DAY 466: KUARO – BALIKPAPAN
START: 6:15 – FINISH: 21:00 – DISTANCE: 137 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 27
I wanted to make sure I got to Balikpapan today. It was still dark when I got up and started to take the tent down. The postmaster brought me out a cup of tea and some local cakes. He then disappeared and came back soon after with some takeaway chicken with noodles and rice.
I couldn’t eat it and took it with me. The terrain was a lot nicer today. The road was still pot-hole ridden. Being back on the flat, lots of plantations reappeared. Late morning I met some guys that were part of a cycling club. They were very excited and got their banner out and wanted lots of photos. I reached the small port at Peljam around 3 p.m. Adrian had organized a speedboat to come and pick me about 4 p.m. So I had a bit of a rest and chatted to the locals. Come 4 p.m. I tried to walk my bike onto the jetty. It wouldn’t fit through the bollards so I needed some help to lift the bike over.
I then had to wheel the bike down a ramp and then it was a struggle to lift the bike into the back of the speed boat. It didn’t fit properly. The back wheel was left sitting on the seat and I had to stand up and then hold the bike. The speedboat driver didn’t even give me a chance to get sorted…………he was off. It is 7 km to cross the bay to Balikpapan. We were bouncing over the waves at a pace. It was a real struggle to hold my bike upright. I went mad at the driver when the back wheel bounced off the seat and the derailleur was then taking all the load. I think he very quickly got the message and slowed down for the remainder of the journey. Waiting on the other side was El and Otto with their bikes. From the port it is about a 30 km cycle through town and past the airport to their place. Not far up the road we were joined by Adrian and his wife Lezzete and a few others from the local cycling club.
The plan was to stop for beer and pizza on the way. We cycled into the car park of the beach bar. I parked my bike behind a hanging banner. It then wasn’t till I had a closer look that the Google map on it looked very familiar………………….then looking even closer and I saw my name and I realized it was for me. It was such a surprise and such a nice thing for El and Otto to have organized. I met a few more expats in the bar. They are all in the mining industry. I had Pizza for the first time in nearly a year and it was great. One beer was enough for me………..I tried two……….but had to swap it for water. I was just too dehydrated. We weren’t at the beach bar too late and only a short 1 km ride back to El and Otto’s place which is one of 10 big units in a closed off estate.
DAYS 467 – 473: BALIKPAPAN – REST DAYS
Day 467: Wednesday. Over two weeks ago I crossed the Equator. Yesterday I nearly did it again. Balikpapan is only 5 km from the Equator. So not for the first time I am going backwards. It’s all worth it. I got a fantastic welcome yesterday.
El and Otto have a huge place close to the beach. The houses are well spread out. Lots of grass and trees, pool and tennis court. It will be a very nice base for the next week or so……………not sure when I am leaving. It will depend on the ferry timetable which is not regular at all. So when it comes time to leave it will be pot luck. We went to the Novotel for dinner last night. There was so much food to choose from. I was eating stuff I haven’t had for 15 months since I was in London. I left completely stuffed.
Day 468: Thursday. There is no point just thinking about it. I only did that for one day. Today was dedicated to bike cleaning and washing day. I started by emptying all my panniers on the back porch before giving them all a good scrub. Roll mats and inflatable got a good scrub as well. All my clothes including sleeping bag, sleep sheet and pillow all went through the washing machine. Tents and ground sheet all got hung up to air out. Its so handy having time and somewhere to do all this. Often in a hostel, guest-house or hotel there is just no room. The $20 tyres I got in Bangkok have worn themselves out. They did 3000 km probably 1000 km/an extra 30% more than their recommended life so I have changed them.
Day 469: Friday – 6 a.m. this morning I borrowed a mountain bike and went out for a ride with Otto and Adrian. In 5 mins from the house we had crossed over and were on dirt tracks riding through countryside and small villages. It was a magic morning. In parts of the ride the mud was so bad we had to push or carry the bike. The wheels just kept getting jammed with mud. Once we got to the top of the hill it was a nice view and a good ride down.
The bikes were completely covered with mud by the time we finished. Luckily we were able to drop them off around the corner to be cleaned. I got my second bit of exercise for the day when we went for a 6 km walk along the hills overlooking the city. Very up and down through the villages. Friday night, we went two doors down to Adrian and Lesattes for a BBQ and beers or one beer in my case which was plenty for me.
Day 470: Saturday was a lazy morning and then we went shopping. Fruit market, bicycle shop for new puncture repair kit and spare inner tube. I hadn’t been keen to try the noodle soup. I had just a bit too much in the Stans and China. Not much choice when we stopped at the local noodle house on the way home. It was actually very good and wasn’t so bad after all.
Day 472: Sunday – El and Otto invited about 30 people. Mostly all expats working in either oil and gas or mining for a BBQ brunch. There is a big Cabana next to the beach.
After lunch some golf clubs came out and we were chipping on to a small green on the lawn. It was soon suggested we go out for a round. We went to the golf club in town. I was able to borrow some clubs and shoes. For the first time ever I had a caddy to carry my clubs. It was great…………though after more then a year the golf was not so great. But great fun anyway.
