“Hi, the ship has arrived, can you come in for the paperwork tomorrow?” that was last night– by 7:50 am today I found myself walking through the bed of the Comoro River. ANL open at 8 am, at least on paper. I am not desperate at all …
But back to the river: There is only one road bridge over the Comoro River, about 2 km north of where we live, a suburb under the unofficial name Delta. ANL is about as far away from the bridge again, so all in all a 5 km drive. On the other hand, it is maybe 1 km west from here as the crow flies. Luckily for me, it is still the dry season, so there currently is no Comoro River, just a free for all gravel pit buzzing with lorries, diggers and sorting sieves. That is how a gold rush must look like …
8:06 am, I am at the office, the staff is not yet in full strength. I apologize in Tetum for being so impolitely on time. Once the staff arrived, it was all a matter of maybe 5 minutes and another $50 US and all that is left is for the container to arrive and for me to pick up the bike sometime in the next 2 days. As quick as that I was out in the dust again, finding my way through the illegal buildings hugging the riverbanks and back on my way.
Life for these Timorese living on the dusty banks seems harsh, but also just that: Everyday normal life. More and more, Nina and I realise that “poor” is an almost useless label to put on someone, at least in a global context. What I see in Dili is every day is normal life. Kids go to school, people are working, eating, meeting and constantly striving to make their lives better. They do it on the edge of the economic abyss that is poverty, but there is an abundance of life. Pity is misplaced.
This gave us even more to think coming from Australia. Many of the traditional owners we saw could not commonly be categorised as poor. This is in part due to policy changes in recent years and we don’t know how it has been, but for now it seemed to be true in a lot of places. Yet their lives seemed off, mulled and low a lot of the times. With the energy and passion we feel in Timor, the lack of that energy in Australia stands out even more.
I often have heard white Australians say: “Well, they have everything, what is the problem?” It turns out, not all is about money. 100 years of marginalization have destroyed something that the Timorese, by luck and with determination have managed to preserve over 400 years of colonization and 25 years of occupation. Poverty can be fought in a healthy society and healthy culture and may be overcome. But trying to buy the way out of the damage done to the many people that form the traditional owners leaves me with far less hope for success.
These are my thoughts as I watch the beautiful little girl sweep all the leaves up from her yard otherwise covered in 2cm of everlasting dust. She smiled broadly as she saw me passing – “Bondia Mister”, “Bondia mana”.
I will spare you too much detail of the rest of our day, just this much: The package that missed us in Darwin by 3 hrs arrived at the DHL office in Dili. Mirkolet – pick up – warung lunch – mikrolet – Timor Plaza for free WiFi. We picked a new warung, I think this one was Indonesian, and once again were successful in finding vegetarian food. We were brave this time and ordered the iced tea that most locals have with their meal as well, but found it contained a bit too much sugar for our taste.
Blog post were uploaded and updates downloaded and we topped up our 3G data package one more time on the way out.
Nina and I got properly fleeced for the first time when we went to pick up dinner just before meeting up with other travellers in town. An Indian place recommended for its takeaway pork belly (which was delicious) had a very industrious proprietor talking us into dining in – big mistake. $15 later, we learned that the pork belly is all one should go for there …
Chantal apparently has made it back alive taking the fishing boat from Ataúro and so we agreed to meet up with her at the East Timor Backpacker to pick up whomever else might be in town at the time. In the end, we gathered 7 motorcycle overlander plus an assortment of general travelers and crashed a smoke filled warung. Poor Hubert had to put up with english as the dominant language that night.
We had fun that night, but an observation emerged: When overlander meet, there is a risk for the conversation to drift off into gear and bike talk and loose backpackers and pillions alike along the way. I will try to do better next time, but this custom fuel tank setup on Chantal’s bike was … never mind.