London – Sydney over land + free steak knives in ~58 Days

I met these crazy kids in Kupang, they are raising money for charity by doing three things in 3 months;

1. The 3 peaks challenge in the UK (climbing 3 big, cold, wet, windy mountains in 24hrs)
2. Travelling from London bridge to Sydney Harbour bridge overland & water without flying.
3. Riding a bicycle from London to Paris

All in 3 months.

Crazy, but I can attest to how good they are at negotiating international borders already as they managed to obtain their visa for TL in Kupang in 8 hrs without paying any extra. It normally takes 72 hours!

Check out their blog and donate to their cause here: http://3peaks2bridges1ride.blogspot.com/

Dietary requirements (beware the over share!)

When I planned for this trip, one of the few things that my amazingly comprehensive planning ideology of “Ah Bugger it, I’ll just work it out when I get there” didn’t actually cover was a little bowel problem. Ah yes, I can hear you all saying, that Damian is hopeless. He ‘planned’ a trip through SEA and 3rd world countries and didn’t pack any gastro tablets. But you would be wrong, I did pack gastro tablets, what I didn’t count on was constipation!

You see, living on a near poverty line diet consisting mostly of rice, rice, rice, more rice, some fish, an egg or two and a little Cah KanKung (greens in garlic sauce) and tofu you don’t get a lot of fibre. Those living below the poverty line often subsist on a diet heavily reliant on carbohydrates, as evidenced by this Australian who is involved in the ‘Live below the line’ campaign to raise awareness of poor eating habits and poverty. I haven’t even been managing to consist on a diet below the poverty line here, where $10 can do you for a day including accomodation. But thats because beer costs $3…

So, new additions to my diet to help the situation include an increasing amount of sambal and Chili and Coffee… just hope I don’t over do it one day!

PS. I’m exaggerating the lack of food selection – their is actually a lot in general except when it comes to greens which the locals just don’t really seem to care about much or seem to include in anything as a side. So if you want greens, you had better order greens!

Kupang

Currently i’m in Kupang in West Timor. Contrary to the guide books and popular opinion, its not a dump. Although, accomodation is a bit expensive for what you get, unless you stay for free with some random you met on the 12hr bus trip from Dili to Kupang!

Here is an excerpt from the blog post I wrote for GoodReturn relating to the the bus trip:

“The difference in infrastructure between East and West Timor and the impact it has is difficult to describe. I’m not an agricultural expert or meteorologist either but it seems that the near deserted dry and dusty surrounds of Dili and the villages south west of Dili migrate to greener pastures, homes with grass and power, rice crops and population growth as the roads improve over the shared land border with Indonesian West Timor. The sheer lack of basic infrastructure in terms of appropriate drains, bridges, roads, markets, power poles and houses in Timor Leste is over-whelming when compared so directly to West Timor.”


The bus ride was tiring of course, but also gave a sneak peak of the awesome ride I’m going to have getting back to Dili. The road has it all – mountain hair-pins with ancient tree-forests, coastal curves, flat straights, jungle, rice paddy savannah, the works. And I was alseep for half of it!


Arrived Thursday night in Kupang at about 10pm after leaving Dili at 9am. The first 6 hotels I tried were all full and thankfully so, because I ended up in about the same standard for half the price, at the Luvalon Hostel. 


Friday I was up early and at the shop given to me by my mysterious shippers in Jakarta. They actually existed and were expecting me, which was a relief. So down the port I went with my new friend from the bus ride, Leonardo. And there she was! Wrapped in cardboard and Hessian. 


Once teh packing was undone, I kicked her over and she went first go. Good Girl. There were a few small issues of a broken mirror coupling and a lose hose, but nothing dramatic. Until I tried to ride her out the door. The engine continually cut-out when in gear. This reeked off a safety switch error to me, so I fidled with the most suspect, which was the one connected to the stand. That did nothing. Leonardo and his brother then messed around with the clutch and gear connector for an hour, to no avail. In the end, we loader her on a truck and took her to the new Kawasaki dealership in Kupang (Thanks Siti for the address!)


They had identified the problem and had her fixed in no time. As suspected, it was a safety switch issue, but the clutch safety switch, not the stand. So we eliminated the issue by taping the switch to the handle-bars. Love these kind of fixes.


I mentioned liberally a few times that I had a friend at Kawasaki factory in Jakarta and was doing some promotional work for them. They promptly gave me a bunch of Kawasaki leaf-lets to hand out and charged me only 30,000 IRP for the service. Thats $3 folks. I gave them 50,000 IRP because they did such a good job and even finished in time for me to get to the Timor Leste embassy and get my visa application in!


Saturday night I caught ip with Leonardo again and met his family, including a number of his many brothers. I had an obligatory two dinners with them, went swimming with the local kids and tried to teach them how to do free-style and stayed the night at Leonardo’s. Him and his brother basically drove me around all day Friday, and they were very keen for me to stay. Besides the huge amount of food they seemed to expect me to eat, I had a great time and hopefully they got something out of it!  I’m sure there will be some more posts to come on this topic! 


Sunday, I took the bike for a good ride into the hills and visited a exclusive waterfall. Nobody there but locals, perfect!



