James A on the Obelix trip on 5th March 1978

James A looking at the Obelix on 5th March 1978

4th March 1978

Alastair L rang me at 6 pm on Friday 3rd March 1978 asking if I wanted to come on the Obelix trip the next day. I had said some time before that I was interested but he had not been able to contact me because of one of the frequent telephone breakdowns. There was a meeting that evening to finalise arrangements. I went to the meeting then dashed out to Blok M to get a snorkel and some flippers. Next morning Mike W picked me up at 5.15 am and gave me a lift down to the Obelix moored in Tanjung Priok harbour.

The Obelix was a smallish motor boat, about 45 feet long, with a main cabin with bunks and tables and a deck above which could be covered with a tent. There was a smaller cabin down below for six people. There was a small bar and kitchen area and Alain the skipper slept behind the wheel house. It had been specially built for divers and there was a platform at the stern.

There was Alain and two Indonesian boys as crew who also served meals and washed up. There were fifteen of us including Alastair L, Mike W, James A, Marian S and Juliet S. The first place we moored was between some islands and had a strong current so I only swam near the rope trailed from the stern. Others went upstream in the zodiac to snorkel back with the current. I did go out in the zodiac to the reef and saw that the coral was all pale brown and beige colours. The reds seemed to be filtered out by the water, very unlike the TV pictures. Later some did some diving.

We had dinner, then played charades. I and a few others slept on deck, others slept in the main cabin where the tables converted into bunks. Next day we went to another reef further away. A fishing boat came alongside and tried to sell us a huge live grouper. Mike and Trish went out in the dingy but got too far away and couldn't row against the wind and current so had to be rescued by Alain in the zodiac.

After breakfast some of us went ashore at Pulai Putri for a wander around. Dusky maidens swam in lovely clear water over white sand - so different from Jakarta's squalid canals and docks.There was a large ketch there owned by a New Zealander who had bought it in Bali after it had been confiscated from a smuggling gang.

We moved to another reef where there was practically no current. I went out in the dingy and snorkelled around it as I was not a strong swimmer. It was the first time I had looked at coral with its small coloured fish properly. The shallow water over the reef was lovely and warm, sometimes I could feel the warm water surging up. I swam back to the boat about a hundred yards away pulling the dingy cord while Alastair pushed.

Some of us dived off the top deck practising for a diving competition which never happened, people were too tired. We set off for Jakarta playing cards and arrived back after dark.

Obelix photos - March 1978

On the deck of the Obelix on 30th July 1978

On the deck of the Obelix on 30th July 1978

29th July 1978

Mike W got together seventeen people to go on another Obelix trip, including Mike W, Gordon B and his two daughters, Marion S and Juliet S. We set off at 1.30 pm on Saturday so it was a shorter trip. At 5.30 pm we still had not reached our destination and it would get dark soon so we dropped anchor between two islands. Some swam to the reef and some like me took the dingy and swam from there.

It was getting dark and difficult to see the coral. Some missed it altogether and spent the time on a sandbank. Eventually I was swimming to the dingy looking down into pitch black water underneath which was quite un-nerving.

I slept on top again but it got quite rough and windy. In the early hours the boat rolled a long way and I heard bottles crashing off the bar in the cabin below. At the same time Karen rolled off her bunk. When she got up she stepped on a bottle which badly gashed her leg. There was a lot of blood and I still have a large bloodstain on my bag which was near her. It bled an awfull lot but she was bandaged up and put back to bed.

Sunday was quiet and sunny. We reached our destination and found Peter M's yacht Sundowner was there. I did some more snorkelling and some did some diving.

Obelix photos - July 1978

Andrew L, Juliet S and Gill T on Melingu on 24th December 1978

Andrew L, Juliet S and Gill T on Melingu on 24th December 1978

Christmas 1978

We left on the Obelix on 23rd December 1978 for Christmas on an island called Melingu. It was used by campers and had a large hut for sleeping and basic showers surrounded with rattan screens.

