So, hearing the bike is ready, we head off to the customs office at the docks to get our Timor Carnet exit stamped. The view of the dock from the office. Another ship
That done, back to the shipper’s. We do more paperwork and pay for the receiving. Then off to see another customs guy who inspects the Carnet, etc. and off we go to break the seal on the container
A forklift empties crates and finally at the back, three bikes
The Aussie kids have decided to do the day in a different order and I’m in first place, which means having to roll their bikes out to get to Lucinda.
Three RTW bikes. Awesome
Our Timor-Leste visa is now on a short fuse and we have to be quick.
So here’s Timor-Leste and Indonesia. We’re going to be riding up the western crescent
The island is Indonesia to the west, Timor-Leste to east. Garmin map, so no border shown
The day’s track, riding along the coast away from Dili
Climbing above the water on terrible but fun roads
That’s our road on the hillside
Small villages, and rice
Big trees aren’t usual but are sculptural when they occur
Open dry plains between the hills, with cattle tracks
Fishing is the thing all along the coast. The boats have a converted outboard and a large gill net
Our first gas station. Out of town, gas is sold in liter bottles roadside
After spending two days out in the east, it’s time to head for the Indonesian border
The road follows the coast for a while
The road is sometimes dirt, sometimes sort-of paved
Past old Portuguese buildings
Lunch time. I’ve been looking forward to getting into the Asian roadside lunchtime lifestyle, where you meet and talk to people and test your immunity to local bugs
Fish is the thing. It’s fantastic. Spicy, semi-dry, and pretty packets of rice. I watch the locals to see how it’s done. Easy: fork to pull the fish apart then fingers, pinching off chunks of rice and pushing stuff around with it
We’re not sure why, but there are cane hoops through all the villages
Typical Timorese homes
More Timorese humour: We’re riding along, minding our own business, when we get to roadblock: kids. They’ve put some small logs on the road and are waving us down a detour
It’s a lousy old track and would be deep mud in the rain. But we follow it, already clued in to what’s going on
And out the other side. We look back, the road’s clear, and of course it’s a prank
The Timor-Leste border. Piece of cake, everyone laughing and having a good time
Then the Indonesian border. Although it’s reasonably organized, it’s the most complex land crossing yet. The order: Bike customs and Carnet completion, with careful inspection of the document in case it’s bogus. Vehicle registration docs, etc. Immigration, which is an interview and careful paperwork inspection. Customs, and gear teardown, bike and personal belongings. Then a detailed police interview with two cops, who gave me a fruit juice because it may take a while. But they’re all really nice and want photos of themselves and Lucinda
One more thing: Now we’re in Indonesia, the objective is to get to Belawan, Sumatra, maybe 6 or 7000K away, without incident. Based on the unanimous agreement of previous riders, this is the hardest country to ride through with the possible exception of India. Java in particular, where there are 140 million people travelling on not so many roads. So we’re going to be focused on the ride, planning the routes and days well, and cultural immersion will have to come second.
So, back on the road. It’s completely random. This path fits a truck, because one pulled in behind me and patiently waited and waved as I rushed back to continue
That night my first Indonesian B&B. Guys hanging out staring at Lucinda. This is an uncomfortable reality in Indonesia and eyes are on you the whole time
Miles of this and lots of waterlilies. The rainy season is mostly over. One of the benefits of a looong time in Australia is the weather timing for the next 6 months is perfect
The further west we got, the better the roads
Our second night, in Sasi. A small chaotic town
At the home stay, military police wanted photos
The last day on Timor
Mountainous and cool. It’s been brutal. Very hot and very humid
Through various small towns
And eventually over the last mountains to the coast
Trucks being washed in the river. A sight we’ve missed
Then it rained hard
Then into Kupang, where we had to wait 5 days for a ferry to Flores, the next island west
On Sunday, we headed down to the ferry terminal 4 hours early. It’s the ferry from Hell. Anyway, all’s pretty cheery as we wait
Wow, this kid has a helmet on. Most don’t
In Indonesia every cop is your friend, if you’ve obeyed RTW rule #1
The always colorful trucks. This is the standard size, quite small
And on we go. The panniers, now only 70% full, have 6 bottles of water and various food we grabbed-and-bagged at the roadside in them
It’s sooo hot when we pile in you can’t breath. The locals all look calm
In fact judging from these kids you’d never guess what was ahead. There are about 500 hundred of us on a small ship with one passenger room and a small deck, and 15 to 17 hours ahead of us
Leaving the dock
Later, at night, up on deck later they’re asleep or playing cards. It’s not so hot up here, maybe only 90F/ but we don’t want to crash here
So we buy a straw mat from a vendor, roll it out on the steel deck next to Lucinda, read from the iPad for a few hours and sleep in our riding suit for padding
The crossing from Timor to Flores is roughly up the center of this map
From the Xanata Gusmao reading room, museum and art gallery (see later), an early Portuguese chart of Timor and islands to the north
(Well clearly this blog isn’t doing a good job of going private. It’s currently in use verifying I am who I say I am by various agencies issuing visas and permits for travel ahead)
Let’s start with an epic. Getting my Indonesian visa has been a battle. The usual procedure requires proof of exit, an air ticket for example, or not, depending on the mood of the day. The most stringent visa requirements so far, if they want it to be. It took me 5 or 6 days, 2 of those being multiple visits. Finally, they decided I needed a sponsor in Indonesia. Steph Jeavons to the rescue. She’d passed through recently and had friends there, and one (Adi, who’ll feature down the road) came through with an overkill sponsorship letter. Hooray. Plan B was ugly, so we won’t go there.
The Indonesian embassy gate, which I came to know too well
And the view down the street from where I sat waiting for various events at either 6:00 or 9:00 am, or 2:00 pm
Bummer. There’s only been one other border/visa hassle up until now, when I tried to re-enter Guatemala after too brief an exit, against the rules. I got helped out there too, by Julio. I feel ok about it, as I’ve done the same for others. You get by with a little help from your friends.
We’ve done a few cultural things. This is the Resistencia Timorense (archivo & museo). It’s one of only about a dozen brand new buildings we’ve seen in Dili, pop about 250k.
No photos inside are allowed. Normally I ignore this, but this is somehow different. Inside is the history of the Timorese resistance movement from the Portuguese withdrawal in 1974, through Indonesian annexation to the eventual UN brokered founding of independent Timor-Leste in 2002, the world’s youngest country.
The main focus of the exhibits and photographs is on the Fretilin and the military wing Falintil, and the story of the greatest hero of the resistance, Xanata Gusmao. It’s very moving.
Another excellent cultural building is the Xanata Gusmao reading room, museum and art gallery
Dili is on the ocean. It’s very hot and very humid. At the tail-end of wet season, small storms roll in about every two days. It’s more uncomfortable than any day in Australia.
The ocean water is hot. it’s crocodile country and I heard a few days ago a 3 meter croc patrols this shoreline. But the kids swim anyway
The fisherman leave in the morning and are back early
Cleaning the small fish
So what am I still doing here, 17 days later? Well somewhere out there at anchor is the ‘ANL Darwin Trader’, the freighter that Lucinda is on. She left late and has been parked out there somewhere for days. I’m not alone. Two young Aussie brothers left Darwin before me and have been waiting 4 or 5 days longer. I can’t drink all the time as they can, so we get together when I’m able. Their story when I get a photo not in a bar.
Dili is a slightly crazy, unregulated place, population about 250k. Despite that, the Timorese are kind and gentle. More on the real story in the next post, maybe