Day 698: The Ende of All Things

29.11.10: So the ferry pulled into Larantuka port nice and early, around 7am.  Now I just had the small matter of the entirety of Flores to get across.  Cast from your mind any concept of nice straight Roman roads – this is a volcanic jungle baby, and these roads are longer and windier than you would believe.  But, damn what AMAZING scenery.  Vast forests cladding soaring hillsides, valleys of greenest green far below, and when we scoot along the coast the silhouettes of ancient fishing boats rendered by the golden sunbeams glittering in the deep blue waters. Even better, the stereo on my minibus wasn’t working, so I didn’t have to suffer that dreadful Indonesian musak!  I was also lucky to have a sensible driver – one that didn’t fang it around blind corners whilst overtaking a convoy of trucks.  On top of all that, I…

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Day 697: The Game Is Afoot!

28.11.10: Is The Odyssey possible?  It’s been a question that has been bugging me for some time.  Okay, I’ve made it this far, on the surface it looks like I’m doing quite well: with 183 countries in the bag and just 17 left to go, you would think I’d be relaxing in to the final stretch of this mad quest.  But I can’t emphasise this enough: I still have NO idea how on Earth I’m going to get to the twelve Pacific Island states that lay ahead.  They are all thousands of miles from each other and the Pacific, despite the name, is anything but Magellan’s ‘calm sea’: storm surges created off the coast of Russia roll on for days uninterrupted until they create waves in the South Seas that would make short work of that wooden Pirogue that took me to Cape Verde.  A lift…

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Day 696: Yes I Awoke

27.11.10: But only because Dan woke me up.  Groggy and sleep deprived I clambered onto the minibus that would be speeding me back to Kupang.  Bye bye Dili!  The minibus ride to the border was brilliant – there were only two of us onboard so I could sit where I wanted and the seats went all the way back.  I lay down and gazed at the stunning scenery whizzing by: turquoise tinted bays dotted with wooden fishing boats, islands of green rolling hills stretching off into the horizon and fluffy white clouds idly drifting by against a sky of azure blue. The bus wound its way around the narrow S bends and switchbacks and before long we had arrived at the frontier with Indonesia.  After formalities I WAS BACK in West Timor.  Huzzah! As soon as I had Indonesian phone coverage, I texted Edwin to let…

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Day 695: Gadzooks!

26.11.10 When I'm done with all this, I plan to turn The Odyssey Expedition into a board game. The ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ cards are going to renamed ‘Shipping’ and ‘Visas’.  I can plan for all other eventuality, but when it comes to shipping and visas, I keep getting dealt wild cards.  Take today for instance, instead of just turning up at 2pm and picking up my visa, there was a problem: I had no East Timor visa in my passport. I roll my eyes. YES THAT’S BECAUSE I’M AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT COME HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD FROM MY OWN FREE AND FAIR COUNTRY TO SEEK ASYLUM IN YOUR COUNTRY WHICH HAS NO FREE HEALTH CARE, NO WELFARE STATE AND THE FRAKKIN’ DEATH PENALTY. WOOP WOOP WOOP!! Or I could – could – have two passports.  Maybe. Oh.  We need both passports. I didn’t read this…

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Day 694: El Presidente

25.11.10: So what do you know about East Timor?  Not much?  Good.  You must be British.  Or American.  Aussies will have heard of the place for reasons I’ll come to later.  The first I heard of the place was about ten years ago on the Mark Thomas Comedy Product TV Show (Mark Thomas is the Michael Moore of the UK only much less fat) when he was going on about British arms companies supplying the weapons that the Indonesian army were using to kill civilians in East Timor. So what follows is a potted history of this little nation.  Like most of the islands that make up Indonesia, Timor was fought over by the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish and god knows who else for a few centuries until the island was split down the middle (with a little odd enclave) between the Portuguese and the…

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Day 693: A Red Background

24.11.10: Today’s adventures centre around my efforts to get a new Indonesian visa. Indonesia, being a bit of an awkward sod, only allows you to pick up visas at certain border crossings, and the one from East Timor ain’t one of them.  So in order to get on with the next stage of the journey – overland and overseas to West Papua – I need to totter off to the Indonesian Embassy here in Dili, fill out MORE BLOODY VISA FORMS and wait a few days for my application to be approved.  Ho Hum. So I get to the Indonesian Embassy bright and early.  I took a visa form and was very careful to fill it out in BLACK INK (blue ink is NOT allowed – they take this very seriously) and then handed it over with a passport-sized photo of my mug – you know,…

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Day 692: The Moral Landscape

23.11.10: What’s worse than having to get up at 5am for a bus?  The bus turning up at your hotel twenty minutes early!  And then beeping REALLY LOUDLY, waking everybody in the neighbourhood up.  Well, possibly not, the people of Indonesia have such an amazingly high tolerance of noise, you’d swear they must be deaf.  It might be an idea to ship all those whiney tossers who buy houses on the Heathrow flight path or apartments above city centre nightclubs (and then, predictably, moan about the noise) to one of these 17,000 islands and fill Britain’s noisiest homes with Indonesians. Completely unprepared, I sleepily threw all my stuff in my bags like Winona Rider looting a Chinese laundry.  I fell back asleep as soon as I clambered onboard and didn’t really wake up until we reached the border at noon – all I can tell you…

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Day 691: The Authorisation

22.11.10: It was a 9am showdown at the East Timor Consulate in Kupang.  Luckily for me, Simon and Chesa where there, and Chesa, being Indonesian, could explain my predicament to the lady a damn site better than I could.  I had applied for my visa authorisation FOUR WEEKS ago, and heard nothing in reply.  The lady made a phone call and said that the authorisation had been sent last month.  No it hadn’t.  I had flashbacks to when I had to explain to my mum back in 1997 yes it did matter if you spelt the email address incorrectly. The lady said to go and wait for the email confirmation, they would resend it.  So I did.  I went back to Edwin’s joint and twiddled my thumbs, refreshing my email every now and again.  I knew that if I didn’t get the authorisation today, when I…

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Day 690: Oh Dear

21.11.10: 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…

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Day 689: Kupanged!

20.11.10: 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…

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