Day 473 – Monday I got up and went to work with Otto. Then his driver took me down to the port to buy a ferry ticket. Will be going 2nd class again. Cabin with 4 beds. Both pairs of cycling shorts have been shredded. So I took them to the tailors to get sewn back up. Should get a few more months out of them. Then after calling in at Otto’s work discovered I could get some maps of Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand put onto my computer and GPS so the driver took me back to get my computer and GPS
Day 474: Tuesday – so far it has rained every day. This morning it rained so hard there was flooding around the house. This afternoon after over a week I finally got some use out of the pool by going for a swim.
Day 475: Wednesday – El took me supermarket shopping this morning so I could stock up on lots of yummy snacks for the long boat rides ahead. I am still trying desperately to find a boat from Indonesia or Timor Leste to Australia. This afternoon I sent off loads of emails to shipping companies. It is proving really hard. If I have to I will get another visa for Indonesia in Timor Leste and cycle all the way back to Singapore…………if that is the only place I can get a boat to Australia. I will. Unfortunately, Otto wasn’t around for my last night in Balikpapan. Yesterday he had to go to Brisbane for work. He’s a legend. He has helped me lighten my load by taking all my used maps and my Balikpapan welcome banner with him and then posting them back to New Zealand for me. So for my last night El and I went out for dinner with 10 other expat wives who were having a ladies night which I ended up crashing. Luckily they didn’t mind.
Day 476: BALIKPAPAN (KALIMANTAN) – MAKASSAR STRAIT
START: 14:00 – FINISH: 15:10 – DISTANCE: 18KM – RIDE TIME: 1H 05
After over a week hanging out with the expats and being getting well looked after. It is time to get back on the road. In this case the high seas. I have a 5 p.m. ferry for a 20-hour ride to Makassar. I will first have to cycle back to the ferry.
It has pretty much rained every day since I got here. Mostly in the morning and today was no different. After cleaning everything, I didn’t fancy cycling back to the ferry in the rain. I had one last lazy morning. Was going to leave at 1 p.m……….I ended up putting it off an hour to 2 p.m.
I didn’t have to cycle alone. El and her friend Giselle cycled with me. We had to make one quick detour calling in to Otto’s work. The guy who had given me all the maps for the GPS wanted a photo before I left.
With past experiences I wasn’t even sure my boat was going to be there when we arrived at the port.
Straight away there was a good sign because there were people everywhere. Saying goodbye I passed through security and came out onto the wharf where it was just a shambles with hundreds of people trying to get up the gangway carrying lots of luggage. With my bike I just sat back at first.
But the size of the crowed just didn’t seem to get any smaller. So I finally got amongst it. I got some help to push my bike up the gangplank stairs onto the Economy deck. What a scene to greet me. It was one great big stinking slumber party. The boat carries 1000 passengers and they were all in Economy. There were hundreds of people sitting on beds, smoking and there was just luggage everywhere.
I had to make my way through to the stairs. I then thankfully went up 3 decks to 2nd class. Difference from first class is one cabin has 2 beds and the other has 4. I was lucky because I had the cabin to myself and I was able to wheel the bike in. The cabin had no window. It did have hot shower and toilet. I dumped my stuff and then walked around the boat from top to bottom. Slightly disconcerting was that there were a lot of locked doors.
I went back down to economy for another look and was thankful I wasn’t spending my time there. I’m sure it would be loads of fun. We departed only 15 mins late. I stood up on the very quiet 1st/2nd class sun deck as we sailed out of the bay, passing half a dozen oil platforms. While I was up here I had a steward come and find me for dinner. Shouldn’t have bothered. Dinner was rubbish. Best thing was the nice plate it was on. After dinner I returned to the lounge because it was quiet and plenty of room to continue writing this blog.
Then a band turned up and started playing……………….I thought you are wasting your time. I am the only one here. But actually very quickly the lounge filled up and it was a nice atmosphere. On the whole boat I have seen only one other foreigner, a woman from Australia with her Indonesian partner.
DAY 477: MAKASSAR STRAIT– MAKASSAR (SULAWESI)
This boat is a lot bigger than the last one so much that you hardly know it is moving. So far the journey has been very smooth. Ramadam started today – you wouldn’t know it. 6:30 a.m. I got up and went for breakfast.
It was worse than dinner. Two cold eggs and some boiled rice. During breakfast I noticed land, so after breakfast I went up on deck to investigate. I noticed loads of people smoking. Apparently in Indonesia there are lots of loop holes when it comes to Ramadan. You can get dispensation if you are travelling and lots of other reasons. I could see land for a reason.
We were going into a port. We docked and it was a mad frenzy as people came and went. There was a sea of orange shirts as these guys were carrying all the luggage on and off. We had about a 3 hour stop. I was dreading getting off the boat with all the hassles that laid ahead. Getting the bike down the stairs. Then finding a ticket office so I could but a ticket for the boat on Sunday morning and then finding a hotel. Expecting the worse it turned out well. I was off the boat in no time. Asked at the security gate for the ticket office. The guy jumped on his bike and took me straight there. So within half an hour of arriving in Makassar I was sorted.
The travel agent was also a hotel. So I checked in to save the hassle. Basic but cheap found Chinatown and some nice bakeries. I noticed straight away things are cheap here. Fancy iced coffee only $1.60 and a good quality T shirt $3 shame – large is not big enough. Nothing bigger than a large. I had an increasing amount of people asking for money. Some young guys invited me for coffee so they could practice their English. Tomorrow they are going to take me out of the city to visit an old fort.
