Saturday, 17 Dec, 2016. Letefoho to Atsabe. Day 3’s stats: 5 hours 37 minutes travel time. 30.4 kilometres. Average 5.41km/h. 707 metres up. 1055 metres down.
A slow start to the day drinking coffee and filling up on home made bread rolls with pineapple jam with the priests in training. They tell me a couple of Czech missionaries are living with them, but are currently in Bali renewing their visas, and talk about the help they’ve recently received from a Sydney Rotary Club to build a water well walking distance from the village.
I then spend over an hour cleaning and greasing my drivechain- it’s been a traumatic couple of days and there are still many more it has to carry me through! Note to self for next trip, pipe cleaners would be a good way to clean between the chain links.
By the time I’m packed up and ready to leave everyone seems to have disappeared. The only people around are workers building an extention to the building and a housekeeper. I have $20 and a card I’d like to give the Father but I’d prefer to do it in person, if possible. I’m told he’s at the school, which is on my way so that’s where I head. He’s not there. Nor is anyone else from last night. Many smiling children (and adults) though. Not much English, but I get the general idea they are saying he’s back at the church. Seems plausible. Head back the way I came to the church. He’s not there, but I stay for five minutes to listen to some beautiful singing from a women’s choir. I trudge back to the seminary, conscious this minor mission is making for an even later start. He’s not there either, so I leave the card and money on his desk.
A beautiful cycle out of Letefoho, downhill on smooth roads. Hooray, I thought. Timor-Leste’s bad roads are behind me! (Can you see where this may go??) I can’t fully commit to full speed given I’m carrying some weight and the roads are wet from overnight rain, but it’s still mighty enjoyable. I stop for a photo at a waterfall, and then a short time later to hang out with locals where I’m offered a chair and a coffee.
I may have mentioned this before, but my ‘gifts’ are primarily animal stickers on notepaper that is printed with replica Australian dollars on the other side. Last trip I managed to find lovely Australian animal stickers but no such luck this time so the stickers are of African animals. Well, better than nothing and the noises and actions I can make for elephant, lion and monkey are perhaps more interesting than what I can do for koala, platypus and kangaroo.
Breathtaking scenery all day, with mountains and valleys either side of me, lots of bridges crossing fast flowing rivers, and more waterfalls. It’s a bit of a slog though, up and down hills, the return of dreadful road conditions and rain coming and going in intensity. I was expecting short and sharp monsoon showers opening up into brilliant sunshine but it’s been anything but, and today I don’t see the sun all day. Pros and cons though. Overcast conditions keep the heat down. Doing this trip in the dry season with cloudless skys and full sunshine would be an altogether different challenge.
More MSG tingles in the face chowing down on pot noodles (I don’t want it but it’s the only thing available other than chips!) from a woman at a roadside stall that had the reddest teeth/mouth from chewing betel I’d seen this trip.
Muddy roads coming into Atsabe and I almost come a cropper when I can’t unclip my shoe from the peddle. A screw had fallen out and the other was loose and the plate was turning as I was twisting to get out. I have to unzip the velcro and undo the buckle as I’m riding and slip my whole foot out. A very muddy sock eventuates as this is my balancing foot for the last couple of kilometers of the day, and I’m a mess rolling into town with one shoe on, one off. There is an unmarked lime green guesthouse in town that I was directed to, $25 which included a much appreciated big dinner of spicy chicken, green veg, rice and hot chips!
I tried to get a motorbike mechanic’s help finding a replacement screw for my shoe but no luck. He enjoyed stretching the interaction out though, looking through the photo album I produced for the kids watching on, and inviting me back to his house behind his shop for a coffee and a selfie with his daughter for Facebook.