I have taken many wrong turns in my travels; getting lost, realising I had no cash, getting deported. But they have also always worked out for the better. Making basic plans is about as far as I go. I get tense when I have it all set down. It can only go wrong then and build a sense of frustration. Riding in the back of a truck from the Indonesian border seemed like a wonderful idea. I hadn’t done and had always wanted to. The driver agreed to take me 30km for $3 to the bus station from where I would get to Kupang, pick up a flight to Bali and start the adventure in Indonesia.
I started in the back which jolted me around somewhat but got moved to the cab when we dropped off some passengers. I was slightly concerned that I had no Indonesian rupees but thought I could get my way out of that one. Atambua, an non-descript town contained the bus station. The journey took longer than I envisaged. I explained to the driver how I needed to change money. He somehow understood and that got sorted. We pulled up at two bus stops, where buses were waiting to leave for Kupang but they were all full. A sense of forboding came over me. It was now 5pm. The journey to Kupang was 9hours. I knew I would have to stay in this town tonight. The driver drove me to a hotel. I could tell he was getting annoyed with me. He dropped me off outside and I handed him $5 to keep. The hotel I wanted so no longer taking guests. It had closed two years ago. Thank you Lonely Planet.
I walked next door to a large complex but from the look of the place, a class A shithole. I was right but I was also tired and down-trodden. I took the room. It was ok. Simple and underwhelming. With a battalion of mosquitoes, I write these words. The killing fields started soon after checking in and 95% now lie fallen. But there will be more. There always is. I got some water and biscuits from the shop, stared at in wonderment as clearly one of the few foreigners to have graced this shitheap of a town. I’ll get an early night I thought and catch the first bus in the morning, hopefully arriving in time to go straight to the airport and get to Bali. Otherwise, that’s two days lost and when on a 30 day visa in a country this large and diverse, its wasteful indeed.
And then I decided to look up. The very camp guy on reception ordered the 7:30am bus for me the next day to come to the hotel. It could get me to Kupang in time for the 1700 flight to Bali. You never count your chickens in the 3rd world. I say camp. You could say it’s just a cultural misunderstanding but the little, tubby guy wiggles his arse as he walks, flails his arms when he runs and slavers over the desk when you are talking to him. He’s a camp one, but he’s useful one. Later, one of the twin lads who works here, knocked on the door and fumigated the whole place. Mosquitos dropped like, well, flies.
I wandered over to the internet cafe to kill some time and check any plans. Sitting confused at the only other terminal, on a connection that takes us back to the mid-90s, was Joao Meco, a lawyer based in Jakarta who was having trouble with emailing his document to Dili, to the Secretary of State no less. I knew I was destined for this kind of work. Joao was busy arranging visas for many Indonesians to his home country of Timor. He needed to get this document away to the Secretary and we used my email to do it. Naturally he was thankful and paid for my internet access that evening as well as getting me a few cans of Coke. And then finally, I went to the market to get some food and sat amongst bewildered Indonesians who tried to talk to me after my pathetic attempts at Indonesian and wanted their picture taken with me. Food, barbecued pork, rice, soup and little extras cost $2.3 and was pretty tasty. Another winner eh? This town has a slight reputation for being anti-Western, particularly if you are Australian. But I didn’t notice anything of the sort.
I lie here, 4 hours after feeling lost and disappointed, generally very happy. I love it when no planning comes together. I had made an elementary mistake. I thought the West Timor was just a place to pass through, just a transit stop. I had loved the small chats I enjoyed in Indonesia the first time; unexpected, warm and open. And this time for some reason I had written off a place before I gave it a chance. Well I send my apologies to whereever I am. You may not be much but you have heart.