overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Taken To The Cleaners

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 28 December 2006.

East Timor, Country 25, Diary entry 22nd – 30th Oct 2006, Total distance in East Timor: 190KM

The view across the bay towards the giant Christ

Having smiled our way through Indonesian Immigration and Customs, it was now time to try our luck in East Timor. Having gleaned a little of Martin’s experience from his diaries, we removed our sunglasses put on our best ‘we’re dumb tourists look’ (to which Maz excelled) and joined a line outside the porta-cabin. English wasn’t widely spoken here, but with the necessary smiles arrival cards were completed and in their best broken English come sign language they asked us how much money we had! Taken somewhat aback and by no means wishing to disclose what cash I was packing just in case an extortion of that money was to follow suite I smiled dumbly. Sighing and scratching his head the chap then mentioned that magic word VISA. Thinking this must be something else I eased out my shinny gold VISA card which flashed in the sun… ah that’ll do nicely… all they were checking we later confirmed was that we had sufficient means enough to support ourselves whilst in the country and the ATM’s are chocked full of USD. I guess the numerous NGO’s already had their hands full and didn’t want two more joining the soup line.

IDP (Internally Displaced People) shelters in Dili

A 15 day entry visa cost us 30usd each and with that in the passport, the next hurdle would be customs and the Carnet. That was across the road under the shelter and must mean the boys methodically going through everything in a minibus which had just arrived. We handed over the documents and smiled pleasantly. None too surprising we went through the normal Carnet tuition and without any further ado, Tinfish was chopped into the country without even a hint of concern that the Carnet had expired 2 months ago… luvly… so long as we could get out again then everything will have gone to plan and we’d be finished with the Carnet thus able to get our astronomical bond back which was being held in Germany at ADAC (Their automobile association – chosen as it was far far cheaper than the AA in UK – no surprises!) Of course the boys were intrigued with the car, so we gave them a quick guided tour, which seemed to satisfy them. So with handshakes and smiles we drove into East Timor.

Our home in Dili

Now we had mixed emotions about East Timor with the current undercurrent of troubles bubbling just beneath the surface. Martin had successfully run the gauntlet and there really was no other option if we wanted to continue to Australia. We’d also bumped into Wayne, who runs the dive place that Martin dived with when he came through, just by chance back in Bali and he’d given us some first hand observations from a local and thought it was fine. We subsequently found out that Wayne used to be a war correspondent so were trying to figure out what fine meant in his book… flak jackets on or off? To be sensible we decided not to bush camp here, so resigned ourselves to heading to Dili and finding a backpackers which would be home until Tinfish was polished, manicured and put in a box and we could fly to Darwin.

Smiles of hope

The drive to Dili was quite scenic as we followed the coast and eased poor sick Tinfish up the steep hills. Before long we drove into Dili remarkably for us before sunset as we’d been advised not to stay out after dark. First stop and first shock was the same/only backpackers where Martin stayed. Now I apologise in advance if I hark on a bit about costs for this instalment, it was unfortunately the lasting impression of East Timor. Numb to the average cost of rooms (our tent comes for free) we were a bit perturbed at the 8usd each for a dorm bed in a very basic room, although it did have A/C and its own mice. It really hit us hard, when we realised that until we got the car back in Darwin in realistically 3 weeks time, we’d have to stay at hostels and backpackers… we both felt sick. Not ones to opt for the first viewing, we drove around Dili (all of 10mins) and checked out some of the other hotels. From the array of sparkling new 4x4’s in UN and various other NGO liveries you could tell that although there was room at the inn, we couldn’t even afford the stables..!! Something we’ve noticed when ever we’ve seen CARE vehicles around the world (and they were about here too) is that they always seem to have old beaten up but working trucks and the same applied to the ones we saw in East Timor too.

CARE is very active in East Timor

Resigned and somewhat deflated we returned to the backpackers and to cheer ourselves up eat in the new restaurant which was tucked around the back in a courtyard. Although we inevitably were back to western prices, the servings were good and the food actually excellent. The chap running the backpackers was into smoked meats and had his own smoker, however with no menu printed yet we just had a gamble and ordered chicken and beef. A full plate arrived with large side servings of chips and potato salad! Although Maz’s need to pop back for a quick reheat, it was really tasty… we’re having a smoker at our next house.

