Australia, 10th Jan. 2007
With Vegemite on toast and Carlton stubbies I reckon I
will soon be back up to my normal cuddly self . Yes, after 21 months (and 18 years) I have finally landed on Aus soil again. Here's news of the last few weeks travel.
I was in Kupang, West Timor on Christmas eve and, as it is a Christian community, I went to the Christmas service in the evening. I appeared to be the only
foreigner there and was shown to a seat right at the front where I could see all the action. There was a lot of singing by different groups, even one of some young soldiers and also a very melodic mixed choir. We sang
several carols, Oh little town of Bethlem, Joy to the world, Angels we have heard etc and of course, a candlelit rendering of Silent Night. It must be the most international carol in the world. Everything was sung in
Indonesian so, where I couldn't follow the song sheet I just reverted to English. A great way to spend Xmas eve and everyone shook hands afterwards so I didn't feel left out.
On Xmas day I was invited to eat with an
Aussie guy and his Indonesian family and we watched Pirates of the Caribbean while digesting the Indonesian food. Finished the evening in a local bar with other expats.
Boxing Day I was on the road again and got
caught in some heavy rain over the mountain roads but made it to the border town of Atambua for my last night in Indonesia. The ride was interesting as the scenery kept alternating between the lush jungle and dry
bushland with Eucalyptus trees. A sign I was getting closer to Oz.
The last few kilometres to the border were a bit worrying cos firstly none of the petrol pumps had fuel so I had to get some from the roadside dealers
(of which there are many in Indonesia) and then , as the sign posting is non existent, I took the wrong road and ended up on a dodgy track over the hills which could have meant another fall but I managed to get through
ok to start all the business with police, immigration and customs. No probs except having to unpack everything for inspection into East Timor.
The last 80kms to Dilli were by the sea and it was beautiful. The houses
are mainly bamboo shacks with raffia roofs and many piles of wood for cooking for sale at the road side. Bare arsed kids and farm animal running around and a few graveyards.
On arrival at Dilli, where you can see many
burnt out houses and UN vehicles, I went straight to Perkins, the shippers to find out about the boat.
It transpired that I would not have enough time to get the bike cleaned(Australian quarantine regulations) for the
next boat but there was one a week later. Unfortunately, due to the shut down for New Year I had to start the cleaning process before the hols which meant I couldn't use the bike. However, I was looked after by one
English UN guy, Scott, for a couple of nights and then moved in to Tracey’s house and was able to borrow a push bike which got me around the immediate vicinity and enabled me to get to and fro to the shipping office.
Tracey has been in Dilli for quite a while and is what in Castellar is known as a "Castle Queen", ie, she knows all the people worth knowing and has many social gatherings in her lovely house. Just the place
to be over New Year.
During my stay I met a lot of NGO personal from many countries and tried to read up on East Timors troubled history. It appears to me that, like Northern Ireland and Israel, the troubles have been
going on for so many hundreds of years that you wonder if, no matter how much aid and foreign control is poured into the country, things will ever truly be stable. I didn't feel threatened while I was there but there
were some reports of stoning and bag snatching but that happens in many European cities too and has even been happening here in Darwin lately.
There is a strong Aussie presence in Dilli, the army and many NGOs so I
was able to practise the accent again and sample the beer and wine. Unfortunately East Timor is now on the dollar so everything is at least 5 times more expensive than Indonesia. OK for those foreigners on UN/Overseas
wages but not so good for the locals (or me)
While cycling around Dilli I was directed to the Arte Moris Community Arts project run by a Swiss Artist and his wife. They hold art and sculpting workshops for local youth
and exhibit the resulting pictures and sculptures in Australia and Switzerland. There is also a theatre group which takes plays on current topics out to the villages to perform in the streets.
/writers/musicians who are interested in helping these dedicated people working with the local community please contact them.
One night, after a very difficult but entertaining quiz
in the Dilli Club, Tracey helped me with a little cremation ceremony for Larry (my sheepskin seat cover) Obviously he wouldn't be allowed to go to Oz so I doused him in petrol from the bike and, after some fireworks I
had bought in Sumatra were lit and the requiem read, he was set aflame.
Requiem for Larry
From the freezing cold of Northern Pakistan to the Tropical heat of Timor you have been my constant companion. Over rough
roads and smooth, through India, Nepal, Thailand, Loas, Malaysia and Indonesia you have protected my nether regions from heat and cold and tried valiantly to save me from callouses.
You have suffered the pollution of
Indian traffic that turned your snowy locks into black tangles, have been washed and dried many times and endured the indignity of shrinking.
Larry, I sincerely appreciate all your efforts to save me from the excrutiating discomfort of Suzy's seat.
I thank you from the bottom of my bottom. Be assured that you will be sorely missed.
Rest in Peace...
I had the ok from the shipping office and the bike was loaded into a container which, it transpired, it had all to itself. I had thoroughly cleaned and washed all my clothes and instruments which went in the panniers
with it and now am just waiting for the ship to unload before I get to meet everything again here in Darwin.
I caught the Airnorth flight on a small propeller plane for the 1/12 hour trip to Darwin and was met at the
airport by Steve, the brother of a friend from Sydney. He is kindly hosting me here for a few days while I get my bearings and the bike.
Darwin is a culture shock after Asia, all clean and organised and very quiet,
especially at the moment as people are just trickling back from New year hols and the wet keeps tourists away. It is also very expensive, more so than Spain.
I have already registered as looking for work and am
applying for my Seniors card to get cheaper rego for the bike.
Looking round for folkies and yoga classes so hope to be a normal person shortly. I wonder how long that will last???
My thanks to all the people who
have helped me on this leg of the trip and I hope to hear from a few more of the Ozzies now I am back in the country.