I had breakfast in Kupang before setting off, but I was amazed at the amount of good places to eat that I passed on the way out. Kupang is pretty big so it was a while before I was in rural scenery again. Timor was instantly different to Flores, not such dramatic scenery and described as being like Australian outback. There was none of the bamboo that was so prolific in Flores, so house construction and material was all very different. Strangely their response to me calling "Hello" was different too, I received back a very laid back "Yeeeaaah". I expected a lot more climbing to Soe and I wasn't to be disappointed, the last climb was with about 20km to go. I needed refueling so stopped for the only food that I could find, fried bananas, though it wasn't enough and I needed to stop again soon after, but I only had about 10km to go, all uphill mind, I didn't want to stop so stupidly carried on, it made the last few k so much tougher. I checked into another hotel hosting another conference, then before I unloaded my bike felt weak and wobbly and had to lie down quickly. I got up a few minutes later and still felt as though I was about to faint so I shoved some biscuits down me and after a few minutes all was well again. I knew I needed them earlier, I am so stupid at times. During the night I woke up, my left leg felt very odd, I could feel the muscles is the shin tightening, slowly becoming more and more painful until I really wasn't enjoying myself very much at all. It felt like cramp so I stretched my leg out, it just made it worse, my foot became locked and any attempt to move it was agony, all I could do was lie there and take the pain, but after about 10 minutes is started to subside, gradually returning to normal. Very strange, it must have been cramp but I have never had it in the shin muscles before and never had it come and go so slowly before.
I bought some doughnuts as I was heading out of Soe in the morning, but I was looking for a decent breakfast, but unlike yesterday there was nothing so I stopped to eat the doughnuts. One of them contained fish, not something I would ever have thought of putting in one, but they do things differently here, hopefully I can avoid them in the future, they are not really recommended. On the map todays ride looked much longer than yesterday, but it was about 25k shorter, less zig zagging up the hills I guess. I found yet another hotel with a conference, this time in Kefamananu with government workers, but from all sectors, teachers, road workers the lot. I decided to have a chat, it was really easy, all I had to do was pull up a chair right outside my door on the ground floor, within a minute or so I had about 15 around me, questions being fired from all direction. It didn't seem to be much of a conference, they were all in sports wear and the only organised things they did was some synchronised exercises and they only seemed optional, everybody else sat around in groups and talked. Franceso spoke the best English and translated for the others, Maria spoke some English too, then Arreta, an English teacher arrived, but she spoke very little English, a bit of a problem I would have thought. Maria asked "Are you married?", "No, I'm not I replied "Will you marry an Indonesian?", "I doubt it" was my reply which was met with laughter all around. "Why not?" Maria asked, "I only have 2 days left, I will have to be a bit quick. Will you marry me?" I asked "But I have a husband, a 5 month old baby and I am happy" she said in a very sad voice, I think she was taking me a bit too seriously. Then somebody took a photo with a mobile phone camera, that started a rush as everybody wanted their photo with me. Then I took a photo of them, they were desperate to be in the photo and when I had taken it they let out a big cheer. After a closing speach and prayers they left at about 6pm and filed past me to shake my hand, there were 230 of them but thankfully they weren't all willing to wait in a queue. Franceso returned at 7pm and took me to the Timor Festival, a group of stands in a square, each a different company with lots of hierachy charts, graphs and words that I couldn't understand. There was a big stage in the middle and as they were about to play some music I was marched off by Franceso to have some food at one of the makeshift cafes.
At 7am they were all back again, this time is uniforms, another photo session started as they had brought their cameras in. I at last I got away, another day of less distance than expected, but a hot day and I didn't see a single place of route to buy an food, I had to survive on biscuits. I passed by little hamlets of little wooden houses with beehive shaped thatched storage rooms beside them. I stopped at one for a photo and was shown around. I then arrived at Atambua and wasted an hour cycling around town looking for somewhere reasonable to stay.
