Amed is the final stop on our Indonesia trip, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, it’s the blog I have chosen to start with. I tend not to write many travel posts until after I’ve returned home, at which point I put them out in a neat order over the following few weeks. But I didn’t have time to pre-write any blogs for this week and found myself drawing a serious blank when I sat down to write the political and climate posts I had planned. Typically, I first conceive of my political posts months before they make it onto the blog. I get the idea, I read a lot about it, I draft paragraphs of the post in my head before finally sitting down to commit words to keyboard. They aren’t rushed, which is important to me when I’m writing about big topics that I care about. So, while I’m sitting on a beach, studying my specialty dive manuals and frantically organising our onward travel with less than a day’s notice, it doesn’t feel like the right time to write that big climate post that I’ve been sitting on for months. I don’t have my books, I won’t be spending hours reading articles and finding sources and I’m not in the right headspace; I wouldn’t do the topic justice at all. That leaves me procrastinating.
I want to put a blog up today anyway, so we’re starting here, with this place, right now. Because why not?
Originally, we were going to spend this whole week on the island of Flores, exploring Komodo National Park and its myriad dive sites. We did go to Flores and it was amazing, but we felt that five days was enough time to spend based in Labuan Bajo. I had heard about the good wreck diving up in Amed, a beach town on the north east coast of Bali, and it had the added benefit of putting us on the right island for our flight home on Sunday. It was easy, then, for us to decide to make this the last stop on our trip.
Our last day in Komodo was spent doing the classic Komodo tour: walking up to the Padar Island viewpoint, visiting a pink beach, seeing the dragons and snorkelling with manta rays. While that itinerary might sound incredible, the tours themselves are often basic and overhyped, so my expectations were low. All I wanted was to see a Komodo dragon; if everything else turned out to be a marketing gimmick, so be it.
The day before our Komodo boat trip, we had spent the day visiting the Moonshine and Rangko caves. Of our entire Indonesia trip, these were the only two days that we spent not twenty metres underwater or in air-conditioned transit, and we would end up paying for them dearly. After our day exploring the caves, I had my first serious dehydration headache of the trip, despite drinking constantly the entire time. It lasted for over eight hours, and four or five litres of water and paracetamol did little to curb the throbbing. This kind of heat is no joke.
Fortunately, I felt better the following morning, and we headed out onto the boat. It would turn out to be Jake’s turn for a heat-related illness.
The boats we had been diving on were beautiful. Spacious, stocked with water and snacks and full of shady spots to read and rest between dives. Even in a place like Labuan Bajo, diving is not a budget activity (though the value for money is undeniable) and it shows in the service you receive. These dragon tours, on the other hand, were as cheap as could be, with water being a litre each for twelve hours on a boat (fortunately we had brought more of our own), lunch being a glob of white rice and single chicken wing and the boat itself having very few spots of actual shade, despite the fact we would spend the entire day at sea exposed to the blazing sun. But whatever, it was cheap, and we got to see Komodo dragons. Neither Jake nor I are particularly fussy so we ate the congealed rice and nestled into the hard wooden benches in the sun without complaint.
Quickly, it became clear that Jake was not feeling well. We had burned through our six litres of water by the midpoint of the tour and had already walked up a steep hill in the full sun. I had headed straight back to the boat after this little hike, because my calves were already quivering from dehydration. Jake only got grumpier and sleepier, and by the time we were back on land just after sunset, it was clear that he was quite ill. We headed back to our hotel as soon as possible. He took a cold shower and was deeply asleep by seven pm, a cold compress of my wet t-shirt stuck on his forehead. I lasted a few more hours, often glancing over at my sleeping lover and worrying. I had been reading about heatstroke the night before during my dehydration headache and a serious fever was the first sign. He was hot, but we didn’t have a thermometer, and seeking medical care in this gritty port town was not high on my tourist to-do list. I cranked up the AC and went to sleep.
I woke up around two in the morning and reached out to touch Jake’s back. He was burning. I woke him up, bundled him into a cold shower despite his protestations and re-administered the cold compress. He also took another dose of paracetamol. I was looking up the nearby hospitals, because every bit of literature about heatstroke makes clear that it is a medical emergency and you must seek emergency care, though trying to find adequate medical care in a small town in the middle of the night was a little bit daunting. Jake was firmly against this, saying that he was fine despite the raging fever, and so after a few minutes of disagreement we decided to go back to sleep, because we were flying back to Bali in the morning and that was definitely a much better place to seek medical attention.
He still had a fever in the morning, so I packed up our bags while my sweet dude lay on the bed shivering. I didn’t know if getting on a flight was a good idea, but I had already looked up the international hospital in Bali – which was ten minutes from the airport – and knew that it was our best option. We were also out of pills. Google told us that Labuan Bajo airport had a pharmacy, so we decided to chance it, because the driver whisking us to the airport in the back of his truck said their wasn’t enough time to go to the pharmacy in town. Unsurprisingly, there was no pharmacy in this tiny regional airport, so we had to ask our fellow passengers for some relief. After one very kind woman basically unpacked her case in order to find them – and then slipped us some extras after we’d said we didn’t need them – Jake was medicated and we were boarding the plane with gratitude. Although Jake was still skeptical about needing to go to the hospital, I was adamant, and not about to start a three-hour journey to a small beach town without confirmation that Jake wasn’t in the throes of some kind of medical emergency.
Then of course, as these things happen, his fever broke. He took a short nap on the very air-conditioned plane and woke up feeling chipper and, most importantly, cool to the touch. After we’d collected our bags I reluctantly admitted that maybe the hospital was no longer necessary, though continued resting definitely was, and we started our journey north.
The drive passed without incident, though I’m sure I irritated Jake by insistently feeling his forehead every five minutes. I booked our accommodation from my phone. Yet again, we ran out of water.
Finally, we got to Amed. The online listing did not provide a direct address to the little bungalow we had booked, so we had the driver drop us at what looked like a sensible corner. In the end, of course, we then had to tramp around on the scalding black sand in the heat of the day, looking for accommodation of which we did not know the name. I was freaked out about Jake walking around in the sun carrying his big backpack, given he had only just got rid of a fever that had lasted well over twelve hours, but I couldn’t carry both of them so alas, he had no choice. After wandering along the beachfront, my phone continually crashing every time we tried to look at the map or find the written directions, we found our place. They had no record of our booking. As we showed them our booking receipt from an hour prior, Jake quietly pointed out that I had booked the accommodation for a night too long, wasting thirty pounds in the process (we decided to stay somewhere a little nicer for our final few days, in part because Jake would need to spend quite a bit of time inside resting). I felt a little deflated, especially because the accommodation was not as nice as the pictures had shown and was made a lot less appealing by the fact that our room was opposite the construction site for a new set of bungalows, the creation of which was in process as we settled into our room. Then I realised I had left my nice sunglasses on the floor of the car we’d drove to Amed in, which was long gone.
It was not our finest few hours. But we took a deep breath, left the construction zone, found a little warung for lunch and figured out how to refund the extra night I’d booked. At least Jake was feeling better, and I had some cool, fresh mango juice, and our final two days of diving awaited. Welcome to Amed.