After finding the old Dutch fort in the city I went for coffee and Internet. I chatted with some ladies. When they left…………..they said we have paid for you. I really am so lucky that everywhere I go I get great hospitality. I hope it continues.
DAY 478: MAKASSA (SULAWESI) – FLORES SEA
I got up at 6 a.m. this morning. Showered, packed up and headed straight for the bakery. I had arranged to pick up some chicken hamburgers and some other snacks to take on the boat. I then cycled round to the other bakery that did coffee and breakfast. Unfortunately they were not open at 7 a.m. But I was able to sit outside and use their WiFi till they opened at 8 a.m. I then had rice and pineapple and a pot of tea. 8:45 a.m. I made a bolt for the ferry terminal.
The Willis was leaving at 10 a.m. and they say come 1 hour early. Getting to the port. The big boat that had come in at midnight had gone and there were no other boats to be seen. I was a little worried. Proceeding into the port, I found the Willis. Because it was so small it had been obstructed by the terminal. It was a very dirty and rusty looking boat. A worker in the port informed me that the Willis is Indonesian-made………….I asked him – What does that mean ? He just laughed. I pushed the bike up the little gangway onto the lower deck. I was then directed to put my bike in the massive luggage storage area. I refused and continued. I was then directed to put it in the lounge. I again refused. In the end I left the bike in the corridor outside my cabin. I had a window this time. The cabin was dirty. Hadn’t been cleaned and there were cockroaches running around. I shared the cabin with a young student.
I am so glad I had a cabin because the whole boat was just a shambles. There were people spread out everywhere. In corridors, on the outside deck, even on the other side of the guard rail. I guess anywhere they could find a place to rest for the next day and a half. I shouldn’t have bothered hurrying back because the boat was 2 and a half hours late in leaving. Till now I haven’t had a problem taking my bike on the boat. Some guys came and checked my ticket and said I needed another ticket for the bike………..200 000 ($20) I said no $%^$%Y way I was giving them any money. So then the solultion was to get off the boat and buy the cycle ticket from the port ticket office. Only problem was it was closed. So they told me to get back on the boat. This little problem didn’t go away. The problem came up again when they lock all the doors on the ferry and went round and check all the tickets. This time they wanted to keep my ticket and said wait for announcement on the speaker and report to Information office. I kept hold of my ticket and said if you want to sort it…….. sort it now. In the end I parted with 100 000 ($10) which was pretty much the price quoted on the web ite. In this case the $10 would have gone in and stayed in their pockets.
I always have a quick look round the boat to see where the life jackets are and to check when the life-rafts were last inspected. In this case none of the life-rafts had been certified. One reason it is such a long boat ride is because the boat goes so slow – at 15 km an hour.
I can cover more ground on my bike. Walking around the boat and being the only foreigner everyone says hello and I would sit and chat to a few that could speak some English. I had a great time mixing with the locals.
One thing about being at sea is that you often get a very nice sunset.
DAY 479: FLORES SEA – LABUAN BAJO (FLORES)
Because of Ramadan breakfast was delivered to the cabin at 3 a.m. this morning. After breakfast I got up and had a wander round the ship. At the front of the boat it was dark. The sky was clear and the stars were out. A shooting star passed as well. I then went back to bed. When I awoke again it was 8 a.m. and the sun was shining in the cabin window and it was hot so I had a shower and went up on deck and mingled for a few hours. At 11.30 a.m. we finally arrived in Bima.
Here there was a mass exodus from the ship. I also got off as we had 2 hours. I joined a teacher and we walked in the direction of the town. Most of the buildings were run-down. A lot were traditional housesand some were of Dutch style. Some of the locals were surprised to see me. While we were off the boat I stocked up on Bima doughnuts and some fried banana.
The Island is also famous for its onions.
The boat is now dead with so many people getting off. All that is left is a sea of rubbish. We finally arrived in Labuanbajo at 11 p.m. Getting off was pretty quick. The port wasn’t very well lit. It was dark. I got into the main street and stopped at the second hotel/guesthouse I saw. A guy on the street said it was full and to keep going. I could smell alcohol on his breath and stopped anyway. I got the owner up. The guest house was full so I asked if I could put my tent up. He agreed and when I asked how much ? He said nothing which was great. Within 5mins of being in the guesthouse a group of tourists asked if I would like to join them on a one night trip to Komodo island to see the dragons. I said yes straight away. I had been keen to go, but thought it would be too difficult to organize. Since I now have such short time to cycle the 500 km over the mountains to Maumere where I will need to catch my next boat to Kopang West Timor.
DAY 480: KOMODO ISLAND
I woke up very excited this morning………….very much looking forward to seeing the famous komodo dragon. I have been very lucky to join 5 others: Albert from Spain, Stiliki from Lithuaniana, Adam from England and a couple from Holland, Ward and Joelle.
Our boat is small and was rocking side-to-side before we even left the shelter of the port.
Not long after we started we saw a pod of dolphins pass us. Two hours later we reached Komodo national park. Here we had to pay a guide to take us on a two-hour trek. The first things we saw were monkeys. Then we continued along the trail that just happened to pass the rangers kitchen. For some strange reason this is where half a dozen Komodo dragons hang out. It also turned out to be the only place on the two hour tour of the island to see dragons. The komodo we did see were very big and started off being pretty lazy lying in the shade. We were allowed to get to about 5 meters from them. It was much more exciting when the dragons were up and moving and even more exciting when two of the dragons had a bit of a fight.
