Timor-Leste

“You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

 J.R.R. Tolkien

It seemed like I had been stuck in Darwin of what seemed like an eternity when in actual fact it had only been about 9 days. I suppose it was due to having been riding with such rapidness from Perth my mind could not adjust back to the idea of being stationary. I was undoubtedly fortunate where I had ended up as well, the kindness of Dave allowing me to stay on his wonderful property for so long and all of the wonderful overlanders I had the pleasure of meeting as they passed through was a true pleasure but I must admit my feet were beginning to itch again.
Josh and I made it to Dili with relative ease, our flight was delayed by a good few hours but I didn’t take much notice. We had met another gentleman on the flight who was riding around the world on his KLR 650. He did come across as a bit of a lone wolf in some regards but we exchanged opinions, stories, and email addresses. We also met an Australian expat who was returning to Timor who truly enthusiastic about the place and had only been there for a few months. He gave us some truly helpful insight about the country and offered us his contact details if we ever needed any help, which we did.

I can’t say I had many ideas of what to expect when arriving in Timor. I hadn’t done much research and only really knew that it had been under a ruthless Indonesian occupation in recent history. The only other information was the constantly reoccurring statement from other travelers “Dili is a hole”

The flight over was quick, so quickly in fact that I didn’t have enough time to finish my coffee that was provided with the flight from Airnorth along with a price tag that could be only described as extortionate. On first impressions, there wasn’t a terribly large amount of infrastructure, on that note, there was barely any infrastructure at all! The airport appeared to be a solitary airstrip right next to what appeared as a lonesome decrepit building.

After purchasing our visas from the outdoor visa office and entered into the baggage collection, the roof looked as about as waterproof as a sieve and every tile looked as though it were either chipped or cracked. As we exited the building by a swarm of local taxi drivers all biding for our business. We soon chose a taxi with the help of our expat friend and we were on our way. The service vehicle was a dilapidated proton, which was most likely being held together with hope, cable ties and tape; it didn’t offer any sort of certainty. The driver couldn’t find where we were heading and took us to a nearby hotel that on appearance looked like it had been abandoned for the better part of a decade. It clearly wasn’t the place we were looking for, so after a brief tour of Dili in the poor proton (which the driver just lugged along in high gear) we got some help and eventually found out where we were heading.

The next day the Top End Traveller and I set about getting our bikes. Luckily our bikes had actually made it onto the boat! And even better the boat had been unloaded the afternoon we had arrived! We first went to the shipping agent where we were advised we would need to go to the port to get our carnets stamped in, then we returned to pay for the Dili port charges. When we had finally made it back to the port to find that our shipping agent had gone on their lunch break, their 3… hour… long… lunchbreak. Without many options, it was decided that we would just have to do the same.

Trust a fella with a 1000cc ‘Adventure’ bike to choose a Gloria Jeans as our lunch spot (still looking for a Starbucks sticker for that bike!). We returned to the port to be advised that they would have to call the man who had the keys to their warehouse. It clearly obviously would make absolutely no logical sense to keep them in the office or even at the port for that matter! After another hour of waiting, we were finally standing outside the container ready to wheel our bikes out. Our bikes had arrived without any damage and had been strapped down with some competency, however, I did notice that Bollore Logistics in Darwin had stolen two of my ratchet straps the treacherous miscreants! Timorese customs also showed no interest in checking our luggage for any goods we may have been trying to smuggle good thing as well, I did have a pair of headphones in my top box.

We returned to the hotel triumphantly with our bikes after only being in Timor for one day! It must be some sort of record. That night we met up with some other overland riders that also happened to be in Timor, two of which were riding on CT110s. They stole my idea the bastards!

All jokes aside though the more the merrier. I knew there was a fella called Tom who had been in Timor for a while traveling back to the UK on his CT110 from various postie fetish Facebook pages. However I wasn’t aware of Matt being there a true surprise, it must have been some sort of record! 3 potties outside Australia!

Tom is an English chap blessed with the gift of the gab and abnormal height, he is technically not even on a postie riding an NZ AG CT110, but I think I will keep calling a postie on account that it annoys him! Matt was a charming Britt with a uncompromisingly dry sense of humor who has been living abroad for a decade and is finally making his way home.

The next day I went to the Island of Ataru off the coast of Dili with Tom where I had the pleasure of staying with a local family. It was intriguing to see the way they lived, a mostly subsistent community growing most of their food amongst themselves of fishing from the sea. They lived in many simple houses made of breeze blocks and corrugated metal roofs. The bathrooms were basic with large basins of water and buckets for showering and the infamous squat toilet. The Timorese people I met exhibited so much kindness and had a very positive disposition, always greeting you as you walked by. My Host Moses and I had basic conversations using a Tetun to English dictionary where I picked up many Tetun words. After a couple of days of snorkeling and hiking, we returned to Dili where Tom and Matt’s Visas were awaiting them after a 7-week wait!

Matt, Tom and I decided we would ride together for a while as we figured it was the first time 3 posties would coincidentally show up in a foreign country for a while so we made our way towards the Timorese enclave Oecusse via ferry. The vessel to carry us named the Laju Laju, a somewhat questionable vessel. After precariously placing our bikes on the deck of the ferry we made our way to the upper back deck to secure ourselves a space to spend the night.

Disembarking from the ferry around 2am we set out on the mission for finding a place to sleep in a town, which was close to being entirely asleep. Thankfully there were a few locals around whom we could ask for a hotel, finally finding a small place and waking up the proprietors we had finally found a place to sleep.

The next morning we made a start straight for the Indonesian border. The roads we were on started out as pristine freshly laid double lane tarmac which soon deteriorated into the gravel and progressively got worse and worse, not the mention the incline we were having to climb. At around midday we arrived at the border, it wasn’t really marked at a border and by the poorly made and maintained roads. There wasn’t much signage to indicate where we were supposed to go. There was a ridiculous climb up a heavily rutted dirt track to the immigration office. Getting our passports stamped out was a breeze, thankfully the immigration official could speak decent English. Fantastic all was going well and we were officially on our way to Indonesia we just needed Timor to stamp out our Carnets and we could be on our merry way. This was except for the fact that we couldn’t find a customs official anywhere. Apparently, they had gone to lunch… in Indonesia and there was no way we could enter without having our bikes signed out of Timor. So we decided to make our way back into Timor for a delicious meal of PotMie (PotMie is an instant noodle cup which we had nicknamed DogMie for its delightful flavour) as illegal immigrants. After our nutritious meal, we made our way back to customs to get stamped out. Thankfully there was now a customs official to stamp us out, the only problem being that customs had lost the stamp which they needed for our bikes. We asked our friendly official if maybe he could sign us out without the stamp but maybe if he could first confirm with Indonesian customs that they would sign us in. So our official for the second time that day made his way across into Indonesia to ask if this would be acceptable. Thankfully Indonesia did comply with the request and we were quickly on our way over the border and onto smooth tarmac roads.

Love and Mercy,

Liam

 

 

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