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September 1st, 2011 | Asia

All Done and Dusted in Dili…

I had made it to Dili with plenty of time to spare before the “Thor Libra” was due to sail…

Or had I…??

Standard fare for the traveling biker... Two minute noodles, Crackers, Chocolate, Nescafe sachets and water...!!

On Sunday, the manager of the hotel, Alphonso, casually mentioned that Tuesday and Wednesday were public holidays in Timor Leste, and most establishments would be closed to commemorate Independence Day…!!

This bit of information send my mind reeling…!! If the vessel was due to sail on Thursday, that gave me just one day, Monday, to get the bike washed and scrubbed down, prepare all the shipping and export documents, and ensure that I had enough gear with me to see me through to early the following week before I would be reunited with the Big Fella in Darwin…!!

I figured there was no point in worrying that there would not be enough time until I began the process the following morning… I hung around the Vila Verde for most of the day, arranging to have all my laundry done, and writing up a post for my website…

Although the internet signal in my room was strong, the fact that every few hours the power in the immediate area would mysteriously disappear for up to half an hour at a time, meant that the WiFi signal died with it…!!

I had also discovered that Timor Leste had no paper money of its own and used the US$ as their currency…!! They did have a few coins in circulation which were linked to the dollar, and had the same face value… Things here were also a lot more expensive than they were in Indonesia…!!

Sidewalks are just as good a place as any to dump your garbage in Dili...

A soda cost twice as much, and supplies which for the most part were sold from ramshackle little spazas on the roadside, were also almost double that which I was used to… Petrol cost $1.20 a litre, about R8.60, as opposed to just R3.80 a litre in Indonesia…!!

Fed up with the power problems the town was experiencing, I decided to take a ride down the coast to see what the locals did on weekends… The streets of Dili were potholed and dirty, garbage strewn about on cracked sidewalks… Many of the buildings had never seen a coat of paint, and some looked in danger of collapse… It was clear from the many unsmiling faces that the local populace was having a hard time of it, and many were probably living in survival mode…

I wondered how much longer it would take for this country to stand on its own two feet and for the lives of it citizens to improve…??

But there was some hope…!! Road-works near the edge of town indicated that some infrastructural improvements were indeed taking place, and east of the town, where the majority of public beaches were situated, I was amazed to discover that a substantial amount of money had been spent making them as user friendly as any I had seen in South East Asia, perhaps even better than most in fact…!!

At least the beaches east of town were in pristine condition...!!

The Praia de Christo Rei, a sun-kissed beach watched over by the statue on the headland behind it...

A walking and cycle track stretched for miles down the coast, linking the beaches and the many new restaurants that had been built there… Solid structures had been built on the beach where large families gathered under the shade provided by them and were enjoying their Sunday lunch…

The facilities were being enjoyed by locals and ex-pats alike, and but for the tired and sad looking town behind me, we might have been on any beach in a far more developed country…!!

But the road leading to the statue of Christ came to an abrupt end...!!

Near the end of the coastal road, leading to a bluff on which an enormous statue of Jesus had been erected, a large paved parking area, complete with public facilities, welcomed beach-goers… It was hard to believe that a place like this existed amongst the squalor and poverty I had seen so far…

Looking back across the Bay of Dili... Paradise, in a country beset my strife and conflict until very recently...

We stopped to see if Don Henley and the boys were in... Sadly, they had moved on...!!

I figured that if I was to be stuck in Dili for a few days, this is where I would spend my time…!!

On my way down the beach road, I noticed a hotel whose name I thought might make for a good photo opportunity and stopped under the sign to take a few shots…

While I was doing so, a group of people that had been enjoying a late lunch on the upper terrace appeared at the railing to get a closer look at the bike that had just roared up and stopped below them…

They greeted me enthusiastically and invited me up for a drink, which, considering the heat, I accepted just as enthusiastically…!!

We chatted for over an hour about my trip and some of the countries I had ridden through… Many of them had been to the same places as I had and we enjoyed comparing what I had seen to what they could remember from their own visits…

Feeling a bit peckish, I headed back to the hotel before it got too dark and went foraging in the same street as the hotel… I had no intention of wandering too far away on foot, as I had seen a couple of unsavory looking characters loitering about, and had heard that the streets of Dili at night were not necessarily the safest place to be on your own…!!

