Thursday November 27, 2008
Today was not boring. I still have brains on my shoe, I swear! I’ve been lost and very nearly ran out of fuel in one of the rural areas surrounding Dili. I had a Machete swung at me by a kid who……
That’s as far as I got into today’s events on my first attempt. No sooner had I typed in the word ‘who’ than my phone began to ring. I answered immediately because I had good reason to. “Hello,” it was my very newest friend Emmanuelle, “found mister.” I could have cart wheeled the whole way to my bike I was that stocked. The little fucking champ had done the fucking impossible and FUCKING FOUND IT!!! What a miracle! Maybe Jesus was blessing me for saying hello yesterday. What a day!! Yes I did say brains and I did mean human. Yes I was very lost… Waaaay beyond the fun lost I usually try to limit myself to. Yes I said machete and I think it’s even on video. Exciting hey ☺
I’ve got this all ass about though. I really need to start where any story that wants to make sense should
From when I stopped and started the Video.
start, which is at the beginning. Actually I still owe you the end of last night, which won’t take long so lets get that out of the way first. I mucked about on the net at ‘One More Bar’ for a fair while trying to upload the video of my ride back from ‘Jesus Hill’. It wouldn’t go, the utter bastard, despite me leaving it loading for the entire Timor Leste film they were showcasing in the bar. The film was good even if I didn’t understand everything. It’s a shame I was so distracted to be honest. It probably did make sense if you were not half absorbed by technical issues on the World Wide Web. Being the net geek I am I didn’t pay enough attention… my bad. I bet it had subtitles actually. There were a bunch of westerners there so it was very likely. Tav and Meags called from some restaurant near ‘One More Bar’ and we decided to meet for nightcaps at City Café. Such good fun kids those two but since they are nearing the end of their time allowed to have Miles ready for shipping and I had big plans for Thursday we
The dusty Red Devil II
So proud of the little fella. He copped it today and is still going strong.
soon called it a night and made of separate ways home.
This morning I bounced out of bed and began my very normal preparations for the day with a shower. Spruced up a bit… you know… some talc there, brush these, sunscreen on those, spray here and made my way to breakfast. I hadn’t looked out my window so didn’t know it was raining and horrible until I stepped outside. Damn! I really want to hit the mountains to the south of Dili today and there seemed little point if they are wet and covered by cloud. Pondering my situation over my staple breakfast of toast, darb and coffee I decided to wait before taking off up the big hill. Ok so I won’t have as much leeway to get as far but at least I’ll be able to see what I’m travelling through. I still had several things I wanted to get done on the net so made my way quickly up to Timor Telecom, by the way Amber that whoopee cushion footage Shell took is absolute gold. I made a spectical of myself in the Telecom office I was laughing so hard. Eventually it was looking much
Timorese street markers in the rural areas.
better outside and I broke myself away from the siren song of the Net. On a side note those road closures are back and so is the crowd around the bank. I still can’t explain the bank thing but I suspect the road closures are to do with practice for the Timor Leste Independence Day celebrations which are due to be held Friday. I watched the vast crowd of participants practicing their synchronised marching and parade today. It looks very interesting and I’ll have to make time to check it out tomorrow.
Back on the bike it only took me three attempts to get out of town today. I had chosen randomly to try visiting Aileu and maybe Maubisse if I had time because they involved travelling the impressive looking mountains to the south of Dili. As I struggled to find the right road out of town my efforts were hampered by the road blocks as well as my need to visit Timor Travel and get some more details about the bus to Kupang (West Timor) which with my visa fast expiring I will need to be on this Monday at the latest. In my travels this morning I
The big tree on the right is covered with tiny blossoms. They looked so good all over the hillsides. I tried to capture the view but think I failed to be honest.
noticed they have a nifty type of traffic control lights at one of the intersections here in Dili. The lights count down the wait until when they change!! I thought it was very cool and every one of the three bloody times I passed by I felt small pangs of envy that we don’t have them in Australia. Eventually, having visited the travel agent, acquired the needed information and realising that I had been riding past the road I wanted all along, I found myself on the right path to Aileu.