We left the National park and sailed on to Red Beach where we went snorkeling for an hour. It was awesome. There were so many reef fish. The coral was alive with colour. It was just amazing. To finish the day we moored just off a mango swamp on an opposite island to Komodo. As soon as it got dark hundreds of flying fox bats came out of the mango trees. Four of us slept on top of the roof of the boat. It was a perfectly clear evening and we saw many shooting stars. Panic broke out in the night when a large rat joined us on the roof.
DAY 481: KOMODO – LABUAN BAJO
We got up at the crack of dawn this morning.
Watched the sun come up. We had some big sea-eagles circling around. We saw one dive down and catch a fish. We then went to Komodo Island and went on another 2-hour trek. Same again we found some Komodo dragons hanging around the rangers hut.
Just as we were leaving we spotted a komodo dragon walking along the beach………………..at least this looked a lot more natural.
Leaving Komodo we sailed for a couple of hours before stopping to go snorkeling again. It was just as awesome as yesterday. On the way back to Labuanbajo it got pretty rocky in our little boat. The spray was coming over the front and everything got wet.
We are seeing everything. Dolphins yesterday and now a sea turtle swimming on the top. Just before getting back to Labuanbajo we stopped at a small beach for a swim. After a couple of awesome days in Komodo National Park, tomorrow it’s back to cycling.
DAY 482: LABUAN BAJO – TUWA
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 16:30 – DISTANCE: 55 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 21
The plan for the next 5 days is to cycle 500 km to Maumere.The following day I then take the boat to Kupang (West Timor). It has been difficult finding a boat. If I miss this I will have to wait another 7 days so there is a bit of pressure to get to Maumere in time. There is also some uncertainty. When I told the hotel I was cycling to Maumere to get the ferry to Kupang.
Their response was. There’s no ferry from Maumere anymore.. It stopped two months ago. You have to go to Ende. Great just what I wanted to hear. I checked the Pelni website first ferry from Ende to Kupang. 7th August. That is too late for me. Went to the local Pelni office. Closed. Rang the office. Didn’t know…….call Maumere office. No reply. Called national office……….Didn’t know. Check the website. They are just hopeless.
Oh boy. I have completely underestimated the mountains in Flores. Today has turned into a bit of a disaster. I ended up going nowhere. It has been one of the hardest days. I have spent much of the day pushing my bike and 40 kg of luggage up the very steep and windy mountains. I have not been able to properly appreciate their beauty because I have had my head down. Today’s experience has left me broken and a little demoralized and I know there is no way I will be able to make Maumere in time for the ferry. It wasn’t till 3 days later when I met some tourists and they both said the Lonely Planet says some people try to cycle the mountains but they end up getting the bus to the top and cycling down. By 1 o’clock I had only cycled 30 km. I stopped at a shop for a drink. I was exhausted and lay down on the ground to sleep. They then insisted I sleep in the house.
So I rested for one hour. Afterwards I was still very tired and my legs were sore. 6 km later I finally reached the top and I then had a nice downhill ride down into a nice wide flat valley with lots of villages and fields. I was cycling through a village when a young guy asked me to stop. He said I think you need to rest. I said I think I do too. Remmy invited me to stay with his family. I didn’t hesitate. I was exhausted. From stopping the bike I soon had about 30 kids around me. The village was very primitive – mostly shacks with part concrete and dirt floor. No water and no toilet. To shower we had to walk 2 km to the river to join the rest of the village in washing. The toilet was a trip out into the field. Water has to be brought from the river. I was made a cup of tea……….I let it sit there a while. I then realized everyone was waiting for me to drink before they started. It might be Ramadan.
I am lucky Flores is 90 percent Catholic. So it is easy to get food and water anytime. Word in the village spread and many people arrived to say hello. All very friendly. Somebody must have given up their bed for me because I was given a bed to sleep in. I went to bed early because I was so tired.
DAY 483 : TUWA – LAGAR
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 16:50 – DISTANCE: 69 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 52
I had about 7 km of flat before the mountains started again and it was just as soul destroying as yesterday……..up, up and up and again so steep it was just impossible to cycle so I spent most of my time pushing my bike.
At the start of the hills I had about 30 kids on the way to school running beside me. Mid-morning I came across a school on one side of the road and a playing field on the other side. At the end of the field was a little restaurant/shop.
I stopped here for lunch and soon I had 50 kids around the bike. The mountains are 2 min noodle country. They add an egg to make it a bit more interesting. But really it is pretty simple. A number of teachers were eating in the restaurant so I talked to them for a while. I just wasn’t in a hurry to move. I am finding these mountains are making me constantly hungry. In no time after lunch I was hungry again and needed to stop for another plate of noodles.
I was trying to reach Rutang tonight which is a large town on top of the mountain. 10 km short while I was pushing my bike again a young guy on a motorbike stopped me and invited me to stay in his house. I was happy to say yes. His house was more sturdy. It had toilet and washing water. TV and a lounge suite. Again, someone had to give up their bed for me and again there were lots of visitors to the house..
DAY 484: LAGAR – AMIERE
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 16:00 – DISTANCE: 108 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H30
For the first time in six months, I had to sleep in my sleeping bag. It was a cold night up in the mountains and a cold morning. I had to dig deep into the panniers to find a thermal top. I got away a t 6:30 a.m.Reio and his family all came out to say goodbye.
