called an hour and a half later and in a cab a minute or two after that. Easy peasy!
I headed back to the Yacht Club and lounged away a few hours while the class finished up. After we all (except Princess) got KFC and the driver picked us up for our ride back to Semporna. If only all VISA runs were this easy……..
Not quite James Bond--well maybe George Lazenby
We have pretty much packed up and are very excited to be moving on. We did up our budget and were looking at the numbers…we have been traveling for 105 days. Wow! It honestly doesn’t feel that long. Well maybe Semporna a bit. We’ve managed to get ahead by $1934.00. Not bad!
It was interesting to see how things are working out and this might be a good time to answer a few questions. People have asked about packing, budget, route etc. If you are not one – just close this now.
James and I have been planning this since he signed up for the Self-funded deferred leave at work about 5 years ago. We day dreamed about it for the first 3 or so and have changed routes and places visited many, many, many times. One route had us driving our old FORD south through the states stopping to visit both of our snowbirding parents then heading through the interior of Mexico, quickly through Central America and then slowly around South America until we reached the bottom where we’d ditch the car and likely fly to India or Africa. Once we found out we would be starting it from Korea we changed plans altogether and decided to do Asia properly. Researching Asia I couldn’t help but be dazzled by the diving and one thing led to another and our year off ended up looking very dive heavy. Luckily we were pretty good at saving money and it looked like we might be able to actually afford it.
Since starting this trip we’ve had countless conversations about the “ if we had endless amounts of money what would we do”. Pretty much the same thing, just eat at nicer places and stay in mid range, maybe higher hotels.
We have been paying into this since the start which helped, as did the amazing opportunity of working in Korea. We also bought 2 fixer-uppers in Canada hoping to make a few bucks. It meant 3 years of weekends full of tiling and painting and leaky everythings, but we were able to add a few bucks to the pot. We also had our mind set to do it so even though we obviously didn’t suffer (we still traveled a bit and enjoyed the odd weekend in Toronto and Montreal) we gave up, or rather just didn’t buy things that weren’t that important to us. Our tv was a hand me down from B&J that was a little old and even had a lovely burn hole where Jude had left a candle too long. My lap top was second hand and James’ a much welcomed gift! We didn’t own fancy cell phones or ipods or any new gadgets (although once home a Tasimo is the first thing I am buying…if and when I ever have money again!). It’s not for everyone, but for us it was worth it. Once the plans were well under way we started to buy decent quality travel & dive gear, but that’s in a few minutes.
To determine a budget (James said we needed one) we finally sat down and listed all the countries we wanted to see. From there I spent endless hours researching how to get to/from places, what seasons we’d want to be there and how much per day it would roughly cost. Most important though, I had to try to figure out how much time we’d need in each place. All those Lonely Planets we had in Korea actually got read! Once that was done I roughed it out for James and we spent a few days (weeks maybe) cutting and adding to the route. Because it was so dive heavy it added weeks to each country. Indonesia for instance will end up being almost 3 months with almost 6 weeks being just diving.
Once we had a rough route and what each country would approximately cost for the time there we added in the extras. This is where your budget gets blown to bits. For example we were doing so much diving that renting would end up costing almost half as much as a new set so we decided to invest in a travel light set designed for travelers. OUCH! Other extras to be considered is insurance, VISA’s, equipment, pills & shots etc.
Our budget ended up looking like this:
Spent before/not accounted for/bought in advance – Dive gear $ 3200, netbook $250, James’ new backpack $270
Day to Day (includes, accommodation, food, alcohol, getting around, entrance fees etc.) $100 /day for the 2 of us (x415 days)
Flights (main flights, not the quick ones we take instead of a bus or boat) $10,464 (not including AECL allowance to get home)
Diving $4500, + James dive course $3000, + booked in February Komodo Live aboard $2750 (7 nights)
Misc & emergencies $10,000
Total we had about $75,000
About 2 months in we added $2 each /day which doesn’t seem like much but it’s an ice-cream cone, or a cab when it’s sweltering out, or a cold beer – even if you’ve gone over for the day. I don’t think we’ve used it much, but it made us feel better.
