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May 25, 2005

Dili Time

We pretty much hit the ground running, or rather stumbling, on arrival 3pm Sunday afternoon. Kenny and Chris had organised a truly wonderful welcoming committee with the aid of local help. A circle of youth dummers from the local Art-Moris Art School beat out a rousing East Timorese native rhythm while a row of smiling faces of all nationalities beamed down at us from the quay side. It was one of if not the best reception we'd had for any voyage completion.


It took just one beer for just both to be pretty much blotto. This combined with our sea legs still wobbling around beneath us had almost crawling off Moksha to shore along the gang-plank. It's a surreal experience making the transition from sea to land at the best of times. But add the elements of music, everyone asking you questions at the same time and a tipple of Tiger (a local beer) and things get very confusing very quickly.


After catching up on some much needed sleep in some air-conditioned containers that we're renting for $10 a day we've been thrown into the chaos of getting the next leg - kayaking and biking to Singapore - underway. First off was getting Moksha pulled out of the water which we managed to do yesterday. Not a very clean operation - we had a narrow window of opportunity to use the Perkins forklift truck at the container depot - but we managed to get away with it. The combination of large machinery, strong winds and not being able to communicate properly between 30-odd local guys, all shouting and yelling at each other, potentially made for a disastrous recipe.

Next up has been dealing E. Timorese Customs which is something of a merry-go-round experience. Before clearing our kayaks (that are sitting on the dock just feet away from where we have Moksha stored) I had to register with the E. Timorese Ministry of Finance and Planning for a Tax ID number. This took a day. This afternoon we find out when we might get our hands on the boats to start working on them at last!


This afternoon we have a meeting with the British and American Embassies to see if they can lobby the Indonesian Consulate to let us leave from Dili rather than having to travel to the border to clear Indonesian Immigration. I'm not holding out much hope but it never hurts to ask.

We're hoping to get away Monday at this rate, assuming clearance of the kayaks doesn't drag on for too many more days. One of the problems we're up against is the laid-back pace of things here (makes Darwin look like Piccadilly Circus). Business hours are from 9-11 am, then they knock off for a 3-hour lunch. The afternoon shift is from 2-4, making a grueling 4-hour working day for most people here. Combine that with how long one is sitting around in offices for bits of paper to be pushed around and one starts to wonder if we'll even be out of here in 6-months.

But overall it is really wonderful to be here and already we're getting to meet some truly remarkable people, both native East Timorese and the ex-pat crowd, many of whom have played integral roles in bringing about what has been a 450-year struggle for self-rule and autonomy from outside interference. We were welcomed as heros from pedaling to here from Darwin but it is quite clear that the real heros are the ones we are meeting on the streets, almost all of whom have seen one of their family members either killed or severely maimed sometime between 1975 and 1999, but who are quietly and with determination getting on with the quite enormous task of building their own country for the first time.

Posted on May 25, 2005 5:03 AM