I lay in bed the following morning knowing I had an easy day ahead of me, a run down to the coast, cross the border to East Timor, then a flatish run to Maubara. You dipstick John! Why or why do I keep thinking that? It was tricky getting out of town, I kept stopping to ask for directions, I was now on a narrow rough old road, but I saw small buses going the other way so I guessed I was on the right road. I could see hills ahead, I couldn't see an easy way through, the road climbed steeply, this wasn't the plan. It got tougher and rougher, but what goes up must come down, it did, very quickly, very steeply, the near the bottom it turned to gravel, I was heading for a very steep, sharp bend, the brakes were full on but I was struggling with control over the rough ground, then as I went around the corner it turned to sand, the front wheel went straight on, that meant the rest of the bike and I followed it, we all left the road, I tried hard to stop at the same time as trying even harder to stay upright whilst also trying to avoid the trees, this could only end in fall, I just waited for it to happen. But somehow I enceremoniously managed to bring the bike to a halt, I looked and felt a right pillock as a bus came slowly past. Getting the bike back on the road was just as tough, but at least I was in control, in was then down gently over gravel to the border. Interestingly enough I had a recurring dream that I haven't had for ages, it always involves reversing in a car then losing control as the brakes don't work, but always ends up without any damage. This time it was very different, I was reversing into a garage, then when I applied the brakes nothing happened, I went straight through the garage wall as well as somebody elses. It's a dream about not being in control, I certainly wasn't in control around that bend. At the border the signpost showed 2 ways to Atambua, I bet I had come on the worst road! At customs they wanted to go through my baggage but lost interest when I piled 7 bags in front of them. Here I met a couple of NGOs from America, Sheldon and Erik. We stopped and chatted for about an hour, they were from the far end of the island and had come all the way across to renew their visas. They were here to teach English but also taught religion as well. They offered me a lift to Dili, I would have loved to have talked to them for longer, but lifts aren't for me. Before we left they prayed for me, for our friendship and for Aoiffe who I had told them about. I would have loved to have visited them where they worked, but it would be too tricky to get to. So I set off into East Timor, flat along the coast to start with then more steep climbs and descents along the rugged coast. I reached Maubara where I expected to find a town and guest house, but it was just a small village with one little kiosk and nowhere to stay. It was another 50km to Dili, but I decided to find somwhere to camp so bought a tin of sardines, a big tin, the biggest tin, a cyclist's tin, I don't even like them but there was nothing else. I found a spot away from the road to camp, right beside the beach. It was deserted, I even went in for a skinny dip, bliss. I prepared dinner, I opened the tin of sardines to find it was a tin of 'sardine', the rest was water, I suspect the thing had been alive when it went in there. Still, who cares, the stars were clear and ir was just magical. As I sat there gazing I had a visit from a large goat size animal but couldn't work out what it was in the dark.
Come morning I discovered what it was as I was paid visits from boars. I had a leisurely start but was already dripping sweat everywhere as I packed the tent away. Heading for Dili was on a nice road, in and out around the bays, then into Dili itself all of a sudden there was traffic, lots of traffic and an alarming amount of UN vehicles. I checked in at the East Timor Backpackers, set up and run by Henry an Aussie, a very sociable place but to be honest a bit of a dump. I met Andrew another Aussie who has traveled home overland but has been trying for an age to get a boat for Darwin but has now given up and booked a flight. At least that saves me the effort of searching.
Today has been a visa run for me too, to the Aussie Embassy, a massive book of a form to fill in, then I was told I needed a bank statement. So off I went to the internet cafe to find the banking site down. Later it was back up and I made it with 20 minutes to spare. They told me to come back on Friday, but I will be amazed if it is as easy as that, others I have spoken to have been asked to take a medical or have a chest x-ray.
So with 3 days to spare I think I will head off to Bacau tomorrow, the coastal road is supposed to be stunning. I will return the same way so see it from both directions, then it's just a case of getting the visa, getting a flight, then I will be in Darwin.....easy!
So what do I know about East Timor and what can I tell you? Not alot really, it's small, only half an island, no surprise there. When I left home it was the world's newest nation, created in 2002 but that might have been passed now by Kosovo. It's FIFA lowest ranking world football nation, even I would get in the team. It's pretty low on the wealth league too, the 7th poorest nation. The women here apparently have 7.9 kids, that a heck of alot and 50% of the population is under 15. They import all their chickens from Brazil and eggs from Malaysia. They use the US$ for their currency and have their own coins, but they do have a nice flag. Hmmm......that's not much really is it? Hopefully I will be able to tell you ab it more by Friday.