>Hobbit gazing – The Road across Timor

> <!– @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } I got up early. I slept badly, to be honest but was ready to get to Kupang and possibly Bali that night. The bus was due at 730am. The little, camp guy got me a coffee and a bun and I hung around waiting for the bus to the far west of the island. Around 920am the bus arrived. I had long since walked around taking pictures and even ventured as far as the internet cafe. I boarded and said farewell to the little wiggler with terima kasi banyak (thank you very much). The bus did a tour of the city picking up folks and finally we moved off. I had been collared by an English teacher who turned out to be a very useful Indonesian teacher. The bus cost $5 for a 6hour journey. The lunch stop cost me $1.8 and moto-taxi to the hostel troubled me $1. Indonesia is very cheap.

The countryside is parched here. It’s halfway between the dry and rainy season and the land is suffering. I wouldn’t say wilting, but it can’t be far away. Bridges traverse dry, wide riverbeds, populated by mere streams, the dust blows up, forcing the locals to throw water over their porches constantly to keep it subdued. The East and West Timorese built traditional houses in simple fashion; cone-like roofs seem to cover almost 80% of the structure, with only a door for a hobbit left. These doors rarely made it to 1metre high.

Once in Kupang, I located the Merpati office round the corner, bought a ticket to Bali for $100 and searched for an internet cafe. My Indonesian knowledge was coming on. But as expected the answers weren’t catching my ear. It’s only day 2 I suppose. I finally found a cafe and then bought some street food. Despite having direct flights once a week to Darwin and being well-connected in Indonesia, Kupang sees almost no foreigners coming through. I didn’t see another all day except the Aussie at my hotel who didn’t leave its premises. Everyone I crossed said ‘hello mister’. I replied in Indonesia but neither have enough of each other languages to really get anything going.

Before an early bed, I went for a quick stroll. I walked into a shop where they were watching MotoGP from Germany to pick up some Pocari Sweat, Japan’s best drink. They invited me to sit down and watch it with them. The owner was obsessed by MotoGP, knowing all the racers and had a chart of the season’s races. He looked in his 20s but turned out to be 40, had good English and was Sumba, a poor island rarely visited. I was on my itinerary but he railed about the systems of corruption in Indonesia which he hopes will pass with the generations. Suharto, the ex-President who died earlier this year, instigated such widespread nepotism, cronyism and corruption, is has become a tumour, slowing down the process of development, even 10 years after Suharto fell. And the various massacres and human rights abuses over the 30 years of Suharto’s dictatorship and it’s gonna take time. Malky, the shop owner also had a day job working for the government and had applied for a transfer back to Sumba. He took my email and invited me over for the famous horse battles in February. I’ll take that, someday.


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