Saturday, January 31, 2009

No dily daly in Dili

I rode into Dili, into a place full of UN cars, some troops with rifles, mad one way streets, and a police presents second to none, it was a different Timor than the rural road I just covered, it seemed weird to me. And expensive, another traveler I met who had just arrived from Australia said Dili is more expensive than Australia, the countries currency is the US dollar, shame it was not bloody Rupiah as I had a truck load of them!!

Wednesday morning arrived, this would be my last day on foreign soil and of course it had to be one of the craziest, of extreme lows and extreme highs. I woke early, so I thought, I was still on Indo time and Timor was an hour ahead so I lost an hour straight away but did not discover this until later. I had to first go to the shipping agent for Perkins to sort out what needed to be done to get my bike on the boat. Also at the backpacker were 2 German lads shipping their bikes as well, they had already been washing their bikes for a day and still had not finished, one of them asked if he could come to the agent with me, so he jumped on the back, we set off and instantly we were pulled over by a cop, as they are just everywhere, what now I thought I have no time!

Then the German guy says to me “I have no helmet” as if he knew that he was meant to have one, argh shit here we go, the cop spoke no English so asked me to follow him to the station, I quickly told the German to get off I will go alone, I did not want to ride into a police station with him on the back wearing no helmet, that would just look even worse. So here I was at the police station, forever looking at the time on my phone, hoping it would not take long. Wrong I was, an officer came into the room and told me that all passengers need a helmet, fair enough I said, very sorry for the mistake now can I pay the fine and go, nothing is ever that simple Robbo! They then had to fill out forms, asking for my license which I produced, then my bike papers which I produced, another problem, they wanted to see my Timor registration papers for the bike, I told him that I was a tourist and that I am just passing through and showed him where customs had stamped the bike in, he could not understand any of this. Now he wanted to fine me for no papers and no helmet of the passenger, this was getting out of hand. I quickly produced my import approval papers for Australia and said “I need to get that bike out there on a ship today its going to Australia”. Eventually he started to see the light of day and agreed to only fine me for the helmet issue of my passenger. Besides it was not me paying, my German friend was getting this bill. So now I had to follow a cop on his bike to another office across town to pay the fine, at this point I question weather the office was open as by my clock it was only just past 7, of course its open they replied pointing to the clock on the wall, it said just after 8, shit I lost an hour just like that and as it stood I had no time! Off to pay the fine, it was 9 dollars, but the system was down and they told me to come back later in the afternoon, I could not but I had to pay the fine as the police were holding my documents and until I produced a receipt I would not get them back, so frustrating. I even tried to give them 10 dollars and let the cop be my witness that I paid the fine and then I go collect my papers, nope they could not see that working, time was passing. They eventually understood my anxious plight and after a discussion they turned with huge grins and said no pay, you can go, my god this was getting crazy now, all this time and to be told I can go, so back to the cop station to explain to them I did not have to pay and collect my papers, they understood and made me sign a declaration saying that the offence happened, I signed it and then got a police escort to the agents office, arriving 2 hours after I first set out, well for me it was 3 as I lost an hour!!

I got the paper work sorted, I needed to have the bike clean by at least 3pm and then get it in the container as the ship was leaving that night. As I went back to my bike the cop was still waiting there, hmm what now I thought, he explained I owed now 20 dollars for the declaration and had to go back to the station, nope this was not an option, I had 4 hours to wash a bike that usually takes 2 days, now weather this 20 dollar fee was for real or not I did not care, it was the German’s money, I gave him the 20 and said I am sorry but I have to go and rode off. What a hectic start to my 2nd and last day in Timor.

I washed and washed, always finding new spots to clean, also there the German’s frantically washed there bikes, I collected my 20 dollars after telling him the story. Eventually I reached the point that I thought would do, the stead was glowing, I just hoped good enough for Aussie regulations. I left the Germans still cleaning their bikes at three, went to the Port, got my customs stamp and immigration stamp out of East Timor, why immigration you ask, I will explain later, then back to the agent with everything in order. I followed a man then to the container yard and road the mother Ship into a container, strapped it down and then got a lift back to the port in a truck, it is at the point that the highs began to happen.

The mother ship ready for its voyage.

At Last!

Finally I got word, the ferry was to start up again, although I was still skeptical and would only know when I was actually on it, so the night before it was due to leave I camped out at the ferry terminal yet again eagerly awaiting its arrival, come morning there it was docked at the wharf, what a joyous sight, so began a very busy next few days. The ferry from Ende to Kupang saw my final ferry ride, Indonesia has just been one ferry ride after another, this one was not bad, the ferry was empty and the ocean as smooth as silk, but the Indonesians love playing there pop music at maximum volume to a crowd of sleeping people, can’t figure that one out.