Actually Reio accompanied me for the first 10 km to Ruteng. He wanted me to make a quick visit to his tourism school. I thought that was the least I could do after he put me up for the night. I did explain it would be a flying visit and it was. After leaving Ruteng the road continued to go up . But at least the gradient was kind and I was able to cycle it for a change.
I soon reached the top and it was then a very nice and rewarding 40 km downhill after 2 hard days of slog. The side of the mountains were full of beautiful rice terraces. Half-way down I stopped for a drink and to look at a lake and in the background I could see the sea, 20 km away. All the way down there were small houses built on the side of the mountain on both sides of the road. Reaching the sea it became boiling hot again. The other downside was after some lunch in Borang I needed to cycle up and up again.
It was very pretty and enjoyable because I managed to stay on the bike again. Near the top I stopped in a village for a drink. It was sports day and a big football match was being played. It was lucky I stopped because I met a guy called Franschio who told me about a beach 18 km away I could stay at. It sounded very appealing.
The nice thing was that once I left the village it was all downhill to the beach again. Francisco met me at the turn off for the beach. It was then 800 meters down a very stony path. Turned out there were 5 very nice bungalows and a very nice unspoilt beach I explained I probably couldn’t afford it. We negotiated $10 a night with all meals included. The only other guests were a family from France..
DAY 485, 486, 487, 488 & 489: AMIERE – REST DAYS
DAY 485: Sunday – After some difficult days I am in relax mode. I have been told there is a ferry from here to Kupang every Wednesday.
so I am happy to wait till then. I will go tomorrow morning to sort it out. The first thing I did this morning was go for a swim. At 7 a .m. the water was nice and warm. I then had a quiet morning.
Then after lunch I went for a 3-hour walk along the beach. There must be a coral reef because there is a lot of washed up coral on the beach. The first part of the beach was busy as all the villagers had come down to the beach for the day to swim, play football, picnic and sing.
I had to stop and chat to many along the way. Then the beach was very quiet………..just a few women collecting shellfish and a few fishermen repairing their nets…oh and a farmer walking his cow and two calves. Spread out along the coast were a few fishing boats and a few houses
DAY 486: Monday – It is Olympic time and I was up all night with my little shortwave radio listening to the Olympics on the BBC world service or Radio Australia. I swam again this morning before going into the town to find out about the boat to Kupang. I was in for a big shock because it was not a town but a tiny village with a harbour. I had expected hotels and shops.
Inquiries have again left me uncertain. No-one knows what time the ferry is coming on Wednesday…………if it is coming at all. But I have been told it will only stay 1 hour when it does come. So I could be in for a long wait. The tide was on the way out in the afternoon when I headed for a 3-hour walk in the opposite direction from yesterday. I cut back inland again trying to find my way through a dry mangrove swamp. I finally picked up a trail which took me past small little houses with stranded chickens, pigs and cows.
Oh and children. Along the trail I met a women walking towards me. As she neared and got a closer look at me she turned in fright and quickly scattered away before going to hide under some trees. Due to curiosity I left the trail and stumbled on some small open but thatched-roofed huts. Underneath was another distillery operation in progress. Getting back on the trail it then ran onto an old road which went for a couple of km and was completely made from medium-sized stones from the beach. I knew it was old because at one point there was a large tree growing in the middle of the road. As I hoped the old road ran back to the main road and I was then able to complete my loop.
Day 487: Tuesday – Due to the unplanned extra days and the fact there is no ATM machine.
I need to travel 2 hours to Bajawa to get money and use internet. I went out on the main road about 8 a.m. and had to wait about 30 mins before I could get a Bima taxi van. Bajawa is at the top of a mountain and it was a very winding two hours up into the mountains you got a great view of the volcano and the rest of the bay as well as a nice look at mountain village life.
The price of the taxi was $2. The town itself is in a bit of a crater. There wasn’t much to see. I only really got the money which was a relief. Used the internet for 2 hours before having a walk around and heading back. I had to wait a while. I had a few motorbikes stop and offer me a lift. I declined. I didn’t fancy it at all on that windy road and with no helmet. Eventually I got a lift with a car which was more comfortable then the squashed van on the way up. I packed and loaded up the bike tonight in preparation for the early morning dash to get the Kupang ferry.
Day 488: Wednesday is Ferry day to Kupang. I was up at 6 a.m. and after some breakfast watching the sun come up and shining nicely on the volcano. I started cycling the 8km to the ferry terminal. Don’t have an arrival time or a departure time but have been told I just need to be there early. On the way down,
most people were out the front of their houses and I was constantly getting the hello Mr. Got to the terminal just after 7 a.m. and there were about 50 people waiting for the ferry. Some had stayed overnight. There is no ticket office and you can only get a ticket when the ferry arrives. There is no information. Nobody knows anything. The only answer I could get was maybe today maybe tomorrow. How bloody frustrating. I don’t fancy camping in a ferry terminal for a day and a half. On Monday when I came down to find out about the ferry I got the number of the Harbor Master.
I called him and he said there would be no information till tomorrow. So that pretty much meant go home……..so I did. If I can’t get this boat the only other ferry I know about is in 7 days and leaves from Ende 170 km away so that is the backup plan.