Sun 22nd – Shipping Date: D-10 (Wed 1st)

27m high Christ

With the next day being Sunday, there wasn’t a great deal we could do, so had a bit of a lie in, before going out for a drive. Our timing coincided with another bout of troubles and although in the morning you’d find out a bit about the killings of the night before, during the day things were back to normal, albeit a larger presence of UN and Aussie, Kiwi and Malaysian troops patrolling the streets. Not wanting to venture far, we simply drove around the bay and parked up underneath a gigantic figure of Christ donated by the Indonesians and at 27m its height symbolises the 27 provinces of Indonesia (including East Timor!) We whiled away the time, trying to plan a strategy for the next week aiming to have the car ready for shipping on the ETD date of 1st November. We knew having gathered bits from Martin’s diary that we were in for a hard week, one we definitely were not looking forward to… cleaning Tinfish ready for Australian quarantine.

Looking across the bay towards Dili

The hostel had a small kitchen and we still had plenty of Mee Goring Telor to chomp through, so tonight we’d be back on our staple diet as we got an early night ready for all the fun and games that tomorrow would bring.

Mon 23rd – Shipping Date: D-9 (Wed 1st)

First stop today was to find internet to see if Martin had got back to us yet with any of our questions we’d asked him about what, who, when, where, etc. Our second shock was to find out that internet was 6usd an hour..!!! Good grief, we’d paid as little as 50c in some places, but never more than 2usd. We’d be very quick..! Next stop was to check in with SDV, the agents for Perkins shipping in Dili to confirm we had a space on the next boat and were surprised to find out that the ETD had moved forward a few days to the 30th October, that should still give us plenty of scrubbing time. Asking them for a recommendation on whom to use for cleaning, they said previously they’d used A1 Services just across the road.

Ooops Mon 23rd – Shipping Date: D-7 (Mon 30th)

So over we popped to see what they’d quote. Here we met Leigh who we did our best charity case begging routine on, knowing that it wasn’t going to be cheap. He took us upstairs to see Eddie the boss. After scratching his head and asking if we’d be helping out as it was a BIG job, we assured him that we were hard workers. He said something around 500-600usd (I know, for washing a bloody car) and somehow he settled on 600usd. We knew this fit in with what Martin was stung (550usd) but the upshot here was that they had a container where we could store all our junk, so we could do the whole lot in one place and not have to wash the entire contents at the backpackers, then cart it across Dili to re-pack in the car before Tinfish was secured in the container.

The container starts to fill up with kit

Nevertheless we went to track down the chap Martin had used. Another spout of head scratching ensued.. it was a big job (yes we knew)… it took him longer than he expected last time (yes, yes, how much)… he didn’t really make any money for his time (sounds bad)… so this time even with special consideration he’ll do it for... 900USD…!!! YOU MUST BE ABSOLUTELY F’ING MAD, if you thing I’m spending 900usd on a car wash. 150km’s away in Indonesia I could have paid a dozen people for a month to wash it by hand for half of that. Looks like A1 Services were getting the contract… no time like the present, we’d be starting right away, emptying the entire contents of Tinfish into the storage container, which took the rest of the afternoon. 1st day down, although we’d be back bright and early the next day to start washing.

Bring your own sponge.. We're having a wash party

We drove home via the local supermarket for buckets, cloths, mops and all things a good car washing would need. The supermarket was extremely well stocked with stuff from Australia, obviously for the expat community, including frozen run of the mill white sliced bread. I remember craving for such simple luxuries when I was a kid growing up in Bahrain… local bread is always so sweet. We also stocked up on food for our weeks stay, along with a few other delights such as pepperoni and a huge block of cheddar cheese – yum, yum.. tonight’s Mee would get a facelift.

The unpacking continues

The restaurant although well attended by Timorese staff, was somewhat lacking in clientele being mainly the few people who were staying and not wishing to venture the streets at night. They didn’t seem to mind us eating our own grub or drinking our own beers for that matter. One of the girls, Rita said someone in a car very similar to ours stayed there a few months ago and she had the photo of her with him to show us… Martin something you’re not telling us? We also got talking to the Dutch Pickle, an American who’d been on or off in East Timor as a tourist for some time now. We couldn’t really grasp exactly what he was doing there, although he was a wealth of knowledge and worked hard on his own website about East Timor to provide information for the occasional fellow tourist who might wish to spend his well earned vacation in a war zone! He was excellent company and extremely interested in our exploits to date and more interested in our current hive of activity with Tinfish’s imminent spa treatment.

