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August 27th, 2011 | Asia

Kupang to Dili and Country No: 80 on my World Tour…!!

Buzzing through the almost deserted streets of Kupang, I couldn’t help but notice that the parts of the town I could see, were clean and well maintained… This was a far cry from those of Sumbawa and Flores that I had been riding through recently…

Early morning on the outskirts of Kupang, and heading for Central Highlands...

The cross country highway "III B" takes you all the way to the Timor Leste border...

Captain Bligh of “HMS Bounty” fame, had spent a few unplanned for months in Kupang in 1789, after Fletcher Christian had relieved him of his vessel during the infamous “Mutiny on the Bounty” saga…

Unlike Captain Bligh, I had no intention of hnaging around in Kupang, and skirting the city, turned east towards the central highlands…

The roads were well paved and the riding for the first few hours was good…

The main highway ran in a north-easterly direction, through the heart of West Timor… For most of the initial part of my ride, the countryside was flat, covered in fields of maize and the by now ubiquitous rice paddies…

The island of Timor had for centuries experienced conflict of one kind or another…

Long before the Portuguese and Dutch arrived on the scene, fighting between the dozens of small states that the island was made up of, was commonplace, and head-hunting a very popular pastime…!! The Portuguese were the first to begin visiting the island to barter and trade for Sandalwood, and by the mid 16th century, the Dutch began muscling in on the scene…

In some areas, the road was yet to be tarred, but for the most part, Kupang's network of roads was in good shape...

Between 1859 and 1913, the Dutch and the Portuguese signed a variety of treaties to end hostilities between them, and divied up the island, with the Dutch taking the western part and the Portuguese maintaining the eastern half of the island…

Indonesia received its independence from Holland in 1949, and West Timor became part of the greater Indonesia… The Portuguese held on to East Timor until 2002, before finaling granting them the right to self rule…

The positive result of the referendum voting for independence in 1999, did not go down very well with pro-Indonesian militants, and backed by the Indonesian military, they went on the rampage in East Timor, destroying infrastructure and murdering pro-independence supporters, before the United Nations stepped in to broker a peace deal…

Tensions smouldered along the borders of the two Timors for years afterward, and it is only in the last half dozen years, that relations between the two have reached a point where they can be called “normal”… As a result of this, tourists have never exactly thought of East Timor as a “must do” holiday destination…

After the town of Camplong, we entered a range of low hills that climbed steadily up to the town of Soe, winding it’s way through rugged scenery… Short stretches of the route were un-tarred, but the gravel was well compacted and hardly hindered our progress…

Contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes stop to take a break...!!

With the Big Fella humming contentedly beneath me, we made good time, clocking up an average of about 60 kilometres per hour for the first three hours… I stopped on a steep mountain pass outside the town of Niki-Niki, and took a breather…

I stopped in Kota Kefamenanu to refuel for the final time in Asia...

It was baking hot, and there was not a heck of a lot of shade being cast by the scraggly trees growing on the verges of the “highway”… The hills and valleys all around were covered in long grass that had not seen rain for some time… It was dry and dusty, and I was glad that I had already covered half the distance to the border and it had just gone 9.30am…

From Niki-Niki, the road swung due north and an hour later I arrived in Kefamenanu, a small hill town that was once a Portuguese stronghold… They town is still predominantly catholic and I rode past a number of well-kept churches on my way to the Pertamina service station, where I refueled for what was probably the last time on the Asian leg of my tour…

Atambua taxi... Spreading the love in West Timor...!!

The town of Atambua was larger than I expected and i idled down the main street, looking for an ATM… For the last hour I mind had been off the scenery we rode through and was instead fretting about the border crossing that lay ahead of me…

Normally, border crossing hold no fear at all for me, but in this case, I had good reason to be a bit apprehensive…!!

My visa had expired five days before, and I assumed that the Indonesian officials would not take too kindly to this state of affairs… Furthermore, I had been told that Portuguese passport holders did not need a visa to visit East Timor, but until I actually arrived at the border, I could not be entirely sure whether this was the case or not…

Being on a tight schedule, I could not afford to wait until Monday and try for a visa in Kupang, so was riding on towards my destination on a bit of a “hope and prayer”…!!

I was given directions to the local bank by two of Atambua’s finest, and after drawing what I hoped would be enough to pay any fine I might have to at the border, I left Atambua and took the winding road to Motaain Belu and the border… Atambua was well known as a town where three UN Peacekeepers were lynched by an angry mob in 2000… Their status had very clearly held no water with the townsfolk, who accused them of meddling in Indonesian affairs…!!

Making friends with the local traffic officers in Atambua...

The Motaain Belu Border Post, last stop in Indonesia for the Big Fella...

The road to the border took us through small villages, and around scenic bays before arriving at the Immigration and Customs Services buildings where I parked and prepared to face a little “music”…!!

It took the official there barely a few seconds to notice that I had overstayed my welcome in Indonesia, and he hurried off to call a more senior colleague to deal with the problem…

After a ten minute conversation with these two guys, in which I embellished the story of my accident in Flores to no end, explaining that this resulted in me missing the first ferry to Kupang, the senior official cut short my tale of woe…

“You must pay a fine…!!”, he said curtly…

“How much..??” I asked, relieved that I was not being sent back to Kupang to renew my Indonesian visa…

“Two hundred thousand Rupiah for each day you are over the limit…!!”

