A sticky and uncomfortable night on the ferry was compounded by the tuck shop’s (pot noodles and skinny cans of Sprite – it’s the same all over Indonesia) decision to start playing the usual rubbish Indopop at full blast at 5am. What is that? In lieu of the call to prayer. I went over and told them that if they didn’t knock it off, I wouldn’t be buying any more pot noodles.
Simon and Chesa were planning to spend the day in one of the villages surrounding Kupang. I, on the other hand, was tasked with the job of getting my Authorisation letter for East Timor. My first port of call was the bus company that runs minibuses direct to Dili. They didn’t seem to care if I had authorisation or not and just wanted to sell me a ticket for tomorrow’s 6am bus.
So I headed over to the brand new East Timorese consulate that has just been built (in fact, they’re still building it!), but it wouldn’t be open until Monday. Would it be worth risking it and heading to the border anyway? It was only six hours away: I could be there and back within a day if necessary.
I checked into the Lavalon Backpackers (although, being run by Indonesians, they didn’t quite get the concept, so the place was something between a grotty pension and a cheapo bed and breakfast, but they had a western toilet, so my bum was happy) and then headed over the road to the Lavalon Bar which was (surprisingly) run by the same guy, Edwin.
Edwin’s a bit of a legend in Kupang, so much so he’s actually mentioned by name in the Lonely Planet. He’s a bit nuts, but in a good way. He told me straight out not to attempt a border run without the Authorisation letter: I’d just waste my money. Best I wait until Monday and go to the Consulate. This would waste another 2 days, but what’s 2 days in 700 eh?
Brilliantly enough, Edwin’s joint had Wi-Fi, so after a little walk around town (it may be the capital of West Timor, but it’s quieter than a racist in a Nairobi gym), I settled in for the day with a bottle of Bintang and my laptop, content to watch the cooling afternoon rain lash down across the bay. Less brilliant were the flying ants that came out at dusk: they were EVERYWHERE – crawling up my legs, in my hair, in my beer. The rule is, in the tropics, you get an itch, you SCRATCH IT BEFORE IT BITES YOU. Quick quick!
Kupang is a little dull. Here’s a list of my ten favourite place names in the world:
Azerbaijan – Sounds like something a magician would say before pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Galapagos – It just sounds lovely. Lovely lovely lovely.
Timbuktu, Mali – The name alone sounds like a promise of being miles from anywhere.
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – Pronounced ‘Waggadoogoo’ it’s the capital of Burkina Faso, TAKE THE TRAIN!!!!… yes, it’s called the Ouagadougou Choo-Choo. BRILLIANT!
Shit, Iran – Exists! Try typing it into Google Earth!
Kumbag, Turkey – See above.
Wetwang, England – the town of which the late great Richard Whitely was mayor.
Lake Disappointment, Australia – Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Truth Or Consequences, USA – Awesome. I wish I had the job of renaming towns. Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Skegness and Milton Keynes would be first for the chop-chop.
And the best ever, ever name for a place?
In my book, nothing beats…
Oh Dear, Pitcairn Island – really, really exists. It makes me giggle whenever I think about it.
Actually, Pitcairn Island is full of awesome monikers: Timiti’s Crack, Where Dan Fell, Tom Off, John Catch-a-Cow, Johnny Fall, Bitey Bitey, Little George Coc’nuts, Bop Bop, and my second favourite name on Pitcairn, Down The God. Sounds like something Richard Dawkins would use as a book title.
So what are your favourite placenames? Come on, don’t be shy…! Let me know!!
TALKING OF PITCAIRN ISLAND… do you know Kupang’s claim to fame?
Here’s a clue: What historic character has been played by Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard & Anthony Hopkins?
Aye… it’s got something to do with Mutiny on the Bounty…
That’s right! They all played Captain Bligh. Well done. Hurrah for imdb!
If you have ever seen or read Mutiny on the Bounty, you’ll know that the mutineers of the titular taste of paradise cast Captain Bligh and his loyal officers adrift in a 7-metre open launch in the middle of (what is now) French Polynesia. Eek!
But thanks to some KICK ASS bit of navigation (a feat that has not been repeated since) he and all of his crew made it here to Kupang… some 6,710 kilometres away. With just a sextant and a pocket watch. Seriously. 3,618 nautical miles in a little wooden boat in the Pacific? With no charts? In 1789? Wow. And he did it in just 47 days. Puts my daredevil boat trip to Cape Verde to shame.
Edwin, the owner of the Lavalon Bar is (understandably) proud of this fact and does his best to promote Kupang’s Bounty heritage. And, hell, it’s easier to get to than Pitcairn Island. A crew from Britain and Australia tried to copy Bligh’s achievement earlier this year: cast adrift in French Polynesia with no maps and no navigational aids.
They did, however, have an emergency GPS. One day, with a storm closing in and deadly reefs all around them, they (sensibly) chose to smash the glass and use it. After 221 years, Bligh’s kick-ass record, armed with just a sextant and a pocket watch, still stands.
Considering there have been so many film versions made of Mutiny on the Bounty, I’m amazed that nobody has had a punt on the second book of the trilogy, Men Against The Sea, which recounts Bligh’s epic 47 day journey to Kupang.
In fact, bringing this (admittedly one-sided) discussion full circle, I’m even more flabbergasted that nobody has made the final book, Pitcairn’s Island, into a movie… a real-life Lord of the Flies extravaganza: of the 15 men (mutineers and Tahitians) who settled on the island, after a decade of madness and bloodshed, only one remained.
Somebody fly me to Hollywood!! Stat!
I was trying to write some blogs up on the trip from Labuanbajo to Aimere the other day, but the windy mountain roads made that job a little – urk – difficult, especially as my drivers seemed to take a sick delight in fanging it around blind corners. My attempt to get up to date on the ferry was doomed by a lack of electrical sockets and my battery not being charged the night before thanks to the fact that my plugs don’t actually stay in any given socket.
Okay, I’m going to blow off a little steam here, but just bear with me, okay?
Something I would like to take issue with YOU WORLD is the matter of electrical sockets. Like seriously, can you ALL JUST F**K OFF with your limp, dangling plugs? Euro round 2-pin: YOU SUCK. America flat 2-pin: you SUCK. Australia flat angled 2-pin: YOU SUCK.
I am SICK TO DEATH of wasting hours of my life trying to get you little bastards to actually STAY IN THE FRICKIN’ SOCKET! Gaffer tape, sellotape, medical tape, packing tape, I’ve tried the lot; and yet as Radiohead once sang, GRAVITY ALWAYS WINS.
Can we have some kind of international standard PLEASE? And like the international standards of time, longitude and language can that standard be British? Yeah, say what you like about my crazy little country, AT LEAST OUR PLUGS STAY IN THE FRICKIN’ SOCKET!!