Thursday, 15 Dec 2016. Malae! Malae! Outside of Dili everyone I pass calls this out. Nah mate not Malay, Aussie.*
The roads in and just outside of Dili are excellent, which is misleading because the quality soon drops away the further you get from Timor-Leste’s capital. Riding south and into the hills towards Dare is steep yes, but really quite pleasant because in addition to the smooth road below there is often a canopy above shading the intrepid (insane? No, not yet. Not for attempting this stretch anyway, that’s still to come) cyclist. There are plenty of opportunities to stop for juicy pineapples, which you see hanging from roadside stalls, or to buy water, or coke, or beer. I went for a pineapple.
At some stage though, and well before Aileu, the condition of the road becomes, inconstant. There are stretches where rain, over the years and with no money being spent on upkeep has washed away a little bit of tarmac. There are also stretches where the rain has washed away all the tarmac and you are cycling on uneven, pebbly, potholed gravel. It’s slow going.
There is also a stretch of road towards Aileu that they are currently upgrading, and this was the worst bit of the day because well, as you can see from a photo below the road was little more than mud. I was off the bike and pushing. My poor chain! I could hear it crunching. TLC needed after the day’s ride.
As I cycled into Aileu it poured down and I took refuge in a place marked guesthouse, leaving my bike in the rain to rinse off the mud. I poked around looking for someone, ready to give up on the day as it was already past three o’clock but it seemed no one was home. I waited for the rain to subside then found Project Montanha for ‘lunch’. More torrential rain and I considered pressing them to stay the night, I could easily picture myself on my blow up mattress on the floor in their music but my initial enquiry was turned down. They aren’t accepting overnight guests at the moment but a dormitory is in the process of being built.
Another break in the weather and I was off. A bit of a slog, what a first day, but I popped in the headphones and rocked out in the rain for the remaining couple of hours into Maubisse. Stay at the Maubisse Café Guesthouse. Café not open though. Neither is anything in town. The best I can do for dinner is pot noodles, and a hot chocolate in the Styrofoam noodle cup afterwards with half a packet of biscuits.
Day 1’s stats: 11 hours travel time. 77 kilometres. Average 7km/h. 2319 metres up. 923 metres down.
* Malae is a general term for foreigner.