SYNOPSIS:  About distances.  How manifesting always works.  About booking a hotel online.  About a new guide.  No photos today.  

For the next week, I will be traveling in West Timur.

I won’t go into it, but East and West Timur have a violent history that is quite recent and was caused by the aftermath of colonialism.  The Dutch cleared out of their part of Timur after WWII, the Portuguese did not.  The Dutch part was converted mainly to Protestantism, the Portuguese part mainly to Catholicism.

I will be traveling in the Indonesian part of Timur only.  Once again I am in search of indigenous people, their lives, and the peculiarities of the island of Timur.

I was in transit for 25 hours.  Twice as long as it takes me to get from my house in the US to my mother’s home in Germany.  It gives you a bit of an idea of the vastness of this country.  This trip could have taken me much longer had I chosen to do it via boat, or over land.  But even the combination of the night bus from Rantepao to Makassar and two flights — Makassar to Surabaya and Surabaya to Kupang and a van afterwards, with reasonably tight connections took a total of 25 hours.   

There went another night without much sleep…

In Kupang the miracles started to happen.  On my calendar once again it just said:  figure things out on the ground…  To get to the bus station via taxi to catch a 3-hour bus to Soe would cost $7.  Before rushing into this, I thought it might be a good idea to store some things in Kupang, as I had booked a hotel for the night before my next flight.  I headed to the Hotel Information Counter, which once before had served me well.

This time it served me even better.  The T-Mobile Hotel was a top runner promoted by the counter and had a free pick-up shuttle from the airport.  Perhaps mistakenly thinking that I was going to check in there tonight, the shuttle was called to pick me up.  At the hotel, I left a bag with unneeded stuff and inquired about the bus station. 

“Let me tell you a bit about the bus station” approached a young man in hotel uniform:  “There is the local, slow and cheap bus, and there is the faster van shuttle”.  Good information.  To my question if he could please call a taxi to the bus station, he replied:  “Let’s just take the hotel shuttle.  And you stay in the shuttle as I negotiate the price for you.  If they see you, a foreigner, it will cost more”.  Even better.

I had a ride to the station!  Just as he said he would do, he found the appropriate van for me — in my life I would not have been able to identify this among all the vans that stood around there, and negotiated a price:  $5.  The $2 tip, which he happily accepted, and the bus ticket had cost me exactly as much as a taxi to the station would have.  I had shed weight, I had saved money and time, and I had been served a wonderful fruit drink at the hotel which came at a moment when I really needed it.  None of the airlines had even served as much as water!  How do these things happen?  I really don’t get it.

I think I was smiling for about an hour riding the van.  The very handsome, happy driver drove like a devil and smoked like a smokestack — I am so glad, he insisted on me taking the front seat.  I am not sure I would not have thrown up all over his van if he hadn’t.  Smoking in the car…!

By 7 PM I had reached Soe (instead of 8 or later with the public bus).  I had been driven to the hotel instead of being dropped off at some god-forsaken bus station… I handed over my hotel voucher and looked at the doe-eyed receptionist, who did not speak a lick of English.  Soon five more doe-eyed young men poured over the voucher, looked at me, shook their heads and I was just about to make fun of  “how many young men does it take to just show me to my room”, when one of them communicated, that the hotel I had booked was on a different island!

Who gets the butt of the joke now?!  I am glad I was in the right place on the right day, but there was no booking, and the pre-payment I had already made to some hotel somewhere was obviously not good.  They had a room of course, but once again I wondered, how I could have screwed up so royally.

I communicated that I wanted to eat something.  There was a restaurant on site.  It looked like it was waiting for a wedding party, with 20 tables decked out in fancy red, silk table cloths.  But nobody was there and it did not look like they were expecting anyone either.  No food.  None?  OK, some rice.  And so I ate a plate full of dry white rice, my first meal of the day, and for taste sprinkled some salt onto it.  It’s food, ok.

One of the five young men seemed to understand a few words of English.  I approached him, made a phone call sign and asked for an English guide.  His eyes lit up — he knew what I wanted.  And indeed, an hour later, Gemri and his 9-year-old daughter knocked on my door and we sat down to negotiate a plan and a price for the next few days.

To get to the villages you need to get a local guide — it is etiquette around here as you will be introduced to the chief, can’t speak the language, etc.  You also, ideally, need a 4-WD vehicle to reach some of the more remote places.  Since I have nobody to share the cost with, that is out of the question.  Gemri assured me that his car could get us quite far and if need be, we will flag down some more robust vehicles for the final kilometers.  If he thinks that can be done, I am OK with that.  Gemri is an English teacher in a secondary school and one of three English-speaking guides of the area.  School is out for the time being.  He is on a 3-week break.  My luck!  With a total of about 300 tourists a year who make it here, he jumped at the opportunity of work.

I think we will make a good team.  I explained to him my goals and interest and he was happy to assure me that I will see everything from an animist village to the making of palm-wine and even spend 1/2 day at the beach!  Yeah, I still have to get that off my bucket list. 

I have a guide, he has a car, we have a plan.

And if you ever need a guide in Timur, here is his information:

JEMRI SALUK (SOE) GUIDE   Facebook: jewarela@yahoo.com   e-mail: saluk_jemri@yahoo.com

Timur, here I come!   Good night.