But I will be in a bit of trouble because it will mean I would only have 4 days to get a visa for Timor Leste and get out of Indonesia.. No point worrying about it because there is nothing I can do…………………But I do still stress and worry anyway. I checked back into the bungalows and went straight for a swim. No wind and the water was nice and calm. I got a text from the Harbor Master who said………….ferry for Kupang is coming Friday.%^%% I am running out of time. At least I am getting some information even if it is not what I want to hear.
After my swim I went out for a few hours walking. I took the stony track up to the village. Passing along the way, little crops of coffee, corn and rice, cows chickens and pigs and a few spread out houses. It seems on Flores that when one of your relatives dies they don’t get buried in a cemetery but out the front of your house. I walked through the local market that they have once a week on the edge of the village. Fresh fish, dried fish were on offer and a few vegetables. There were also a lot of different sundry things from washing powder to kitchen wear, clothes and stationary. After the market,
I walked back down through the village and down to the new harbor. A short way along I came across 50 people trying to drag a 10 meter fishing boat up the beach. I stopped and helped for about 45 min. Progress was slow
Day 489: Thursday – I am playing the waiting game now. I just want to get to Kupang. I did very little today. I only had a short walk in the fields and played a lot of solitaire on my computer. This Volcano is constantly part of the scenery.
DAY 490: Aimere – WAINGPU
$%&&^^^&&&&&^^^^^^^…………………I got up this morning at 5:30 a.m. I went to see if I could see the boat on the Horizan. I was told you could see the boat coming from a long way out. So there is no need to go to the Ferry Terminal until you see the boat. No sign of the ferry – was not a good sign. After breakfast I called the Harbour Master……………..No boat today. This is becoming a joke. I have been here 6 days now. I just want to get to Kupang. After lunch I went for a walk along the beach.
I got a shock when I saw a large boat on the horizan. I quickly made my way back to the bunglows. It was decided that I would go to the ferry terminal to investigate. So I packed everything up and cycled the 9 km in about 30 mins. When I got there the boat had docked and there were people, cars, pigs and trucks everywhere. I thought there was a direct 24-hour ferry to Kupang. Only now I was told it no longer runs. What was everyone on about for the last 6 days. I talked to some people I had met 3 days ago and who had been waitting since then for the ferry to Kupang.
They were taking the ferry that had just arrived. You take the boat to Sumba and then it continues on to Kupang after that. So I went in to buy a ticket ………….only $5.70 for economy. Then suddenly I was struck by panic when I realised I had left my passport in the wardrobe of the Bunglow. I left my bike lying up against the wall of the ferry office and I grabbed a motorbike to take me back. I was sure I was going to miss the boat. After retrieving my passport I reached the boat which is, in fact, a very small car ferry just in time. They were just loading on the last of about 50 pigs. I went up the ramp on o the car deck and therr was no room anywhere. The pigs had already started peeing and pooing and it was a mess. With my bike I pushed my way through to the stairs. With help I then carried my bike up to the 2nd class lounge. The 2nd class lounge was between the car deck and economy. The stairs to 2nd class from the car deck were open and it was just like sleeping with the pigs, what with both the smell and the noise.
Straightaway I met the 4 students I had met earlier and I joined them. I had jumped on the boat in haste and it wasn’t till the boat had set sail that I learnt it was going to take 3 days to get to Kupang. It was a awesome sight when a very red moon rose up from the horizan. It was a pretty basic 2nd class………the best thing they had was cable tv. So we got to watch a good few hours of the Olympics. Once again I was the only foreigner on the boat. We slept on the floor on some plastic mattresses. We arrived in Waingpu about 12:30 a.m. It took them over an hour to get the pigs off before any passengers or cars could leave. The boat is now stopping for the night and not sure when it will leave again for Kupang. When the boat docked I got up to have a look and I watched as someone emptied a whole bin of rubbish over the side. What a shame the people here just don’t have a clue when it comes to the environment.
DAY 491: WAINGPU – SUVA SEA
Slept on the ferry overnight. Was starving when I woke up. In my haste to get on the boat I hadn’t had time to grab some food. The car deck had been cleaned and was completely empty as I walked off the boat. Only had to go a short way before I could find some 2 min noodles. Getting back on the boat, I had the old saucepan wash. Then discovered the boat will not leave Sumba till 4 p.m. this afternoon.
So the 4 students and I decided we would walk into the town. Turned out to be 10 km away. I stocked up on loads of food. Fried banana, doughnuts, and 2 takeaway beef and rice meals. I won’t be feeling those hunger pains again.
The island has its own style of traditional houses which was interesting. Apart from that it was just like any other town. Got back to the boat and the cargo was being loaded. Only one car, the rest was building materials and lots of locals boxes and empty 20-litre containers. Animal-wise there were chickens, a pig and a horse.
We had to purchase a new ticket for the next leg. I got my business class ticket for 144 000 and then discovered when I got back on board that my student mates had done a deal and got their tickets onboard for only 15000……………..corruption….corruption. To get a mattress the crew make some extra money by charging 15 000. I had already paid 10 000 for the first leg. Craftily they collect all the mattresses back in the morning and then sell them back to you. I am the only mug with a business class ticket………….the real business class is actually locked.
They won’t let me in it. I went a bit mad when the guy tried to charge me for the mattress………….I refused to pay and we had a bit of a stand-off. In the end, I showed him my ticket and handed him the 15000, but before that I played the trump card. I told him I would give him the 15 000 and then I would go straight upstairs to see the captian…………..his reply was ………..no…no..no and for some reason he wouldn’t take my money. In the end I made him take the money and I left it at that. Finally at 4 p.m. we got moving again and after my second takeaway meal settled in for the night.
