What a difference a border makes…

Crossing the border into the Indonesian side of Timor was a straightforward and relatively pleasant affair.  I was steeped in the history of East Timors occupation and was half expecting some fortified border filled with hardened military men.  Instead I got a very friendly welcome from a universally young group of army lads- I suspect chosen because they were too young to have participated in the occupation.  Either way, it was a fast crossing and I was back on the road in less than an hour.  The first thing that hit me was the roads- still small and twisty, but in quite good shape.  My speed was more regulated by traffic and turns than potholes and crumbled banking.  Then I stop for the evening and got my second update- the prices were half to a third of those in East Timor.  $1.50 could get you a decent little meal, fuel was less than 50 cents a liter, and a plain hotel room with a private bath cost just over $10.  Well, maybe now I’d be able to get my budget back under control after Australia!

The next day I reached Kupang and the first of many ferries to come.  And was transported back in time to my boat trip from Cameroon to Nigeria.

The boat itself was a proper RO-RO ferry, but other than that, it was all Africa.  You know what?  It was also homey.  I understood this kind of thing- I reveled in it in my perverse little way.  My bike stacked with all the others while we found places to crash out on the floor amid the bundled goods, animals, and general chaos.  It felt good.

I had it in my head that the ferry trip was around 7-8 hours, but as night fell and my GPS showed us still in the middle of the sea, I knew I’d been slightly off about the timing.  So, curling up on the floor, I settled in for the night.

The morning came early and brought magic with it.

Like countless others, I’ve waxed poetic about African sunsets, but the sunrise that morning over the Flores Sea was breathtaking.  Moving…  Magical.

As we approached Ende in Flores, the boat heeled over and did a 180 back out to sea.  Huh?!  We then passed around a peninsula and headed back towards a different dock.  A dock with no boat ramp.  How was I going to get my bike off the ferry?  I could have done what the locals did with their bikes…

I really AM back in Africa!  But this time I had a choice- risk the bike with some random people handing it up onto the dock when they had trouble dealing with scootes, or stay on the ferry until Sumba.  I chose Sumba and was more than I little pleased that I did.

Waiting for the ferry to leave port turned into a bit of a party- me taking pictures of people, them of me, me of them on the bike, etc, etc.  The women selling food were especially fun and I ended up with a line of them waiting to take pictures with me and the bike.  All while they tried to ‘ruin’ the others photos or do funny things in theirs.  I don’t think they were having fun at my expense, but I don’t particularity care if they were since it was great fun!

Then the screaming started.  Loud, high-pitched wailing.  What the heck was going on?!  I was half expecting a riot or something, when…

Oh, okay- just some rather cranky and unwilling passengers.  I guessed their squealing would make an interesting counterpoint to the endless chirping from the hundreds of little chicks that had been loaded earlier.  Luckly, the hogs were quickly settled in and began to doze like well seasoned travelers.

We left port with a much reduced crowd, so after my less than restful night, I decided to get comfy, grab some more space, and make like a pig.

 

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