Saturday, 3 December 2011

To Tawau and back again

In which the Indonesian Embassy run out of stickers
Starring Noel who didn’t really know anyone after all and Chris who kept mysteriously reappearing.

Off the eastern coast of the Borneo, just over the border into Indonesia is a little of archipelago of islands that look like the world’s most perfect islands. They are rather hard to get to – several ferries, possibly the hiring of speed boat – but this means they’re blissfully uncrowded and wonderfully unspoilt.  It’s fair to say that we were over excited.  We got a minibus to the border town of Tawau gathered up all our paperwork (printing tickets, getting photos taken etc) and set out of the Indonesian Embassy to get our visas.  The embassy however had run out of visa stickers.  “Come back in one week” said the man behind the counter who eventually responded to our thumping on the closed window.  Now, as Lonely Planet points out – there is no ‘wow’ in Tawau – it is a boring, functional city with limited internet access that we immediately set utilising to work out how to get out.  We looked at flying to the islands (very difficult, very expensive), we looked at flying to Kota Kinabalu to get the visas and flying back (ludicrous) and eventually we gave up.  I took myself off to bed having self diagnosed my flu like symptoms as either Dengue Fever or Malaria.  Cath rolled her eyes sympathetically and the girls went out to dinner.  Meanwhile, Noel, the hotel night manager took pity on us and listed out his various influential contacts at the Indonesian Consulate who were sure to be able to help us.  Hope was renewed.  He said to call him first thing in the morning.

We rang Noel at 9 as instructed.  He was still asleep.  He said he would get back to us which he duly did at about 11am.  His contacts were currently queueing at the Indonesian Consulate.  Queuing?  The extremely influential people were queuing?  We called the Sea Ventures rig who confirmed that they would have us back for another three days and spent the rest of the afternoon doing what all girls do in cities without tourist attractions – shopping.

The next morning we were collected bright and early and driven back to Semporna and then taken back to the rig by boat.  It was like coming home - we knew everyone, we knew everything and better yet, Chris, one of the guys we had made friends with on the first stay was sitting on the deck practically waiting for us to get back!  This was the second time we had bumped into Chris by accident – the first time was as he surfaced from a dive while we were standing on Mabul Island waiting for a boat. 

The diving the second time round was just as good with another full day at Sipidan and a great dive at Paradise I that included three huge cuttlefish which have to be one of the strangest creatures in the sea.  Also quite tasty as we had discovered in KK.  

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