Immediately after I turned onto the correct ‘highway’ (don’t think 3 lanes each way with smooth surfaces and centre barriers… more like the only narrow pothole ridden way to my destination) I encountered a writhing mass of humanity and Mikrolets. This is obviously one of the least affluent parts of town. There was a huge shanty town to my right, small dusty stores to my left and masses of people milling about all interspersed with vans, trucks, 4wd’s and various forms of motorbikes. I was glad to be passing through and rather than lose patience as we crawled along I consoled myself with the pleasant thought that I
Emmanuelle and his bro
Outside Emmanuelle's house. Emmanuelle is on the left.
would soon be out in the country air, where the people are meant to be a lot friendlier, the traffic much lighter and the sights invariably less depressing. Soon the road started to climb and as I overtook various Mikrolets and other vehicles a small smile cracked my lips, as the housing became sparser and the road became even steeper my smile widened until I was all goofy grin checking in at the police checkpoint at the formal edge of Dili itself. The UN policeman asked me my destination and frowned slightly at my mangled pronunciation of Aileu. Eventually his friendly Philippine face split into a goofy grin too as he wished me safe travels and reminded me to be careful as I went. I was flush with the thrill of discovering new places and the perceived danger of what I was doing that passing policed checkpoints invokes in me. It always makes me feel as though I am doing something naughty. I love being naughty.
Soon I was marvelling at the view from the winding road as the Red Devil worked hard to drag my boofhead up the steep inclines. I had to keep reminding myself that I
They loved this photo. I swear i nearly killed em they chuckled so hard.
needed to watch the road more and the view less. Sure enough as I rounded a particularly tight, blind corner that made the road switch back on itself, I found my view taken up with the front of a large truck. Shit!! Abandoning the road we narrowly missed each other and shared a laugh as we passed by close enough to give each other a light high five. More view… less road Monsta!! Hey… hang on switch that… it’s important bruv… play safe out here ok! It was so hard to be good. I found I suffered from the same difficulties when riding through Vietnam. This feeling of exhilaration and exploration is an intoxicating mix that is constantly tempting my eyes to wander. Around me the environment was changing into a lush rainforest type of deal. I could hear the insects and birds over the relatively quiet engine noise I was producing. The view back over the town of Dili with the sea in the background was rapidly approaching a level I would consider spectacular and the people I passed started to yell “Hey Mister” as they waved and laughed. I started to develop strained cheek muscles as my smile
I think it may not actually be a proper dwelling. Maybe a church or a half hearted attempt at a tourist attraction. Still it was very cool.
became fixed on my face and I shared a laugh with the excited kids who would run after me trying to touch the big white boy on the tiny red scooter.
I wound on uphill like that for what seemed like an hour sharing the road with not only other vehicles and people but also many dogs, goats, pigs, potholes and the occasional large fallen tree. I was looking for a good vantage point to get a photo back toward Dili but where ever I deemed suitable was inevitably occupied with small ramshackle housing and I was too shy to pull up at someone’s home unannounced. Other positions that I could have made do with had nowhere safe to pull the Devil off the road so I pressed on until, much to my disappointment I entered the cool confines of my first, light cloud for the day. It didn’t impair my vision of the road but sure did destroy the view. Assuming it would only get thicker as I got higher I finally found a good bit of space to pull over and made do with what view it afforded me to try and get a picture. See PartOne
Trying to show how bad the cloud was on the way home the first time. This is a good spot. Pics in the bad spots just came out white.
for the video I took from this point. I share a good section of my ride with you all from this stop. You will see some interesting events that I failed to fully appreciate at the time but that have been sending cold shivers up my spine since I have now had time to think about them. At about 3.28 in the footage as I’m saying, “Here we go” you can see a small boy run down from his hut. I give out a cheery “Hello” as everyone I had encountered so far had seemed superbly friendly but this young, machete wielding kid yells something and takes a wild swing at me with his very large cane knife. I didn’t really believe I had seen what I saw and joke about kids with machetes being a bit freaky as I powered out of there. I realise now that a large clanging noise I heard behind me was the sound of the knife hitting the bitumen after the boy had thrown it at me. WTF? Am I somewhere I shouldn’t be or was that just some kid with misplaced adolescent aggression? I didn’t know the answer and pressed on
Road to the clouds
Coming home the first time.
soon passing much more friendly foot traffic and forgetting about the boy as my brain tried to absorb the beauty of the area again.