Other large purchases/extras to be considered (included in the budget above):
Did we need new backpacks. Yes. Mine (just for dive gear actually) was $150
VISA’s for most countries, which can be anywhere from free (Thailand) to $80 for Myanmar
Travel Insurance, and for us it had to include dive coverage ($450 each for 6 months)
Pills - Malaria pills, anti-biotic, Imodium, allergy pills
Shots were another lucky break, both of us are up to date on all our shots otherwise we would have needed Hep A & B, yellow fever
Good day packs, which took a surprising amount of time to pick.
We both needed good all-purpose hiking shoes and a sport type sandal
A few weeks in our point and shoot waterproof camera had to be replaced ($400)
This was amusing (I’m sure Sandra remembers it well). We piled everything on to our spare bed in Korea and (a little too late) tried to make it fit into our packs. Which resulted in Sandra mailing a box of leftovers back to Canada for us and me buying a bigger backpack for the dive gear. But what was left was our must haves and a few luxury items (body powder and a jar of nail polish for me). I read a thousand sites on what to pack for extended travels and the main bits are the same but there is always something someone can’t live without that I think is silly, just as most people would think my cork screw is a waste. We did luck out in that all of our travels would be in hot climates which cut down on packing warm clothing that can be bulky and take up space. We decided that if our plans change and we found ourselves cold we’d just buy a sweater.
The thing to remember about packing for almost any trip is that whatever you bring has a good chance of being stolen, ruined or lost. No matter how careful you are shit happens, so if you are thinking of packing your favourite earrings your grandma passed down to you because you can’t bear to leave them at home – just imagine them gone. I have been so lucky in the past but still don’t chance it.
Here is our basic list.
Kitchen – A small mesh bag with folding knife, 2 sporks, cork screw, a few extra ziplock baggies, matches, those big headed metal paper clips, . Plus a plastic plate and a decent size tupperware container.
Food Bag – Peanut butter, small baggie with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, stolen salt & pepper packets, too many cliff & luna meal bars, cup-a-soups and usually crackers. Also, depending on where we are and what we are doing, this can have much more or sometimes, but not very often, less.
Meds – About 6 months of Malaria pills for each of us, 2 full doses of antibiotics, allergy pills, Imodium, pepto bismol, alleve.
First Aid Kit – The usual, a few bandaids, anti bacterial cream, a couple of needles and some thread, all the pills (in a handy craft container for beads)
Day of Travel Kit – Mesh bag with 2 blow up sleep pillows, few pairs of ear plugs (extras are handy when one falls to the icky floor of the bus half way through the night), one of our flash lights (the small head lamp), sleeping mask (1 frilly black), mini deck of cards, 2 disposable toothbrushes, 2 kindle lights
Misc – About 6 clothes pins, small bag of powdered laundry soap, mini clothes line (thick string), 6 carabineers (big & small), multi plug adaptor, mosquitoes coils, travel guides (we narrowed it down to 3 but only because we downloaded everyone we would actually need onto the computer), note pad each and pens, 2 umbrellas (for sun and rain), tp, mosquito net, mini leatherman, silk sleep sacks
Electronics, Cords & stuff – Small computer (10.1 in) & charger, mini mouse, hard case, 2 kindles in cases & 1 charger (usb & wall pug), ipod & charger, waterproof point and shoot camera & charger, James DSLR camera with remote control & charger and case, 3 lenses total, all in cases, the most handy (and a gift from Chris) small flexible tri-pod, underwater casing and strobe light and 2 battery packs & charger (chargers take up a lot of space!)
Bath bags - UGH! Mine seems so big. But the usual with an extra bottle of my favourite can’t live without face cream. We also packed a few extra razors, an extra bottle of sun tan lotion (it is so expensive in Asia). We agreed this is one thing we could not share, so James has a small one with his few boy things in it.
Clothing – This was a hard one. But a few pairs of shorts, 1 pair of pants (zip off legs so you have an extra pair of shorts), few t-shirts, undies for a week, a few pairs of socks, pj’s (decent ones if you plan on doing dorms), long sleeve t, hoodie and/or sweatshirt, 2 bathing suits, dive shorts and dive t, couple of bras, few tank tops, rain coat, hat, flip flops, sport sandals, decent lightweight shoes (the style/type depends on where you go). I also usually pack a dress or two and a skirt or two but due to space took one of each. I also packed a tiny bit of jewellery but always like to buy it as I go.