I discovered a restaurant closer to my hotel than the one I had eaten at the night before, and enjoyed a decent meal there, amongst a boisterous crowd of young locals and backpacking tourists…

The previous evening, as I entered the gloomy little “eatery” recommended by Alphonso, a large rat, the size of a kitten, had dashed out of the interior, throwing what I fancied to be a “Good luck, Mate” over his shoulder as he went scampering off into the darkness…!! Street lights were a rare thing in the part of town I was staying…!!

I sat down at one of the two tables, and was summoned towards the counter by a grouchy looking woman, who indicated what was on the day’s menu by waving a large dirty soup ladle at a few bowls of food hidden in thick gravy…!! I noticed a plate of ready cooked chicken pieces off to one side, and asked for a few pieces of those with some rice…

When the food arrived, barely a minute later, I found myself chewing down on a plate of cold rice and even colder fried chicken, which had me trying to remember where I had stashed my Imodium…!!

Memorial to the Dueling Crocodiles...!! Sorry, but I have no idea...!! Or, as we say back home, "Jy kan my naai as ek weet...!!"

The following morning, I rode down to the Toll Marine offices, eager to begin the process of getting the Big Fella shipped, and knowing that I had just one day to do it in…!!

Joao, the guy who handled the customs clearing, greeted me with a smile, and within a few minutes had copied all my documents and with my Carnet in hand, promised to do all he could to get it stamped and cleared that same day…

He then took me over to the office that would be arranging the actual shipping, where I met James Geddes, who I had been communicating with for the past few weeks… He and his assistant, Lucy Campos, handled my queries with absolute professionalism and efficiency, and gave me the impression that the chances of getting things squared away that day were “do-able”…!!

But there was one little catch…!!

“You will need to have your bike washed thoroughly to pass the Australian import and quarantine regulations, Mate…!!” James advised… “I’m not sure that you’ll have enough time to get it done today, because you need to be back here by about 3.30pm so that we can get the bike loaded and lashed down… We close at 5.00pm, and tomorrow as you know, is a holiday here…!!”

He gave me directions to Troy Logistics, and told me to take every piece of kit that I intended putting in the container with me when I went to have the bike cleaned… I arrived at Troy Logistics expecting to find a pristine environment where the vehicles destined to be exported to Australia would be cleaned… Instead, I found a dusty yard with pools of muddy water and a large open air workshop where trucks were being serviced and repaired…!!

"Ready for a spring-clean, Big Fella...??" I asked.. "You bet I am...!!" came the reply... "You've been a bit tardy with the soap and water, my friend, and I have dust in places where I didn't know I had places...!!"

I met Chris there, who introduced himself as Troy’s brother and asked how he could be of assistance to me…

“Well, I need to have this bike prepped for shipment to Darwin…” I explained…

“No problem, Mate…!! When do you need it by…??”

“Three o’clock this afternoon…!!” I replied with a smile…

“What…!!” he spluttered… “That’s impossible…!! It usually takes us two days to do a big bike like that…!!”

“Well Chris, then today we are going to break a few records …!!” I smiled confidently back at him, all the while feeling my heart sinking into my shoes…

But the boys from Troy Logistics were up for the challenge and a few minutes later I was stripping the bike down and together with two of their staff members, we began soaping and washing the Big Fella down…

I could not believe the lengths we went to, to get every piece of dirt and grime off the bike…!! We removed all the covers, got to grips with all the nooks and crannies on the bike, using toothbrushes, and cloths covered in wire…

The guys from Troy Logistics get busy...!!

Just when we thought we had it all done, Troy himself arrived and began finding spots we had missed…!! Troy is the kind of “hands-on”, owner/manager that I relate to completely… He got down and dirty, making sure every bit of the bike was scrubbed clean before he pronounced himself satisfied that the job had been properly done…

Everything that could be removed from the bike was, and washed thoroughly...!!

He then went even further, by helping me empty every bit of kit and equipment from my panniers, and after giving them a thorough washing, proceeded to wipe down each and every item with a clean cloth, before passing it back to me to be repacked…!!