Not long after I finished the video I entered more cloud. This one, being a fair bit thicker, slowed me down for quite a while and in those conditions it would be maybe another hour to make Aileu If I had ridden straight through. I didn’t though. I was getting very worried about my fuel. I hadn’t seen any for sale on my trip and I was a long way from Dili sitting squarely on the E of my fuel gauge. I spent a fair bit of my time looking at that gauge as I rode wishing the Devil on just a few more K’s. As I approached my destination, some 5-10 minute from the small hamlet of Aileu, I rounded a corner and clipped the edge of a large swarm of bees or wasps of some description. My left arm was immediately stung some 4-5 times. They were not that painful, not even as bad as a green ant bites but the shock had me instinctively shaking my arm and performing a remarkably efficient
Trees in the cloud.
This is one of those trees with the blossoms getting devoured by cloud.
wrist flick that removed everyone of the little blighters from the back of my hand. Unfortunately that same wrist flick also cleanly removed the gorgeous silver ring my family had given me at my going away BBQ. I noticed straight away it was gone and hit the brakes hard pulling off to one side swearing blue murder at those flipping insects. I knew I had next to no chance of finding my ring. On my left hand side at this point was a steep drop away to the valley floor below and the force of my flick surely had carried the ring off the edge of the road to be gone forever down that drop. I was gutted. I loved that ring and was not willing to let it go without a decent attempt at finding it. 20 minutes of one-man emu parades back and forth over the section I believed it should lie failed to reveal it to me. I was starting to collect a fair number of observers too. I was right beside a 4-5 hut collection of dwellings and after the boy with the machete I was getting a bit nervous of their attentions. I also needed
Helmets look so bad on me.
fuel badly and still had only a rough idea of where I was.. well actually I had no idea but pretended to because that is how I deal with being in an area I know nothing about. Just fake it till ya make it. I gave up on the idea I would ever see the words inscribed on the inside of the ring again. “With you always” tormented me as I continued on my way. Good one Monsta ya big dickhead you managed to make ‘always’ last just over a bloody month.
I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to what I passed as I searched for fuel. In reality I sulked my way past more beautiful scenery and just as the Devil was giving up on me I spotted a collection of huts somewhere on the outskirts of where I thought Aileu should be that sold fuel. Yes!! I would have punched the air if I wasn’t frightened of losing more jewellery. The people here were absolutely adorable. I didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand me but together we worked out to exchange dollars for fuel and they filled little Red with great big smiles and
I thought it looked pretty and illustrated just how rainforest like parts of the hill are.
curious glances my way. A small child came running up to me tugged at my shorts and reached up for me to pick her up. I don’t think that has ever happened to me before. She giggled like crazy from the vantage point of my shoulders as I ran around the bike a few times. Mum clapped and laughed at the sight of it. I had so much fun for just a few moments I forgot about machetes, atrocious roads, oncoming traffic, cloud impaired visuals, stinging bugs and my lost memento of home. I also forgot to take a picture. Damn Monsta you must engage your brain son!! Soon enough I felt the need to go back and try one more time to find my ring. The little girl cried when Mum took her off me so I pretended to eat the back of her tiny, grubby hand… num num num num… she squealed again and feigned her fear like a little Hollywood actress. My god that kid near broke my heart she was so cute. I waved goodbye thinking what a rollercoaster ride my day had been so far. I didn’t know the worst was yet to come.
Proof was everywhere that this road is dangerous.