Tue 24th – Shipping Date: D-6 (Mon 30th)

An early morning breakfast… washing strength!

Back at A1 the next morning we launched into it like beings possessed. It transpires that today was a national holiday so we had the yard pretty much to ourselves. The interior started to come out, seats, door panels and finally the interior carpet. The back with all the shelving wasn’t coming out, which meant Maz had to clean in situ only to find out that both of the Hoovers provided sucked like an asthmatic donkey. Their best solution was an airgun to blow the dirt out… yes right, from one corner to the other more likely! We also noticed that our expert shelving system had started to go through the bottom of the car.. bugger and with all the dirt road corrugations ahead in Australia something would need to be done before the shelves left the back of the car through the floor.

Who's cleaver idea was the air gun?

Impressed with our progress today, Leigh gave a reassured nod and revealed that his team would have taken the best part of 3 days to do what we’d managed to achieve today. We were indeed hard workers, but thinking about what he’d said and knowing the mountainous task that confronted us the future was looking bleak! With the car not moving from now on, Leigh was kind enough to give us a ride back to the hostel. We were knackered and ready for bed after a strenuous 2nd day.

Wed 25th – Shipping Date: D-5 (Mon 30th)

Let the games commence…

A jam donut makes a perfect elevensies

Leigh picked us up 07:30 prompt, a routine that would continue for the duration and after a quick stop off at a bakery to get a snack ready for elevensies we were back on the job whilst our local helpers (the hand picked best of the bunch) stared intensely at the ‘clock-in’ machine not daring to dip their card a second too soon. Formalities completed now ensued the hardest role of the cleaning… keeping a swift and continual kick up the arse of the locals. Maz carried off this foreman’s role, which significantly got in the way of her being able to constructively engage in the cleaning. It’s hard to wash one handed when your other hand is holding the head of your ‘helper’ down in the bucket! We did get the supercharged pressure washer going though and the carpet got a thorough soaking.

The Dutch Pickle arrives

Our cleaning did however get an immense boost when the Dutch Pickle popped in to see how we were getting on. Remarkably he volunteered his services, so armed with a scrubbing brush, he rolled his sleeves up and dived in. Suddenly we were now faced with the unusual problem of not having enough drying area… the output had never been so impressive and alas would never again as we found out to our annoyance. Thanks a lot for all your help, it was really appreciated.

The carpet gets a good jet wash

Along with jet washing the interior, I was tasked with shelf repair, which in my mind would be a very quick knock up of 4 suitable plates to spread the load and reach as far as the chassis for added support. For this honoured role I was given the best man for the job and his side kick. Having explained the importance of the job, being that nothing could go back in the car until complete, it needed their top priority… they immediately disappeared. Another complaint to Leigh (who was wincing every time we entered his office by now) and the shelf repair team put in an appearance, with a slab of metal. No measurements had been taken, so it was no great surprise when it didn’t fit! I suggested the simple solution of a cardboard template before boldly embarking on 2 hours of cutting, drilling and grinding on the off chance… a damn near revelation in the art of machining around these parts!

Ooops that doesn't look good!

Back in the yard the humble surroundings of a mechanics yard were making their presence felt as the dust and muck coated everything we managed to clean. Tempers were running high, progress was slow. Meanwhile, on the shelf department, having re-emphasised the urgency of the job, we at least had some cardboard templates and dare I say it at least one bit of metal that fitted – well almost. What’s a cm between friends said with a weak smile! Back to the grinder matie.

The interior gets stripped Looks a real mess

With the air raid siren sounding the end of day, we were damn near trampled by the fastest moving locals in East Timor as there was an exodus to leave. The end of a frustrating and exhausting 3rd day.

Thu 26th – Shipping Date: D-4 (Mon 30th)

Time was now definitely ticking. We needed the car in the container and down the docks to meet the 2 day lead time, which given the weekend meant this Friday, ie tomorrow and they’d not even started on the exterior.