DAY 492: SUVA SEA – SUVA SEA VIA SUBA ISLAND
I am now into the third day of what should have been a straight forward non-stop to Kupang. Instead I am continuing my island hopping tour. 10 a.m. we arrived on the small island of Sumba.
I got off again and walked into the small dusty and dirty town to restock on doughnuts and get a couple of chicken and rice takeaway meals. It was only a 3 hour stop and at 1 p.m. we were on our way again. This time there has been a change of cargo we still have the horse and pig……….also a massive influx of people. The lounge has become rather crowded and stuffy and space is now a premium.
DAY 493: SUVA SEA – KUPANG WEST TIMOR
DISTANCE : 400 KM – TIME: 62H 30
After 400 km and 62h 30 we arrived into Kupang at 6:30 a.m. I had to wait for the crowds to clear before I attempted to push my bike down the stairs. I then had to cycle 15 km into the city. Finding Lavalon guest-house was relatively easy. For $4 I have a room in a dorm which I am sharing with Lilly from England and Christy from Canada. After 3 days I had a good proper wash and put on some clean clothes. I then went with Lilly to the Embassy Timor Leste to apply for the Visa. Lilly was going to pick hers up. It didn’t quite go to plan. They sent me away to printout my bank statments to prove I have enough funds to support myself. I went back with the goods in the afternoon and hopefully its all sorted now.
Late afternoon, a group of us went down to the waterfront for a quiet beer and watch the sun go down. One of the girls had a local contact who came and met us. She had a car and took us for a tour before stopping at a nice local resturant for some dinner.
DAY 494&495: KUPANG – REST DAYS
Day 494: Tuesday – I am a real early bird now. I was up at 4.30 a.m. when the girls got up for their 5 a.m. bus to Timor Leste. I now have the dorm room to myself. After seeing them off, I did some handwashing, had a shave and a shower and it was then only 6 a.m. when I went over to the Lavalon cafe. It sits on a cliff overlooking the beach. I watched the sun come up and the Wi-Fi was still on and running well so I made the most of that.
After lunch, Marcel the other kiwi guy and I walked 5 km along the coast to try and find some old Japanese World War II cannons. Wasn’t what I expected when we did find them. There was 2 cannons about 200 meters apart and they were tucked up around some houses. On the way back we passed again the fish market and the boat yard where about 5 wooden boats were being made. Ended the day back at Lavalon cafe as the sun went down, watching kids play on the beach and dogs scavenge. For dinner, Marcel and I met Yulida again and we went to the night market. I had a plate of Vegetarian Tofu satay and a lemon juice all for $1.50.
Day 495: Wednesday – the only thing I really wanted to do today was pick up my Timor Leste visa. I hung aroung Lavalon cafe most of the day.
Till at finally 2:30 p.m. I got the Bimo up the hill to the Embassy. Usual story – they do absolutely nothing until you come back a second time and then you have to wait while they go off and print it which meant I had waited 3 days for nothing. The Embassy was not helpful at all. I asked what time the border closed and she said 5 p.m. That’s all good and well if you are in Timor Leste. If you are coming from Indonesia which I was obviously doing – it is in fact 4 p.m. because Timor Leste is an hour ahead. Well at least I have my silly letter for the very last visa I will need for this trip. Dinner was at the night market again. This time – roast chicken and noodles and veg, followed by an early night and a race to the Timor Leste border.
DAY 496: KUPANG – SOE
START: 7:15 – FINISH: 18:15 – DISTANCE: 112 KM – RIDE TIME:7H 37
After my last outing from Labuanbajo to Aimere and the ferocious mountians I encountered I was a little bit apprehensive with what lay ahead. Leaving Kupang I couldn’t see any big mountains as I cycled along the coast which was good. Heading inland I passed many very green-looking rice feilds.
It was pretty flat for 20 km then it started to rise gradually up through a small forest. It was very enjoyable riding. By midday I had done 70 km which was my minium target for today. 100 km is the real goal. In the midday sun it was very hot and exhausting. It got a whole lot harder because the road became a lot steeper and I got to experience my Flores nightmare all over again. The next 5 hours I only managed 40 km and after 20 km I had to stop and lie down beside the road. Shortly after I started again I met a guy from Finland on a motorbike. He gave me some really useful tips. But then he turned out to be a real negative sod after I told him I wanted to get a boat from Dili to Australia. He pretty much said I had no chance on any of my options. I didn’t need such negativity and converation quickly ended and I was on my way. At 4 p.m. it became very cold in the mountians.
I must have burnt a lot of calories because I became very hungry and a little bit diizzy. I had to scoff a load of chocolate and some dried fruit. Just upon darkness I finally reached the mountain-top town of Soe. I stopped at the supermarket. Brought a whole lot of food and sat down and ate it. I was feeling very exhausted, weak and light-headed. I then went to find a hotel. Only VIP left. Top $. I told them where to go. I then went into the grounds of a run-down government complex of some sort. I asked a family if I could camp. They took me over to see the caretaker and he gave me a spot outside to put my tent up. After putting my tent up it was then decided to bring my tent inside to the office. Some tables and chairs were cleared and I was set. I didn’t even have a proper dinner. At 7:30 p.m. I was so tired I went straight to bed.
