Saturday 24th July 2016
Having arrived in Darwin fairly late in the day and finding everything closed, I figured the next thing was to find some decent accommodation. Because it is high season in Darwin, ie no rain, I set about to see if I could find a bed using airbnb. Having not used this before I had to set up a profile. Now doing this after a long ride, in the heat of a Darwin afternoon on the side of the road with laptop perched on the seat and using the mobile as a hot spot was no ideal.
After an hour or so with no one replying to my request for a booking I gave up and went to Wotif’s mystery deals and secured a 5 star room on the esplanade on Darwin’s foreshore for $110 per night. I luxuriated in a bath. Went round the corner to Coles, bought some chicken and potato salad and a few tinnies and retired to my castle to enjoy.
Couldn’t last. When I tried to book for another couple of nights they wanted $185/night, and that just wasn’t on. So Saturday I didn’t check out till right on 10am. Spent a bit of time checking the shoreline promenade trying to avoid the hordes of joggers who had come out to make me feel good about my fitness level, changed some AU$s into US$s,that did not go done well, greedy bugers, and set about searching for reasonable bnb. Rode out the custom brokers just so I would know where to go on Monday. Found a Maca’s just north of town had a late lunch. What happened to the $1 coffee? I tried again with airbnb same place cause the lady from the bookingI tried for on Friday, had contacted me to say that she had been out of mobile range the day before but if she could still help. Well I had to rebook my reservation and in the process of my doing that someone else jumped in an gazsumped (?) me. Tried another booking but no luck, Checked into another Motel.
Come Sunday I need to detail the bike for a customs inspection before it went. Found a carwash and went for it. 4 hours later I had had enough if it wasn’t clean enough…tough. I did have a good chat with Mark who stopped because he figured I would have some tools to fix his pushy. We managed to find enough to talk about (bikes, trips, women etc) for more than an hour It was good.
That afternoon I tried another cheaper motel closer to the airport. On Monday I had a few things to do. Firstly I had to verify the carnet with AANT. Started well, they had moved, so i sought the help of the local police who directed me down the road. However, that was wrong as well. Luckily on the way I just happened to pass their shop. I was told to get the border protection department to sign off on the carnet first. Now I had just walked several blocks to border protection but they had to see the bike to confirm the engine number. So walked back, got the bike and back to customs. Now this bit was sort of funny. The engine number is hidden, partially by the exhaust pipes and partially by the lower crash bar attachment. After several officers crawling around the bike, several torches were produced, a call to the BMW boys at Townsville and much umming and ahhing.the officer was happy that the engine number matched the bike. After getting a properly dated shipping date on my shipping booking form (you guessed it the date on the original was wrong, custom couldn’t have that) it was back to the AANT who photocopied the approved custom clearance.
Next I had to pick up my second passport which had been sent to the Darwin office. At last something which went to plan.
Off to deliver the bike to the shipping agent, PJS custom brokers down near the shipping terminals in Export Drive. Unfortunately they didn’t have a container on site so after removing the panniers, to make it smaller, and leaving my tie downs I just had to leave it there. Very worrying.
Back to the hotel by taxi, I hate paying for taxis, to sort out the flight to Dili. As luck would have it….Not. The next plane was to not until Wednesday morning. More time than I wanted to spend in Darwin. Anyway did that.
After catch the bus into the city, Tuesday was spent investigating the sights of Darwin’s CBD and foreshores. I walked a long way that day.
Wednesday 27th July 2016
Just managed to be the last to board the plane. Had a bit of a problem at security. Just before jumping in the taxi to the airport I remembered that I to buy a 13mm open ended spanner to fit the chain adjustment nuts. As there was an auto store next to the motel, I ducked in an purchase one. Then stuck it in my backpack. Unfortunately, security decided that I would use it to highjack the plane and wanted to confiscate it. Having just paid $25 for this, I was not happy. Luckily the guy said I may be able to get it into my booked in luggage. So I hurried back to check in. My luggage was already gone. So, the lovely man opted to put in on the plane and it would go on the next flight. By that time they were calling out my name on the loud speaker. I was escorted to the plane and off we flew.