What a great sight this was.

I arrived at 1 in the morning, quickly I rode the steed off and found a small bit of land in the shadows of the night to pitch my tent, accompanied by a few pigs and goats rummaging for food, it was not long and I was packed up again at 6am and on my way to find custom to attempt in getting my 1000 US dollar bond back I paid entering the country with the bike. After finding Customs I explained the story to their confused faces, then I rang Bernard the Customs guy back in Belawan to explain to them over the phone, it worked but there was nothing they could do, I had to go onto the border town of Atapupu and get it there, I questioned weather they would have that much money there, they assured me they would. Time was not on my side unless I felt like spending a few weeks in Dili, there was a Perkins ship leaving on Thursday, it was now Tuesday and I had to ride to East Timor, reach Dili, sort out the shipping and also wash my bike, now when I mean wash my bike I mean make it look like it just came off the show room, Australian Quarantine are extremely strict and my bike has to be clean enough to eat my dinner off, it took Dirk 2 days to get his old lady clean, so yes time was not on my side.

Kids with home made toys at ferry terminal.
I set off across the last bit of Indonesia and reached Atapupu by midday, the customs guys could not believe how little time it took me to cover the distance from Kupang, I was moving!! So basically I had to go over the whole story again and ring Bernard from Belawan again to explain it all. I could get my money back but the bank was in a town 30 k’s back and if I wanted US dollars it might take 2 days to obtain or the other option was to take it in Rupiah, hmm I guess it was Rupiah for me, so after some discussion about the rate and the ‘fee’ I had to pay for the express paperwork I got a wad of 11 million Rupiah, 975 US dollars back, I was happy enough, I just had to go. Of course all this took 3 hours to happen but I managed to get across the border before the 4 o’clock closing time.

The friendly customs guys at the Indo/Timor border.

Instantly I could see East Timor was a poorer country or at least the infrastructure has been slowed by its rocky past, the roads were in a bad way, a lot of gutted houses and people living in shacks with straw roofs, I liked it and the people seemed very friendly with huge grins and waves as I rode by. The road snaked along the coast and it was quite beautiful, then it hit me, this was it I had made it to the last country before Australia, I could not believe it, I started grinning in my helmet, I punched a fist into the air, a sense of achievement came over me, I felt I had done it, I even gave the tank a quick pat and told the ever trusty mother ship “well done girl, you got me here, what a machine”. So making the most of my last moments I waved to as many people as I could, it was like they were cheering me on to the line, they had no clue where I had come from.
Of course I am not home yet.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Still I wait

I wait, with still no word of a ferry. I have received many words of encouragement from many different people which I appreciate so much and some of you have suggested if I pass through certain areas let them know, I would actually like to do a lap around Australia just to visit everyone of you but I would need another year, but I need a rest and the wallet is almost spent so just to give you all an idea this is my planned route through Australia.

Once arriving in Darwin I will then head south to Alice Springs where I will meet up with a mate of mine, then head out to Ayres Rock for a photo or two with the Mother ship and big red rock and since the Simpson desert is closed we will then head down the Oodnadatta track, yes for you non Aussies that is a word, south through the outback to Adelaide which from there is only a 4 hour ride to the finish line in Victoria. So no Sydney, Melbourne or Perth it’s straight down the middle for me.

But first I have a boat to catch, the island of Timor to cross and again another boat to Darwin before any of the above plan starts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Deja Vu

My current situation is almost a year ago to the day when I was waiting in Djibouti for the Yemen visa and then the boat, but this time around it seems worse as I am so close to home, its only 1000 k’s in a straight line to Darwin but right now it looks like at least 3 weeks before I will even set eyes on my home land.

A picture of despair, this is Monday morning, there should be people everywhere and a very large ferry docked...but nothing!

Monday came and went, the day the ferry is meant to leave for Kupang, Timor, I was so desperate that against what everyone had told me I woke at 6am and rode the 10 k’s to the ferry terminal just to make sure that it did not arrive in the night, of course it was not there but I just had to see for myself. After running around all Ende trying to get an answer and making phone calls to every number I could find I have found out that there will be no ferries this week and next week, beyond that they are unsure, the seas are just too rough at this time of the year. So for me it’s a very frustrating situation, stuck in a non desirable place with nothing to do at all, it sure does sound like Djibouti all over again. I have even been to the port to find a local fisherman and pay him a considerable sum to take me the 280 k’s across the ocean to Kupang but no one is up for it, the seas must be bad, so all I can do is wait.