“I worked with the customs guys in Darwin for a few years, Mate, so I know what it is they will be looking for when they inspect your bike…!! You need to be sure that not a single blade of grass or a seed pod is lodged anywhere on this bike… Get rid of all sticky tape on these packages, as that is where they will look first…!! All kinds of shit sticks to tape, so it is best not to have any for them to look at…!!”

Troy himself lends a hand, and wipes down every single item that went into the panniers...

We cut the tape off the small boxes I used to hold spare parts; we removed the duct tape that I had put on the pannier frames to avoid wear and tear, using thinners and petrol; Troy inspected all the stickers on my luggage to make sure that none of the edges had lifted and dirt had become trapped underneath them; we sandpapered some of the rust marks on the pannier frames… The list of things we did could fill a page or two of this post…!!

“Are you sure we need to go to all this trouble…??” I asked

“Are you sure you don’t want your bike shipped back to Dili…??” he replied nonchalantly…

Good and clean...!! After a huge effort while the clock in my head ticked away...!!

By 3.00pm, we were done, and I had worked alone through the lunch break the guys took, to make sure no time was wasted in getting the Big Fella as clean as he was when I rode him off the showroom floor in June 2007…!!

I eyed the muddy puddles between the wash bay and the front gate, and wondered how I was going to get this clean bike through them… Troy made a phone call and ordered a breakdown truck, one of those with a ramp on the back, and when it arrived, we pushed the bike directly onto the metal bed and with a few of Troy’s guys holding onto the handlebars, rode out of the yard and down the road to Toll Marine’s offices and container yard…

Troy and his crew pose on the flat-bed with the Big Fella...

Once there, a forklift brought an empty container up close to the truck, lifting it to the same level as the load-bed, and then we pushed the Big Fella directly into the container without his wheels even touching the ground…!! Talk about door to door service…!!

Giving new meaning to the term, "Door to Door Delivery"...!!

I was elated that we managed to get this all done in the short time we had, and it is thanks to Troy himself that we were able to manage it at all… He also took the time to run me down to the local travel agency (whose computers were off line, making it a futile trip…!!) to buy my plane ticket, something which is certainly not part of the service he offers…!!

Thank a million Troy, for the personal effort you put into making what would normally take a few days, take just five hours…!! It certainly would not have been possible without you…!!

To all bikers expecting the same sort of result when they ship their bikes, I have just one word for you…

“Don’t…!!”. I was lucky enough to catch Troy’s crew on a day that was probably quieter than most for them, and had the good fortune to have a couple of guys to help out, and as I have stated above, the personal attention and effort of Troy himself…!!

Lashed down and ready for the voyage to Darwin...

I backed the Big Fella into the container myself, getting it wedged in tightly between the side walls, before using as many tie-downs as I had available to lash him securely in place…

I stood for a few minutes looking over my handiwork, one of those “shit-faced grins” plastered all over my face…

We had done it…!!

It was also just as hard to believe that we had come this far together, and still had such a long way to go… I gave the Big Fella a final pat on the tank and shouted “See you in DARWIN…!!”, startling the workers standing around me…!!

They grinned and laughed, slapping me on the back and repeating “See you in Darwin” a couple of times themselves…!! One cheeky devil, the forklift driver I think, then rushed up and kissed the front mudguard…!! More laughter and teasing from the crew…!!

Just as I completed my farewells to the Big Fella, Joao came over waving my Carnet, a large smile on his face…

“All done…!!” he exclaimed loudly, “I managed to convince the Customs that they must do it today, as tomorrow and the next day, they will be closed for holidays…!!”

James Geddes and I outside the offices of Toll Marine, agents for Perkins Shipping in Dili...

I paid him the requisite $50.00 for the Customs Clearance Certificate, shook hands with him and then strolled over to James’s office, whistling tunelessly and feeling rather chipper with myself for getting through what was a “touch and go” situation, and could easily have cost me another week in Dili, had we not achieved our goal of getting the bike done in such a short space of time…!!

