Indonesia

Two for the price of one

I’m in a bit of a rush, so here’s two updates in one. Sorry.

The other day I said I was going to do a loop around East Timor before I continued on to England. Well I changed my mind. I don’t know what it was but as I started heading east along the coast I just thought this doesn’t feel right. My right wrist wouldn’t throttle, my brain wouldn’t engage, why was I going east I wondered when England is the other way. So I turned around and made a run for the boarder instead.

It wasn’t an easy ride; I was worried all the way. Remember the guy at the Indonesian embassy who said I couldn’t take my motorbike across the boarder? Well he’d got me spooked and the closer to the crossing I got the more I panicked. What if they won’t let me pass. Can I sail around Indonesia, fly over, sneak in, sneak out? And what if they shoot me for putting on my visa application that I’m a journalist?

Finally, after five hours weaving up and down mountains and dodging oncoming trucks I arrive at the barrier. And guess what. I sailed through. An English speaking tout took me first to customs then to immigration where they stamped my passport and incorrectly filled in my documents. But I told them and they sorted it out, them being all chummy and calling me Rooney. Wayne.

I felt good being out of East Timor. There was just something about that place. Maybe it’s the country’s past and the strange fella at the hostel who took too much interest in me and what I was doing there. Maybe it was paranoia, maybe it was my larium. Or maybe I’m just a big pussy who is going to be petrified all the way to his English doorstop. Either way I waved and cheered at every West Timorese person I saw. I stopped for photos. Bought petrol from the roadside in little glass bottles. Laughed. Smiled. Relaxed. Then I got to Antimbua, the place I’d spend the night, and shat myself.

Riding in to town a guy on a moped started following me. I tried to shake him off through the backstreets but when I pulled up at the hotel he was already there, waiting. Smug and grinning, he knew too much information about me. Where I’d come from, that I was English. I thought how could he possibly know that. I’d not told him. His name was Adi. He was shifty, laughing to other people about me and looking around my bike. He of course now knew where I was staying the night.

The room was around the back and I could leave the bike near the door. A French couple were on their patio and we talked. They were great. Then a guy from customs at the boarder turned up. He said he was staying at the hotel because his water at his house was off. I thought that odd. Then a load of guys came on motorbikes and hung around near my room drinking beer and keeping me up all night. I dragged the mattress close to the door, locked my bike and booby trapped it with a glass bottle tied with cord to the footrest. If it moved I’d hear it. I slept with a hammer and a penknife beside me. I was worried.

Of course the next morning everything was fine. Bike still there, nothing touched. I had breakfast with the French couple. They gave me some different anti-malaria tablets so I could get off the larium. Was it them making me paranoid? Or did I have reason to be suspicious? That question was answered when I rode out of town around 9am, stopped at a phone shop to get a sim card and looked up to see Adi walk in with his head down. He looked nervous that I’d spotted him. It wasn’t coincidence. “Are you following me?” I asked. He shook his head, I got on my bike and rode, and rode and rode…. All the way to Kupang, eight hours away on the most westerly tip of Timor. I don’t know if Dot was scared too but she flew. 80km/h all the way. She never managed that in Oz. I stopped only for fuel and food and got into Kupang just before dusk. It was from here that I would get a ferry to the next island, Flores.

The problem is they’re not running. The weather’s too bad or some other bullshit. The next one might go on Wednesday so until then I’m stuck here, nervous, paranoid, and with everyone who rides past you shouting ‘hey mister.’ I’m jumpy, edgy and just want to leave. So far I’ve taken few pictures, but if you want evidence I’ve been to West Timor then check my underpants, they’re full. And this isn’t at all helped by my lack of planning. Most people who attempt a trip like this spend a year planning and come with maps and directions. I had two days to plan and have no maps, no directions. So I got to Kupang by asking and found a hotel by chance. I need a Lonely Planet guide at least.

And here’s the other one

Now then I sit and wait for a ferry. Hopefully once goes on Wednesday and fingers crossed it does because I only have a 30 day visa for Indonesia and the country’s huge. What makes it worse is that it’s just a string of islands, which means many ferries and much waiting. It’s bullshit. To cross over to Malaysia I also have to get to pretty much the country’s most westerly tip on Sumatra. I reckon the total distance is about 4000 kays but the roads are all twisty so the pace will be slow. Forget the sight-seeing, I’m just going to have to ride all day everyday. But that’s okay, I’ll just be glad to get out of here and eat a McDonalds in Singapore. Man boobs or no man boobs. I’m having a double quarter-pounder with cheese and then going back for another. God I miss McDonalds.

Would you believe it.

Last Saturday as me and Dot Cotton were crossing the boarder into West Timor the fortnightly ship to Flores sailed merrily out of Kupang. Without me on it.

If I’d have coordinated this whole global saga I’d have known it was leaving and been there to raise the mast, but as this whole adventure is a trip and a grope in the dark I hadn’t a clue it had departed until someone told me yesterday.

Wait around another 11 days in Kupang? I don’t think so. Not when I only have a 30 day visa and need to get to the other end of Indonesia in that time. Looking at the map it’s a distance as long as that I rode in Oz – about 4500 kays – but here the roads are as twisted as my stalker’s mind and every 500 kay or so there’s a ferry to sit and wait for.

And that’s what I’m doing now, waiting for a ferry, because Captain Birds Eye tells me there’s a rickety old raft leaving tomorrow. It’s not bright and shiny like the one I missed, but old and wonky, like a sea dog that should be put down. But it’s cheap, takes 22 hours to cross to Flores and, more importantly, if you’re forced to to swim you get a discount and a silver blanket for the survivors. Brilliant.

In the morning then I’ll pack my snorkel and flippers and hope for the best, but by the sounds of things if we do go down there’ll probably be some stricken aviators in the water as well. Not only do Indonesian ships sink but also Indonesian planes crash. So in the sky or in the sea, we’re all fucked.

Wish us luck

3 thoughts on “Two for the price of one

  1. You prolly wont see a McDonalds ’til Bali. Many all over Java, some with free wifi.
    Take it easy in Flores, bus drivers are crazy.
    Surubaya on Java has a port where you may be able to catch a boat all the way to Sumatra, but if you have to wait then no real point.
    Stay away from Jakarta traffic.
    Take it easy, Indonesians are fantastic people, a great country.

  2. Akillat, thanks for all the tips mate, I’ve bloody only just seen them. Bugger. Never mind, I agree with them all, especially about traffic in Java. Nightmare, total. Were you on a bike or on the public transport?