Almost an Alien!

This seems like a real test of my patience which at the moment is running very thin, with yet another stone thrower that actually got me, I think the last attention seeker to do that was back in Mongolia, the constant calling out from the people everywhere you walk or ride and even now they have started to yell, F*@K YOU, I am not even sure they know what it means but they seem to get a kick out of it, all their efforts to get my attention go unanswered, I feel tired but its all just heightened due to the fact that again I am so so close to Australia, I have been away from Australia for over 5 years, what’s another 3-4 weeks…nothing I guess!

Always an admirer.

Nice pannier system...buckets!
Amongst the anxious waiting there is still some amazing things on offer, I took a ride to a place called Kelimutu, its another volcano but this one is full of water and the minerals within the holes of the volcano's cone transform the water into different colors as they dissolve, two complete different colors, dark almost black and the other turquoise, it was very beautiful, and I had the place to myself, was a very nice escape from the constant banter that goes on in the towns.

Kelimutu, the dark and turquoise water.

So close together but so different.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not there yet

I have left the hectic traffic of the Indonesia I first discovered, after leaving the island of Bali, I arrived to Lombok, still with a touch of tourism and busy streets but then after Lombok it was onto Sumbawa, the ferry ride was only 2 hours but it was like the ride took me back 10 years, what a difference, the roads were empty, the infrastructure seemed a lot less and the way of life was so much more relaxing, it was a welcome change. Even at a slow pace I covered the length of the island in no time and with no dramas. Then it was the long ferry to Flores, I arrived at the port in the late afternoon only to be told the seas where to rough so the ferry would not depart until 4am the following day, it was meant to leave at 6 that afternoon, so it meant a long wait at the port for me. The ferry did leave at 4am and for the next 9 hours I put up with loud talking Indonesia, they think they have to scream to be heard, a few small children amongst the crowd who thought it be a test to cry and scream the entire journey and about 20 boxes full 100’s of chickens that the combined chirping was like some kind of torture, I was glad to get of that boat, the longest is yet to come, Flores to Timor, 18 hours, I just can’t wait!!

The Mother Ship aboard a ferry.

Once in Flores it was of to find the dragons, the Komodo Dragons, Given the name due to the island they inhabit, Komodo Island but instead I went to Rinca island where I was told is a lot better to see the dragons, I understand why they are called what they are as ‘Rinca Dragon’ just does not have the same ring to it. Another boat journey for 2 and half hours to the island, paid a fortune to get into the park only to be told, after payment of course, that it’s the wrong time of year to find them, fortunately I did see them, well two and one was quite a size, just like an over seized Australian Goanna actually, docile looking buggers but I did not want to be on the receiving end of its claws or jaws so I kept my distance.
Lazy Lizards

Not exactley a fire breathing dragon, the lizard that is not me!

So with the Dragons spotted it was time to head toward Ende, the final Port on Flores where I will catch the last ferry to the Indonesian side of Timor. Flores is beautiful, again like Sumbawa, a bit back in time, the kids are waving like back in Laos and people are friendly. Also they way they look has changed, becoming more like what we recognize the look of people from Papua New Guinea.

I arrived, in the rain of course, to the Ende port just to confirm the once a week ferry will leave on Monday, the port was dead but I found one guy washing his clothes under a tap, in very broken English he explained yes Monday, after he pointed to the calendar I showed him on my mobile phone but then he said Monday No, and then made waving motions with his hands and blowing noises with his mouth, I figured out the seas where to rough by his gestures, hmm, this is not good, I asked when then?? He pointed to the following Monday on the calendar, Argh shit that was not what I wanted to hear, one more ferry and I might have to wait a week for it. I know it’s only a week out of what the 120 or so I have already done, but I just had my sights set on getting to Dili, and arriving in Darwin.

Well its not 100 percent yet but I will know Monday morning, I will either be on a boat or be in Ende for a week more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The final push

Tomorrow I will hit the road again for the last time before hitting home soil. I have been here in Bali for just over a week and its time to leave as my feet are itchy. It was not your typical stay in Bali that a large majority of people are here for, I spent it relaxing and eating nice food although on one occasion I headed out with my English mate Jeremy that I met first at Lake Toba then again for New Years in Yogyakarta. It was a strange mix of disco bright lights, loud music and loads of young travellers acting in non human ways, all quite a laugh really, I think my party days are over but all the same it was very entertaining. The next day which was today saw Jeremy and I partake in the other religious activity here in Bali, surfing, all I can say is we will not be lining up to the Billabong classic just yet or in the next few life times for that matter!

