Nusa Tenggara

Indonesia | Atambua - Kefamenanu - Soe - Kupang - Ende | 10th April ’15 to 15th April ‘15 | 6645km

We were at the border before 7am. The power had been off our peculiar border town room all night - this would turn out to be a re-occurring theme of Indonesia. At 8.00, some one in a uniform turned up and we were told the gate would open at 8.30. At 8.30 we were told 8.45, so we hovered next to the barrier, watching a growing group of officials lazing around. Finally an angry officer appeared from off stage and promptly head butted one of the younger ones. He took it well though and as the ensuing argument continued we were quietly ushered past. Form filling, bag searching and passport stamping later we rode the 200m of no mans land to repeat the process on the Indonesian side. A big sign in English stated that bringing drugs into Indonesia warranted the death penalty. It was now the heat of midday so we rode to the first town and checked into a horrendous hotel. A guy had insisted on showing us the way, even though we said we knew where it was, and then wanted $10 for his 3 minutes of work. We refused to pay and things got a bit awkward until he finally left, but lesson learnt. Dodging cockroaches, we rigged up the mozzy net as Flo in particular remains irresistible to the little buggers. The previous night she'd copped a bite to the eye and spent most of the day looking like she was winking at everyone. Winky eye and room photos included below. The room was a masterclass in anti ventilation and just before dark the fan hanging of the wall by a the nail jolted and stopped abruptly, showering the beds with crap. One of those ‘what on earth are we doing’ days. 

We rode two 90k days, rising as early as possible at it was searingly hot by 9am. In Soe we found some wifi, which is as rare as it is slow, and double checked the conversion rate. We realised that we were still basing it roughly on the offering of the shifty looking dude at the border and establishing that we were in fact richer than we thought, we nipped out to promptly withdraw 1,000,000 Rupiah, made a brief joke about being millionaires and stashed it in different places. We gleefully booked into a hotel twice the price of the night before - after a bit of haggling, infinitely more comfortable and a shade under £10. By now we were up in the mountains and in the evenings is was blissfully cooler. We took a rest day, ate in several warungs (tasty and cheap eateries that display all their offerings in the window and work, for us anyway, on a kind of a pick and mix basis) and found a lady who did laundry.

Setting off from so high it was a fantastic downhill day all the way to Kupang. There seem to be more schools in Indonesia than East Timor, and passing one just as the kids are leaving means running a quite harrowing gauntlet of high fives, arm slapping, shouts of 'Hello mister' or 'good morning' regardless of time and the odd bum pinch for Flo, which she is most definitely not a fan of. There are infinite tiny shops along the roadside, often attached to houses, that sell exactly the same thing. Biscuits, phone credit, cigarettes, 1ltr bottles of petrol for the scooters and coffee sachets. Often they'll have a home made treat like pisang goreng (deep fried banana). the larger ones with power might have a fridge, or even a freezer, and in the heat they look like an oasis as there is only so much warm water you can enjoy. Frequently though, they’re little more than a display cabinet and it’s devastating! Doesn't stop them putting ice creams in there though. Low speed internet and room temperature beverages, first world problems eh?

Before we’d even made the centre of Kupang, we were accosted by a guy on a scooter called Marthen. He was extremely persuasive and 10 mins later where down a Kupang backstreet at his parents house, complete with identical tat selling window shop. Having taken up his offer of a place to crash Luke was allocated his own scooter and minuscule yellow helmet and whisked off to sort ferry tickets. As luck would have it the weekly ferry to Ende was leaving the next day. Lazy from the sea level heat we hung around with some energetic kids on the beach and were treated to a very tasty dinner with his East Timorese girlfriend. They had an actual no display purposes freezer and ice cold Coke.

As we rolled into Kupang pre-ferry, it was the mad hours when everyone is waking up after sitting out the midday heat. We decided against replacing Luke’s creaking bottom bracket after watching Lurch the mechanic bash together a kids bike like it was an arcade game and instead went for the ‘We made it to across Timor’ beer we missed out on yesterday. Pricey waterfront bar for westerners, but ice cold Bintang and dolphins in the bay. Over the road a shop was doing a good trade in guns and rice cookers. Saw our first monkeys from the road to the port, or was that the beer?! From prior research we expected we’d have to coerce those in charge to let the bikes on at a reasonable cost, but in reality we wheeled on with no issues. In the 5 mins it took Luke to do an exploratory lap of the deck, Flo managed to oblige 6 photo requests. Back inside we laid claim to two bed things and left the chain smoking card players and women fanning their babies to settle down to watch the original Fast and the Furious, dubbed in Bahasa. Got chatting to a jewellery dealer who was mixing some sort of cola with his own strong smelling ‘homebrew'. He told us not to drink anyones ‘homebrew' as they often try to sell watered down meths. He assured us his was legit however and shared it around. We were well into Behind Enemy Lines by the time we set off into the night.

After a third film, the meths was gone and we hit the sauna. By this we mean we attempted a few torrid sweaty hours trying to kip. By sunrise no land was visible and we retired outside to get some fresh air, watch the flying fish and feel sorry for ourselves. Just after we cracked and demolished our biscuit stash, the tannoy announced that economy breakfast was available. Rice and flour flavoured gelatinous thing. After 18 hours we hit a very beautiful, but intimidatingly mountainous looking Flores.