There were nineteen of us plus six French divers and two Americans who spent the time fishing, two German girls and one or two others. Our group was Alastair L, Mike W, Gordon B and his daughter Janet, John D, Juliet S, Ron S, Dennis, Lyndsay, John S, Farquar S, Richard, Marion S, Gill T, Sarah, Andrew L, Shami P, Eli and me.

It was rough going out and seven or eight were sick but I just managed to keep it in. I saw a shark's fin about fifty yards from the boat coming towards us. I waited a few seconds before saying anything and saw it again, about five feet of its unmistakeable body in the crest of a wave about thirty yards away. I mentioned it quietly but people suspected I had seen a dolphin, but I knew it was a shark.

We had some of Gordon B's curry, then a swim. The beach had a shallow slope at first, then sloped steeply. There was some coral there and I swam along it. At one point a barracuda about fifteen inches long swam along beside me, waiting for titbits from a catch by a larger fish (me) I suppose. It had nasty looking teeth but obviously wasn't going to attack me.

There were huge shoals of small yellow and black fish, very pretty, and a strange squid-like fish with large eyes and a floppy tail that swam in the direction of its tail. At one time I was standing in about three feet of water when I felt something nipping my leg. I looked down and saw one solitary piece of coral in the sand and one small fish that was obviously guarding its territory.

We had brought a vietnamese girl out with us who did our cooking. It rained very hard at night and the barn started dripping through the thatch. Ron S put up his umbrella around the end of his bed. A rat scuttled along the top of the rattan screen above my head. I watched a mosquito settle on the bare back of Lyndsay next to me and didn't know whether to slap it and wake him or leave it. I watched it fill up with red blood then fly slowly to the screen above my head where it settled to digest its meal.

Christmas Eve was sunny and hot so I did some more swimming and took a walk around the island. We were going to have roasted lambs in the evening and the fire was started very early. As the young girl squatted down to turn the spit a monitor lizard about six feet long came up behind her having smelt the food. She turned and saw it when it was only just behind her, screamed and it turned and ran away. There seemed to be two of them which hung around the rubbish dump and I managed to get quite close to get a photo.

Once when we were sunbathing on the beach a lizard ran right through the middle of us to get to the water where it glided gracefully away. One morning I had just had a shower and opened the rattan cubicle door when I saw a monitor lizard a few feet away from me in the corridor. It must have been intrigued by the noise of water. I couldn't go anywhere and after jumping back a few feet along the corridor it turned and looked at me. We stared at each other for a few seconds then it scampered away.

We had our two barbecued lambs with a spicy sauce provided by the Frenchmen and a whole lot more Christmas food and wine, then started singing. Gordon set up a small fir tree with decorations. Marion was dragged off into the water by one of the Frenchmen where she cut her wrist on some coral. It started raining hard. Ron S had collapsed into a chair and was being fussed over by the German girl but he just grunted. Later when he had got to bed she was cuddling him again but he still just grunted.

Marion came in with Lyndsay but the pressure lamp had gone out and they couldn't find their correct beds. There was much tripping up, giggling and repeated uncoherent phrases. Lyndsay had slept next to me the night before but managed to find a bed somewhere else.

I woke up much later to hear Gordon and Mike putting stockings with presents on our beds. They proved to be T-shirts with funny slogans such as "Before you kiss a prince you have to kiss a few toads" for Ron S with a picture of a toad, also "Flies breed disease - keep yours buttoned" for Juliet S; I am a virgin (this is a very old T-shirt" for Marion S; "Member of the US breast-stroking team" for Lyndsay; mine said "It is alright to disagree with me, I don't consider it rude or impolite. After all, you are entitled to your own stupid opinion"; "Fragile, fondle with care" for the German girl.

In the morning many people found their clothes and cameras left on the beach were soaked. It was a dull rainy Christmas Day. I went for a swim and we returned to Jakarta after lunch, passing a lovely local sailing ship that ferried goods around the islands.

Obelix photos - Christmas 1978