Come 10am, I checked on our two washing helpers, who were squatted comfortably in the shade toothbrush in hand holding some of our kit, all of which needed washing. Maz had given up trying to train them that some things just needed a quick dunk, whereas others with obvious dirt needed the dirt removing. Time and again we’d reject items still with dirt stuck to them, whereas the boys would happily spend 20mins scrubbing the pattern off a plate! On this particular occasion I saw over by the drying ‘area’ a single bungy cord and a small bit of interior trim. With these in hand I asked them if this was the sole output of the two of them working together for two hours… quite proud with their achievement in unison they eagerly nodded their agreement… ”LEIGH..!!”

Proud of his days work!

Stealing the opportunity to add a dab of paint to the wing where we’d been kissed by the young Indonesian motorcyclist, the repair shop man asked if we wanted the guys forehead impression removed. I’d had an attempt earlier and failed miserably, but they had the right tool for the job and with a bit of banging and twisting it looked like new, if not a little textured. They even mixed up a can of green paint which was pretty close to the original… I’d have been happy with anything just to prevent rust. Unfortunately where they painted was just where you needed to stand to disassemble the air filter unit (a definite must in the strip down and clean to pass quarantine!) and inevitably someone would lean against the wet paint. We gave up painting it after the 3rd occasion, but it was good enough.

An excellent paint job

We’ve been using re-usable air filters in the cars and there was no way I was going to let these clowns loose on cleaning that. It’s quite a simple job of soaking it in cleaner, washing it off in fresh water, then spraying with a fine oil. I positioned the cleaning tray strategically, one end under a chock of wood, so that the cleaning fluid would drain away, then started the stop watch. Returning to rinse it in water, it had disappeared. Grinning across a mound of our kit which was our ‘to be cleaned’ pile sat our cleaning man. He’d clambered around this pile, located the air filter obviously sat there on it’s own for a reason doing something, chosen this over the rest of the kit right next to the cleaning bowl and took it upon himself to give it a wash… it was now in the sun drying. Exasperated I took my hand off the back of his head and walked away… I’m sure most people should be able to hold their breath easily underwater for 10mins.. shouldn’t they..??!?!

More spit and polish

With the back shelves still undergoing ‘major repairs’ it meant the doors were all open, however we had to get started, so I told them to get on with washing the front end and engine compartment. No sooner had you turned your back, when things would come to a grinding shuddering stop. This time they were out of water. We knew the mains were empty, so we’d been running from a huge tank on the back of a truck… well get it filled. After asking Leigh to find out why it takes two hours to fill the water truck, turns out the driver was having a snooze in the shade of a tree..!!

The infamous water tank!

As they started the degreasing a conglomerated oily muck washed from beneath the car and pooled around the drainage pit. We would soon become flooded so something needed doing to avoid us trampling through it and spreading the oily slime everywhere. Now the drain had been blocked for sometime already, however instead of pre-empting such a problem and unblocking the drain, it appears that each time this flood occurs, it’s the job of the filthiest mechanic to attack the mess with his bucket on a string. Tossing it into the middle, dredging the filth, then walking the 50 foot to where the drain wasn’t blocked and pouring it away.. a task that lasted most of the afternoon.

Early days… we're still smiling!

Meanwhile shelf team were up to speed by now and really cruising… we had 4 plates cut and shaped and even painted. They also dragged over a welding chap who merrily sealed up all the cracks where the legs were starting to come through. By the end of the day these would be fitted or there’d be trouble to pay. Pained they stayed an hour and a half after knock off time and miraculously completed at best a 2-3 hour job in as many days!

Mr Welder gets stuck into the repairs

4 days down and desperate for a beer… or 3

Fri 27th – Shipping Date: D-3 (Mon 30th)

The circus continued…

With the shelves repaired, the insides now needed to be put back. After laying the carpet, I left the seats and door panels loose, to help speed up any inspection as they charged many AUS$ by the half hour. Some of our kit could then start to go back inside the passenger compartment. Cleaned loose items had been gathered together and sealed in black bin liners. At each stage of the cleaning procedure we’d taken photos to show quarantine, believing every little helps.