DAY 497: SOE – OELNITEP
START: 06:10 – FINISH: 15:00 – DISTANCE: 90 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 25
Early morning there were church bells and the call to pray and some activity in the office next door. The caretaker must have been muslim because for half an hour he sung and recited verses from the Koran. As soon as there was a little light I was up and ready to go. I packed up and then got a nasty shock when I noticed something had gone. Indonesia and Soe now has the stigma of being the only place where I have had something stolen off my bike during the whole 15 months of the trip so far. It was something of no great monetry value. But instead of great personal and sentimental value: my little Tuatara mascot had been with me since the beginning and can never be replaced. After 20 km I stopped for breakfast. Just when I wasn’t feeling so hot on Indonesia it redeemed itself when I was given a free breakfast in the restaurant I stopped at.
All day it was up and down. It was still green but the ground was very dry with lots of thatched houses either side of the road. I got to Kalamananu for a late lunch of beef, noodles, vegetables, an egg and an iced coffee for $2. With big hills ahead I made a start by climbing 8 km before stopping for a drink at a shop. Just when I was about to ask the family offered for me to stay the night. I mentioned putting my tent up but they gave me a room in the house. The family had a nice new house………..still very basic. They were very poor. Only one of the brothers had a job and their shop wouldn’t have brought them a great income. It was nice sitting in the afternoon sun because afterwards it went cold and we sat outside around a small fire before dinner.
The family were very apolgetic because it was so basic. But of course I am so grateful for anything……….except when I picked a piece of battered fried chicken and I asked what part of the chicken is this and someone replied the head…………ohhhhhhhhhhh. I quickly put it back where I found it and I was allowed to have another lucky dip with a better result. Exhausted again so after dinner I went straight to bed. In the night I was eaten alive by mozzies and one really annoying one that just kept buzzing in my ear.
DAY 498: OELNITEP – ATAMBUA
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 12:15 – DISTANCE: 95 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 35
In the morning the family were embarrassed and apologetic when they told me they had nothing for breakfast. I told them it was no problem and I needed to get going anyway.
After 20 km I stopped for breakfast $ 1.50 for beef, noodles, an egg and iced coffee. Today was probably the easiest day of them all. Just after midday I reached Atambua. Had some lunch, went to the supermarket and stocked up on things. It will be more expensive in Timor Leste. I went to the bakery and got some goodies. I then went looking for some new flip-flops. One shop wanted $5.50 ………no way. Close by I then got them for $0.70. I am now only 20 km from the border.Was going to cycle on another 10 km and then camp but after spending two hours in the internet cafe I decided to get a hotel…though more like a motel. The run to the border should be pretty straight forward.
DAY 499 : ATAMBUA – BALIBO TIMOR LESTE
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 14:00 – DISTANCE: 44 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 27
I had a terrible night’s sleep. Loud music from car stereo, people talking and then the church bells started ringing at 4 a.m., and at 4:30 a.m. was the call to pray and then at 5 a.m. some kids started playing football. At 6:30 a.m. I started cycling for the border. Early Sunday morning people were already in church and the singing sounded nice as I passed by. The streets were busy with lots of people all dressed up and heading for church carrying their bibles, as usual everyone said hello.
Somehow I left Atambua on the wrong road. It must have been an old road to the border because it was very thin and in bad condition. It was nice though taking me through some small villages. It also took me up a steep mountain and from the top I could see the ocean again. Going down the other side was very steep and with the brakes full on I was skidding. At 8 a.m. I reached the border and spent my last Indonesian Ruepees on breakfast. then cycled up to the Immigration on the Indo side. Documents presented. The officer got his calender out and was very excited……….you have overstayed by 2 days – problem. I replied – no problem no I haven’t. He counted again. One day $20. I replied no 60 days. I am fine. His reply was take a seat and wait here. He kept baiting me with you have problem over and over again. I just kept replying No I don’t. I then made my own calender. I went right on the defensive and then straight on the attack. I usually keep very calm. But I wasn’t going to let them have one over on me. I raised my voice to a level that it drew another immigration officer into the room. With him we counted the days again and the outcome was okay – no problem and I was on my way. It was then a few km down to Timor Leste Immigration. They have just built a brand new complex which is not open yet. You bypass that to get to some old UN containers – formalities here were a lot easier.
This side of the border is pretty dry. I crossed a couple of dry river beds. Everything looks a lot more basic – the people and the houses. There is more rubbish around. From the border I took a 21 km detour up the very beautiful mountain road to Balibo which is known with the deaths of 5 Australian journalists (one of whom was a New Zealander) in 1975 after the invasion by Indonesia. Then in 1999 much of the town was destroyed when Indonesia took out its frustration on the Timor people for voting for their Independance. Indonesia destroyed as much infrastructure as they could before they left. I visited the Balibo house museum before taking a walk around the village. Many destroyed houses were still prevalent.
I also walked up to the 400-year old Portuguese fort. Finding a hot meal is not so easy – there are no restaurants in the whole village. I had to settle for 6 doughnuts which set me back a whole $0.30. I was then going to head back down the mountain and head in the direction of Dili. Instead I stopped outside the church and asked if there was anywhere to sleep. Good result I now have a free room in the convent with the sisters. From out the back I am sitting at a table under the shade, drinking tea, eating fresh bread while watching locals climb banana trees.