Back at the site of the killer bee attack, I parked the devil far enough off the road to be safe-ish and returned to my search. This time the villagers could not fight their curiosity any longer and after what I assume was a quick vote for a designated spokesman, a small friendly man come down the hill some 20 meters and introduced himself in broken English as Emmanuelle. I used a combination of mime and words to tell him my story. It didn’t take much to get it across as they had seen what happened when I came through earlier and these people are very smart. Soon enough my emu parade had grown to every available village member sweeping the road from way back past where I was sure it happened, downhill far beyond the point of the incident. It was Emmanuelle’s’ idea to do it that way. He explained that we needed a calm, proper search to find my lost ring. Despite a good hour of everyone’s effort we didn’t find it. I took some photos of Emmanuelle and one of his bro’s; they were the only people willing to have them taken. I thanked them and maybe
I'm determined but still failed to capture just how pretty the landscape up here is.
embarrassed them a little as I gushed my gratitude. They refused my smokes or offers of cash for their help. Tut tutting at the fact I even suggested it Emmanuelle explained that it was nothing any other decent human being would not do and therefore I should stop being silly. I was so taken aback by this experience and the long ride so far I made my excuses and feeling suddenly very weary said goodbye to start my journey home. I was just about to leave, with the engine running I was checking for traffic, when Emmanuelle yelled “MISTER PLEASE INDENTITY.” Don’t ask me how, but I knew straight away he was after a method to contact me. Noticing that even way out here over 40kms from Dili the people all had mobiles I wrote out my number. Emmanuelle looked me directly in my eye and said, “Please not worry. I find and make call you.” I bloody nearly cried, made a feeble attempt at expressing my thanks and left as the whole village stood on the road and waved me off.
The way home was a long, drawn out ride though clouds getting progressively thicker and crowds of
I was tempted to stop and make a quick prayer on my 1st return to Dili.
kids leaving school and making their way home on foot. I high fived them as I passed and received a few hoarse slaps on my sunburnt forearms from those I did not have a spare hand to contact. They play rough up here. Some of those slaps really hurt. As I got closer to Dili I started to relax a bit and enjoy the ride. I stopped for photographs and enjoyed the cool of the cloud cover. The first time in a long time I was outdoors and not sweating. It was a welcome relief. Some of the children had me nervous though. These kids (only the adolescent boys) would see me coming, pick up large rocks and make like they were going to scone me with them. I stared those boys down with my fiercest scowl as if I was daring them to try it out. No one did but I was getting sick of the fear up here in the hills. This morning as I left I was looking forward to getting out of town. Now I could not wait to get back. Where as on my journey up the hill I relished the thought of a more
The weather cleared as I got lower on my first return and I actually managed some pics. Back towards Dili.
personal interaction with the people of Timor, I now looked forward to the casual disinterest of the people in Dili. The slow moving traffic, the heavy presence of the UN and the knowledge that if I broke down I could just walk to help all held an appeal now that was not there as I departed the capital several hours ago.
I was sharing the lead through the clouds with a local couple of lads on another motorbike. The lead through this reduced visibility requires a very intense level of concentration and we shared that responsibility, taking turns to pull in front of each other without even needing to stop and formulise such a plan. Eventually we broke through the white fog and my friends smiled and waved as they sped past me and off into the distance out front. I could catch sight of them up ahead every now and then as the road allowed it. It was during one of these sightings I saw something that will stick with me for a long, long, time. They were quite a ways ahead and rounding a corner when, without a discernable sound, they exploded into a ball of flying
More view towards Dili.
bodies and motorbike parts. HOLY FUCK!! What the hell just happened? As I approached I realised that there were too many bodies and bits of machine on the road for it to be a single vehicle accident. They had run head on into another bike carrying a further two young men. There were guys groaning in pain and bleeding profusely from multiple injuries as I pulled up the Red Devil and blocked the path of any downhill traffic a good twenty meters before the accident site. Running down to the men I noticed the rider who I had been navigating the clouds with had a large hole in the upper left side of his skull. There were more than one bone showing through horrible wounds in different victims arms and legs. The uphill rider had torn great pieces of his face off when he hit the bitumen and I stood there by myself in the middle of this scene not knowing any emergency numbers or even how to describe where we are located. I tried to comfort the guys and pleaded for them to not move while a million thoughts of makeshift first aid I could perform overwhelmed my brain.