The carpet gets washed a second time Missed a bit…

The roof now got the attention of the jet washer, but none too surprising it failed our inspection, first, second and third time… in fact there was still obvious dirt showing when we packed Tinfish into her box. The guys simply didn’t understand what was being asked of them. As us, they’d never been so anal about a car wash before and had no grasp of the ordeal we’d face when we arrived in Australia. Unfortunately it was impossible to explain to them the importance of the task in hand, it just didn’t translate.

Picking out the last few seeds

Now the moment of truth… Tinfish was going up on the ramps to get blasted from underneath. Leigh knew the car was heavy so had suggested the 4 post lift, so I drove it round to the lift and waited for it to be raised skywards. Nothing. No no no, that’s the wrong lift… are you sure… yes it needs to go on this one so we can take the wheels off.. are you really sure, I don’t think that will lift the car. With Leigh no where to be found the car was moved and time was spent squeezing in relevant chocks of wood under so that the arms of the lift could cradle Tinfish. What are you doing, that’s the wrong lift… Leigh had returned. So back to the four poster, which was now stuck in the air and needing some hits with a hammer on a valve to get it to come down! Onboard, ready, lift… nothing. A lot of hydraulic noise but no up as a lift is supposed to do. More banging with a hammer… Tinfish sat on the ground sneering.

Ally-up… Tinfish is airborne!

Bear in mind this escapade had taken an hour so far, I voiced my concern. Okay we’ll try the other four poster.. the big daddy of all the lifts they had. Hey presto, up and ready for the belly wash. Only now we’d run out of water again. Leigh understood by my expression that if anyone was caught napping under a tree they’d be pinned to the floor when Tinfish was lowered! Another chappie then came over asking how heavy the car was again (no one believes us) as the four poster was working fine on a smaller truck… Tinfish is a heavy ol’ girl.. too much hi-fat diesel from around the world on this tour.

A sparkling clean interior

Maz had been busy corresponding with SDV doing all the paper formalities whilst the 20ft container she’d organised was picked up by A1 for us. Our plan was to get Tinfish inside and sealed up for it to get down to the docks by end of play and be ready for the boat. Leigh didn’t believe the boat would even have arrived by Monday, little lone be heading off for Darwin. Nevertheless, we persisted and they kindly ran Maz around to sort out the customs formalities clasping our expired Carnet. She returned beaming, everything was in order and a customs lady would be arriving at 3pm to inspect the cargo.

The tent gets a through wash

Washing had stopped on the car again and I was trying to work out why this time. Ah the water pump had run out of fuel. So has someone gone to get some.. oh yes they’ve only been gone an hour..!!! All P’s & Q’s were ignored from here on in and some extra big size 12 boots came into play. Leigh personally took it on himself to complete the underneath. It would be a race. Lowered back to the ground, now the interior kit was the opposite end of the yard. Slowly we drove the car over and we expertly packed every last bit of kit into its allotted space. The rooftop tent had come off to allow a thorough cleaning of the roof, so that now needed to be put back onto the roof rack.. no small task.

Do you come here often?

At last we were on the final straight. Now back round to the open doors of the container. They still hadn’t taken off the wheels, so I insisted that be done. Up came Tinfish on jacks and each wheel came off so that the brakes and surrounds could be jet washed.. not ideally placed as the spray only succeeded in showering dirt everywhere. At this precise moment one of the locals had had his one and only moment of inspiration and decided to sweep out the dusty container… only he didn’t think about where he was sweeping it too… all over the front of Tinfish..!!! Maz snapped.. ‘whose bright idea was it to put the container there on the dirt?’ (It would have been obvious to position it on the concrete, so that there was ample concrete driveway for Tinfish to approach, rather than over dirt!) ‘Well me actually’ was Leigh’s response.

Poised almost ready for the box

Out came the sand plates that littered the yard and at least the car would be lowered onto something other than dirt! Finally in we drove and she fitted. I squeezed out through the window and clambered my way out of the container, which by now was a sauna in the direct 40C sunlight with the water evaporating from the car. I was drenched by the time I got out. So where was Mrs Customs. 3pm came and went. A few phone calls revealed she’d never come back to work after lunch.. well it was Friday, what did we expect. By now we were too late to get it down the port, but Leigh knew the Perkins loader and he said just get it down tomorrow, that’ll be fine. Customs now apparently didn’t need to see the car.

The brakes get a good washing

Now all we needed was the car chocked and tied… what chocks and ties?

