Today I said goodbye to my Dili family (Ben, Joel, Nick and Belinda) and entered a new chapter of the journey. Having spent the last days of my visa visiting Jaco Island, I had no time to cycle to the border. I had a 30-day visa to Timor-Leste and today was my 30th day. Nick drove me in Joel’s car and at about 1pm we reached Batugade, close to the border within Timor-Leste. I set my bike up and spent my last bit of local money on a coke and an ice-cream whose wrapper was emblazoned with a picture of my future wife (Taylor Swift…yep…). In need of a toilet, the shop owners let me into their home. When I was inside I realised I forgot to carry toilet paper in with me. For the first time ever I did it the local way, which wasn’t as traumatising as I imagined it might be. The ride to the border was just a couple of kilometres. I had a panicky moment when an Indonesian Customs Official asked me where I was going in Indonesia. I listed off the islands I intended to cross on my way to Malaysia. He continued to hold the grim stare he had been wearing since my arrival and slowly shook his head. I got the impression he was saying, ‘No. No you’re not…’ but it turned out to be more of a ‘Wow you’re crazy…’ headshake.

As I rode into West Timor I felt like rockstar as I greeted by every single local person with a big grin and a shout of ‘Hey Mister how are you?’ The ride to Atapupu was an easy stroll along the coast. Then I faced a tough climb into the outskirts of Atambua. I was entertained by the numerous scooter riders who were shocked to see a foreigner on a bicycle. I myself got a shock when a passing guy shouted out, ‘Hey Mark Peter’. Peter is my middle name. The guy was one of the Customs Officials that I had dealt with at the border and he was on his way home. I had to berate one guy who had raced up beside me and placed his hand on the back of my bike, accelerating hard in an attempt to push me up the hill. A nice gesture, but a dangerous one when my feet are clipped into my pedals and my bike begins to wobble uncontrollably. Because of this experience, I was a bit wary when another guy came up close beside me, but he just wanted to practice his English. His name was Son. He stuck with me for quite a while before saying he will meet me at the top of the hill and roaring off. When I finally reached the top of the hill, Son said he could give me a place to stay. I followed him through Atambua and into a quiet little village. He rents a room there for US$20 a month and he wanted to give it to me for the night. He would sleep at his brother’s house in another part of town. Son’s room is one of three in a line being rented out at the rear of a proper house. Son’s other brother lives in one of the other two rooms with a wife and three kids (the small room forms their entire house).

I sat around for a while chatting to Son and his family, as well as a big group of neighbours who had come to investigate who this random foreigner was. Everyone wanted a photo with me. After a bit of a rest, Son took me for a massive tour of Atambua on the back of his scooter. First we went to his other brother’s house where I met about twenty people and had a hundred more photos taken of me. After a tour of the town centre, we ended up at a warung for dinner. I bought us both dinner and tea. It was only US$3 for the lot. Now I am sitting outside his room, writing my diary as I listen to music playing out of his old-school sound system, which consists of USB stick plugged into a DVD player that is hooked up to turntable that is used to control the volume of a set of huge speakers.

The warmest of welcomes to a new country

The warmest of welcomes to a new country

Accommodation Home of friendly local
Distance ridden today 43.35km
Average cycling speed 15.1kph
Total distance ridden 8,629km