Day 198: Masterchef

Wed. 27th February 2013

Not sure I will ever get bored with turtle photos!My diving course has now finished and I want to put my new knowledge to good use. Besides the diving here is so good (and I’m enjoying it so much) that it would be wrong not to do a few fun dives whilst we’re here. There is no rush though (particularly after Janet’s hectic day yesterday – not!) and so I go for the 11:30 rather than the 9:00 dive. This gives me a chance to read the instruction manual (shock horror) for my camera to see how to set up a custom white balance so that my underwater photos are less blue.

Underwater housing for my cameraDiving is a different experience when you are not on a course – there is less hand holding and more expectation that you will know what you are doing. Even so, I am still well looked after. My kit is assembled for me and I’m helped into my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device – a waistcoat with airbags essentially) and we go through a proper safety check before entering the water. Much more professional than the first dive I did after getting my original qualification when everyone just bundled on their kit and leapt off the boat leaving me wondering what was happening.

Stone fish - a great camouflage. Do not touch, very poisonous! As it was a fun dive, I was able to take my camera down with me – I wanted to put some of Adrienne’s tips into practice. When we got down to the bottom (around 24m), visibility was not as good as it had been on previous dives. The grey skies and heavy rain (more about that in Janet’s piece later) should have been a warning and the heavy swell meant that the waves were churning up the sand on the sea bed. I also struggled to set a white balance on the camera whilst underwater – what was relatively simple whilst in our room became problematic with the camera in its housing with the cumbersome buttons and in poor light that is distinctly blue to the naked eye. Whatever the reason, the camera didn’t like the lighting and so today’s photos are still very blue.

Lionfish - just not quite in focus!Still, my ability to get close to the subject is improving, and I got some shots that I am very pleased with (like the turtle and the Stonefish) and some that were so close to being great – if only the Lionfish was in focus). Taking video worked a little better and so I have included my Cuttlefish video which captures just how alien it looks and moves – I never knew they looked like this or were so big!


Cuttlefish swimming off Gili Trawangan from Dave Hornsey on Vimeo.

The day started out sunny enoughI was determined that at least one of us would walk around the island whilst we were here, so I set off at 10am to be sure I was back for lunch when Dave returned from his dive. The sun was shining and so armed with my big sunhat, camera and water to drink I set off. Plenty of time to keep playing with my camera without the big housing Dave had to contend with. I managed a few arty pics before I had reached the north westerly most point and an hour had passed already. I saw some dive boats bobbing around on the site where Dave would shortly be but no time to hang about to see it.

Dive boat like Dave'sThe north and west of the island is sparsely populated with just trees and beaches, the latter covered in natural and plastic flotsam. There are signs of more hotels being built so they will need to sort that problem and I think the island will soon be totally built up. The sky was darkening and suddenly the heavens opened so I ran for shelter under the nearest tree as there were no bars in sight. A horse and cart with two Japanese passengers passed me but they only commented that I looked wet but did not stop. The tree mostly sheltered me but my hat got soaked!  In a lull in the rain, I managed to speedwalk (no running for me) to the south of town and shelter in the bar attached to one of the posh hotels and use their WiFi to let Dave know I may be late for lunch.

After the (first) delugeToday was one of those days where we just seemed to be out of sync with the weather. Janet got caught out this morning, then it was clear for most of the afternoon right up until it was time to head out again whereupon it started chucking it down again. When we signed up, yesterday, for our cookery class, we were told that the maximum class size was 6. As it turned out, it was just the two of us – the two Slovenian girls we met in reception were just sheltering from the rain.

We're happy but the chef looks so bored!Actually, it was the two of us plus half a dozen boisterous helpers – including a chef who, as it was his last day, seemed a bit demob happy. We had 6 dishes to make in an hour or so and the chef quickly decided that, just like Danny Baker’s Sausage Sandwich Game, this would be a metaphor for a Leeds Utd v Liverpool (or was it Man. City) game. (All I know is that I banned any mention of Man Utd).

The menu for todayIt was actually quite fun. With the ingredients all prepared and measured out and all of the washing up done for us, we got do the good bits of a bit of chopping of herbs and spices and the cooking itself. The ingredients heavily featured chilli and garlic as you would expect but also palm sugar, lemongrass (lovely) and galengal (related to ginger). We should, though, have been more suspicious of the quantity of peppercorns that went in the mix.

Hard at work!The dishes we cooked included the Mie Goreng (chicken and noodles) that we have often eaten in Indonesia and peanut (satay) sauce as you’d expect. However, we also cooked fish (Snapper) in a yellow curry sauce steamed in banana leaf – we were told that aluminium foil is an acceptable substitute for banana leaf, but it doesn’t have the same ring. My favourite was the Ayam Tallywang – grilled chicken in a marinade sauce. The (green) steamed dumplings for dessert made from sticky rice flour with a palm sugar centre were just weird – worse for Janet, they were coated in grated coconut.

Our feast!In the end it was declared an honourable draw and we retired upstairs to the dining room where our food was then served to us. Very tasty it was too, though a couple of the dishes would have been even better if they had (many) fewer peppercorns in. Still this was a good way of learning a little more about Indonesian culture as well as learning some new recipes for when we get home.


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