Dili Billy

Never before have I written a whole blog post and not published it, but that it was I just did for the post about Dili. I’m finding it really hard to describe it in my usual style. I’ve a feeling that it may be because this is a serious place. I’ve had more challenging discussions in the last week about life, death, what we should and shouldn’t do for people, cognitive dissonance, racism, giving, politics, right, wrong, responsibility, accountability, controls, organisational behaviour, narcissism, corruption, bribery, visas, language, education, free will, guilt, and interventionism than I think I can handle. I’m pretty sure my head is going to explode unless it feels the freshness of a motor propelled breeze soon. Not just any motor propelled breeze mind you, but one from a very specific Dark Blue Kawasaki KLE 500.
The work is great, the free accommodation is perfect, the expats here are mostly intelligent and thoughtful and the locals are wonderful. Especially considering its estimated that 25% of the Timorese population were murdered during the US and Australian sanctioned Indonesian invasion and occupation of Timor Leste just 4 days after it became a sovereign nation for the first time, more than 35 years ago.
I think there are two things that I’m really struggling to cope with at the moment:
  • My new found understanding of some of the things that are claimed to have occurred during the brutal and horrific Indonesian occupation of Timore Leste, of which mass graves continue to be discovered. In particular, Australia’s involvement in condoning and sanctioning the invasion is particularly hard for me to understand. Lets not even start on the debate about natural gas and oil reserves that Australia claimed as their own following the conflict.
  • The accomodation, although nice, is located in the suburbs. I have been transformed from Jakarta urbanite, living on 3 hrs sleep between night and day and a nanna nap to being isolated and cut-off from the (albeit limited action) with no transport. As a result I’m really really really really looking forward to hopefully having my bike this weekend.
And although on reading this post it sounds like i’m hating it here, I’m not. I have a real affinity for the place and to be honest, the ignorance was bliss but now that I know the part that my country had to play in this country’s suffering, I’m not sure I could walk away without something to show, something to balance my soul when I think ‘please forgive us’.  

Doing what he said without even knowing it.

I feel compelled to draw attention to this quote provided by L in a comment on another post. The reason I was compelled to do so was because without knowing it, this explains exactly why Jakarta was so fascinating:

“Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.”

Carl Jung

For those that still doubt the relevance to their world, especially those living a cosy, secure life, I suggest otherwise if you consider that your world is a purely pyschic world, as Jung did:

“All comprehension and all that is comprehended is in itself Psychic, and to that extent we are helplessly cooped up in an exclusively Pyschic world.”
Dili has its own challenges, its own way of confronting the senses, the conscious and I assume the unconscious and i’m still grappling with the right words to describe it. More later.

On Dili

I arrived in Dili on Monday, and whilst i’m reserving judgement for now, first impressions (besides the UN helicopters, UN lear jet and numerous UN police vehicles) are that as per expectation, the situation is over-hyped by the media.

I’m liking it so far, but sense perceptions are still working on the locals, in Dili they are not as bright or friendly as the indonesians up front, but I have heard otherwise in relation to rural areas.

I’ve been working since I arrived, so laptop fatigue is setting in and there is no internet connection at home. Bike will apparently arrive at Kupang on Monday, so currently making plans to go pick it up and ride it back.

Loving and leaving

I liked what Jung had to say about trying to define and describe Love:

“If he [who tries to define love] possesses a grain of wisdom, he will lay down his arms and name the unknown by the more unknown, ‘ignotum per ignotius’ – by the name of God.”

For Jung, according to my interpretation, God was a label for the unknown. So within this context, knowing that which I do not know and can not describe, I ask you – which of following scenarios would you prefer:

1. You meet a handsome traveller and bungee madly and ecstatically into the pit of love with him, enjoy the thrill, feel more alive than ever before in your life, suddenly understand your purpose in life and how the world is supposed to be and then watch as he cuts the cord that ties you together and leaves you to dangle over sharp rocks covered in poison envy. All of a sudden your legs feel like they are made of jelly and it seems someone just removed your stomach and replaced it with a bucket of ravenous tape worms swimming in acid.

2. You meet a handsome traveller, knock down just enough of the walls to your garden of eden so that he can smell and see the roses blooming but can’t touch them. For a while you feel safe, comfortable, satisfied and sleepy – as if you just ate two servings of mums lamb roast with baked potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and turnip with peas and gravy soaked up with fresh bread rolls covered in butter (and no garlic Mary!). Then he leaves and your sad in a way similar to when you eat too much and regret not trying that new dessert that didn’t smell quite right but everyone told you to have a piece of because it was aaaaamazing, even though they all got belly-aches after.

3. You meet a handsome traveller, smile and indulge your imagination in thoughts of “I wonder how long he is here for” and “Did he just return my smile, no he couldn’t of and if he did he is probably a man whore.” Then he leaves and you get hit by a a grandma on a mobility scooter who drives faster than you in a car and you die peacefully from internal bleeding, massively high on the huge amount of morphine the doctor gave you because he was sick of your whinging. You die wondering “Did he really smile at me”. But hey, at least you didn’t feel any pain.

Label them as you will, I feel I’m definitely a Number 1. And no, its not because I’m a CA.