It was 5.00pm by the time we had sorted through the costs and agreed on the final figure, a little under $500.00… Lucy was busy with other shipping documents, but agreed to come in the following day and have mine typed up, despite it being a national holiday…

I arranged to meet them early the next morning, to pay for the shipping charges and collect any documentation I needed to have with me when I began the clearing process in Darwin…

Back in my room later that evening, with the adrenaline that had coursed through me all day wearing off, I began to feel the aches and pains from all the lifting and carrying I had done during the day… The bending over and under the bike, in the sweltering sun with sweat dripping down my face, had taken its toll…

I was knackered…!! I stood under a hot shower for what felt like the longest time, then checked my email while sipping on a cup of coffee… I remember walking over to the bed to lie down for a while and plan my movements for the following day…

I fell asleep without as much as a thought for dinner…!!

On the way to the airport, I stopped to take a photo of the "Catedral de Dili"... It seemed like a haven of peace and quiet in comparison with the rest of the properties in town...

Early the following morning, I went on line to check the prices of airline tickets from Dili to Darwin… I was surprised to discover how expensive they were…!! A one way ticket cost $359.00 for the one hour flight…!!

I counted the days before the vessel would dock in Darwin and discovered that at best I would only have access to my bike on Tuesday the 6th of September… That was a full week away, and I had no intention of spending that week in Dili, or experiencing the expense of Darwin for that length of time either…!!

I checked on flights back to Bali, and discovered that it would cost $126.00 to Denpasar, and then $88.00 on to Darwin, a saving of $145.00 on the direct fare to Darwin from Dili…!! Go figure…!!

But of course, there was a far better reason for flying back to Bali to while away the days before the Big Fella got to Darwin… And to say she was delighted by the news that we would be spending another week together, was an understatement…!!

I hurried back to the Toll Marine offices, got the freight charges squared away, thanked James and Lucy for their efforts, and then went looking for a travel agency… As luck would have it, there was one at the Landmark Mall, just across the road, and within minutes I had my ticket to Bali in hand, and was hoofing it back to my hotel to pack my gear…

I was doubly happy to be getting the hell out of Dili...!!

The closest thing to a mall you will find in East Timor...

The most common paint job in town...!!

Two hours later, my Merpati Airways flight took off from Aeroporto Presidente Nicolau Lobato, banked west out over the Timor Sea and headed for Bali…

Boarding the plane to wing my way back to the "Angel of Ubud"...

An hour and a half after that, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, shattered the seabed just 200 km off the coastline of Dili…!!

I only got to hear of this once I had landed, when Patricia began making frantic calls to my Indonesian mobile, to check that I was alright… My sister Charmaine had seen the news of the earthquake on CNN back in South Africa, and sent an email to Patricia, expressing concern for her dear brother…!!

After confirming that I was safely traveling at 25 000 feet above the ground at the time of the quake, and had been blissfully unaware of the event, I sent a quick email to James, to check that a certain container had not been washed out to sea on an unplanned voyage to nowhere in particular…

He confirmed that all was well back in Timor Leste, and although buildings in Dili had rattled and trembled for 30 seconds or so, little damage had been done… The earthquake had occurred in deep water, and no tsunamis were expected either…

I was still riding the wave of good fortune it would seem, even though the hounds of mis-fortune had snapped at my heels a time or two…!!

I settled down to enjoy yet another week in Ubud, back in the villa I had called “home” since the beginning of June…

©GBWT 2011

6 comments to All Done and Dusted in Dili…

  • Brandt

    I can not wait for the next part of your adventure. Well done so far 🙂

  • i knew you would visit Patricia one more time before leaving for Aus, have a great trip and stay in touch, just sent you a rather big email buddy.

  • Mark Behr

    Whew, a big day, crowned by a perfect decision. Hope you are enjoying time with your lovely lady!

  • Vince Ricci

    You keep on kicking those hounds of misfortune in the teeth! Glad your little prang with the scooter the other day didn’t finish worse ..whew… watch it budddddy. Don’t worry, I’m not hurt that you chose a visit to your personal yoga instructor in Ubud (to help mend the mind and body after such a trauma)over a visit to your panel beater in Khartoum (to mend the bent panier). The Big Fella on the other hand, he may be less forgiving sitting all alone in a dark box somewhere at sea!! HA!

  • Charmz

    Well done, we are so proud of all your achievements. Can’t wait for all your OZ adventures. Give yourself and Big Fella a hug from all of us back home in SA.
    Love and miss you madly,
    Dad, Mom and Charmz

  • Tony Royle

    Lekker. Enjoy the break in Bali.

    Some big km’s waiting for you in Aus!

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