As nice as the rest has been it will be nice to leave behind the sun glass sellers, the offers of a taxi every 3 metres you walk, a massage, a T-shirt, you name it it is offered, the most interesting of all was Ephedrine, up there with the hand held tazers, I guess if you get hit by a tazer gun you may need some ephedrine to kick start the heart, I understand now, they go hand in hand!

I have just over a week to make Ende where I will catch a ferry to Kupang, the last of the Indo island, the ferry only leaves once a week, the next is the 19th so that should put me in East Timor a few days later sorting out the boat to Oz, so Darwin around the 28th of January.

So my next update should come from Dili as I wait for my 59th and final border crossing, that's one thing I will not miss border crossings!

Monday, January 05, 2009


I made it to Bali 17 days after entering the country, I think the mother ship is like a horse, once it has its head turned for home there is no stopping it. Bali for me is where it all began, my first overseas trip 11 years ago with two mates and I seem to not have stopped ever since and Bali is still the same, I can see why I visited when I was 19 its full of young people all here for a bit of fun, hmm do I feel old, not at all, I too was like that once, I seem a little different now and not just the amount of hair I have or there lack of! And of course a lot of Aussie tourist, its almost like the transition period back into Australia for me, I have never heard so many Aussie accents in such a long time….is that what I sound like!

Some funny things you see, check out the two in the right hand corner!

Well the chaotic traffic of Java improved as I went and should only continue the trend now as I island hope to East Timor. The ride was enjoyable skirting the flanks of the many Volcanoes scattered across Java. The most impressive for me was Bromo, an active volcano spewing gas day and night, I got to ride across the lava plains and even one night I spent camped at the base of it, with volcanoes Bromo and Batuk as my back drop, but I was a little close I think as when I woke in the morning my tent was covered in white like ash stuff. And then once I hit Bali I see there has been some earth quakes reported here in Indonesia, where I don’t know but here I was sleeping next to a Volcano!

Doing some off road around the Volcanoes.

Bromo bellowing smoke in the background, parked on a lava plain.

Home for the night, Batuk to the right and Bromo to the left.

Indonesia is such a vast contrast to its neighbor, my home Australia. Since leaving London I have traveled from one country to another and besides going from Spain to Morocco you don’t really see a dramatic change, slight changes, perhaps in religion, food but its always been a slow change of culture and the way the people look but here I am in one of the most densely populated countries on earth, mostly Islamic, Asian looking and hardly a steak to be found and right across the water is completely the opposite, thank god for the good steak part, I think it will be a shock to the system but one I will welcome, except perhaps the price of fuel, I am paying 50 cents a litre right now here in Indo and in Oz will be more than double that I think!

I have received confirmation that I have right to import the mother ship into Australia so that's it, almost all the logistical hurdles are over come, just need to try to get back my 1000 US from the Indonesian Custom authorities, stranger things have happened. So after a rest here in Bali for a few days I am sure I will be eager to make the last leg to Dili, I have the islands of Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Timor to go and then after the mother ship is on Perkins shipping its a very short 1 hour and a half flight from Dili to Darwin and just like that I will be there. All so long as the ever so trusty stead continues on, its tired, its started to burn oil, a lot more than I like and the rectifier problem which has haunted me on several occasions has decided to rear its ugly head again but with a bit of patch work I have made it to just go a little further, only about 6000 k's is all I ask, fingers crossed.

I remember doing this on the beaches of Normandy, France, so long ago.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Crazy Times in Java

And I thought the traffic in Sumatra was something, Java is all that and 10 times as bad, my second day in Java saw me travel 150 k’s in 6 hours and that’s on a motorbike, I would hate to be in a car. Its not just the slow pace, its nearly been killed every kilometer, the fumes from the cars, the lack of road rules, which you might think yeah come on Robbo its Indonesia, yes you are correct but here is some examples, keep left or right or actually anywhere you think will slow down the traffic the best, if one drives a car they have the right to overtake, up a hill on a corner and any motorbikes coming in the opposite direction must seek salvage on the side of the road, when pulling onto a road do not look and once on the road slow right down and perhaps stop if you feel a need, the list of madness goes on and on. Most of the day I commentate inside my helmet as the near crashes and amazing maneuvers that go on until I am involved, one truck did decide he was a bulldozer for a second and ram into my pannier hoping to gain valuable millimeters in his quest to go forward, insane.

I dream of the long roads of emptiness in Australia where I will be able to use the full range of my gearbox and not have to change gears very 2 seconds.