Countdown to Infinity

Today we visited Blongas Bay in Lombok with very fond memories. Five years ago we came here on diving holiday; pre-marriage, pre-baby, pre-landrover. This still remains one of the best dives we have ever done, and here is a short story we wrote about our experience (or mishap) from way back then.

60 minutes. We finish our first dive. The crew doze under towels, eluding the scorching sun, while two boys in their underwear prise oysters from nearby rocks. We lay in the bottom of the pitching boat, our lunch heaving in unison with the rising swell. No sun screen or water, scraps of clothing offer only paltry shelter. We wait.

45 minutes. “You have map?” probes our driver as he cuts recklessly around traffic, grazing cows and octopus drying on the roadside. “Sorry, no. Do you know where we are going?” we ask, eyes wide, as he slows sharply, incongruously, for a pothole. “My first day, but no problem, I go Blongas many times” he states, as our knuckles whiten against door handles and stomachs tighten around the omelette sandwiches we ate for breakfast.

30 minutes. Time unwinds in a corrugated stream, the road narrows to a muddy scar. We question our driver’s assertion. He consults a group of men who stand as one, yell advice and point in different directions; three leads, all of them wrong. An old man climbs into the car and smiles through his thin beard, arms waving in frantic instruction. We drive until the man, defeated, climbs out, shrugs and wanders away. “He not know” says the driver, his face creased with concern “nobody knows”.

15 minutes. We are hours late, bones rattled loose from the road. “Many criminals in this area. Steal engine two days ago, very bad” laments our guide as we scramble into the out-rigger. “No dive boat today, we use fishing boat!” A tiny wooden thing, holes in the floor plugged with old shirts.

No ladder, no shade to protect us from the vengeful sun. It feels like tempting fate to trust such a meagre vessel.

10 minutes. We motor from the bay, alternating between two decrepit outboards; neither sustaining their own wheeze and splutter for more than a handful of minutes. Over the water sits a miniscule rock straddled by an imposing, rusted lighthouse, its winking eye forlornly urging all to stay clear. White water surges against its steep sides like soldiers storming a fortress. “This place called Magnet” utters our guide, his voice tinged with reverence, “it brings everything”.

1 minute. “We go now” our guide declares, rousing from sleep. Anticipation rising, we conduct the ritual of assembling and donning gear and scale the tall sides of the tossing boat. We smile at the crew who nod knowingly, armed with the knowledge of experience. “Ready?” We roll. Sky and sea trade places and the blue infinity of Blongas opens beneath us.


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