After a short flight of 1 hour and 15min I landed in East Timor. The customary hassle from the taxi drivers who pretend they haven’t got a clue what you are saying, I settled on some young fellow. After buying a sim card for the phone I was escorted to the “taxi”. None of these vehicles would come close to passing rego in Australia. You would probably have to pay the wreckers to take them away. Now despite my insistence that I wanted be taken to a Hostel, that didn’t happen. instead I was taken to a hotel. The Audian Hotel where I was greeted by the charming Io, (that’s pronounced io) a young married moslem lady. The cost of the single room, which she insisted I check out first, was US$40 a night, with free breakfast and washing, air con and an onsuite plus the balcony. No sharing of a crappy 4 bed dorm. I was happy. I sometimes think I am the only person in the hotel. The owners even arranged a little bike hire for $15/day.
Thursday 28th July 2016
I set out at 8am to walk the 40min to the Indonesian Embassy to apply for a visa. From what I had read it was a good idea to get there early in order to obtain the forms needed. Unfortunately, the procedure has changed and I should have come in the afternoon. Due to my ignorance they still gave me the forms to be filled out along with passport, photocopy of the front page of the passport and a passport photo with a red background, plus a copy of my latest bank statement. I was to return the next day to submit my application.
Next on the list was to go back to the airport to retrieve my spanner. Nothing is ever easy. I think I talked to about 10 people, all who told me it had not arrived on the plane, before I got to talk to a white person who rang Darwin and was assured it had been sent on the plane that morning. No, it still could not be found. Checked the left luggage room myself…no luck. So I was just standing about waiting for someone to give me the right answer when one chap took me over to another office where we asked if they had seen the little bag my spanner had been sent in. No, they hadn’t seen it. Looking around the shelves, I spied a bag that looked like the one my spanner should be in and said “It was like that one” Where upon one of the three guys in the room took it down and looked inside. Lo and behold my spanner. Ahhhh. I was already exhausted. The fare to the airport which I had negotiated a $3, by the time I got back to town had blown out to $15. He ended up with $10. I have done with yellow taxis. Always book a blue taxi, I am told, they have a meter.
After that I found a printing firm down from the hotel. They printed my a full A4 page of passport photos and the front page I needed and a downloaded copy of my bank statement. Total cost US$1.60. I had had a long day.
Friday 29th July 2016
On the little Honda, I set off into the unknown world of Dili traffic, with documents all prepared, and headed for the Indonesian Embassy again. this was better than walking even if it felt like a toy. Waited in the queue of all the other hopefuls wondering why all these young people wanted t go to Indonesia,figured it was probably because they lived in Dili.
When it came to my turn the lady behind the glass perused my application said a few words which I didn’t quite get, and told me to go sit down. 15min later I was called back to the window,my documents were returned and I was asked to return at 3pm to have an interview with the ambassador . Oh Oh I thought, no one else was told to do this. I’m beginning to get a complex. No that’s not true I already have a few complexes.
What to do till 3pm. I had my bike I should go for a ride. At the western end of Dili harbour is this monumental statute of Cristos looking down on everyone. Perhaps everyone is looking up at him.That would be a nice little ride along the foreshore. It was a pleasant day not yet hot. When I arrived the large carpark and recreation area was deserted except for a large group of young school children and there teachers. Having done the ride I looked at the steps leading up to the monument and they looked doable. Off I go. Now because I had earlier had to go to the Embassy and Indonesia being a predominately Moslem nation, it was advisable to wear and long sleeved shirt and long pants and shoes, which I did. But now it was startng to warm up and I was heading up these steps. By about half way I was trying to come up with a reason to turn back that I could live with. I couldn’t. Of the 685steps to the top the last 185 are the steepest. By the time I had reached my goal I was really hot. Being alone I took off most of my apparel to cool down. Luckily no one else was there.
By the time I had recovered and retraced my steps and found some much need rehydration, got on the bike and headed further along the coast. The roads outside of Dili can be fraught with peril as the surfaces can change without warning and parts of East Timor is very hilly. Plus there are some made bastards out there. Did a nice little loop around I arrived back in the city to make my appointment with the ambassador. i was a bit early but with few people there I was soon at the window to receive instruction. Shortly after I was shown into the ambassadors office. I was soon to find out that this was not a good thing to do. The problem was that I had asked for a 60 day visa, the norm being 30 days. If you fly in they throw them at you. No …60 days and travelling by bike (I also was told that a BMW was not a good bike for such a ride)(everyone seems to share this opinion), was a worry to him. More a worry for me I would have thought. He also told me if I was to settle on a 30 day visa I could just ride to the border and get one there??? So to give him greater assurance that I would be OK, he requested a letter from a sponsor in Indonesia, which I don’t have, or a letter from the Australian Embassy in Dili plus a copy of the front and back page of my Carnet. I couldn’t see the logic in any of this, however. Off to the Aussi Embassy to request of them a letter of which I haven’t got a clue as to it’s possible content. I explained this to the receptionist (yes they let me in) they decided after my, what may have sounded like incoherent babbling, to call the Indonesian chap. A nice Australian girl came to the counter to inform me that they have had this chat and although she could not really understand what the purpose or the content may end up being, she would put something on paper with the official letterhead and that I should pick it up Monday before I go for another appointment with the Ambassador.