Dili again of course.
I was trying to gather myself looking at the clearish fluid with small pink bits of brain it that had somehow found it’s way onto my left shoe when a Red Cross 4WD rounded the corner on it’s way uphill. I could not communicate with anyone, but these guys had a hardened look of experience on their faces as they quickly converted the back of their vehicle into a makeshift ambulance, applied expert medical attention to the injured and bundled them up to go back down the hill to Dili hospital. While they did that I stood uphill near my bike waving the traffic to a stop. We soon had a massive line of vehicles stretching both uphill and down and all of the passengers milling in a huge crowd around the Red Cross performing their work. People were fascinated by the scene and took pictures with their phones and cameras. I felt too sick to do the same. I just stood by my two friends I did not know and whenever they looked my way I tried to not look too horrified by their injuries. I would give them two thumbs up and pathetically murmur, “You’ll be fine bruv,
Finally the sun is back!
The last view shot of Dili i took on my first return.
it’s not that bad.” I was lying. The guy with the head injury would smile at me with the half of his face that still moved when his brain told it to and give me weak thumbs up back. As soon as they were taken away I got the fuck out of there. I nearly threw up a couple of times on the remainder of my journey back to Dili. When I finally got back to City Café I looked down at my shoe and saw I still had some brain on it. I threw myself into a chair, ordered a Bin Tang Tallie and a packet of Marlboro Reds and chain-smoked my way through that first beer.
I had just cracked out my laptop and started to try and get some thoughts down when, as you already know, Emmanuelle rang. It was around 5.30pm and I wanted no part of returning up that hill to retrieve my ring but Emmanuelle insisted as he and I would not get another chance with him departing tomorrow for Independence day “Disco” (I assumed he meant party) and my leaving this Sunday. I knew he was right and after he explained that
The wait for Fuel
You have to be aggressive to if you want to maintain your place.
the whole village had spent the rest of the day looking for it I could not refuse him. I thought briefly about a double shot of spirits to fortify my courage but in the end just sucked it up, gathered my stuff and made my way back up the mountain, returning to a place I had sworn to never go again. I needed fuel too and had to line up at the service station wasting another precious 20 minutes of light to get it. I was running the maths through my head as I climbed back up the mountain, zooming along on my refuelled scooter. It is now around 6pm and the sun goes down around 7-7.30pm. I could, if I hurried make Emmanuelle’s village by sundown but my return would be in the complete dark of night. My stomach ached with fear and I briefly considered just abandoning the ring as a material item I was never meant to keep. I couldn’t though. Not after the beautiful, random act of kindness these desperately poor people had performed for me. The police checkpoint was where I decided, against the advice of the officer; I would do it for sure. Hang
Meant to put it up yesterday.
on my friend Emmanuelle I’m on my way.
