The world is small (& round)

The world is small. When viewed in parts.

I’m in Bali again. Flight over gave a great view of the part of the world that is Atauro and Timor, Wetar and the Alor islands, and the rest of Nusa Tengara Timor – Flores, Komodo, Rincha, Sumabawa, Lombok and Bali. Got me a little nostalgic about the amazing kayaking trip I did with dad in 2002 through those islands and also made me realise how close all these islands are, including Timor. On a clear day you can see Alor from the beach in Dili. For sure you can see Alor from the hills south of Dili on the way to Ermera. Got me thinking that if I had my kayak I could kayak across to Atauro and even onto Alor or Wetar.

That got me thinking if I could do it, for sure the Timorese and Indonesians at one stage before they were Timorese and Indonesians had done it. Whats that Noam Chiomsky / Max Weinreich said about a dialect – it “is any variety of a language spoken by a specific community of people.  with an army and a navy.”

Then I had dinner on the beach in Bali and got talking to the mother of 2 little kids. Turns out she had grown up in Maroopna and had even gone to school in Cobram for a year or two when she was growing up. Now she lives in Bali (since Tuesday!).

The world is small. When viewed in parts. Can’t we all just get along?

PS. The last US troops pulled out of Iraq yesterday…

Jakarta by Jakartans

A wordy Jakartan summarised my impression of Jakarta aptly with this metaphor:

Jakarta will always be complicated. It is like a Durian. 
Not all the people like Durian because it is big, with spiky, dun coloured skin and has a very strong smell. On the inside though, it has a really soft and moist tissue and taste like heaven. 

Jakarta is just like that. Harsh, rough, and sometimes so raw that some people just can’t accept it. But if your willing to come closer and see the inside of Jakarta, you will find bursts of color, the warmth of the people and the fusion of culture from almost every part of Indonesia.

Thanks Lesthia for summing it up so well, although I’m dissapointed to hear that you have retired your dirty dancing shoes, Hijab and beer bottle swigging attitude from Ally’s ‘Black’ Bar – because that was my other favourite metaphor for Jakarta!

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!



Moving on

I left the bike and 2,250,000 IRP with a complete stranger. All I have in return is a piece of copy paper, a ‘legal’ stamp and a promise to deliver it to Kupang in about 2 weeks.

To be fair, it is supposed to be a logistics company, but in reality it was just a nice house which advertised the services of a lawyer. It sounds bad, but in reality the transaction with Schenker in Australia was kidnd of the same, the only difference was that I know Schenker, and they had a warehouse. A big warehouse with lots of trucks coming and going.

I fly out to Denpasar on Sunday morning. Spend the day in bali and fly out to Dili on Monday morning. I’ll be starting ‘work’ immediately and will take a wk’end run to Kupang to pick up the bike and ride it back to Dili when it arrives in Kupang. If i’m lucky, it will arrive in about 3 months and it will be just in time for me to take it to Ende and ride all the way back through Indonesia.

I’m ok!

All the effort doctoring my Jetstar flight receipt was in vain. The bloody immigration officer didn’t even ask to see it this time. Can’t help but feel i was just a tad unlucky last time because the immigration officer was having a bad day.

Up and about early today but to no avail. I still don’t have transport to kupang yet and time is running out. Off to the Pelni head office now to see if they can help – they have a boat that goes but I don’t know if it will take cargo like a bike.

I know its possible because its been done before, but something tells me the ferries that operate between the islands are different to the Pelni boat.

Got the bike, leaving the country

I got the bike on Friday. No dramas. No bribes, no real difficulty. Had a lot of help from the Schenker guy in clearing the paperwork through APW. It took from about 10:30am until 3pm, including an hour break for lunch.

Rode half-way across jakarta back to jaksa without issue and without getting lost. Also rode out to the Kawasaki factory today without even a hint of a traffice problem or navigational problem. Have even found the bike much better than the local scooters for stability.

Couldn’t get the bike on a boat to Kupang and unfortuantely due to the public holiday on Thursday it appears all the immigration officers took the day off on Friday as well, so Its off to Singapore for me for a visa extension. I’ll be back to take care of the bike and fly opff to Kupang, lets hope that doesn’t take a week!

Gota go, Jetstar flight in 2hrs!

Its ok, I’ve adapted

Customs inspection went well on Wednesday. I arrived at DB Schenker office and Mr Farried who is handling my case and who happens to be a bike enthusiast took me out to the bike on his 150cc Kawasaki. It sounded horrifically tinny but it looked good.

DB Schenker, Tanjung Priok, Jakarta
When we arrived literally just around the corner (Easy walking distance) I realised that the location on my Delivery Order document of APW actually stood for Agung Public Warehouse, and that was as specific as it needed to be – because when we walked in and asked for “Motor” they all got excited and took us straight to it. No need for bay numbers or anything fancy when your goods stand out so much.

If I had of known this, I would have gone straight to customs and told them the bike was ready for inspection and not bothered waiting around nearly an hour for the Schenker people, because besides doing some translating and taking me for lunch and actually being really nice people, they didn’t really help much! Instead, because we were at APW already I had to persuade Mr Farried and the APW people to let me go back to customs, because I wanted to make sure the customs inspector knew that I knew Mr Sofwan (his boss) and that Mr Sofwan knew that particular customs inspector was dealing with my shipment.

As it was the Schenker people, including the normal customs clearing agent (who I met on Friday and still don’t trust) warned me that I might be looking at about a 2 million IRP ($200 AUD) ‘Inspection fee’. I was left with no doubt that this fee was a bribe for the inspection officer. I indicated that if it ever came up it was to be referred to me immediately. My couple of hours in Mr Sofwan’s office had demonstrated to me that there was typically a list of charges attached to the documents in each customs folder (copies of all my documents had gone into a similar folder). These charges were reviewed and signed off by Mr Sofwan. My feeling is that if the charges were written down and available on an invoice or receipt of some form signed of by Mr Sofwan, then I would have no real way of arguing with them. If anything was asked for that wasn’t on paper signed by Mr Sofwan, then it was a bribe and I wouldn’t be paying it – i’d simply play the dumb Bule card and ask for it to be included on the paperwork to be paid later.

So, due to the messing around it was Lunch and of course nothing was going to happen for an hour. All you ppl who work 9-5 in the developed world should thank capitalism that banks and post offices and government buildings don’t just shut down during lunch hour – when would you ever get anything done?



After lunch we headed back to APW with our customs inspector. With much excitement and a crowd we headed to the bike, which seems to be in about the same condition as when I left her nearly 2 months ago (April 7th!). They then spent a lot of time taking photos and trying to scrath the engine numbers onto making tape for their files. Eventually they were happy. I made sure to mention a number of times when they took copies of my documents (again) that a folder of documetns already existed, that Mr Sofwan was my friend and he had already approved them. Seemed to go down a treat and not a single mention of ‘inspection fee’ arose. Happy with that, even if it means it just shows up later on paper! I figure if official documentation of such fees doesn’t scare them no level of protesting from me is going to get them to change anyway.



Unfortuantely, Mr Sofwan was not in the port office on Wednesday – he was out at the head office. So, it meant that due to my name dropping it appears now that nobody is prepared to stamp the Carnet and that I’ll have to get Mr Sofwan to do it himself! Not sure how that will go, but if it has helped me avoid a $200 bribe then I’m happy to wait an extra 2 days.

So, still no bike but its ok – I’ve adapted to local time now and really, another couple of days when i’ve been waiting 25 days already and my visa is about to expire is really not going to matter.