Monday 1st August 2016
Went back to the Australian Embassy to pick up my letter. when last that there I was asked to send them an email asking what I wanted i the letter. I basically just reiterated that which I had put into my original letter to the embassy detailing my proposed travel route. Initially they insisted they hadn’t received my email and that I should go back and send it again. Me, being a cantankerous old bastard and that I wasn’t quite yet into the Alzheimers zone, insisted it had been sent, asked them to check again. Voila it was there. “Come back for your appointment at 10:30”. I did and the letter was done. Back to the Indo Embassy to resubmit my application. The Ambassador approved and I paid my $50. Only $30 for a E-visa. My passport with visa should to able to be picked up 2:00pm Wednesday.
As I had hired the bike for the day, I returned to the hotel to change my respectful jeans and long shirt into shorts and t-shirt and go for a ride along the eastern coast. This island is a beautiful place with deserted beaches and little coves beautiful aqua ocean and cooling breezes and unfortunately lots of rubbish everywhere. I cant remember Australia ever being so littered. Not that it isn’t. It’s just such a shame to see what packaging does to these countries. The government doesn’t seem to have any measures in place to control it, or much else for that matter. I don’t know what all the aid money from all over the world goes into. Someone needs to bring in the big stick. A few awareness environmental programmes might help. Everyone has there smart phones and internet, it’s not like they are unaware of world problems. Anyway, must get off the high horse and back to the ride. I rode up the coast 50 or 60 kms and the bike started making strange noises like something was falling off. I did a cursory check..no tools couldn’t fix anything anyway. With images of the bike tired to the back of a bus, which is a pretty common sight, and all that would entail, I started on the return trip. Well it wasn’t long before the source of the noise became obvious. As I was ascending a rather winding and steep road, I suddenly had lots of revs but was going nowhere. The chain had finally freed itself from the back sprocket. The good part was it was so loose it went back on without any trouble, and off I went again only very gingerly. It only came off once more, again on a steep hill, before I managed to limp back into town. The hotel owner and I proceed to try to adjust the chain. Not only was the chain passed it’s use by date, but half of the sprocket had lost one side of its teeth. So the bike was promptly taken around the corner to the bike shop and the new sprocket and chain were fitted. So all is good again. I dare say it wouldn’t be that simple with my BMW.
Wednesday 3rd August 2016
With the appointment at the Embassy not till 2pm, I was set on a bike ride into the interior of East Timor away from Dili. There is a road to Aileu thought I would give it a shot. This road is almost a biker’s dream. Climbing for ages and twists and turns and a nice new asphalt surface. Where was my bike? the climb seemed to go on for ages. The temperature became quite cool and then the road went down the other side with the same conditions.
However, what followed was the next stage of road construction, was not so much fun. I continued for a few K’s knowing that in Asian countries the road can come good again, but after getting immersed in a cloud of fine bull dust with ever passing vehicle, it was time to stop. Road engineers have a strange sense of humour, I reason, Roads or parts thereof don’t get upgraded in sequential order. They do a section here, then leave a gap and do the next section getting you hope up and then crashing them done. However, after passing through a friendly police licence check, I did come to a little township square where I stopped to rest my bum. Didn’t take long before the children had gathered and then a few parents standing a bit further away. A few minutes latter I was hailed, in English, and asked to join a local home owner, a chair was found and I was invited to share a local Timorese coffee and a chat. This chap and his wife were police officers and had learnt English when working with the Australians after Independence.
I suddenly remembered I had an appointment to meet. Back on the bike, through the choking dust, up and down the beaut winding road and into the Embassy. Despite it now 3pm and I was late, no matter. All done quick smart and I finally had my 60 day Indonesian visa. Back to the hotel for a much needed shower.
Thursday 4th August 2016
Another bright sunny day and I am heading along the coast then up into the hills toward Empera.