The second trip to Aileu was far more dangerous than my first. Sorry Mum and Dad but maybe you want to skip this bit and just be happy I am obviously here to tell the tale with my ring firmly back on my finger. The clouds by now had settled deeply over the mountain and the best bit I travelled through now was twice as bad as the worst bit I had returned through some hour or so before. I could hardly see a thing in front of me and reassured myself that at least all of the traffic up here was compelled to slow down due to the severely reduced visibility. Strange ghost shapes that were pedestrians made things even more interesting as in their struggles to navigate they stuck to the centre of the road. My trip was slow but went by in a blur and before I knew it I was passing scooter swallowing potholes and other landmarks I knew were close to the village I was trying to make. Emmanuelle was waiting at his house when I arrived. The cloud was not as thick here and I could see his large, toothy grin greeting me like a lighthouse on a stormy night. It was the most welcome sight I can remember seeing. I didn’t linger though. The whole village was waiting with Emmanuelle and I felt bad that I rushed my thank-yous. I took the time at least to bundle up the small boy who had found my ring and spin him around in the air. I gave the whole village three weary cheers that they laughed and giggled about. Emmanuelle, even after everything he had done, still refused my offers of money for the village. I explained that there are not many people in this world that I thought were as goodhearted as this small village, embarrassing all the men and delighting the women. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t cry as I waved them good-bye. I blubbered my way back off into the cloud with my ring returned and tried to not lose the road through my tears of gratitude. This ring really does mean a great deal to me. I had pretended I didn’t care too much when I thought it was gone. As much as it had meant to me before, it means even more now. It is no longer just a symbol of my family’s love but also the caring, generous nature of this small-unknown village outside Aileu. I briefly became very religious and prayed with all my heart that these people may be rewarded with all the peace and love they so greatly deserve. Fuck man.. I’m bloody crying again. What a fucking experience hey. I told you I am the luckiest fella I know and maybe now you will believe me. You could not consciously create a moment in life like this, one that you can cherish until the day you die. My rollercoaster ride of a day was not yet over so I had to force myself to concentrate. The full impact of these events has probably still not hit me, even as I write furiously at a cafe table back in Dili.
The trip home was easily the worst part of my day. It was tense, slow, dangerous and so cold I could feel my lips turn blue and my teeth were chattering like they were a large castanet orchestra. Don’t ask me what blue lips feel like, I couldn’t explain it, nor could I confirm they were blue, it was pitch black and thickly clouded for virtually the whole trip home. In the end I did most of the trip so slowly I needed my feet on the ground and I lent over the handlebars sharing my attention between the road I could see and the fog ahead. Thankfully there was very little traffic. My hands, shoulders and old broken leg injury ached from the tension and cold. My head hurt from concentrating and ended up playing wild tricks on me. It took so long to get home I had myself convinced that in my emotional state as I left the village I had gone the wrong way. That the cries and shouts I heard from the villagers were in fact not goodbyes and good lucks but warnings I was not pointed toward Dili. I couldn’t see anything, so could not find a familiar landmark until the cloud began to break finally some two hours after I had begun my return. I finally knew I was going the right way now and could feel the return of some welcome warmth. The strange thing about clouds like that is it does not actually rain inside them. However the trees act like a filter to draw moisture that drips like rain whenever you pass under a canopy. I was soaking wet as I passed the poor area on my way back to town. I was sore and tired and yet unable to stop laughing with joy. Man what a flipping day, what a magical experience… I could not wait to tell someone!
I was starving and thirsty and in desperate need of a shower. I returned directly to City Café for a few beers and three main meals all of which hardly touched the sides as I demolished them in record time. I received a call from Meags, paid my bill and found her with Tav at the Turkish place around the corner. I tried to tell them exactly what I had been through but failed to do a proper job. Still they could not believe it and were blown away by my tales. We shared a beer and parted ways so they could sleep and I could try and get this all down in text. I go back to my room, fading fast as the tension and adrenalin finally drained from my body. I took a long hot shower. The first hot shower I have had since I left Brisbane. Settling into my comfy bed with my laptop and camera I got to about paragraph four and promptly fell asleep sitting upright. I must have packed everything away at some point because it was all carefully placed on the floor when I woke this morning. It’s taken me all morning this Friday to get this bashed out but I don’t feel like doing anything else. I am still wiping sleep from my eyes and strangely am not that keen for another adventure just yet. I’m going to make my way off to the net café now so I can mindlessly surf the time away until I hit the Independence Day event later on. Till next time peeps, be safe and never forget the capacity of complete strangers to touch your life is one of those amazing things in this world. Be kind to those ya love but remember to give some of that kindness to a stranger every now and then. More Emmanuelle’s on this Earth would no doubt make for a much nicer place for us all to share. Poice!
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