I pretended to be shocked and horrified at this, and begged them to be a little lenient with me, and after a while they relented…

But only a little bit…!! They charged me for four days instead of the five I had overstayed and I coughed up Rp 800 000 to appease “Indonesian Rules and Regulations”…

I was issued with a receipt and waved on to Customs where my Carnet was stamped and I was wished a pleasant journey to Dili…  Relieved that one of the two concerns I had been wrestling with was now behind me, I made my way over a new bridge into the 80th country of my World Tour…

Farewell to Indonesia... For the time being...!!

And "Hello !", to East Timor...!!

A very modern border post was in the process of being built there, but until it was completed, border formalities were being taken care of in a series of portable offices and a large thatched lapa-like structure…

Seeing my Portuguese passport brought forth a large smile from the Immigration officer on duty, and he rattled off a long greeting in Portuguese which I could only reply to with a cheerful, “Obrigado, Senhor…!!”

Customs inspection at The Timor Leste border was a cursory affair...

He pointed towards the open-sided thatch structure and explained that this was the place my bike needed to be inspected, before the Carnet could be stamped… The inspection took less than five minutes, and all I had to do was open my one pannier for the Customs official to see into…

With my Carnet stamped, I left Fronteira de Batugade, and took off down the road before anybody could ask me any further questions… I always like to put as much distance between myself and a border post as quickly as possible before anyone can change their minds about letting me into any respective country…!!

Compared to West Timor, their neighbor to the East was in very poor shape…!! Not only was the road to Dili mostly sand and broken strips of tar, but the small villages I passed through initially told of hardship and neglect… I did not see too many power lines or water pipes, and noted that there was no large scale agricultural activity of any kind…

The coastal road to Dili hugged the shoreline, revealing endless beaches...

The road between the border and Dili was being worked on in some areas and hopefully once it is completed, improvements in the development of this region of East Timor will take place… But judging by the speed at which the work was being done, I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I was a villager living here…

The Big Fella took a bit of a pounding on this section, but the views made up for it... Sort of...!!

These Shrines featuring reliefs of Jesus and many of the Saints, can be found all along Est Timor's main roads...

The scenery from the dusty heights of the range of mountains I was battling through was spectacular…!! The mountains formed a backdrop to the road, and the rocky shores of the Timor Sea stretched out ahead and behind me… The wide sandy beaches I came across, were completely deserted, even though it was early afternoon on a Saturday…

The last part of my ride before reaching Dili took me past a series of small bays and on their shores, the occasional homestead tucked amongst the trees...

We came down from the mountains lining the coast and rode along a straight road that led past maize fields and larger villages and finally, after a two hour slog on gravel roads, entered Dili…

I had made it to East Timor after spending 36 hours on ferries, and riding 1825 km on less than perfect roads...!!

The city was spread out along the coast, jammed between a low range of mountains to the south and the Timor Sea to the north… My GPS did not have any maps or information loaded for East Timor, so finding places of interest and lodgings became a bit of a lottery… I stayed on the main road and it led me to the bustling heart of the city, which is actually more like a town than a city… There are no high rise bilding here to give you the impression of being in a city…

Every second vehicle is either emblazoned with the letters “U N”, indicating the very strong presence of the “Universal Nitwit” brigade… Why they bother here is a mystery to me…!!

It was abundantly clear to me, after having ridden through West Timor for the better part of six hours, that East Timoreans would have been far better off had they thrown their lot in with Indonesia, rather than sought independence for themselves…

Flores and many parts of Kupang are left to practice their Catholic faith in peace, so religion was surely not the reason they chose to go it alone…

“They made their bed, now let them lie in it” instead of wasting enormous sums of money and resources by backing up a puppet government that cannot even police itself without Australian assistance…!! That is my take on the matter anyway, and that;s all I have to say about that…!!

The first hotel I stopped at was asking $135.00 for a single room…!! I told them that the same room in Indonesia cost not even a third of that…!!

“That is the way things are here, sir…!!” said the manager with a shrug, “Everything is very expensive in Dili…!!”

I congratulated them on their upcoming 10th anniversary of independence which was only two days away, giving the manager a big wink…!!

“You must be enormously proud of yourselves…!!” I said, “But I think you guys backed the wrong horse…!! If I were you, I’d pop over the border, say you’re sorry, and ask to join the Indonesian Club…!!”

I walked back out to the Big Fella to continue my search for a place stay… I needed a dry room with running water and full access to the internet, which I eventually found at the Villa Verde Hotel, for the princely sum of $50.00 a night including breakfast…!! Still a rip-off by South East Asia standards…!!

The Villa Verde Hotel, my base in Dili...

©GBWT 2011

 

3 comments to Kupang to Dili and Country No: 80 on my World Tour…!!

  • Ollie

    Hey the windows look clean, even though the roof looks like it might let in more than its fair share of rain water.

  • Mark Behr

    I agree with you on the politics of East Timor. We waste so much money and manpower to uphold their govt it is crazy. Hope you have fun and get to see a few interesting places.

  • Mikey

    Incredible views in asia.
    I feel very proud of you.
    because I come from Indonesia,
    traffic officer that you were photographed with my acquaintances.
    his name is Joshua.
    spirit of facing a long and happy new year 2013.

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