Exhausted, but relieved a semi-clean car was at least in a container we lined up more beers for the end of our 5th day cleaning.

Sat 28th – Shipping Date: D-2 (Mon 30th)

And she's in

The Dutch Pickle kindly introduced us to a carpenter conveniently next door to the backpackers from whom, after drawing a picture to explain, we had obtained suitable chunks of wood to act as chocks. We now had the simple task of pre-drilling 8 of these then nailing them to the floor. Easy if we were doing it, but they were in charge of the drilling, so prolonged like everything else. I decided to do the nailing, as these jokers would probably put one through the tyre!

Monkey on a crane

Maz was busy organising the A1 crane and truck to get the container delivered to the port. Both cranes had arrived by 11am, but still no trucks. She nagged on at Leigh, who said that in 15mins one would arrive. Of course it didn’t. Further pestering and another truck was called… this was going to be tight. To keep us happy Leigh phoned his mate Pedro the Perkins guy at the docks, alas they were already shutting up shop for the weekend. We went ballistic. The one and only task they had to do today was to get the car down to the docks and like everything else they turned their hands too, they were late.

Carefully does it Finally Tinfish is loaded

Now remember please that this was no two bob car wash, we were paying 600usd for the privilege of us spending the last week washing our own car. I’d already decided we’d not be paying the total bill, however I’d at least hoped that the car would be safely down the docks before the argument commenced. The expats understandably here are thick as thieves, furthermore Leigh used to go to school with Pedro back in Aus. With the stress we’d been under, we had visions of things not quite going to plan with the loading if we’d refused to pay… miss the boat or container dropped – who knows, so this left us in an angry predicament. A1 must have second guessed our feelings, although with us both wearing them clearly on our sleeves it didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. When the invoice was presented to us, it was for 450usd, 50usd more than I had psyched myself up to pay, but then they hadn’t charged us for the repairs, so we decided under the circumstances it was acceptable. They also absolutely promised that the container would be at the dock first thing Monday, the day we were booked to fly to Darwin.

At least ending on good terms, made us relax somewhat and we felt as though a weight had been lifted. This was a week I would never wish to repeat again for as long as I live.

That doesn't include bow & arrows then?

Whilst we were chatting, Leigh showed us some of the pictures taken at the height of the last round of trouble. They were gruesome to say the least and shocked us terribly. I still can’t even attempt to understand the problem, but it comes down to whether you are from West or East of East Timor. Some very old hatred has been re-awoken by political activists and now the daily killings are East – West related. Methods were primitive, bow and arrows, rocks and stabbings. Two bodies dragged out of the water had the Australians accused of committing the atrocity, so where once the Aussies were welcomed as the saviours at the start of the conflict, they are now hated, so much so that other troops make a point of blatantly displaying their own flags to show that they’re not Australians! Somehow I don’t believe killing and dumping bodies in the sea is normal ‘SOP’ for the Aussie army!

The wheels on the bus

Deciding we would have some R&R tomorrow – hell we needed it, we wandered along to the dive shop Martin had used, to meet Wayne. It was a longer walk than we expected and just outside the shop we were stopped by a Malaysian road block concerned for our wellbeing as there had been trouble here recently. Indicating we had another 20 foot to go, they let us through. Initially we met the dive guide Marianne as Wayne and Ann weren’t in. Here we had yet another shock, they were indeed diving tomorrow, shore dives as normal and the cost for two dives during the day was 75usd each!!! Gasping for air we asked and for one… that’ll be 40usd and we could relax whilst the others were doing their 2nd dive! Flabbergasted we looked at each other. Normally you’d expect to pay 50-75usd for a days boat diving which obviously has all the ancillary associated costs of operation, where you get in two dives each. Hell even in the UK it cost a reasonable 35ukp, when for a shore dive all you do is walk down the beach, jump in the water, swim around then walk back up the beach, it was now us being taken to the cleaners!

Check point near recent troubles

It made you think somewhat cynically that everyone was cashing in on the UN rich pickings. With about 160usd a day danger money (plus big salaries) there was a lot of UN money being banded about and of course a lot of employees that needed entertaining.. drinking, eating, diving, which has obviously fuelled a false economy. Everyone wants their share of the golden goose. It was only around the time that the UN were starting to pull out that the current troubles flared up again. It kinda makes you wonder if this wasn’t coincidental, as who’d pay these ridiculous prices in a developing country, when next door in Indonesia everything was as cheap as chips! The UN is good business!

