Posts Tagged ‘Timor’


I sit on the quay in Darwin, my father at my side, taking in the surroundings – the bird calls, the trees, the clear blue skies. The Australian accents, toilet block building with a drinking fountain, the utes with the Australian number plates, the Northern Territory flag. We have only sailed 400km and it is so, so different. I can feel the desert lurking beyond the horizon as the heat of the day mounts, and I feel a welling up of emotion. I have come all this way to be here, through so many places, meeting so many people, and now I am here. I am home.

The crew of the Sue Sea

The crew of the Sue Sea

Dozens of dolphins jumped around as – playing with us – as the boat passed through the calm waters. Amazing sunsets and sunrises were presented before us on the open seas – alone in this beautiful place with only sea and sky. As the sky turned from blue through oranges and pink to black, the full moon rose and lit the seas with a shimmering beam, all through the night. We threw-up as the boat was pummelled by the violent ocean, and then returned to health and to a rhythm of cook, eat, sleep.

Sunrise on the Timor Sea

Sunrise on the Timor Sea

We have had a real sailing adventure. Thank-you to the crew of the Sue Sea who let us (Clement and myself, together with Romain – a backpacker from France) on board to take the boat back from Dili to Australia after taking part in the Darwin to Dili yacht rally. From the second we met them in Dili, they have welcomed us onboard and to their sailing family, and found a way to transport us, our luggage and our bikes on the 15m yacht.
The bikes, after the most thorough clean they have ever had (for Australian quarantine), were disassembled and stowed in with the sails at the very front of the boat. A little bit wet and jossled, they arrived safe and sound on Australian soil – all the way from Europe without a flight on a plane.

Igor, Gus, Betsy, Fons, Michael and the rest of the sailing family we met in Dili – you are legends!


‘Sure! You can come along!’
The sailors of the Darwin to Dili yacht race were sitting around the table drinking, laughing and telling stories. One of them will be returning to Darwin, and Clement and I are allowed to join them. A dream come true!

Darwin to Dili trophies

Darwin to Dili trophies

Today’s cycling was a dusty affair. I popped over the high pass into a new, much drier valley, and over a second little pass into the dry, Australian-like landscape. Timor has two climates, and the border is the mountains. It is fascinating to see everything change so suddenly. Water is the bringer of life.

The green middle valley

The green middle valley

The dry side

The dry side


Today was a ride up from the beach into the heavens – over the highest mountains in Timor Leste. Its good to climb again – and to climb on a half descent road. Riding in the sun, it was a lovely slow climb to a less hot night at just below 2000m.

On the way up

On the way up

The road just got better and better. Approaching and leaving the town of Same, I had pristine new road which made climbing a breeze. Even the road in construction about 5km out of Same was pretty good. I spent the climb listening to podcasts and trying not to get my earphones stuck in my ears.

Mountain road

Mountain road

Mountains

Mountains

My place of residence tonight is with a family in the mountains. I spent the evening talking to the grandpa in Indonesian – one of my last chances to use the language for a while.. Tomorrow Dili again, and then we’ll see how I get to Darwin, Australia.


‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’
I lie on the bamboo bed structure under the straw roof as the guy pokes the tweezers deep into my ear. I expect the unexpected every day in East Timor. Today it’s not a Tae Kwon Do class on the road deep in the mountains. Today I’m having the rubber piece from my earphones extracted from deep within my ear. It took two hours to get it out.

My ear doctor

My ear doctor

Clement has left. His rim on his back wheel is almost dead, and he didn’t want to venture further on the bad road along the coast, and then into the high mountains. He’s returning to the northern coast and on to Dili. I’ll meet him again there.

He might have been better off coming with me. The road got better slowly. It still had it’s fair share of deep road-wide puddles and mud, and the odd river crossing or two, but it also had a stretch of a few kilometres where I could scoot along at over 30 km/h. It was heaven.

River crossing - the bridge is visible on the left

River crossing – the bridge is visible on the left

The narrow road

The narrow road

I’m staying with a lovely family on the south coast, getting near to my climb into the mountains. No swimming here though. Big crocodiles apparently.


‘Here we are!’
A classic proclamation by Clement as we stood in the mud – the road ending in a quagmire. In the middle of nowhere at the end of a diabolic road we looked from the ankle deep mud down to the uncrossable river. The real road turned off a few hundred metres back, up a rocky scree to cross a pristine bridge. The going is slow on the south coast.

The mud bath (one of many)

The mud bath (one of many)

The bridges are amusing – in the middle of the scree slopes and mud baths stands a bridge (actually many on this road) with perfect bitumen. At the start of the bridge is a sign – funded by the European Union. There was one bridge only half funded by the European Union. The bridge stopped ubruptly in the middle of the river – a river crossing was necessary.

The bridge half funded by the European Union

The bridge half funded by the European Union

We met a Swiss cyclist today – our first in ages – cycling from Switzerland to Australia. He travelled east all the way to Alor Island (what I was trying to do, but ran out of time). Quite an experience. After our meet, we knew more what to expect of the road ahead. The road slowly improved to one that (for brief moments) allowed cycling at speeds of up to 15km/h. My tyre couldn’t handle the road though, and exploded. I expect fewer exploding tyres moving forward.

We were plucked off the street as it got dark this evening, and welcomed into a home, given corn and biscuits as a pre-dinner snack before a lovely, copious meal for the hungry cyclists. Great people!


About 5km of bad road he said. Another said 100km of bad road or 12 hours by bus. Well, we haven’t left the crappy road yet, and it is spectacularly dreadful. It also bucketed down today as we pushed our bikes up and down a steep, rocky, muddy, riverbed-like surface.

The bumpy road

The bumpy road

We also changed our brake pads, and have almost used the new ones. Even walking next to the bike as it bumps and jumps over the rocks and slurps through the thick mud, you have to use the brakes – and they squeak and scream out as they die, killing the rims in the process. Then pushing the bike up the river floes requires stopping (with full brakes) on a rock before mustering energy to scale the next one.

We are staying with a lovely family in a traditional house – I’ll call it a pointy house. A really cool wooden structure on stilts – high above the ground.

They tell us that the crap road ends in 10km. I kind of think the good road that may or may not follow will be of the quality of the roads yesterday. This means cycling may be possible, and reaching speeds of 10km/h is also on the cards.

Our humble abode for the night

Our humble abode for the night


And there we were, on the road in the middle of the jungle in Timor Leste, practicing Tae Kwon Do with 30 students. They held out the pad and I executed a turning roundhouse kick. We did some forms (patterns of movements) together on the road. They did the same style that I had studied 25 years ago – and this in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Timor Leste keeps surprising.

Tae Kwon Do class

Tae Kwon Do class

‘That road doesn’t go to Lospalos,’ said one guy. Another said it does, but not for cars – only for motorbikes and bicycles. We gave it a try – a beautiful road through grassy plains bordering a lake, dotted with houses here and there. Oh – and there was a challenging bridge.

The tricky bridge

The tricky bridge

The tricky bridge

The tricky bridge

The tricky bridge

The tricky bridge

Grassy plain

Grassy plain

Satellite dish

Satellite dish

Again today was not rich in kilometres travelled – the road was muddy and bumpy – and peaceful, tranquil and beautiful. After the high altitude plain we passed into the forest exactly on the border between two weather regions. On the right was sunshine. On the left were the darkest of clouds and rain. Tomorrow the road leads south. More rain is in store.