If I thought the road up from Dilli toward Aileu was good this one was even better and the ride was longer. I was heading to Ermera as my goal, however, I didn’t get there. Instead I made a stop at a town called Gleno. Today was market day. There were masses of people, it was a huge market. I spent an enjoyable and fascinating couple of hours wandering through the stalls. By which time I had not left myself enough time to go on to Ermera, plus I really wanted to travel back along the road again.
I guess you have to expect that when you are having to good a time, something has got to happen, and it did. Just as I was near the bottom of a long decent, the bike started to behave badly, so I slowed to check it out. My suspicions were confirmed, by a passing rider, I had a rapidly deflating rear tire. I discounted my not so trusty stead, and guided the bike, luckily downhill and not too fare from the always present tire repair station. After waking the man from his nap, he set to to solve the problem. Many locals gathered and with each new arrival more mirth and laughter resounded through the group, the only word I recognised being “Australie”. The process was not that which I was used to. You don’t take the wheel off the bike, just pull out the inner tube, cut a square of rubber from another tube. scratch up the tube with a bit of hacksaw blade, add some glue, put it into a makeshift press, light a little fire under it using little pieces of rubber combined with metho, leave for 5 to 10 min, while he shows me the injuries on his fighting cocks. undo the press thing, check the tyre for leaks, pull the 4 or 5 little nails out of the tyre. Stick it all back together, pay the man $2 and I’m back on the road….. Worth the experience
Friday 5th August 2016
Starting to think I have been here too long and that the bike should have been shipped by now. I had been out for a bit of sightseeing. I found the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum, This naturally chronicles the ongoing resistance movement first against the Portuguese and then Indonesian governments towards their goal of self determination. Around 2:30 I had just returned to the Hotel when I received a call from ANL shipping with the request that I come and give them some money. This was good. I finally found the depot in Colmera. The bad bit was when I was asked to pay them in cash and in US dollars. I was under the delusion that I would pay this money to Australian via Direct deposit over the internet as I had made all the arrangements for shipping in Australia. Silly me. I didn’t have enough US dollars. Had some aussi dollars, didn’t like those, but the banks were now closed and its Friday afternoon. On they way back to the hotel just to round off the afternoon, another puncture. This time its the front tyre and 30 meters from another tyre person.
After much freaking out from being on the internet and reading trip adviser where I read that I should be able to get cash withdrawals from one of the 4 ANZ ATMs in Dili, if they were still working. The other problem with the internet was that it also told me Indonesian banks were having so many problems with scams and thief and skimming at the ATMs in Indonesia, they were disallowing withdraws for visa card customers. So now I am thinking I don’t have enough cash to get through Indonesia. Worry about it tomorrow .
Saturday 6th August 2016
I took off to track down the ATMs that would accept my visa card. I hit 4 of them. So now I had enough US dollars I returned to the ANL offices and paid for the shipping charges. Way more than the quote I was given. What can you do. Still no luck in exchanging dollars for rupiah, which I will need going into Indonesia. I checked the docks and the harbour to see if the Darwin Trader was anywhere to be seen. If it had left Darwin on the 4th it should be here by now. It wasn’t.
Sunday 7th August 2016
Sent most of the day sitting around the harbour side…checking. Had some long chats with a few East Timorese about what life was like for them in East Timor. None of them seemed all that content and mainly talked about other places they would like to find work, especially Australia.
Monday 8th August 2016
Went down to the customs office at the waterfront to get the Carnet stamped. Finally got that sorted after showing the officer where he had to stamp and sign. Then back to ANL to show them the cleared Carnet so they could release the bike into the bond store when it was offloaded. I thought that was supposed to be today, but apparently the boat had been delayed and wouldn’t arrive till today. This is probably why I hadn’t seen it in the harbour. I got back down to the harbour around 2pm and there was the Darwin Trader being offloaded. Just have to wait now for the phone call to come and pick it up. I have all my fingers crossed. Now been 14 days since I had seen my bike.
Tuesday 9th August 2016
At long last after 15 days, by 1pm I could not wait any longer for the promised phone call. Hopped on the little bike and headed for the ANL yard. Sure enough there was the container, still locked up. I had to wait an hour until the customs man arrived to open the container. There it was all safe and sound. Wasn’t long before we had freed it from it’s bonds and I was putting everything back together. Customs gave it a cursory once over, and I was soon riding out of the yard.