Ruined buildings

Wayne and Ann arrived home and we shared a glass of wine with them. They explained that due to the current troubles, the normal food service that Ann provided (for which we’d heard a lot of excellent comments) wouldn’t be running and we’d be getting smoked meat sandwiches from you know who, but that’d of course be extra! Intrigued to find out Wayne’s war correspondent’s view on the current situation, he admitted it’d gone a bit mad recently. Yesterday they watched a taxi being stoned then the passenger dragged from the back seat and stabbed twice, just because he was from the wrong end of East Timor – hence the Police presence outside now! Yikkes… we’d make sure we weren’t walking home.

Yet again it made us think the expats living here are simply odd.

Crashed out after an exhausting week

Sun 29th – Shipping Date: D-1 (Mon 30th)

Round to the dive shop early as normal, we picked up a set of kit each as ours was safely secured in Tinfish, when I noticed a list of Marianne’s PADI qualifications proudly being displayed on the wall. It always makes me laugh these instructors which are found everywhere, but do tend to err towards being PADI trained. Normally they’ve risen quickly through the ranks over the few years that they’ve been diving and this was true in this instance to. They do tend to come accompanied with the big ‘I am’ and I think I noticed a qualification for breathing out as well as in :)

Large IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps

We jumped into cars and drove East to Whale Shark Point as inevitably such a beast was once spotted there and never again, but there’s always hope. The dive was unremarkable and being a shore dive we had to swim into the current like salmon, just to get back to where we started – damn hard work. Okay so we’d paid a heap of green backs for the pleasure, but we were quite pleased to just be away from Dili, not cleaning the car and to chill out and read during the afternoon whilst the rest of them jumped in for their second dive. We ended the day with a few more beers back at the shop, but our minds were elsewhere… our poor baby locked up and all alone in her box.

Relaxing on the beach while the others do a second dive

That night we sat in the courtyard of the backpackers and got talking to an Irish doctor who’d just arrived from travelling in Australia and wanted to spend a month volunteering his services in East Timor on his way home. He was subsequently working at a local health centre which provided free care to the local community. He’d only been there about a week but had seen some horrific injuries resulting from the fighting as for some reason they didn’t trust the main hospital. Unfortunately the health centre had nothing more useful than a saline drip to give them and would try convincing them that they needed proper medical attention as they sat with an arrow sticking out their rib cage, or their head cracked open! Rather him than me, we’d thankfully be leaving this mad house on the morning flight and hopefully Tinfish would be following suit.

Children frolic in the clear blue sea

Mon 30th – Shipping Date: D-Day (Mon 30th)

All packed, including the small gift each that Rita gave us, we’d be travelling light this time and were up early to catch our 9am flight. Taxi’s are easy to come by here, by just standing at the side of the street, but try as we might we couldn’t get a single one to take us to the airport. Perhaps we were saying it wrong so I asked one of the Timorese at the hostel to try.. ‘airporto’ ah pretty much the same. No the reason they wouldn’t go there was yet again because of all the troubles, as the airport had been a hotspot a few days ago with a few killings and cars stoned! Eventually we found an Indian taxi driver who obviously wasn’t from the East or West and he agreed to take us – phew!

Our chariot out of all this madness

On arrival we were mobbed by a gang of kids all vying for the right to carry our luggage to the check-in. Having cleared customs, we then waited in the lounge until a tiny propeller plane run by Air North landed. We were quickly ushered to the plane, buckled in and in no time at all heading down the runway. We were off… strange mixed feelings, glad to leave the hell of the last week behind, but unsure what to expect in Australia. Things would be very different after the route we’d taken, being able to really appreciate a developing country and get off the well beaten tourist trail. Back to a modern society with all that entailed would no doubt be a complete shock. Were we looking forward to it, I don’t know, however we were sorry to be leaving the trail we’d blazed thus far.

Oh well, to boldly go…

Many thanks to the Dutch Pickle for the use of some of his photos

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from dutchpickle
Good luck Maz and Alex!

Absolutely fabulous read!

11 Jan 2007 @ 07:57:20